Principles of Editing


The difference between a good book and a great book often lies in the editing. If the reader is regularly stumbling over simple errors, frustration can undermine interest in the book. The question often comes up, "Why can't I edit my own book?" Very few, if any, successful professional writers edit their own work. The reason is that you as the author know what your book should say, what words are supposed to be there, and your brain automatically skips over the errors, making the corrections as it goes. In other cases, we simply cannot anticipate where or how our words simply do not convey clearly what we mean. Here, a good editor is worth his or her weight in gold. It is difficult to be truly objective with your own material, and this is why most writers prefer a professional editor.


A lot of people choose to have friends or acquaintances edit for them, and this can be another mistake. Brian Alexander, the founder of Cygnet Media, chose that path when writing his first book. A couple of his friends, who were very literate, offered to edit his book for him. Brian admits that their advice was very good; they helped him to flesh out some of the characters and improve the overall readability of the book. But the editing was still not up to the standards of a professional editor. He later realized that what his friends were providing was Story Edit, which is essential for a good book; but what was missing was a good Copy Edit. After publishing his book, he ended up pulling it from the shelves to have it re-edited and republished. Brian says that he will never again publish a book without the services of a professional editor.


The problem with your friends is that they don't want to hurt your feelings or insult you. Friends worry about making you angry if they critique your book. Instead your friends want to build you up and offer praise, which is wonderful, but it doesn't help to ensure your book is ready to be published.


A professional editor is not your friend, which makes him or her your best friend when it comes to making sure your book is ready for prime time. Unlike personal friends, editors are not worried about hurting your feelings, since you are paying them to be honest about your work. An experienced editor has worked with many authors and manuscripts and knows how to look at a book with an eye toward improving it. S/he brings a trained eye and a great deal of experience to your project. Because an editor has no vested interest in your book, she is not afraid to critique any aspect of your work. The main concern of an editor is to make your writing as strong as possible. What you as an author have to realize is that the editor is critiquing your book, not you personally.


A really good editor can pick up on your personal tone, or voice, and edit in a way that mimics that voice. It will still be your book, just the new and improved version, with the edits matching your style of writing. At the same time an editor can point out where your writing style might not match the genre in which you are writing and will offer suggestions on how to improve your writing style to enhance your book.


If your goal is to eventually be picked up by a major publisher and to make your book available through bookstores across the nation, one of the things that a publisher will require is that your book be edited by a professional editor. If you approach a publisher with your manuscript already edited by a recognized professional, it increases the odds that they will even look at the book. Publishers are inundated with manuscripts, most filled with errors,  and most of which they throw away without even a second glance. If you are considering submitting your manuscript to one of the major publishers, please check out our series on how to create and submit a book proposal.


At Cygnet we offer several levels of editing, depending on your needs; however, if you have to edit your book yourself, then check out our training programs on the secrets to self-editing.

Story Edit


The Story Edit, sometimes referred to as Substantive Editing, takes a big-picture approach to the manuscript, ensuring consistency throughout the entire book and identifying areas that need work. Sentences may be removed or added, paragraphs rewritten.


For fiction books, the editor will examine the basic story line, considering elements such as plot, pace, character development and dialog. Does the story flow? Is it consistent throughout? Is the dialog believable and the plot plausible? Are there holes in your plot or dead-end threads that need to be corrected?


On nonfiction titles, the editor will analyze the purpose of the book, to determine whether the content meets this purpose and the message is coherently delivered. The editor is looking to determine whether the concepts are properly developed; the material is well organized; and the supporting material (like illustrations and tables) are well placed. This would also include making sure all headings and bulleted lists are placed correctly for best flow.


The Story Editor Package is the most complete and includes both Line and Copy Edit. It is an end-to-end package that makes your book the best that it can be.

Line Edit


A Line Edit works at the sentence or paragraph level, refining both sentence structure and flow. This may involve rewriting and reordering segments of text to improve readability and clarity. The editor will also address syntax and word choice to fix awkward sentence structures, and/or other issues that can give your book that “unpolished” feel.


The Line Edit package includes Copy Edit, making sure the final i is dotted and t is crossed, and your manuscript is ready for print.

Copy Edit


The Copy Edit is the most basic and arguably the most important part of editing. Some people can read a book filled with errors and never notcie.* However most avid readers are put off by errors, and many will stop reading a book if they find too many. In order for your book to capture the interest of readers it is essential to ensure that your spelling and punctuation are 100%.


Copy Editing is usually done at or near the end of the writing/editing process and checks for basic spelling, grammar, punctuation and word usage. It makes little sense to start the copy edit too soon, correcting errors to segments that may end up being removed in a Line or Story Edit.


*correct spelling: notice

Ghost Writing


Do you have a book inside you, wanting to come out, but you just don't have the time or feel capable of writing the masterpiece you know is there? This is where a Ghost Writer comes in. The Ghost Writer will read some of your other written material to get a feel for your personal voice, take your ideas, bring their own writing experience and talent to bear, and produce an exceptional piece of work, in your name.