Cover to Cover – Part Four

Your novel has been accepted, and the contract has been signed. The cover designer is hard at work putting together the images that will entice readers to pick your book off the shelf and at least read the back cover copy. You can breathe easy. The work is done.

Not by a long shot.

To make your book the best it can be, it will go through at least another round or two of editing. What is there to edit? I interviewed Erin Howard and Pam Harris, editors for Mantle Rock Publishing to find out what they do to help Mantle Rock authors prepare their books for launch.

Erin Howard – Developmental Editor

What exactly does a developmental editor do?

I look at the big picture of the book and then narrow in on the structure of that book. I look at the plot, themes, characterization, POV/voice, pacing/flow, dialogue, landscapes, and style. Not only do I look at the manuscript through an editor’s eyes, but I also get to look at it through a reader’s eyes.  No matter what stage you are in your writing career, everyone needs and can benefit from developmental editing.

What is your favorite part of this job?

I love getting to know my authors, and help them match their vision to a ready manuscript for editing. Think of it like a director in a movie.  They get to work with the cast and crew from the planning stages, to costumes, to the final editing in the studio.  I work with my authors, asking them questions about their thought process, where they envision the story going, and then make sure they are getting to that end goal. It’s very exciting for me. I love watching all the pieces fall into place.

Have there been times when an author is resistant to the changes you suggest? How do or would you deal with situations like this?

Everyone at MRP has been wonderful to work with. I can’t force anyone to take my suggestions, (we are talking about story content) but I look at this like a partnership and not someone dictating what has to be changed. I’m here to help and to look for areas that can be improved on. While there may be things that need to be changed, I expect my authors to ask me questions.  I truly want to know what they were thinking and their goals for that particular section of the book or scene.  I’m here to help them present the best version of their manuscript.

Has going through the publishing process with your own book given you any new insights for your job as developmental editor?

No matter how much you’ve studied or practiced, everyone needs an extra set of eyes editing their manuscript. As authors, we get too close to our “baby” and we are not always objective when it comes to our stories. It’s so much easier to see things in other people’s stories. We all benefit from each stage of the editing process, they are all crucial to the success of the book.

If you could create one class that all writers had to take before writing their manuscripts, what would you call that class?

That’s a hard one, Heather! I would probably call it “The Big Picture”. Every writer needs to know about all of the elements that I talked about earlier and how they are woven together in the story.

Pam Harris – Line Editor

Can you explain what a line editor does in the publication process?

My role is to check for grammar and spelling errors. I prefer to edit in sections. For instance, if a book contains 240 pages, I may edit the first 60, send to the author for corrections or revisions, and continue with the next 60 pages once I receive the edited pages back from the author. I think this makes it easier for the author and for me. Once the author and I have finished our edits, I do a spelling and grammar check on Word. It doesn’t always catch everything, but hopefully between the author, Word, and me, we catch most errors if not all of them.

What pushes you to be the best line editor you can be?

Two things: the desire to have a really good product and my reputation. Unfortunately, some things do get by me, but that’s why the author and I together can find what needs to be corrected. I am a certified English teacher, but there are still things I must research to see how Chicago Manual of Style recommends certain things be handled.  It is a time-consuming process.

Do you ever start to get lost in the story and struggle to keep your focus on the editing process? Do you have any tricks to keep this from happening?

At first, this was a real challenge, because as we read we often read what we expect to see instead of what is actually there. I have learned, however, to read with a critical eye, and unfortunately, that’s the way I read everything now — even cereal boxes!

What is the best part of being a line editor?

Getting to read so many really good books and working with the authors. I feel as though I get to know them through their writing and our communications.

I’ll ask you the same question I did Erin. If you could create one class that all writers had to take before writing their manuscripts, what would you call it?

The title that comes to mind is a session I once did at a writers’ retreat: “Caution, grammar bumps ahead!” The greatest problems I see with writers are the overuse and punctuation errors with “then” and the misuse of commas, colons, em dashes, and ellipses. Those punctuation errors interfere with the flow of the story. A better understanding of them would help writers produce a better book.

I want to thank Erin and Pam for telling us a little bit more about the editing processes that go into getting a book ready for publication. Erin and Pam have had experience from the editor and author side of publication. You can find both Erin’s fantasy book, The Seer, and Pam’s historical fiction, Aimee (as well as her other books) on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats. 

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