What Does A Good Editor Do For you …….

Christine Borra

One of the most frequent questions I get asked…

Your Books Consultant, Christine Anne Borra #bookgirlnz talks to Geoff Walker, one of New Zealand’s leading editors, about the role of a good editor.

“…editing isn’t rewriting the book.” – Geoff Walker

Christine Anne Borra: What changes have you seen in the editing world, with the explosion of self-publishing and ‘indie’-publishing?

Geoff Walker: In these days of self-publishing and ‘indie’-publishing I fear that good editing is sometimes less valued than it used to be. I recall an article some time ago in which a very confident self-published writer declared that you didn’t need an editor and you should save money by editing the manuscript yourself. . . . And as for proofreading . . . . She was saying: “After all, you are the writer, and it is your book! Save yourself some dollars.” Needless to say, I disagree very strongly!

I also recall several instances in recent years when writers have received my edited MS (manuscript) and paid my fee – but then said they’ll punctuate the book their way, thank you very much. Their way, needless to say, was technically, formally speaking, incorrect. Both books have since been self-published . . .

But to be fair, in my experience there is sometimes confusion in people’s minds as to precisely what editing is. For example, editing isn’t rewriting the book – although at one level it might include some of that. Editing also isn’t proofreading – although again a basic edit will include elements of proofreading.

Christine Anne Borra: Could you identify a few different types of editing?

Geoff Walker: I‘ll identify two kinds of editing:

First: Structural editing. I call this ‘gut editing’. This is the big test of the MS. It will happen when a MS arrives at the publishing house. Or perhaps an author just wants to know how good their MS is. The editor now reads it for the big stuff: continuity of story, character development, whether the narrative makes sense, appropriateness for its chosen genre, and so on.

– Are there gaps?
– What doesn’t the editor understand?
– Does it flow?
– Is it too long, or too short?
– Is there more to be said?
– Are there factual mistakes?
– Are there any defamation or other legal problems?

Second: Line editing, or text editing, or copy editing. This is editing in fine detail, paying attention to grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency of style including house style, character detail and so on. In this stage the editor is essentially preparing the MS for design and typesetting then publication.

Geoff Walker is a former publishing director of Penguin New Zealand, now working as a freelance editor, writer and publishing consultant.

Note that this is not the same as proofreading, which usually takes place after a book has been typeset and laid out. And of course all of this is different from manuscript assessment, which is exactly what it says – a reading of the MS and an assessment, leading to a report for the author. That’s not editing.

I think that these days too many self-publishing authors go to the editing stage too early – and they can waste a lot of money. Assessing may need to happen first.

As a freelancer these days I’m sometimes asked to ‘copy-edit’ a MS when it’s clear that what’s required is a structural edit – perhaps even a formal manuscript assessment and report. More work may be needed. Or someone asks me to ‘proofread’ their MS, when their work really needs a much more substantial structural edit. As I said, authors can waste a lot of money paying for an edit when the book simply isn’t ready.

Christine Anne Borra: What services do you offer? And how can authors get in touch with you Geoff?

Geoff Walker: I work with many self-publishing authors as an editor and consultant and can be contacted at geoffwbooks@gmail.com or 09-3788875.


© Geoff Walker