Book editors are responsible for one of the most important steps in book publishing. They take a manuscript and turn it into a polished product ready to be printed. This requires many things of an editor, as there are several aspects of editing that go into producing a market-ready book.
When most people talk about the work of a book editor, they are usually talking about copy editing, or checking the text for spelling and grammatical errors. Copy editing also checks for sections of the book that conflict, or say two different things. In a fiction book, for example, the main character may have green eyes, but in one chapter, the author mistakenly types that the character has brown eyes. The copy editor would catch that mistake, and have it fixed. Copy editing may also involve making sure that the book flows, checking for correct word usage, and improving the general feel of the manuscript.
A book editor may also be responsible for some of the more technical aspects of getting a book ready for print. For example, the editor may be asked to check facts throughout the book for accuracy. A book editor may put together the index found at the back of many non-fiction books, making it easier for readers to access the information they are looking for. Page design, setting the font, text size, and position of any illustrations, is also something that a book editor is responsible for.
Permissions editing is another job performed by book editors. This involves noting anyplace in the book where the author used someone else's work, such as part of a song, poem, or other material, and getting the proper permission to use it. Technical editing, which is most commonly used in how-to books, assures that the reader will have everything that he or she needs to complete the tasks. A technical book editor makes sure that instructions are presented in a way that makes them easy to understand. This may also involve suggesting improvements in the design and layout of the book.
There is a lot of work that goes into making a fresh manuscript into a market-ready book. Usually several editors, or editing teams, work on each book, depending on how long and complicated the book is. A short fiction novel may only require one or two editors working on it, while a complicated college textbook may require several editing teams. Editors work in close contact with the book's author, and the process can often be long and stressful, but in the end, the author has a book that is ready to submit to the publisher for finishing and printing.