Acquisition editors work for publishing houses. They look for books that can produce profit, and they look for work that is in good shape and won’t require a huge investment of editing and revision time.
Freelance editors, however, work directly for you, the writer. They’re behind the scenes, quietly correcting your work and offering suggestions for improvement. Depending on the level of editing required, a freelance editor can smooth out plot problems, spot glaring timeline errors, and eliminate typos and other distracting mistakes. In other words, freelance editors improve your chances of being noticed by an acquisition editor or an agent, which is the goal of most marginally sane writers.
If you’re self-publishing, it’s even more important to get your work carefully edited. Most PODs offer editing services for an extra fee, but it’s up to the writer to make sure his or her work is in near perfect form before it goes to print. There will be no editing staff on hand to double-check for typos or spelling errors at the last minute. And Aunt Dora might be offended to read about her “pubic announcement” rather than her public one.
Writers and editors share a love of the written word. We’re a bunch of voracious readers, daydreamers, and poets. Bookstores call to us like the open road calls to the drifter, but here’s where the road diverges. Writers have the freedom of creative license, while editors are trained in the “rules” of writing. However ours is also a subtle art. A truly talented editor can determine that fine line between following the rules and doing what’s best for a particular manuscript. A good copy editor will make choices that create a crisp and immaculately polished manuscript, carefully preserving and showcasing the writer’s unique voice all the while.
It takes a certain, persnickety type of person to really care about the mechanics of the English language and instinctively make appropriate improvements. Our eyes are drawn to the detail. We’re the type of people who are horrified by advertisements proclaiming, “Were here to help get you’re dreams started!” or are jolted by mismatched quotation marks on a billboard. Yes, we’re a strange bunch, but we get the job done.
There are two different types of freelance editors. Content editors
(often called “book doctors”) are able to look at the big picture and
can help correct plot issues, character problems, and general problem
areas. They often suggest extensive rewrites and revisions. Copy
editors are focused on your work line by line and are looking for
grammatical problems, consistency and clarity.
So, what can a freelance copy editor do for you? For one thing, most writers find it extremely difficult to proof their own work, and a detail-oriented stranger can offer a careful review with an objective eye. The result should be a clean, correct, well-formatted version of the original. The truth is that the publishing industry is so over-run with manuscripts, that cross-eyed interns are literally searching for reasons to throw a manuscript into the "reject" pile. A few proofreading errors, an awkward sentence here and there, or incorrect formatting provide the perfect rationale for rejection. Even if you self-publish, do you want your little areas of mechanical roughness to be immortalized in hundreds, perhaps thousands of copies of your finished product? It pays to invest in perfection.
A professional copy editor should have a firm grasp of the English language, as well as a solid working knowledge of at least one style manual (the Edit Chick uses the Chicago Manual of Style) plus an extensive library of reference books. The Internet is also full of secret sites that make copy editors swoon with delight, where we can double-check song lyrics, verify the location of an English castle, or check the spelling of a Roman emperor’s name.
Should your character make his confession to the priest or the minister? Are you alluding to (or eluding?) a novel by Stephen King…or Steven King? A good copy editor will know…or know how to find out.