Posted on 12/04/2015 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Recently we kicked off a series of interviews with the professionals who help writers produce and spread their work.

Our first subject, a marketer, told us that the smartest promotional move an author can make is to put out a professionally edited book — “If a book is poorly edited, the reviews will pan it, and nothing kills a book faster than a ton of negative reviews.”

And judging by the number of author Q&A participants who thanked their amazing editors, writers generally agree on the importance of editing.

But if you’re still skeptical — or aren’t entirely certain what an editor does — content editor Annetta Ribken is here to enlighten you.

SADYE: Is there any fiction genre for which you would say “authors should find a genre-specific editor”?

ANNETTA: To be honest, with the "indie revolution" in general, the genre lines are becoming more and more blurred. I love this.

In the past, traditional publications were the gatekeepers and if you approached them with a story which included, say, shape-shifters and steampunk, or science fiction werewolves, they couldn't say no fast enough. Because genre is really a marketing tool. Their first consideration is, "How do we sell this?"

Now, indies have the opportunity to explore just exactly what genre means and how far they can push the envelope, and they are finding an audience which wasn't possible in traditional publishing, carving out their own successful niche.

What you should look for in a developmental editor, which is what I specialize in, is one who has a firm grasp of story structure. This is the framework on which your story is built. Without the proper foundation, the tropes associated with the genre don't matter because the whole thing comes tumbling down.

SADYE: What do you wish authors would do, to make your job go smoother?

ANNETTA: Most of my clients have been with me for a number of years, and I have no complaints. For new clients, it makes my job a lot easier when you follow the guidelines for formatting and for the love of all that's holy, at least do a simple spell/grammar check before submitting.

You'd be surprised how many people don't even do that much. What that tells me is you're not taking the editing process seriously, and if you don't, why should anyone else?

SADYE: What’s the most common issue you come across?

ANNETTA: Telling and not showing enough. There are times when telling is necessary, but it's better to show if you can.

The other thing I see a lot is the story doesn't start in the right place. You want to start when the story starts, not begin with a ton of backstory that may or may not have an impact on the story you want to tell.

You have to grab the reader from the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter or they're going to close the book or move on to the next sample.

SADYE: What qualities should an author look for when considering editors?

ANNETTA: First, you want to make sure your personality and style fits with the editor's. Request a sample edit (most editors are happy to oblige) and see if the two of you mesh. Everybody's different, and sometimes it's just not a fit. Contact their references, and ask questions about what their working relationship is like.

The next thing I would look for is dependability. Does the editor meet their deadlines, do they communicate with the writer, are they clear about what they offer? Make sure you're both on the same page. (I know, that's a really bad pun. Heh.)

SADYE: Do you encounter any misconceptions/stereotypes about book editors that you'd like to clear up?

ANNETTA: One of the misconceptions is that editing is expensive. It's not inexpensive, but it's well worth the investment. Most editors are willing to work out some kind of payment plan, if necessary.

In a good working relationship with your editor, you will learn lessons that will carry over into your next book, and improve your writing. Remember too, when someone picks up your book, whether it's your first one or your tenth, it's your one and only shot to hook the reader. If you put out a sub-par product, you have lost that reader.

The other misconception is that some authors are unfamiliar with the different levels of editing and are not really sure what they need. There's developmental or content editing, which evaluates the story for plot, characterization, story structure, and narrative flow. The big picture, in other words.

Copy editing or line editing is focused on sentence structure, word choice, grammar, and punctuation. A good copy editor helps you say what you mean and mean what you say. The final level is proofreading, which is concerned with typos and punctuation. There is a certain overlap, but each is a distinct and separate skill set.

Three beta readers and a spell check is not the same thing as an edit from a trained professional. That's the bottom line.

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Learn more about and contact Annetta at her website, and like her on Facebook.

Categories: Behind the scenes

Tagged As: Editing, Writing advice

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