All kids have heroes.
My Avengers were always editors and professional readers of books:
Individuals who could take something unreadable and turn it into something great.
However, they're more like Smurfs than Avengers.
[Click the images to see credited sources. All were listed as fair use]
There are many types of readers and editors to help mold writing into readable work.
I have not listed all of them below, but have focused on some I have used and worked with over the years.
Note: I’m not a copyeditor.
My first (career) job was teaching second language learners at a university the craft of writing and helping them edit their stories and academic papers.
Since then, I have acted as what is listed below on writing projects and academic papers for over twelve years and have had my own work looked at by these types of people. Currently, I edit stories that are submitted to my 42 Stories Anthology, but there are also many editors who work on the anthology with me and they do more detailed editing than I do. The staff on the team fit all of the titles below, so I am somewhat familiar with this topic.
That said, I’d like to help others identify editors and specialized readers, because there is a lot of confusion.
If you believe anything is inaccurate, I encourage you to let me know.
A beta reader does a general read through and gives a few comments here and there about a book. Doesn't edit in a professional way.
Usually, this process is done for free or by agreement such as, “I’ll read your book if you read mine.”
Some people charge for beta reading books, but it's generally not a lot.
The beta reader also might suggest a little to help with the book, but it’s very general help.
If you notice a few comments throughout your story that touch on misspellings or small suggestions on 30 of 200 pages, you’ve experienced a beta read.
Personally, when I've beta read, I've written up a summary of suggestions on a page for authors after beta reading using a sandwich effect:
Mention something strong about the story or characters,
what needs work the most,
and end with encouragement such as pointing to editors who might help get the work published.
The reason Vanity Smurf would best represent the beta reader is that often beta reading simply consists of two writers saying "THIS STORY IS SO LOVELY" to each, trying not to hurt the other’s feelings in the process. Don't feel this is negative. In fact, having a book beta read is a great first step after you complete a few drafts and a solid way to build your confidence in writing.
If you want to go negative, look to the next title:
A critique partner is a professional reader who makes thorough comments on almost every page, which can be general comments regarding changes needed. Alternately, this reader can be very brutal and mean.
Helpful examples from one:
"This sentence doesn't make any sense. Delete or reword."
"You wrote mythologically instead of methodology. Haha. Dummy!"
This person is usually paid money and the amount is up to them. Paid ones don't call you dummy, but they'll be really critical and for good reason. Hearing what doesn't work about your story or writing will help more than hearing what works.
Grumpy Smurf is a good fit for this title as the person usually has blunt comments about a story that the writer might not be happy with, but the comments are honest and from experience usually.
Story/character development partner (or developmental editor):
This person looks at the story and or character and can be separately billed depending on the agreement. They suggest, in great detail, specifically how a story or character(s) can be improved upon or states what could be added to the story or character to help with a story or character.
They usually ignore details that a critique partner might pay attention to and instead they focus on story and or character specifically.
This person is paid based on rates they set. Some developmental readers even work on grammar and do minimal copy or line editing.
Handy Smurf best represents this person as they are good at working out the kinks of characters, fixing problems such as plot holes.
This editor, as the title suggests, goes through every line of a story and makes each line either shorter and or more coherent for the reader.
Original writing: She slowly shuttered upon the edges of her cackling lashes whilst they batted thereupon the quivers of her baited hairs—momentarily binding her lustful dark aqua eyes.
Line edited: She blinked.
Unlike a developmental editor, the line editor will focus on how to make the sentence, line by line, readable regardless of the story or character. To make this even more confusing, some line editors also do developmental edits.
Smurfette best represents this editor as they make the story arguably beautiful, but they don't always focus on grammar or syntactic rules. That's a copyeditor's job.
This editor is familiar with grammar, syntax, and style rules and will often refer to rule books such as APA or MLA, knows comma rules by heart (probably), and might be kind enough to suggest style guide books. Here are a few of my favorites:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
The Elephants of Style by Bill Walsh
The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers
This editor knows the difference between
effect, affect, and aeffect,
there, their, they’re, and theiy’re,
and all that jazz.
In short, this editor makes your book more grammatical sound and follows the rules from composition class that most of us forgot.
Definitely the Brainy Smurf of editors. You might find them annoying at times, but they save you from embarrassing mistakes.
Copyeditor: "Erm, you wrote 'your welcome in that sentence, but you meant you're welcome.' Remember, it's your turn vs. you're mistaken as in you are."
You: "Whatever! Freaking brainy know-it-all."
Copyeditor: "You're welcome."
Aside from proofing and checking the final draft of a book, proofreaders find technical issues and mark them thoroughly throughout a manuscript on the final draft. Also, proofreaders sometimes work and manage groups (including looking for misses from a copyeditor).
Their focus is on production errors (thank you, EAE members for pointing this out).
This editor is often the last person to read a book before it's published.
They can lead, or work on their own.
A big difference between a copyeditor and proofreader is that a proofreader might also critique, do developmental editing, line edit, and all of the above. Some of them, however, do this to a lesser extent than the above persons, which is partly why they often read a book after a copyeditor.
The proofreader also charges for what they do, so keep that in mind. Some proofreaders, in addition, specialize in specific tasks, so it’s good to make sure you have the sort of proofreader you’re looking for before hiring one.
Proofreaders would be the equivalent of Papa Smurf. They follow the rules they learned from experience, guide like teachers or mentors, and make your story beautiful at the same time if you find the right one.
Are you searching for an editor or reader for your book?
I hope that this blog helped you think of which one to hire, and strongly recommend real editor organizations to find one rather than searching the Internet.
Below is a list of where you can find editors, created by mostly the Princess of Oz:
ACES, or EFA for the US, IPEd for Oz and NZ, CIEP for the UK, South African GA, Editors Canada, The Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators in Japan, India has a guild, too.
Thank you to all of the Editors Association of Earth members for helping me catch mistakes in this blog.
[Copyright information: All images were found at Fandom.com where they state that images fall under the fair use act found here and at Pixabay.com where images are all fair use]