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Interview Series: GBG’s Editorial Department (Part 3)

December 9, 2014

Thinking about publishing your book? No matter where you are in the process, it is important to ask questions. I went ahead and asked them for you! In this series, I will be visiting with each department at Greenleaf asking some of the frequently asked questions.

This week, I continued my conversation with our editorial department about developing and editing books.


3. How do I know if I need an editor to look over my book?

It’s very difficult to evaluate your own work and determine what sort of editorial work it needs. By all means, have friends and family take a look, but you typically have to take their feedback with a grain of salt: people who know and like you are prone to paint a pretty rosy picture of your work (though, of course, they may also raise incredibly good points—it just depends).

A more reliable route is to have an impartial party, like an editor, review your work. You could send it off to agents and publishing houses, which may, if you’re lucky, give you thoughts for improvement. If you need major developmental work, though, it’s likely to be a flat “No,” or no response at all.

If you want a detailed description of the work your book might need, many companies and freelance editors offer manuscript evaluation services. This allows you to hire someone with professional editorial experience to assess and explain the issues present in your manuscript. That evaluation should give you an idea of whether you just need a bit of polish and tidying up or whether you need to step back and rethink larger elements of the book.

4. What is the difference between an editor and a ghostwriter?

In short, an editor shapes words the author has written while a ghostwriter channels the author and puts the author’s ideas into words.

Developmental editors may write sentences or short passages during their work, but the author has already done the heavy lifting of creating content. But when you hire a ghostwriter, that person takes on the work of putting the words down in a way that eventually adds up to a book. While the editor’s first step is to read your manuscript, the ghostwriter’s first step is to talk with you at length—maybe even conduct an interview or two—to understand what you envision for your book.

From there, the ghostwriter will likely conduct long, recorded conversations with you; read and adapt any other forms of media you’ve created on your subject (articles, blog posts, videos, etc.); or conduct some independent research on the topic. Then, working to channel the author’s tone and style, the ghostwriter creates content for the author to review and edit.

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Happy Pub Day!

December 2, 2014

All of us at Greenleaf Book Group send congratulations and best wishes to our authors who have books launching in December!

100 Paintings by Rob Mango

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Interview Series: GBG’s Editorial Department (Part 2)

November 24, 2014

Thinking about publishing your book? No matter where you are in the process, it is important to ask questions. I went ahead and asked them for you! In this series, I will be visiting with each department at Greenleaf asking some of the frequently asked questions.

This week, I asked our editorial department a second question about developing and editing books.

2. What are the different types of editorial work that may be performed on a book?

Though nearly every freshly written manuscript can benefit from an editor’s eye, some need more TLC than others. Here at Greenleaf Book Group, we divide editorial work into five levels. Starting with the heaviest . . .

Project development. In a project development process, the book editor provides assistance to the author while he or she writes or revises a manuscript. If the author is just starting out with an idea and some rough content, the project-development editor will guide them through big topics like audience, theme, structure, and goals of the book. They will then assist the author in creating an outline to structure the writing process, and will evaluate chapters as they are written, telling the author if any course-corrections are needed.

Project development can also apply when an author has finished writing but needs help doing a revamp. Author and editor have the same big-picture talk—What’s this book supposed to do? Who is it speaking to? How is it different from other books like it?—and then use that discussion to create a plan for rearranging and/or rewriting the existing content.

Developmental editing. In a developmental edit, the book editor jumps into the content ready to move pieces around, cut inessential content, and prompt the author to write new material. Maybe your book has good ideas in it, but you’re repeating the same thing in many different chapters. If so, you need a developmental editor. Maybe your book starts out as a guide for CEOs but in its second half gives advice that’s more applicable to mid-level managers. You, too, need a developmental editor. Or maybe your book has more of a zigzag than an arc, leading readers back and forth through chapters and topics without a clear sense of where they’re going or where they’ve come from. Yes, you also need a developmental editor. Maybe your book has plot lines that fizzle out or that make jarring leaps in timeline or scene. You might think about seeking a developmental editor.

Of course, needing a developmental edit does not mean that you’re not a good writer or that you aren’t a leading expert in your topic. It just means that, to present your message in the most appealing way possible to people who buy books, you could use some help rearranging, finessing, and clarifying your content.

Substantive editing. If developmental editing is like major home renovation—tearing down walls, converting a garage, adding on a patio—then substantive editing is like tasteful interior decoration. This level of book editing is all about the flow of ideas and the quality of the prose—it’s similar to another term you might have heard: “line editing.” While the substantive editor won’t work on structure and focus at the same depth a developmental editor, he or she will smooth out or rewrite clunky or confusing sentences, query you when a point is ambiguous or infelicitously worded, or strengthen transitions between ideas within a section or between sections within a chapter.

Copyediting. Copy editors get down to the nitty-gritty of technical style, grammar, clarity, and usage, improving sentence structure where necessary and increasing the overall readability of the text. This is the person who points out all those things like dangling modifiers and who makes sure you’re using the correct punctuation with your restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

Copy editors—who simply must be meticulous and detail oriented—handle a whole host of issues that, while they might seem trifling to some, have a huge collective impact on the reader’s sentence-by-sentence experience of the book and on the book’s status as a professionally produced product. The copy editor will make sure that your hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes have all been deployed correctly, that your proper nouns are all spelled correctly, that you’re capitalizing terms consistently and correctly, that you don’t drop miscues, that your verbs and subjects all agree, and so on. The changes may be granular, but they’re essential.

Proofreading. Ideally, proofreaders don’t make waves in a manuscript. They’re the last defense against typos and formatting errors. They look at the final, designed pages of the book, scanning for visual and textual inconsistencies and any other problems the copy editor may have inadvertently missed. When the proofread is completed, you should have squeaky clean pages. 

Of course, editors and proofreaders are human, and typos do squeeze through now and again—often it’s a missing conjunction or article that the human brain sees even if it’s not there (such as be or an). When that happens, take a deep breath, call your publisher, and have them slate the change for the next printing.

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Interview Series: GBG’s Editorial Department (Part 1)

November 18, 2014

Thinking about publishing your book? No matter where you are in the process, it is important to ask questions. I went ahead and asked them for you! In this series, I will be visiting with each department at Greenleaf asking some of the frequently asked questions.

This week, I asked Brandy Savarese from the editorial department about developing and editing books.

1. What does a book editor do?

 Depends what kind of editor we’re talking about!

 An acquisitions editor has the role of bringing projects in to a traditional publishing house. They don’t typically get down-and-dirty work in manuscripts; their main function is to target authors and books that they think are a good fit for a particular house or imprint, and that readers will want to buy.

Apart from that, “book editor” usually refers to the people who, in some form or other, take an existing manuscript and collaborate with the author to make it better. That work can range from the major (shifting the focus of the entire book or lopping off whole chapters) to the minor (politely suggesting that a comma might make a particular sentence clearer).

Whether the changes they suggest are big or small, the book editor always serves two masters: First, they must serve the targeted reader of the book, dutifully reporting to the author passages that may confuse or annoy or bore or offend, suggesting how to remedy the problem, and catching bothersome errors and omissions.

The editor’s second master is, of course, the author. He or she must ensure that the author is on board with changes to the book, and that any alterations maintain the spirit and tone of the author’s work. An author should never feel that their editor is inserting him- or herself into the book, or making changes that the author feels are unwarranted.

So, think of a book editor as a sort of test reader, one who also brings experience to bear, along with a willingness to frankly point out issues a more sympathetic test reader (say, your husband or your mom) might not. At the same time, the book editor is the author’s partner, offering explanations and solutions for the issues they identify and general support through the revision process.

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Three Steps to Book Discoverability

November 11, 2014

Step One: SEO

How do you begin to compete with all of the other authors, books, and content out in the world and online? Start with the basics. Today in the first installment of a three-part series, we look at the importance of considering search engine optimization (SEO).


Consider these SEO strategies

Keyword selection: Match search terms with the text on your book’s page. Look for strong keywords that are more relevant and have less competition as this is more likely to get you a qualified customer.

Trending keywords: Pay attention to quickly spiking trends you see on search engines, social media, and news sites. Also think ahead about keywords that are seasonal or based on holidays relevant to your book (Example: the word IHOP spikes on National Pancake Day).

Advertising/search engine marketing: Use analytics and multivariate or A/B testing on ad copy, descriptions, and imagery. Experiment and test different options, calculate ROI, and make incremental adjustments until you find what is working the best.


Control the things that are within your control.

Utilize your seven keywords available through Amazon when you update your Amazon book description. Do this regularly. (You’re able to update both your keywords and book description through Greenleaf when working with us, your own publisher if they allow it, or via your KDP account if you are self-publishing.)

Here are some tips from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing on how to make your book more discoverable with keywords: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2EZES9JAJ6H02.

 Continue to ask people to review your book on Amazon and Goodreads. You can leverage your networks not just at your book’s official launch but also in the long-term to show that traffic is continuously being driven to your book’s page.

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