What Can A Book Editor Do For Me?

Throughout the extensive process of writing, some writers may question the need for an editor. They may wonder if they can edit their manuscript themselves and ask, ‘What can a book editor do for me?’

While it’s certainly prudent to redraft a manuscript several times and self-edit before considering the next step, it’s worthwhile pointing out what value a professional editor can add to your manuscript.

Many people may not know the true extent of what an editor can do for them. Editors are far from simply professional spell-checkers and proofreaders, as many may assume. While that is part of the process of editing, it is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

post-it note about editor qualities, editor queensland, editor australia, writing coach gold coast, writing coach brisbane, writing coach queensland, writing coach australia, publisher submissions gold coast, publisher submissions brisbane, publisher submissions queensland

What Exactly Does A Book Editor Do?

An editor corrects errors, and improves and polishes a draft manuscript, refining sentences and wording to ensure they are precise, clear and effective. They look for consistency in the storyline, cut what doesn’t work – which often first involves a discussion with the author – and suggest rewording or repositioning to ensure the audience gets the most out of the read and that the point of the narrative is maintained.

Publishing Knowledge

Editors with many years’ experience are likely to have ties throughout the writing world, including with publishers, literary agents, book design services and book promotion services. They’ll be able to advise on the different types of publishing, including what may suit you and your manuscript best, and explain the different aspects of the publication process.

An editor who is invested in the success of your manuscript will provide you with an improved manuscript and a better chance with submissions and possibilities of publication. Next time you ask, ‘Do I need an editor?’ or ‘What can a book editor do for me?’ keep this in mind.

Later, you might like to read this blog for more information about publishing: How Can I Publish My Book: What Are My Options? https://editors4you.com.au/how-can-i-publish-my-book-what-are-my-options/

Copyright, Legal, Ethical Issues in Manuscripts

What writers may not know is that an experienced editor can also alert you to any potential red flags within your manuscript, ranging from copyright and legal issues to ethical dilemmas, and refer you to the appropriate experts for further advice.

Did you know, for example, that it is a breach of copyright to use song lyrics in a book without seeking permission to reproduce? No matter how much you love the song, no matter how well it suits your story, it is still another artist’s creative effort and as such, it is subject to copyright.

The above is just a brief overview of what an editor can do for you. Check out these other blogs by editors4you that may help answer more of your questions: Questions to Ask Book Editors https://editors4you.com.au/questions-to-ask-book-editors/ and Four Things Writers Need to Know About Book Editors https://editors4you.com.au/four-things-writers-need-to-know-about-book-editors/

What Doesn’t A Book Editor Do?

What a professional editor does not do is attempt to change your author’s voice. After all, that is one of the features of your manuscript that makes it unique.

An editor should also critique not criticise your work, providing firm but kind, respectful, valuable, objective suggestions and advice.

Do I Need A Book Editor?

If you plan to publish your book, quite simply an editor is vital – whichever type of publishing path you decide to follow: mainstream publishing house (not so easy), subsidy publishing or self-publishing. You’ll find more information on these options here: How To Get Your Book Published https://editors4you.com.au/how-to-get-your-book-published/

An editor is your first reader and your first critic. They ensure your manuscript is up to publishing standard to satisfy discerning readers and publishing houses.  

Time Frame For Editing

In case you’re wondering, the answer to ‘how long will it take to edit my manuscript?’ is not ‘how long is a piece of string!’ Previous clients have occasionally told me that they have submitted their precious manuscript to an editor and then months later, the edit had progressed so little that they cut their losses, asked for it back and went searching for an editor who would give them a definite and realistic time frame and just get the job done.

A professional editor will need to sight your manuscript to give you both a time frame and a quotation.

Variables to consider:

  • Word count
  • Level of editing needed to bring the manuscript to publishing standard
  • Availability of your chosen editor.

A structural or developmental edit will take longer than a copy edit (see here for types of editing: https://editors4you.com.au/book-editors-gold-coast/book-editing-australia-accredited-editor/).

Regardless, of the above variables, an experienced, professional editor will be able to give you a definite time frame for when you can expect your edited manuscript to be returned to you for review.

Does The Editor Check Every Change With Me?

The simple answer to this is ‘No’, as it would be a very inefficient way to work. You need to trust your editor and know that they know best.

While I haven’t reached the celestial heights that author Stephen King implies in his excellent and very readable book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, I do love his words: ‘The editor is always right. The corollary is that no writer will take all of his or her editor’s advice; for all have sinned and fallen short of editorial perfection. Put another way, to write is human, to edit is divine.’

In the same book, King gives us a writing and cutting back formula: ‘Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.’

While the editor won’t check every change with you, a good editor will communicate with you during the edit if they come across passages that need to be discussed with you. The editing process may unveil additional issues they were originally unaware of.

Don’t be surprised if your editor suggests a second edit and final proofread after you have reviewed the edited manuscript. Most often, rewording and sometimes new writing are needed. The editor will need to check this before your manuscript hits the reading world as a book. Proofreading is the final stage of the editorial process.

Collaboration Between Author and Editor

The better the relationship and collaboration between an author and their editor, the better the manuscript will be. The blog The Writer–Editor Relationship explains the process in more depth.

The relationship between the author and their editor is vital to the editing process. Perhaps the question, ‘What can a book editor do for me?’ should be followed by, ‘What can I do for my editor?’

How Much Should I Expect To Pay?

Is editing expensive? This is one of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the editing process. The answer depends on various factors, including:

  • The editor you choose to work with, their skills, qualifications and experience
  • What level of work your book needs to bring it to publishing standard
  • The variables mentioned earlier
  • Whether you have an urgent deadline.

Some Australian editors charge a per-word fee, some charge by the hour. However they charge, it’s important to obtain an overall figure for the edit. You want and need to know up front how much the edit is going to cost you. Some editors offer payment plans, so it’s always worth asking your editor of choice if they can help you out in this way.

Are My Editing Expenses Tax Deductible?

If you are selling your book, then any of the costs related to producing the book are likely to be considered a business expense – not only editing. Check with your accountant and ask the question.

Editing is An Investment

It’s important to consider editing an investment. A professional edit will increase the chance of your book either being accepted by a mainstream publisher, or being embraced rather than reviled by the reading public in the case of self-publishing. Be realistic: editing is one of the major costs in producing a book, as the authors of the self-publishing ‘bible’ APE: How To Publish A Book state: http://apethebook.com/

Parting Words

A professional editor is a vital part of the publication process and frankly, the difference between being selected for publication or turned away, or spurned by your reading public if self-publishing. A good editor will take your manuscript to a new level, allowing your voice to shine through, possibly brighter than before. ‘What can a book editor do for me?’ is a great question with a multitude of answers.

I hope you have found what you came here for and are able to see the rest of that pesky iceberg.

Acknowledgements for ‘What Can A Book Editor Do For Me?’

Atwood, Blake, The Write Life: Looking for a Book Editor? Here’s How Much You Should Expect to Pay, 24 Feb 2017: thewritelife.com/how-much-to-pay-for-a-book-editor/ Accessed 12 Sept 2019

Hill, Beth, Duties of an Editor & How Editors Help Writers, 3 April 2013: theeditorsblog.net/2011/02/01/duties-of-an-editor-how-editors-help-writers/ Accessed 12 Sept 2019

Irvine, Melinda J, Tax Tips for Australian Writers, 2018: melirvine.com.au/2018/03/06/tax-tips-for-australian-writers/ Accessed 12 Sept 2019

King, Stephen, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000, Hodder & Stoughton, Oxon UK.

‘What Can A Book Editor Do For Me?’ is a collaboration between Brienna Cottam and Gail Tagarro. Brienna is a student at the University of the Sunshine Coast where she’s studying the course Bachelor of Creative Writing. She is currently undertaking an internship with Gail Tagarro at editors4you.com


Stuck with your writing? Need some guidance? Finished your manuscript and need a professional edit before making those publisher submissions? Give me a call on 0405 695 534!


Ask about our Writing and Self-publishing Packages.


Want to improve your writing skills? For just $11.95, look no further than this entertaining, easy-to-read eBook Ten Ways to Supercharge Your Writing Skills: with bonus chapter on self-publishing.

ten ways to supercharge your writing skills

You can also send us a query about your book online if you prefer!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: