When I was first starting to learn about publishing, one of the most helpful publications was a book called EDITORS ON EDITING: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do.  It’s been revised several times and even the current edition(1994)  isn’t at all up to speed on ebooks and online marketing and such, but it’s a great basic primer for learning how the business works and what editors of different genres need to look for. 

It also explains the editing process and the different types of editors:

  • Acquisitions editor – An editor whose primary job is to evaluate, negotiate and buy.  He would then pass off the project to a different editor.  Occasionally, you still hear about this – usually only if the author is really big and it’s an editorial director or publisher handling the buy.  But generally, most projects stay with the person who buys the book.
  • Developmental editor – This is primarily seen in nonfiction and educational publishers.  Or if a publisher is trying to package a house-owned series.  Basically, the editor comes up with most of the ideas for the book and gets someone else (or assembles a team) of other people to write it.
  • Line editor – The most common editing that we editors do – fix the plot, sentence structure, pacing, and all that good stuff.  We’re looking at the overall picture–does this book make sense? are the characters complex and likable? will this be satisfying to the reader?–as well as the more nitty-gritty–does this sentence make sense? is this paragraph necessary?
  • Copyeditor – This person gets the book after the line edit and is primarily checking for consistency–making sure ages and eye color and things stay the same–clarity and basic grammar/style issues. 
  • Proofreader – The proofreader catches any consistency or grammar issues missed by the line editor and copy editor and looks for any typos that may have been created when typesetting the manuscript.

A lot of houses blend a number of these.  At Dorchester, our editors acquire and do the line edit.  In certain cases, they’ve also developed series.  We also write cover copy, consult on cover art, write marketing information and do sales analysis.  The books then go into the copyediting and proofreading stages.  But every house works a bit differently.

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