What Do Editors Do?
Do you need an editor?
Not strictly speaking. But it puts you and your work head and shoulders above that of other writers. And in a sea of content - you MUST stand out.
Substantive & Developmental Editors like me come way before the nitty-gritty of grammar and spelling corrections that copy editors do. In my experience, as a writer and editor of many years, THE most important priority for writers should be the quality of the manuscript itself. Formatting, spelling/grammar - all of those things should take place LAST, when you are already as sure as you can be that the manuscript is excellent.
You can have great cover art, you can have a clever marketing plan, you can have a wonderful platform - but ultimately readers will decide whether they enjoy your story, whether it is narrative nonfiction or fiction. It is very democratic, at the end of the day. That's how you get good reviews, that's how you get good word-of-mouth, that's how you interest book clubs and get people to have conversations about your book. If the manuscript isn't working - nothing else matters.
Focuses on writing style and narrative flow. Points out awkward phrasing, telling not showing, inconsistencies, passive voice, clunky dialogue. Outcome: Writing that flows beautifully and consistently and is ready for copy editing. Substantive editing is best for writers with a finished manuscript - before they've gotten beta reads.
Big picture editing and coaching. Helps writers with the premise, narrative flow, sound structure, character development, punchy dialogue, and effective scene writing. Developmental editing also includes project management, deadlines, and accountability. Outcome: A first draft manuscript that is in excellent shape and ready for beta readers. This is best for writers with a WIP - work in progress.
Corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage. Assures consistency of hyphenation, capitalization, and numbers. Adheres to an established style guide like the CMOS. Outcome: A manuscript 100% error-free, and ready to be queried or published independently. This the absolute LAST step in your process. Do not get your work copy editing until you are SURE you are done.
Makes sure the manuscript is as error-free as humanly possible. Checks for typographical errors, page number issues, and stray typos that may have been missed. Outcome: Manuscript is ready to be formatted and printed. Note: Some copy editors provide proofreading as well; make sure to ask.