One thing that surprises new authors when working with an editor is how much work they still may have to do after an edit. There are several reasons this happens:
1. The target audience was not defined or well addressed during the writing phase.
Who are you talking to? Leaders or laypeople? Experts or the average Joe? Healers (doctors, counselors) or those who need to be healed? The grief counselor or the grieving? Sometimes first-time authors want to speak to both, but in most cases, one book cannot do this well. Sometimes authors get confused and unintentionally talk to more than one audience in their books. An editor will point out the ineffectiveness of this approach and ask the author to revise portions of the text that do this to clarify muddy helps and recommendations. Each audience needs to be written to in different ways to bring about the desired result. Choosing one clarifies the message and the intent.
2. The author did not develop a good outline and write to it, so the book was not well organized.
Example: What should be in chapter 1 or the intro is found later in chapter 5. The editor will find this and move this around and may request that the author write a transition to smooth out the changes.
3. The author left gaps and holes in their logic or process.
They did not fully flesh out necessary steps, examples, and other elements needed to develop the concept and fulfill the book's promise. When the editor finds places like this in the manuscript, they may ask the author to list out the steps and provide supporting data or explanations for each. The editor may ask the author to write more for a certain point that needs to be emphasized.
4. The author is not clear on the book's promise and does not follow it through the duration of the manuscript.
The promise is something like "This book will teach, empower, provide, lead..." or "By reading this book, you will learn..." Authors sometimes lose sight of this during the writing process and veer off into unnecessary or unrelated explanations. The editor may ask the author to write more about how what they are saying relates to the main point. They may suggest that the author delete the section and write something that better supports the main idea.
5. The author's knowledge of basic writing skills—grammar, punctuation, and sentence or paragraph structure—is limited.
Poor grammar, incorrect word usage, and bad punctuation make reading hard. When the editor finds errors like this, they may not be able to follow what the author is saying, which means the readers won't either. This will also inhibit an edit. The editor can't edit effectively until they know what you mean. In those cases, they will ask for lots of clarification—"What did you mean to say here?" "Is this the right word?" "Please clarify."
Working with an editor before you write can help decrease the amount of work needed after an edit. An editor can help you define your target audience and develop an effective outline BEFORE you write.