It often seems like half the people in the publishing industry and most of the people outside it don’t grasp the totality of what an editor can do. Everybody knows about copy editing, of course. That’s the part of the process most visible to readers when done inexpertly, since it means typographical or grammatical errors make their way to the final product. Editors can do a lot more, though, and as writers find more ways to publish their work, editors find their territory and skillset broadening to the point where parts of the job don’t look like “traditional” editing at all. Editors exist to help people communicate with one another. We may work in specialized fields, but the broader mandate remains the same. That means when I work with a client on web site development, I see it as a natural extension of my editorial work. It’s a marketing task in a way, but it’s also an opportunity to customize an editorial workflow, which in turn can help reduce friction for writers as they move their work to publication while ensuring the quality of their published work remains high.
I like to think of editing in much the same way I think of playing a piano accompaniment for a soloist: if the audience notices my presence, I’m doing something wrong. If I do my job right, the result communicates something with more power, subtlety, and nuance than it would otherwise, but it only works if I listen carefully to the soloist and respect what he or she wants to communicate in the first place.
You should think of an editor as a partner in communication. We can help at every stage of the game, whether it involves getting a vague idea hammered into enough logical shape to be a written piece or polishing something that’s already been revised to within an inch of its life. As the publication process becomes more flexible, editors can make a difference more efficiently than ever before because there are many more opportunities for revision than there ever have been. With the advent of the “publish now” button many people appear to have forgotten the importance of revision. While technology may shorten the time and distance between writing and publishing, it also increases the need for strong, integrated editorial collaboration. As it becomes easier for anybody to say anything on any platform, your message needs to be that much more focused, strong, and clear to rise above the noise. Find an editor who can partner with you to make that happen and you’ll increase the value of your writers and your message.