It's Not as Scary as You Think It is
We at Pen Knights Press (Ms. Cannon's publisher) would like to thank her for giving us the opportunity to continue to guest post on her blog while she has been ill. Our thoughts and prayers are with her as we hope for a speedy recovery!
As a writer and perhaps even as an author, you may hear the term "Editorial Process" and wonder what it is. Perhaps you already know what it is. This is all right. We're going to fill in some of those blanks.
What Is the Editorial Process?
An editorial process is more than just a final edit done by a publisher to make sure it's ready to be released. It's not just the process of choosing who gets published and who doesn't. There are quite a few more steps to a complete, and industry standard, process.
Hence the name of it.
This process assumes that an author has gone through all of their own necessary revisions, edits, read throughs, and whatever else is needed to have a manuscript ready to even submit to a publisher or an agent... and the manuscript has been accepted.
Step One: Identifying What Works (and What Doesn't)
The first step is further developmental editing. A good editor here will go over every single last fine detail to make sure they all jive. They also make sure (especially in this day and age) that nothing too objectionable or inaccurate, even in fiction, has slipped through. The reason for this is to prevent potential lawsuits in a worst case scenario. In a best case scenario, it's just tightening things up and catching anything else that may have slipped through... such as the main character having blue eyes on one page and then later in the story suddenly having green eyes, or a character who can't drive jumping into a car to get away.
Back in the day, there was far more to this than there is now. A publisher was the only actual editor an author relied on to take their books from reasonably ready, but unpolished, to completely done.
Now, however, more and more publishers don't let potential authors away with this. They are expecting that authors have at least done this step on their own and the only developmental edit they could need is a final double check just to make sure it was all caught.
And editor here is also looking for ways to make the book more marketable. Could it realistically have elements to further bring it up to what is on trend by the time it heads to the presses? Or not? Can a character be changed, merged, or something else done to make it a tighter read?
Is the author telling when they could rewrite and show a scene more? Or is telling sufficient? Believe it or not, sometimes showing isn't better than telling even though it generally is better to show rather than tell.
Once all of this is done, and the editor here is satisfied the author has done as much as possible to bring it into line - within reason - it's ready for the next step.
Step Two: Honing/Revising Style
Once all of the development editing has been done, it's time for close editing - or that magic that takes a sentence, paragraph, or even dialogue and makes it tighter and less bland. It's here we measure cadence and style while trying to let the author's voice shine through.
That's the key at every stage.
We're not out to erase the author's voice. We're out to put it front and center without extraneous fluff to confuse the reader from it.
This could result in another rewrite.
Actually, it usually does.
But this is not something to be afraid of. We can tell you that Kristan also used to cringe at the thought of rewriting but now she would rather rewrite and revise instead of create from new because she finds that easier.
Give it a chance and you might too.
Step Three: Further Polishing, Style and Grammatical Edits
Why do we do more style edits on top of the previous ones? Well, in the previous step there could have been an extensive rewrite of entire sections which means we have backtrack a bit and edit those parts while we edit the others.
That's okay. The more work done in the editing process means that the book feels more completed by the time it ends up in a bookstore. A reader truly can tell this and they appreciate it... even if they're not sure what it is they appreciate. But they can tell you when it fell short and exactly where it fell short.
At this point, the extensive rewrites should be finished so the document we will be working in is almost the final one. Instead of revisions and rewrites into a new document file, we work with the one document file (which regular back-ups) tweaking and tugging and pulling until the wording is just right. We also check to make sure the grammar is correct for the dialect of English the author has written the book in.
In Kristan's case, that's Canadian English, which is based heavily on Oxford English with influences from both French and US English. As a Canadian publisher, it's a version of English we guard faithfully as it's part of our literary heritage.
Step Four: Copy Edits
This is the final set of edits which makes sure that there are no typos, no final spelling errors, and no grammatical errors. Now, in a book of over 100,000 words (Again, we look at Kristan) one or two are bound to make their way through no matter how many times numerous people look over the manuscript.
Even Anne Rice finds the occasional typo in her books.
However, the book shouldn't be riddled with them. A single typo out of thousands and thousands of words is a stubborn one. Hopefully, it's not an unfortunate one. If you don't believe us, look up "Unfortunate typos in literature" on Google. The results are hilarious.
After these four steps, the book gets to head to the printers but the job isn't done yet.
Step Five: Final Flight Checks
Everyone involved in the project, including the author, the author's agent (if they have one), publicist, marketers, editors, the author's life partner... beta readers... you name it. Everyone gets a copy of the galleys to go through for one, last, final check to make sure that nothing has been missed.
At this stage, the author gets a first look at their book as the reader would see it. Pages are placed where they will be, artwork inserted, headers and footers designed. Copyright pages inserted - everything. The author also gets a pdf of their cover layout to double check the copy on the cover and for final approval.
Once everything has been checked from steps one through five, and approved by both publisher and author, the book is finally ready to head into distribution and the editorial process completes.
Every author goes through this, although a self-publisher may find that they handle these steps on their own as the publisher. They will be contracting the editing to an editor they trust on their own, and entrusting cover design and layouts to experts. While they may know these experts, and it could be paid through the 'barter' system.
However, whether through a large publisher or self-publisher, the process is the same.
And a reader can definitely tell if a step was missed.