3 Things to Expect from Your Substantive Editor

Jan 10, 2015

Substantive edit queryYour substantive editor is the person who will review your manuscript to ensure the content and structure are clear. As we’ve explained in a previous post, substantive editing involves looking at big-picture things such as narrative and character development, pacing, consistency of voice, and chapter organization. If it’s your first time working with a substantive editor, you might want to know how to set the process up for success. Here are three things to look out for:

 1.     Queries, not corrections Successful substantive editing doesn’t often involve correcting or rewriting on the editor’s part. The work of a good substantive editor can be most accurately described in this one word: querying. An editor should ask the right questions that will prompt the author to write the best book he can write. These well-expressed, well-placed questions will help the author identify which elements could be strengthened or clarified, and how best to handle the revisions. That way, the text remains the author’s original work but the prose becomes even stronger and the ideas are more vividly and clearly expressed thanks to the editor’s queries.

2.     An editor with book editing experience When it comes to substantive editing, book publishing experience is key. Editors who typically work on short-form pieces such as magazine articles might not have the skills required to help you shape a long-form work, even if they have many years of experience in their field. If possible, hire an editor who has edited books before – preferably in your genre (e.g. literary fiction, creative non-fiction, practical non-fiction, etc.).

3.     An editor with genuine interest in your subject area—but not deep expertise The substantive editor does not need to be an expert in your field. On the contrary: if your work is aimed at the general reader, it’s preferable to hire an editor who can help you convey your own expertise in ways that don’t require specialized knowledge. She can ask you to fill in information gaps that might arise because of your closeness to the subject, and her distance from the subject can help her identify those gaps.  However, it’s helpful to know that your editor feels enthusiastic about your work and takes a sincere interest in it. An editor’s strong engagement with the subject can produce positive results: it will show in the good work she produces and can result in an excellent working relationship. Editing is one of Page Two’s key areas of expertise. Drop us a line and let us know how we might help address your own editorial questions.