Let me lay down some knowledge for you from my time spent in the editing trenches. I’ve worked with five plus houses, three literary agencies, and indie clients. That comes with a whole lot of editing experience. Let me tell you a secret: one editor on a book often isn’t enough and especially not if that book needs a lot of work. As an indie author it can be daunting to hire and afford more than one editor, but the end result will be so worth it. Having more than one editor means more fresh eyes to iron out issues. If you’re a a traditional author, this means you will likely work with more than one editor at your house.
Want to know how the Big 5 get their books so polished and shiny? It’s because those books often have a developmental editor and then a copy editor who also proofreads if they don’t also have a separate proofreader. This means they get an editor to focus on all the developmental issues without being sidetracked by copyedits. Then the copy editor gets to focus on copyedits without being sidetracked by developmental edits. Then finally the proofreader gets to ax any remaining issues still hiding. With all those fresh eyes focusing on one type of editing, the manuscript goes through a lot of rounds and gets put through the wringer. And to add to that many of those books were also edited by agents before going to the house.
You know how when you’ve read your book a million times and then beta readers pick up on things you can’t believe you missed? Once an editor has been over your manuscript enough times, it’s easier for little details to escape, especially once your manuscript has been through a lot of changes the editor needs to keep track of. To add to that, have you ever tried to switch gears to copyedits on a manuscript only to find yourself still toying with developmental issues? By having editors focus on one type of edits, they don’t get distracted by the other types. And anything they missed can get picked up by the fresh eyes reading after them. Some houses employ not one, but two proofreaders to iron out as many issues as possible. However not everything will be caught. A book will never be perfect.
I’ve edited for small and big houses and I’ve learned to spot the quality differences between houses who only hire one editor per book compared to bigger houses who can afford a separate proofreader. I read a lot and have trouble turning off the editor in me, so I sometimes take notice of errors and common mistakes I spot. One of the worst mistakes I’ve seen from a small press was where alter (to modify something) was used instead of altar (like a religious altar) the whole way throughout a book and it was used quite a few times. Every time I saw it the issue distracted me. Having proofreaders and multiple eyes on a book can help spot those issues and fix them.
Readers want to read polished copies. You don’t want them distracted from the story because of typos or other lingering editing issues. You want good reviews to help sell more copies. Something I see all the time in indie reviews is readers complaining about the lack of editing. It’s one of the biggest mistakes indie authors can make. If you are going to publish a book do it and yourself a favor and hire more than one editor to put your best foot forward to readers. Too often I get authors wanting to hire me for copyedits when their manuscript is still in sore need of developmental edits. The truth is the copyedits won’t save those developmental issues, and if you want your money’s worth you should iron those content issues out before paying for copyedits.