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What’s the Big Deal about Editing?

by Peggy Kellar

You’ve been telling your family and friends that you “have a book in you”—possibly an astrology book—and now you’ve finally written it. Or, maybe your art and text have come together for the creation of a Tarot deck that manifested in a series of dreams you had. Or, it could be that you’re writing a short piece for a newsletter, like I’m doing right now. No matter what you may be inspired to create, your work should go through an editing phase. And as one of the editors for REDFeather, an imprint of Schiffer Publishing, I’m thrilled to have been asked to share my thoughts on the editorial process with you.

One of the definitions that Merriam-Webster gives for the verb “edit” includes “to alter, adapt, or refine, especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose.” There’s a lot to wade through in that definition, but my eyes are drawn to the word “refine” because I see the purpose of my work as double-checking and polishing up an author’s original work. I often tell people that I was born with a red pen in my hand. My mom used to recount times when I’d sneak a pen to church so I could correct errors I would see in our weekly parish bulletin. In addition to loving books and the written word, my professional experience comes from many years of working in the publishing field on projects as diverse as team-training tools to college textbooks. But undoubtedly, I’m most grateful for my current job—what I consider my dream job—as a developmental editor with REDFeather, where I get to focus on books dealing with the realm of mind, body, and spirit, as well as divination tools like Tarot, oracle, Kipper, and Lenormand decks.

As a developmental editor, I read through the content of a manuscript to confirm that it is covering the project’s topic sufficiently and appropriately, as well as to ensure that the author’s intention carries through to the reader. I may offer suggestions for content to be included, such as more background information on a topic or additional spreads for a card deck. I also keep an eye out for things that might be missing. You would be surprised at what can be forgotten or simply overlooked because you as the author are so close to the material you are creating. When it comes to decks, I look at card titles to make sure they match the art and that the correct symbols are shown. I closely review the art used with a card to make sure it matches with the text. After all, we wouldn’t want the characters jostling about in the 5 of Wands to be missing a wand! These are complex steps…and important ones.

My role as developmental editor is also about building a relationship with our authors. When an author hands over a manuscript to us, it can be a project they’ve worked on for years. I know the project is very close to the author’s heart—in a way, it’s their “baby”—so I want to treat it with that level of care and respect.

Once a project is through the developmental edit, it’s on to a line-by-line copyedit. This is where “conformity” from our earlier definition of edit comes into play. At REDFeather, we have a dedicated copyeditor on staff who is well versed in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the format we follow for writing and citations. This review helps ensure the project is as error free as possible and makes it read well. No one likes to stumble over misspellings or sentences that don’t flow the way they should. This type of quality control is really invaluable for the end user. It can make or break how a title is received in the marketplace.

The process I have been outlining is an example of what to expect in general for projects that have been accepted for contract and what they will go through at Schiffer Publishing. Each publishing house will have its own process, and it’s always to your benefit to make sure you understand their specific procedures. But there are many other authors who may choose to take the self-publishing route, going through the production process themselves. Even then, the editing phase is still important! You can find freelance developmental editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders through online services whom you can hire. Some specialize in certain areas, so it’s best if you can find an editor who is familiar with the subject you are writing about. It’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes review your material before it is published.

I hope this has given you some insight and information into the editing process. It’s a thrilling experience to become a published author, and editing is an important step to help make your title a success. If you have any specific questions about publishing, please feel free to reach me at peggyk@schifferbooks.com. Happy writing!

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