Editoral Confusion: Kinds of Editors and What Editors Do

Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between different kinds of editors. <Puts up hand>

I thought about tackling this topic myself but quickly realized I was in over my head. Therefore I turned to the lovely, talented, author, friend, and EDITOR T.J. Loveless who works for Cliffhanger Editing. They are always posting amazingly helpful editing tips on their Facebook page and T.J. has graciously provided the lowdown on the different types of editors out there as well as what editors do. (Who knew there were so many kinds?)

Over to T.J.:

Editorial Confusion

*Don’t worry – we all have it*

Bring out the champagne, you’ve finished your book! Woohoo! Matter of fact, you’ve gone so far as to edit and revise it multiple times over the past few months, and managed to retain some kind of sanity. *Please note: I envy anyone who can remain sane during this time.*

Now comes the real fun, prepping your work to go out into the world – whether traditional, small publisher, or DIY. Finding the right fit for editing is a daunting task if you aren’t sure what you need, who you need, or what they do. I can help you at least untangle some of the confusion.

First, let’s go over the different types of editors, and editing. Followed by what you need to ask, and the kind of editing you are likely looking for. Ready?

Acquisition Editor

Most of you already know, or at least heard of, the AE. Generally, they are the ones picking up the books for a publisher, and the go-to for the author while prepping a book for publication.

Developmental Editor

Used by big publishing houses, and often ghost writers. You can find a few freelancing DEs. They are best with non-fiction writing, but can be hired by fiction writers. Their primary function is to ensure a book moves in a forward motion, watching plot and characterization. Think writing coach.

Content Editor

The very big publishing houses have Content Editors, the one overlooking all the plot, characterization, voice, and setting.

Copy Editor

The copy editor specializes in grammar, punctualization, fact-checking, spelling, and formatting. The Copy Editor is used most often in journalism publications, but utilized by some smaller publishers.

Line Editor

Also known as a Copy/Content Editor, often employed by the small – medium publishers, and self-published authors. They do it all – grammar, fact-checking, spelling, formatting, plot, sentences, characterization, setting, punctualization, and voice. They go through every inch of an MS, word by word, line by line.


Many get a proofreader and an editor confused. A proofreader is the one who goes over your MS after an editor. They look for the glaring mistakes missed, generally in punctuation, spelling, and formatting. They look for the glaring mistakes that may have been missed during edits.

Critique Partner

We have all at least heard of a CP. I show mine plenty of love. A CP isn’t an editor, but often another writer, helping an author develop their work to a higher level, pointing out issues the author normally wouldn’t see.

Beta Reader

The BR should be someone who isn’t in the publishing business. It’s best to have some kind of questionnaire ready, and let them give honest reviews of your work. Avid readers in your genre are the best.

What do you need? Should everyone hire an editor?

For the author going the traditional route, I recommend having a great group of CPs. No really! They can generally find the issues that should be sniffed out and zapped before querying agents or submitting to small publishers. If you’d really like an editor to also go over your work, request a partial by a Line Editor. Usually the first fifty pages and you’ll see all the things you may need to work on to really polish the book. If you want someone to quickly go over your MS, find a good Proofreader after you’ve been through your CPs and BRs. I’ve heard agents lament about a lot of little mistakes missed during revisions/edits.

For the DIY Author, find a good Line Editor, one professionally trained and experienced as an editor in publishing. An untrained editor, who may be a fantastic CP, can do more harm than good. Get recommendations and check out their work. Keep in mind, the author may have ignored some of the suggestions, but you can get an overall feel.

Before you hire an editor, know what you need. Asking for a beta read, but meaning a line edit, will cause confusion and hard feelings. In today’s self-published market, DIY Authors are scrutinized more than traditionally published, fair or not. I’ve seen NYT Bestselling authors publish bad rough drafts without so much as a word, yet a DIY Author is blasted for a misspelled word.

Be specific. Talk about what you want, what is expected, and what you, the author, will receive. Ask about their experience and training, and what they specialize in. Some love Romance, others Speculative Fiction, and a few specialize in YA or MG. Every editor has a preference, so find the one who loves the genre you write. A Technical Copy Editor is different from one trained as a Line Editor in fiction. Sometimes you hit gold and find an editor who is cross trained.

Don’t forget to ask about cost. Many charge by the word, some by the number of pages, and all have package deals if you do second edits and proofreading. Know your budget, and get the costs up front. Get it all in writing before handing over your MS.

I do hope I was able to help with the confusion. Don’t let the different terms slow you down, it only takes a little research, and you’ll find an editor to fit your needs in no time!

~ ~ ~

Thank you so much T.J.!

Cliffhanger Editing

You can learn more about T.J.’s editing services, Cliffhanger Editing by liking them on Facebook: Be sure to interact with their page by commenting and liking posts when you like their page so more of their content shows up in your newsfeed. Otherwise you’ll miss their great tidbits. And trust me, there is some good stuff in there. And the best part is that they answer back if you have questions!

You can also follow them on Twitter: @cliffhangeredit

Learn more about their editing services: www.cliffhangerediting.com

Author T.J. Loveless


And of course, check out T.J.! She’s written a great novella Lucky Number Six which is FREE! It’s a funny read about a psychologist, a unicorn, and a fairy godmother. What isn’t to love?

You can also find T.J. bouncing around in her padded room (a blog with many great goodies) at

You can also add this fun book to your shelves on Goodreads by clicking here.

Go check her out!

How about you, readers? What did you learn in this post? Tell us in the comments.

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Posted in editing tips Tagged with: author T.J. Loveless, Cliffhanger Editing, different types of editors, , editor tips, , kinds of editors, what editors do
11 comments on “Editoral Confusion: Kinds of Editors and What Editors Do
  1. Jean – you did such a great job! Thank you for hosting me 🙂

    • jeanoram says:

      I barely did a thing T.J.! Thank you for being on the blog and clearing up what kind of editor does what–and so succinctly too!

  2. Joey says:

    Great advice from TJ! Heed her words fellow scribes! She’s a great writer, editor, and friend.

    Thanks Jean for such a great post to help out! Love your blog.

  3. K.E. Saxon says:

    Very educational. This really cleared up some of my own confusion regarding editing/editors. Thanks for the post!

  4. Great blog as usual Jean. I love the idea about the Beta readers. Any suggestions on what should be in the questionnaire? And a really good idea about having a line editor do the first 50 pages to give an idea of what needs to be done.

    • jeanoram says:

      Great question Kathy. I think what you end up asking a beta reader will depend on what you are looking for. I suppose the first things I’d focus on would be their trustworthiness (you are giving them your manuscript after all) and whether they read and enjoyed your genre. (Also whether they have time.) From there it depends on what you’d like them to read for and identify–boring bits they want to skim, parts where they dislike your character or don’t understand her actions, etc. Basically they are early readers who don’t worry about grammar and those kinds of things as they are a reader (not writer) and are simply giving you an early ‘review’ to tell you what worked for them and what didn’t.

  5. victor kipkoech says:

    Jean,this is great work.It is of more help to me because I am a media student in EGERTON UNIVERSIYT,KENYA.Keep on teaching.Thankyou.

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