We offer a variety of services here at Mission Point Press, but one of the most valuable is that of the line editor.
The line editor is, to an author, a mentor and teacher and coach – like Phil Jackson was to basketball’s Michael Jordan, or Ingmar Bergman to movie-making’s Woody Allen.
They help the good get better.
There are different levels of editing at Mission Point Press.
The invaluable copy editors, as we note on our web site, correct grammar, spelling, jargon, terminology, and punctuation. They travel nose to the ground through a manuscript, word by word, sentence by sentence, tightening, constructing, and reconstructing. In some cases, destructing.
“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it,” said Mark Twain.
Proofreaders, also editors, provide the last eyes on a finished manuscript before it goes to press. They comb the copy one more time, picking out the last few lapses of grammar, spelling or style that are frustratingly hidden among the words.
The line editor, though, is the big-picture guy … the one who, as Stephen King suggests, steps back to see the forest once the writer is done detailing the trees. The line editor critiques an author’s manuscript for reasoning, consistency, arguments, evidence, and the overall organization of the book.
A line editor inspires while correcting; she asks uncomfortable questions, though usually with deep reassurance. She challenges conclusions when the facts along the path lead elsewhere.
The line editor ultimately judges whether the author successfully makes his case … or not.
It is work done up front, before the copy editing and proofreading. It is not easy work. And for the author, it’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes a line editor will leave the very premise of a book in shreds … the author’s original manuscript destined only to be discarded or, if not, carefully dismantled, word by word, and built anew.
But that’s rare. Most manuscripts we see are solid offerings, with much promise.
Anne Stanton just finished the line editing on the upcoming book by Garrett Griffin, Racism in Kansas City: A Short History. The book will be published in August by Chandler Lake Books, an imprint of Mission Point Press.
Anne provided suggestions on organization, tone, and writing style; asked questions of Garrett about facts, author opinions, and nuances needing clarification; and served as copy editor, too, on matters of grammar, spelling, and style.
It was a considerable amount of work. It’s also unfortunate that Microsoft’s Word program defaults to blood red for the ink color used to “track changes.” Because to look at a printout of Garrett’s manuscript after Anne’s handiwork is to be reminded of Sherman’s march to the sea.
But that’s hardly fair. In fact, Garrett’s original manuscript was powerfully done – deeply researched, well organized, and confidently written. What Anne brought to the book was just part of the process – the power of an additional set of eyes to help steer the book along a smoother road. And Garrett was very receptive to Anne’s suggestions.
As Hemingway noted, all writers – whether author or editor – are apprentices in a craft that has no masters. Collaboration is key in book publishing. Eyes are to be shared, advice is to be given, and manuscripts are to be polished until they shine.
Every author needs a line editor – a coach, a mentor, a tutor. To make good into better, and maybe even better into best.