Finding an editor: writing coaches, formatters, and proofreaders are more than they appear
Writing coaches, formatters, and proofreaders seem self-explanatory when you glance at the role, but they’re often misunderstood and sometimes overlooked entirely. These three people are essential to your manuscript’s publication. Last week, I talked about the three primary editing services you’ll see, and the people I’m talking about this week may or may not be the same person. You should read more about their actual roles before assuming your editor is all these things—and before deciding you don’t need them. You might realize you do.
Writing coaches aren’t just for novice writers
I’m using a general term for this, but I’ll specify in a bit. Writing coaches come in many forms, and because I offer one form, I’ll go over that first.
Some editors have consultations for authors who need help figuring out a direction for their story or even for some who know they need help with a finished story—a lot of it—but they aren’t ready for it to be edited. You might simply want to find a writing mentor, which I talk more about here, or you want to find someone who can dig into the story with you and discuss what you need to add, remove, expand on, cut down on, etc.
I offer, for example, what I call a Red Pen Consultation. This is for an incomplete manuscript, a complete one that needs more help than it does physical editing, or even for self-publishing help where needed. You can read more about it here, but that’s basically what it’s about. For manuscripts, I read, take notes within the text, and we discuss everything.
If you need a writing coach, someone who will help you throughout your entire writing journey, you need more than a consultation.
I know I said this was a general term, but think of it this way: all types of physicians are still physicians, right? You have a general physician, an obstetric physician, a doctors hospital physician, etc. So, we’re covering the specific “writing coach.”
A writing coach might not have a doctorate, by the way. However, a writing coach will doctor your work with you. I’m not a paid writing coach, but I coach my writers in Authors’ Tale with writing prompts, articles like this one, exercises, tips, and more. I discuss, and I edit for any of my members who seek an editor. I also offer a discount to veteran members, but I digress.
A writing coach will put their heart and soul into your progress. No writing coach is the same, so if you think you need one, look up many on the Internet and ask around. Most writers don’t get a writing coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you think you need one, do your research. They all serve specific functions and offer different services. You’ll want to make sure you can “try out” your coach, and you want to make sure they specialize in your genre of writing. They’ll work with you for a long time—or at least as long as you’re paying them—so you want to know without a doubt that you’ll be satisfied.
Just remember that writing coaches cost money, and you have millions of resources at your disposal for free. If this is something you can afford, great! But don’t think you need to. I didn’t use one, and I can probably toss out the name of a best-selling author and be right when I say they didn’t have one. But, some people need writing coaches, and nothing’s wrong with that at all! We learn differently. Some dive in the deep end. Others test the shallow end. Both learn how to swim, and their abilities are not measured by how they began.
Yes, this counts! Writing groups are incredible coaches, and most of them are free! Authors’ Tale is an example of that. Writing groups bring a community to you, and you can help and be helped. There are hundreds of writing groups on Facebook, many on LinkedIn, and even Twitter has a few writing things going on. You probably have a few face-to-face writing groups where you live! Look these up and join in, but be as active in the group as you want them to be with your work. Don’t expect writing groups to work for you. While a writing coach does for you all you need in return for money, writing groups do for you all that you do for them.
Give and take. But join Authors’ Tale, first. 😉
Here’s where I get rough in the definition. A personal assistant doesn’t help you with your writing as much as they help you with your published book and platform. A PA will help you get your book out there, aid in expanding your platform’s audience, and get your face all over the place as much as they can. They do a lot, and they charge a lot (like writing coaches), but they play a wonderful role.
Your editor is not all these things
Your editor might help you with some of these things, and maybe some editors offer writing sessions, consultations, or they might be personal assistants as well as editors. I design book covers for some of my clients, so why can’t they be PAs, too? Multiple talents. Just don’t assume your editor specializes in these things. Make sure it’s on their website. You don’t want to pay an editor and think they’re going to make your book a bestseller in the marketing world. That’s not their job.
Formatters—not all editors are formatters
When I started editing, I didn’t touch formatting. I wasn’t even going to try. I offer it now, but I’m not advertising it on my services page until I get a few more books under my belt. If I forget to update this when I do, sorry.
Formatters change the style of the manuscript to match the margins, typeface, letting, kerning, etc. you’ll find in a printed book. They make it presentable and professional. Most formatters are also designers and might add a few flourishes where applicable to make the manuscript shine a little. Their job is important, and while you can do it yourself, nothing beats a good formatter.
Many writers who plan to self-publish their books go to an editor thinking that after the edit is complete they can make changes and publish right away. Well, imagine the disappointment that might come when you see a bunch of changes and notes, none of which make your book look like a paperback PDF.
Not all editors format books. More than that, formatting is not a complimentary service. Formatting a book for e-book or for print publication is a time-consuming effort and will be charged as such. Make sure your editor offers this service. If not, you will need to seek an editor for formatting. There’s no reason to seek a new editor entirely, but you’ll need someone after your first edit to format the book. It might even help you to have a separate editor for a job because it’s a fresh set of eyes.
OR YOU CAN FORMAT YOUR OWN BOOK.
Yes, that’s in all-caps, because it’s something not everyone realizes. Formatting is time-consuming, but there are many resources available to you that will help you format your own books. If you want to keep your money, do it yourself! This is one of those things you can do yourself because it’s a list of rules to follow. After that, it’s just preference. It’s not easy, though, so be warned.
Proofreaders are not copyeditors
I said in last week’s post that some copyeditors take the term proofreading in a different direction, so keep that in mind. I’m not going to say proofreaders are not copyeditors without first saying that because you’ll see someone say they offer proofreading, it’ll be described as a form of copyediting, and you’ll say, “Ha! You are incorrect, madam!” Just like that. Madam and all. That’s what I expect.
So, with that in mind, let’s go back to my original statement. Proofreaders are those who read finished proofs against any markup prior to publication. Copyeditors might offer proofreading, but if they describe proofreading as being someone who just checks for grammar, syntax, spelling, etc., that’s not what I’m talking about.
After your book is formatted, a proofreader will get a copy of that finished PDF and read through it, marking any errors (like spelling, grammar, etc. that the copyeditor might have missed, which is inevitable). That’s not all, though. A proofreader’s job is to check the formatting, too. This includes widows, orphans (text jargon), missing indents, improper formatting in places, bad hyphenation, and more. They ensure your formatted manuscript looks as good as it possibly can, and sometimes there will even be a second proofreader. That proofreader will check the first proof’s required changes against the final copy to ensure all changes were made.
Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, in indie publishing, most of the time, the author is the proofreader. That said, you don’t have to be. I don’t offer proofreading, but some editors do. Some only offer proofreading. Whether you use a proofreader is your choice, but don’t assume your editor does this. This job is tedious, and it takes a special kind of awesome for someone to be willing to do this. I don’t have that special kind of awesome. Don’t ask me!
Do you have to pay all these people?
Well, if you hire them you do. But if you don’t, no. Not everyone needs a writing coach, some people format their own books, and some proofread their own books. Nothing is wrong with any of that. The main point is to know that these are services, and they’re not part of an editor’s job unless the editor specifies to tell you otherwise.
These are tedious jobs, and they take a lot of effort and time that require a good eye. If you have it, great! You can try it out and maybe pay a proofreader to look at your work. Or, you can pay a formatter and proofread it yourself. Or, you can pay both. Whatever you want. It’s your decision.
You cannot fault an editor for a failed job that they weren’t meant to do. If you don’t know, ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. These are the three most common jobs that I’ve seen mixed up. Again, the services are ambiguous and some editors define them differently, but in the publishing world, that’s what these people do.
Be nice to them, too.