What I’ve Learned as a Book Editor

When I first decided to create a business as a book editor, it took me a while to figure out what I was doing. It actually came to fruition because of necessity after moving halfway across the country. That doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t enjoy being a book editor. Quite the opposite. I love being a book editor and helping writers achieve their dreams! The idea that a writer trusts me enough with their book baby to help it become the best story it can be is super humbling and rewarding. While I’ve learned a lot about writing and editing over the past few years, being a book editor has taught me a lot about seemingly unrelated things as well. 

Who am I? Author, book editor, creator

In short, I am a lover of all things bookish. I’ve been reading since I was three and telling stories even before then. When it came time to choose a bachelor’s degree, Creative Writing was an obvious choice. I wanted to not only study the structure of stories, but how to create my own. In my classes, I had many chances to workshop the writing of my peers and even my professors. Having a structured setting where I learned not only how to make stories stronger and writing cleaner, but how to explain those thoughts to my peers was imperative. It’s one thing to have an idea to make a story clearer. It’s an entirely different thing to discuss it in an empathetic and comprehensible way. That’s my goal with my editing clients, to make sure they not only understand the changes I’m suggesting but the purpose and care behind them. 

It’s one thing to have an idea to make a story clearer. It’s an entirely different thing to discuss it in an empathetic and comprehensible way. Click To Tweet

What is a book editor?

While there’s a good chance you already know what a book editor is and what they do, I want to take a moment to discuss this for those who might not. 

A book editor is a person, or team of people, who read through a writer’s book and suggest changes to plot and/or structure to improve the story or fit within a specific style guide. These suggestions could be as big as removing a character or subplot, or as small as adding a comma. The changes depend on the type of editor a writer is working with. The “Big 5” publishing houses can employ book editors, editors can work as freelancers, or anywhere in-between. I am a freelance editor, so I mainly work with indie authors to help polish their books before they self-publish them. 

What I’ve learned as a book editor

Now that we’ve gotten all the basics out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this post, the reason you decided to read this in the first place. What have I learned as a book editor? Well, I’ve learned a lot of different things. I’ve become a stronger writer and editor since I’ve started my business, I’ve learned a lot about being my own boss and taxes, and am more confident when using en and em dashes. While those are all great things, they’re not very interesting. Below you’ll find the more interesting things I’ve learned as a book editor and maybe learn something about yourself too.

How not to use a thesaurus

As a book editor, I’ve come across some very interesting sentences because the writer was using the thesaurus to avoid “mundane” words. While using the thesaurus can strengthen your writing in most instances, that’s not always the case. Sometimes writers decide to follow a rabbit through the thesaurus and end up with some pretty interesting sentences and phrases. One of the most recent examples of thesaurus “misuse” I had the privilege of reading is “sarcastic radian.” I had to take a small break after reading that one. As I mentioned, the thesaurus can be a great tool. However, it’s important to remember to verify the word still fits within the context of the sentence. There’s a big difference between “terrible” and “laughable” but they’re technically synonyms of each other. Needless to say, the thesaurus has become my best friend when trying to understand some of the trickier sentences.

While using the thesaurus can strengthen your writing in most instances, that’s not always the case. Click To Tweet

My best time to work

While I’ve always been a night owl, being a book editor has cemented that fact. As much as I try to work during “normal” hours, I never can seem to concentrate (just writing this sentence alone has taken legit twenty-plus minutes). I’ve tried all the tricks and apps I can think of; Forest App, giving my phone to my husband, leaving my phone in another room, racing a clock, group coworking sessions, listening to music, having a specific drink, or music or scent to use when working. None of it works, or if it does, it doesn’t stick. I can struggle to edit a single client chapter for over two hours in the morning/afternoon, but as soon as five or six o’clock rolls around, I can suddenly focus and get a ton of work done. There’s a chance it could be in my head, but all my energy and motivation seem to wake up once the sun sets. That’s fine for solo work or when I’m working with clients overseas, but not when I need daylight for taking pictures or have to call a business that operates on usual business hours. 

Motivators

When I’m struggling with productivity as a book editor while working on client edits, or writing my own books, I’m not ashamed to admit that something as simple as a piece of candy is a great motivator to get past the part I’m struggling on. Now, it doesn’t have to be candy; it can be an iced coffee, a glass of wine, a YouTube video, a nap, the list goes on. The most important thing for me is to ensure I don’t use the same motivator too often or I’ll get bored of it. There has to be a balance of getting the work done because I want to and treating myself when I can’t seem to focus otherwise. I’ve also learned that it’s not a good idea to reward myself with mobile games, such as Matchington Mansion, or scrolling through social media. There have been far too many times where I’ve said I’ll only spend ten minutes playing or scrolling and the next thing I know, I’ve lost half my day. It’s important to choose motivators and rewards that won’t hinder my overall productivity.

I’m not ashamed to admit that something as simple as a piece of candy is a great motivator to get past the part I’m struggling on. Click To Tweet

How to advocate for me

Being my own boss as a book editor means that I’m in charge of everything. That includes making sure I’m not overworking myself, that the subject matter I’m editing is something I’m okay with, and my clients are paying me a fair price for my edits. What that also means is that I’m the one that handles all customer service issues. I’m the type of person who likes to make people happy, so I had to learn how to stand up for myself. Sometimes that means turning down a client because I have too much work I’m doing. Other times, it means having uncomfortable conversations about money. While it’s not always easy, I’m glad it’s at least something I am strong enough to do. If there is something I have to do that is more difficult for me, I make sure that I give myself ample time to decompress afterward. That may mean that I do it first thing and have a slow morning, do it around lunch and reward myself with an iced coffee, or do it near the end of the day or weekend and have something fun to look forward to. I don’t like to make it the very last thing, however. The idea of emailing someone and then having to wait an entire day or even a weekend to see their response is super anxiety-inducing. So, I make sure they have 1-2 hours to respond. That way I have a good chance of getting a response and can relax for the evening/weekend.

Are you looking for a book editor?

Are you or anyone you know looking for an editor? Do you want someone who cares as much about your story and making it the best it can be as you do? Is it important to work with someone who feels more like a friend than just another business person? If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, then feel free to reach out to me via my website, send me a DM on Instagram or Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have, bundle different services together, and provide a sample edit to make sure we’re a great fit. You can also join my newsletter to get editing tips, news about sales and new services, and a PDF full of advice on how to make your book the strongest you can make it before you send it off to an editor, like myself, to polish it up before your readers get it.

So, what now?

Now that I’ve shared what I’ve learned as a book editor, I want to hear from you. What have you learned from your writing journey? Have you picked up any tips from this article? What are you currently working on? Leave me a comment, reach out to me on social media, or share this with a friend. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, I’m always happy to talk about any and all things writing and editing. You can also check out my debut novel Well of Vengeance if you’re a fan of YA dark fantasy.