Why you need an editor
Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m sure you are a fabulous writer. But you need to have your book edited. Why? Many reasons. First of all, it is very difficult to be objective about your own work. You might have made mistakes, your story might not flow, you might have bad grammar, and you might be conveying the wrong message – there is any number of things that can go wrong that you won’t pick up on because you wrote it. A good editor will help you make sure that there are no mistakes, typos, or otherwise, and can also help you ensure that your book’s tone and language flow and convey the message you want to convey.
Hire an editor. You’re welcome.
What to look for in a picture book editor
Picture book editors differ from regular editors because they are trained to look at the story differently. Picture book editors examine the story while taking the potential images into account as well. They can tell you things like, “Take out this line of text because it is something you can show in the illustrations,” or “This is too wordy – remove it so kids won’t get bored.” They realize that a picture book is a marriage of words and images, and they read the text while keeping this in mind. A regular editor might not consider this while they edit your text, and your picture book will ultimately suffer as a result.
Types of Edits
There are several types of edits that you want your book to undergo. Sometimes one person can do all three, and sometimes you might want to have a separate editor and copyeditor. Please note that sometimes editors will have different terms for each type of edit. Many, though, will offer all three of these edits, no matter what they call them. The types of edits are:
- Developmental Edit
This kind of editing is done to the story as a whole. Does it flow? Are you sending the right message? Is it engaging? Are the illustration notes understandable and do they make sense?
- Line Edit
This is the editing of the words themselves. Does the writing sparkle? Does the word choice make sense? Is there an overuse of adverbs or adjectives? Can something be said in a better or more concise way?
- Copyedit (i.e. – Proofreading)
This is the technical edit. Are there grammar mistakes? Spelling errors? Syntax errors?
One thing to keep in mind is that editors are not G-d. Especially with the developmental edit, keep an open mind when the editor gives you their suggestions and realize that they are just that – suggestions. Sometimes, if your vision doesn’t align with the editor’s and you feel strongly about your story or concept, don’t be afraid to go ahead anyway. You might need a different editor, or you just might need to be brave. I saw an interview with Stan Lee, creator of some of the most iconic superhero comics of all time, where he sent his editor an idea for a new comic about a teenage boy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gets superpowers as a result. The editor was appalled. “Nobody wants to read about teenage superheroes! Superheroes should be grown men who have their lives figured out! They are role models! And nobody will buy a book about a spider. I can’t publish this!” Stan couldn’t get the idea out of his head, though, so he printed the first episode of the story in the last issue of a magazine they were about to close down, figuring that the magazine was getting shut down anyway, so if people hate it, no harm, no foul. He named the character Peter Parker, alias – Spiderman. Well, the rest is history. People loved it, the editor told Stan he loved the idea all along, and Stan learned a valuable lesson about trusting your instincts.
Another thing to keep in mind is that edits can be brutal. Your book is your baby, something you have thought about, labored over, poured bits of yourself into, and then you send it off to the editor who sends it back covered with red marks and cross-outs. It is tempting to think that this must mean you are a bad writer who never should have attempted this in the first place, what were you thinking, might as well throw in the towel now before you humiliate yourself. Don’t do that to yourself. You are doing great, and the editor is just trying to help you create a beautiful story. Developing a thick skin will enhance your work, make you easier to work with, and enable you to really progress in your writing skills.
One last thing. It is tempting when sending it to an editor, to keep editing it forever. I guarantee you that if you send it to an editor and make their corrections, then send it back, you’ll get it back from them with more red marks. There are always changes to be made. Don’t keep editing forever – do it a few times, until you are confident and happy with the story, and then stop. Otherwise, the book will be in editing purgatory forever.
- Get your manuscript edited before you start with an illustrator
- Hire an editor that has picture book experience
- Make sure your story goes through all 3 types of edits – the developmental edit, the line edit, and the copyedit
- Don’t be afraid to ignore suggested changes if you don’t like them, but make sure to keep an open mind
Did I miss any important points or tips about working with picture book editors? Please let me know in the comments, below!
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