Any published author will confirm that a good editor is the most important factor in making your book all that it can be. As a collaborator in finalizing your manuscript, an editor can stimulate your creativity by identifying inconsistencies or weaknesses and by asking questions that readers will want answered. This is called substantive editing. In many cases, a substantive editor can also serve as a research assistant.
Several other stages of the editorial process lie between the manuscript and the finished professional-quality book. These are:
Copyediting - the art of polishing spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax while preserving the author's writing style and voice.
Fact verification - the process of double-checking that assertions of fact in the manuscript are accurate, authoritative, and current to help avoid later embarrassments.
Proofreading - the painstaking process of comparing the manuscript with the final page proofs word-by-word to eliminate typographical and format errors and to double-check spelling and punctuation. (The most common mistake in self-publishing is trying to proofread one's own work or, worse, substituting computer spellchecking for a competent human proofreader.)
In addition, your editor is often the best person to help prepare press releases, catalog copy, and other marketing materials necessary to get public exposure for your book.
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