editor header

So You Want to Be an Editor

Welcome to Reading Month at Swoon Reads! This is the time for all of you wannabe editors out there to show us your fantastic editorial skills. We always enjoy reading your comments and feedback, but right now, it’s particularly helpful, both for us and for the authors.

We know leaving great feedback can sometimes be hard, so here’s a list of the things that we as editors look for when we open a new submission.

First, pay attention. While we definitely want to fall in love with the manuscript and be swept away by the author’s wonderful story, it’s also important for us to be active readers. Pay attention to when you start to get confused or bored. If you stop reading and wander off, was it because of something happening in your real life, or was it because the story stopped holding your attention? If the latter, then it would be really helpful for the author to know that, because that’s a place in the story that will need to be fixed in revisions.

Next, think about the characters. How do you feel about them? Are there any places where you didn’t understand why they made the decisions they made? Are there places where they did something you felt was out of character or crossed some kind of line? Is there a place where you start rooting for the villain? Even if the author is deliberately trying to create unlikable characters, they still need to be sympathetic or understandable in some way. And if they’re not, it’s something that the author should look at. Conversely, if you adore and love a character, you might also mention that so they know what they did was working.

Then, consider the plot. What was the book about? Were there any moments that particularly stuck with you? How would you describe this book to someone else if you only had one or two sentences? Can you describe what happened in only one or two sentences? Did you follow the story OK? Were there any giant plot holes that you noticed? It could be The Dark Knight Rises kind of plot holes, where Bruce Wayne is in a pit somewhere in a desert with a broken back and no money and no friends and yet somehow manages to get back to a closed off Gotham in time to save the day. Or, it could be that you’re reading a book set in a hospital and you work in a hospital as a nurse and you find yourself saying things like “But it doesn’t work like that!” Either way, please let us and the author know, so the author can work on plugging those plot holes or perhaps do a little more research.

Finally, think about worldbuilding and logistics. Could you envision the world around you and the spaces the characters occupy? Or were you lost in space and time because you had no idea how far away something was or how long something took? Did things make sense? Did you understand how the rules worked? Were there any places where you felt like the author was breaking their own rules? These are also things that the author needs to know. We’ve found that many times an author will envision a scene so clearly that they don’t realize they haven’t actually put it all down on paper. Or, sometimes the author gets so caught up in describing every detail of their world, that they lose the thread of the story. If there are points where you feel like you’re getting lost, it might be something to mention.

I know that all this might sound a bit overwhelming. A good book is a balance of many different parts. But, it all comes back to paying attention to your reactions as you read. Many editors will keep notes as they read, just a running list of thoughts and impressions, so that they don’t forget the places where they were confused and lost. But, we aren’t asking you to do that. (Unless you want to, of course!)

But, please do take a few minutes to leave some feedback for us and the authors. And maybe take a second before you leave your feedback to think about the different parts of the book. Then, start with the things that you feel like the author did really well. What did you love? What things do you remember most about the book? The writers on the site have worked very hard on the work you just read, and it’s always nice to let them know what is working for you first. Then, please tell us the things that you didn’t quite understand or that you feel might need some more work.

So, now that you have a brief glimpse of the stuff that editors are looking for when they first read a manuscript, why not go try it out? Maybe skim through some of the books on site that haven’t yet got a lot of love and attention, and could really benefit from your editorial expertise (or we have this lovely thing called a “Surprise Me” button!). We’d love to know what you think!

Oh! One last quick side note: I know that typos can be annoying. But, unfortunately, typos are a fact of life in publishing, and they somehow slip by even the most vigilante of authors, editors, and copyeditors.  So you don’t really need to point them out in the main manuscript comments, unless there are SO MANY that it becomes a barrier to enjoying the book. But, if you just notice one or two that really bother you, why not leave those notes in the in-line comments in the manuscript? That way the author can easily find and fix them during revisions.

Author spotlight

Holly West

Senior Editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel & Friends. Giant geek. Dedicated fangirl. Half-Elven Rogue Cleric. Also answers to That-Girl-Who-Reads-A-Lot.

See More