What exactly do editors do, and more importantly, how can we help you work through the writing process? Stephanie and Angela discuss the numerous facets of editing, from mentorship and motivation to story arc and character development to revisions and citations. No matter what phase of writing you’re in—and no matter what issues you’re facing—editors are here to help!
Stephanie: Today, we’re actually going to discuss how editors can help you through the process, through the entire writing and revision process, from before you ever put words on the page all the way until your book is printed.
Angela: Exactly. Editors do a lot more than you think. I think the overall goal for any editor is to make the manuscript, or article, or whatever they’re working on more accessible and easy to understand by the readers.
Angela: That’s how we work. That’s our goal that we work with. Everything from before you’ve ever set a word down on the page all the way through the post production when you’re doing your revisions and stuff, we can help kind of with everything, right?
Stephanie: Right, absolutely.
Angela: When I was working on a book several years ago, one of the reasons that I reached out to an editor in the beginning is to find out for this genre that I’m working in how many pages is typical. Some other things like what’s popular right now. They can help you figure out the goal for what you’re writing.
Angela: If you have enough of an idea for an entire book, where you can go to do your research, so different libraries that have archives and things like that. One interesting thing is … I want to use the term mentorship. Not just like helping you find writing classes and such, but helping you, I guess working with you on your strengths and weaknesses in your writing so they can help you become a better overall writer.
Stephanie: Right. I think it’s important to point out that it’s not just editors who can help you with this obviously, but that we are definitely a resource that can help you with a lot of those things, because in our experience we do have not access to but we encounter and use a lot of resources that I think a lot of people don’t ever think about.
Stephanie: Like you said, helping you with that information. There are editors who don’t like to do the writing coaching aspect, but there are editors who are very good at that and definitely do enjoy that.
Angela: Well, I think every editor has their own specialty.
Angela: Some are going to be better at like I would say almost not really the business side of things, but helping you figure out your outline, and the research aspect, and things like that. Some are going to want to work with you all the way through. Some are going to want to wait until you’re already finished. If you can find like a good overall editor that can help you all the way from the beginning to the end, that’s awesome, but if different editors work with different things, you can also find ones that work with different parts that you’re needing help with.
Stephanie: Right, or you can find that editor who can start you on the process and put you in the right direction to other editing resources.
Angela: Exactly, exactly.
Stephanie: Yeah. I think it’s important to point out too that some editors also are ghostwriters.
Stephanie: For those people who feel they have that idea in mind, have this great idea and a few great phrases, but just feel completely overwhelmed by the idea of writing, you can work with ghostwriters. Again, some of them are editors, some are ghostwriters. Those who are editors/ghostwriters can actually I think probably work with you in a nice hybrid combination. Whereas a typical, if there is such a thing, the typical ghostwriter will write everything for you by having an interview with you, an editor who is also a ghostwriter might just rewrite and revise aspects with you after you’ve already written the original.
Angela: Exactly, exactly. I think, like you said, just for all the pre-production stuff, just kind of helping you get on track and find the resources that you need. I don’t ghostwrite myself, but I know that I can or have the resources to help authors find ghostwriters. The same thing, like we talked about, for research or writing classes. If we don’t do it, we can help you find someone who does.
Stephanie: That’s right. Dog Ear for example, we do have at least one ghostwriter on hand that we can refer people to-
Stephanie: Who has been working with us for several years now. Then we also get to, thinking of this through the whole writing and revision process, then we also do developmental edits.
Stephanie: Which you can see the descriptions on the website of what this entails. In my time at Dog Ear, I’ve seen things come in for developmental edit all the way from really there’s just an outline and the author wants input on how to flesh it out all the way to it’s really in great shape but the author wants ideas on how to make it better in some way. There’s that whole range. Our developmental editors really can help you through that whole process by sending you to those resources, by making suggestions. It’s just the developmental edit process again can encompass that huge range there-
Stephanie: From beginning to end.
Angela: Well, because sometimes even if you have an idea for a book or you’ve got kind of a rough outline, it’s still really intimidating to really I guess kind of cross the starting line, and start actually chugging along, and getting the words down. Sometimes you just, I don’t know, like you almost need somebody behind you going, “Yeah, you can do this. Yeah, the idea’s good. Yeah, there’s a market for it,” and things like that. I think that’s one of my favorite things actually as an editor. I don’t know how other editors feel about it, but just being able to kind of cheer lead a little bit, and motivate, and let the authors know, “Yeah, this is working. This is getting better, and we’re making progress. You’re there. Let’s keep going.”
Stephanie: Right. I think there are those editors who really just want to come in, fix the text, and move on.
Angela: Yeah, yeah.
Stephanie: They just come in, and those editors tend to be your copy editing and especially your proofreading specialists, you know those ones who just come in, clean it up, and move on.
Stephanie: That’s fine. We all have a place, but you’re right. It is nice being able to, for me as well, being able to guide people through the larger process and say, “Yeah, we’re getting there. You’re making progress. I promise you can do this.”
Angela: Exactly, exactly. Well just seeing how things progress from, like you said, if somebody comes in with an outline and then months later you have this finished book, and it’s something they feel really proud of, and it actually turned out really well, it’s incredibly gratifying I think for everything.
Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Angela: Do we have anything else that we need to cover on pre-production stuff that we can help with?
Stephanie: Nothing else comes to mind honestly.
Angela: Okay. Well, so let’s move to actually production, when authors or writers are actually in the process of writing. I think of ways editors help. If you’re having issues with your story or character arcs, how many characters you’re using, your subplots, and again staying on track, like mentorship, motivation, and then another big one I think is citations.
Angela: They’re the fun part that everybody loves, making sure that when you are not necessarily even quoting but bringing an idea that isn’t yours into a story, or book, or article, that you have the citations and they’re readable and understandable by your audience. I think the whole point of those is that if a reader is reading the book, they can go to that citation and look up what you’ve written, and they can find it easily and quickly.
Angela: That’s one thing that we definitely work a lot on, we were talking about it this morning actually, is making sure citations are accessible by readers.
Stephanie: Right. This is something that, like Angela said, has come up recently and for some reason has happened to her more than with others, that issue of plagiarism as well.
Angela: Yeah, yes.
Stephanie: An editor is really good. Sometimes you are so involved in writing as an author, you’ve read these facts and figures so much that they have become just a given. They just are in your world. An editor can help really bring in that separate eye, that separate perspective, to say, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Is this an assumption? What’s your source for this?” They can really help be that naïve reader who has very little knowledge about your field or about your specific topic and can really pop in and raise questions that your reader may raise. That’s one thing actually I love to do is stop and say, “Wait a minute. I don’t understand this. Are you sure your reader is going to understand this?”
Angela: Exactly. Well, I think that’s the whole point of what editors do is just to make it understandable by the audience you’re trying to reach.
Stephanie: Exactly, and like you said accessible earlier.
Angela: Yeah, yeah.
Stephanie: I love that, making it accessible to a wider audience. Again going back to that plagiarism thing, we’re going to say, “Okay, wait a minute. This does need to be cited somewhere,” even if it’s just to say this is widely accepted within this field. Usually, you can make a few citations.
Angela: Exactly. I see that a lot, like, “Many people think,” or, “Studies show.” That’s where I always leave the comment of like, “Okay. Can you cite a source that actually proves this,” because you’re asking a lot, I think, of your reader to trust you. Like where did the information come from? Why do I trust that what you’re telling me is correct? If you have those citations to back you up, it helps a lot for the reader.
Stephanie: Right. When I was in grad school and I taught not speech but how to give speeches, how to build, write, create, give speeches, that’s one thing that you focus on is building your credibility. As an author, especially if you’re doing nonfiction, you have to build your credibility, and some of that is showing that you do know the information that’s out there, that you have done your research, not just saying, “Oh, I know this. Here are the facts and figures,” but showing that I have read this, I know this information is right here. Even if you don’t know these things off the top of your head, the whole point of writing this book is to point people, to provide this information to people and point them in the right direction.
Angela: Exactly. I know a lot of people are … well, even me actually. Citations are like that source of just dread, but I think that’s one of the cool things about Dog Ear. Do you want to explain how we work with citations, about continuity?
Stephanie: Sure. Because Dog Ear is not a traditional publishing house, we don’t have a set style that we use for citations. We do use the Chicago Manuel of Style for our style, like for the guidance that we provide in how you use grammar and punctuation, et cetera. But when it comes down to citing your sources, I don’t want to say we don’t care.
Angela: No. That’s now what she means.
Stephanie: We don’t care which one you choose.
Angela: That’s not what she means, yeah.
Stephanie: We don’t care which one you choose. What we do is make sure that you are internally consistent so that every time in your reference list and, for example, every time you cite a book you’re providing the same type of information in the same order so that it’s easy for your readers to understand what’s going on. For example, making sure that you provide the author’s name, and the title of the book, and the year of publication, and usually the publisher, at least those basics, but that you provide them in the same order every time and use the same punctuation every time, because that’s very helpful in the reader being able to figure out what they need to find and how to find it.
Angela: Right, right.
Stephanie: We also then try to make sure that you’re citing them the same way in the text. Some citation styles use parenthetical references with an author name and a year. Some use a numerical system, a footnote numerical system. There are so many options out there. We’ve talked about citation systems before. There are so many style guides on citation systems. What we do is not try to force all this work that you’ve done into one type of citation system, but to ensure that you’re being consistent internally.
Now, editors who specialize in a certain citation system, obviously if say they’re American Psychological Association. I never remember what the P stands for in APA, if it’s psychological or psychiatric, and I don’t have the book with me. I think it’s psychological.
Angela: I think it’s psychiatric actually.
Stephanie: Okay. I never remember.
Angela: Both are right today. It’s magic day.
Stephanie: But it’s APA.
Angela: That’s right.
Stephanie: A specialist is going to know. They’re going to be able to fix those references in their sleep. If you have to have something in APA, you can request that you have someone who is a specialist in APA. Again, we come back to that editors have specialties. Some are scientific editors. Some are children’s book editors. Some are AMA, which is the American Medical Association. Yes.
Angela: Well, I think-
Stephanie: At Dog Ear, we let you. We’re just trying to make sure that you’re consistent for the reader no matter what. Then if you are using a particular citation system, you can let us know that beforehand so that we can make sure then that you are following that citation system specifically.
Stephanie: I do have authors who do that, who say, “I am using the CMS,” and specifically the CMS has two or three citation systems, citation styles that they can use, or they say, “I use APA,” or AMA. That’s wonderful, because then we can absolutely guarantee that we will keep you consistent with that.
Angela: Exactly. I just always think that’s one of the cool things about Dog Ear too, because citations, like we said, people tend to panic.
Stephanie: Oh, my gosh.
Angela: We’re not looking for perfection. We’re not looking that it fits some specific style to the letter. We just want it to be readable by readers, that they can look at the citation and go, “Okay, now I can go find where this information came from.”
Stephanie: Every citation style does have its own recommendations and says the whole point is that your readers can find your information, so you always have to have this basic information. But then obviously the format for a book is going to be slightly different than for an article in a journal, and that’s going to be slightly different from a website, but they are all going to be in the same basic format so you always know that the fourth part of the entry is the title or whatever.
Stephanie: That is always the key is being helpful to the reader.
Angela: Right. Like she said, I mean we’ve said several times now, you can find an editor that can help you with what you need. I guess the key is like don’t panic. Citations do not have to be overly complicated.
Angela: As long as you know where it came from, work with the editor and you can get through it.
Stephanie: If you don’t know what citation style you want to use, then ask an editor. We can tell you typically what type of citation system is generally used in your area of expertise-
Angela: Yeah, or the genre you’re writing in.
Stephanie: If you don’t already know, right.
Angela: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I guess again we come back to support. You should have access to an editor. You’re not peppering them with questions every second of the day, but compile your list, work with them, and let them help you, and don’t be afraid. This is true, there is no stupid question, because there is so much information out there and things change all the time.
Stephanie: Yes, absolutely.
Angela: Number one, you’re not going to hit us with something we haven’t heard before most likely, and we’re never going to laugh at you. Well, we may, but we will do it very quietly and with respect.
Stephanie: We will try to laugh with you.
Angela: That’s right, slightly. Slightly. A chuckle if you will.
Stephanie: Again, remember that everyone has to start somewhere.
Stephanie: The things that we take … Here we go again. The things that we take as a given, not everybody’s going to know because we are specialists in our field and there are new people being born every day.
Stephanie: You learn as you go through the process. That’s one thing that we keep in mind all the time.
Angela: Well, none of us, no editor was born knowing how to edit. Trust me.
Angela: We have had our trip ups and our stumbles along the way just anybody else, and we’ve had to-
Angela: Yeah, learn by doing and screwing up a lot.
Stephanie: We still make mistakes.
Stephanie: It happens.
Angela: Yep, it does. We are human.
Stephanie: I always hate to say it. The odds that you’re going to get a completely clean edit back-
Angela: Yep, not going to happen.
Stephanie: They are definitely not 100%.
Angela: Right. We go into it with best intentions, and we work really hard though.
Stephanie: Yes. Right, exactly. We are specialists, but most people are not perfect all the time.
Angela: That’s true.
Angela: Not most people, nobody.
Angela: If you know anybody that’s like that, we would love to hear from you. That would be awesome to meet.
Stephanie: Who absolutely is perfect.
Angela: Maybe a cat or a dog, but not necessarily a human being.
Stephanie: Well, cats think they are.
Angela: That’s right. Yes, they do. They do. Okay, so that covers production. How about let’s talk about what happens after the book? You put the last period, you type The End, and you close the document, and you think you’re done.
Angela: I feel like this is where the meat of editors really kind of comes into play. I don’t know if meat of editors is even a saying, but I just made it one, so you’re just going to have to deal with it today.
Stephanie: The meat of our work.
Angela: Yes. My brain is chugging along.
Stephanie: When you use production here, you’re talking about the writing, the basic writing process, right?
Angela: Yes, yes.
Stephanie: That’s done, so now we’re in the revision phase.
Stephanie: Sorry. I want to clarify, because as the managing editor, I’m part of pre-production, production, so they mean different things for us.
Angela: That’s true. Post production, it’s a bit of a misnomer in this case. I was separating them out like in my head. I guess production of the writing of the book.
Stephanie: Of the text, yeah.
Angela: Yeah, the writing of the text, but exactly what you said. Revisions, spelling, continuity, grammar, fact checking, even as far as going into helping you come up with a query letter. We’ve done a lot of those. When you decide self publishing, either you’ve done self publishing and you’re moving past that now-
Stephanie: Or were you using it as a stepping stoner.
Angela: Exactly, exactly. I don’t like the word past there. Maybe trying a different avenue is a better way to say that.
Angela: But want to talk to some agents, or even smaller publishing companies where you don’t have to have an agent. We can definitely help craft query letters that get attention.
Stephanie: Right. I don’t really think that we need to talk a lot about what we do in this stage, because I think this is where really most of our articles and our other podcasts come into play where we talk about what an editor does-
Stephanie: Is really in that phase once you’ve written the book. We are in the revision stage where we are helping you clean up everything.
Angela: Right, exactly. Yep, you’re absolutely right. Every Editor’s Corner article, every podcast we’ve done goes extremely in depth into those. I actually don’t have much to say about that part of the process.
Stephanie: Right. Then the next step of the process then … because I’m saying then a lot. The next step of the process is the … I can’t ever remember. I think post production proofread is what we like to call it.
Angela: Yeah, we do.
Stephanie: I think that’s what Dog Ear calls it. I guess I should know better, shouldn’t I?
Angela: Yeah, managing director. Yeah, I think it might be important to know.
Stephanie: Well, this is where unfortunately not a lot of people who self publish take advantage of this, and I understand that because it does add cost to things. This is where traditional publishing houses have this as automatically part of the process. When you start, for example for when you come in to a traditional publishing house, if you come in as an intern or just a newbie, this is probably where you’re going to start as an editor is being a proofreader, a post production proofreader. This is the person who reads the proofs to make sure, to catch any of those spelling errors, or sensical errors, anything that got missed in the process. Or when your book gets laid out, there’s a lot of stuff going on in computer programs. I’m sure we’ve all had instances where we know we typed something, and then somehow a whole paragraph got deleted, or half a paragraph gets deleted, right?
Angela: Yes, yes.
Stephanie: Post production proofread looks at that. You’re reading all the text, making sure everything is there, nothing is missing, and also then looking at the physical aspect. See, I’ve done a lot of this. I interned in college, and this is what I did day in, day out. Looking at the page to make sure that the margins are okay. There are things called rivers. There are widows and orphans, so watching out for those things that it doesn’t serve you to look for in Word.
Angela: Right, right.
Stephanie: I know a lot of authors come in and they give us these manuscripts that look beautiful in Word. They’ve spent all this time making sure the manuscript looks beautiful, but the thing is it’s going to go through other processes to get turned into a book. It’s going to go through other programs. Most books are not laid out from Word.
Stephanie: When I say laid out, I mean put into the way it’s going to look on the final printed page with all the margins set up correctly. Word can let you do a lot of that, and I know Publisher was a program that Microsoft had for a while. I don’t know if they still have it. Some people will use that, but most publishing companies you aren’t going to use that. You’re going to go through a printer, and you have to have whatever.
Stephanie: It gets very complex, but you do have post production proofreaders who then look at the thing before your book is actually printed to make sure everything looks fine on the page.
Stephanie: In self publishing, at least with Dog Ear, this falls primarily on the author to look at the pages, to look at the proofs, and make sure that everything looks fine. But again, you can do this to a certain extent, but having a trained eye do this always, as we point out a lot, it can really help your product look more polished.
Angela: Absolutely. Well, I think that’s what we’re looking for at the very end of it too, that accessibility and I guess understanding for readers, but also I know we’ve all seen books that we look at and we’re like, “Where was the art department in this?”
Angela: It just doesn’t look like a professionally published book. I almost feel like that is part of what builds trust in the reader, the way it looks. Not just the artwork, but like you said, the inside text, and the font used, and all of those things. Yeah, I think that’s where trust building kind of begins with your audience. Having that second pair or third pair of eyes can make a massive difference, and it’s going to be things that you may not see as an author. We get so close to our own work that it’s-
Angela: I think we’ve discussed it before. It becomes like our children.
Angela: You don’t want to see faults in your own children.
Stephanie: Right, and you have to have someone else … You don’t have to, but someone else can help offer that sense of perspective that we cannot get.
Angela: Absolutely, absolutely. I think basically the main outtake for all of this is what from the very beginning when you have that first idea all the way through the end, if you need help, if you have questions, don’t ever be afraid to reach out to an editor. If they don’t work in your specialty, they definitely know other editors and they can help you find someone who can I guess help you walk through the process and feel confident that by the end what you have accomplished is what you looked to accomplish.
Stephanie: Absolutely. I have absolutely nothing else to add to that. I think that’s a perfect summary.
Stephanie: I’d say if you still have questions, as always, feel free to email me at StephanieS@DogEarPublsihing.net, and please join us next time when we are going to be discussing how conversations, that is dialogue, can hurt or help your text. Until then, keep writing.