The Joy of Being Edited – Part 2

By Marcy Claman, Callawind Book Publishing

How do you find a professional food editor or, at the very least, an experienced general editor who is interested in cooking and excited about your subject? Consult publishing reference directories (usually available in libraries) such as Literary Marketplace (also online at, contact local/national writer associations and editor associations, and perform searches on the Internet.

After you’ve found a few editors you like, what’s next? You need to identify which tasks you need done and ask the editors to provide you with a quote. The quote usually comprises an estimate of the number of hours the editor will require to complete the various tasks multiplied by his or her hourly rate. Here are the most common tasks that cookbook editors perform:

Copyediting: editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style; checking for consistency of mechanics and internal consistency of facts.

Stylistic editing: clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, smoothing language, and other non-mechanical line-by-line editing (here is where the editor will work through each recipe as if he or she was actually preparing the recipe).

Structural/substantive editing: clarifying and/or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure.

Proofreading: reading proofs of the edited manuscript to spot any lingering typos or grammatical errors.

Indexing: producing an alphabetical list of recipes that appear in the cookbook (no cookbook should be without a good, detailed index).

Editors can also do fact-checking, picture research, and rewriting.

In the manuscript editing phase, I suggest that you request two reviews before moving onto the book layout and proofreading. In my experience, even the most thorough of editors will not be able to catch all the corrections on the first reading. In addition, the second reading will enable the editor to review how you’ve handled all the “queries” (questions for the author). Editors usually work onscreen in MS Word using the Track Changes feature.

Of course, not all authors believe that an editor can improve their “masterpiece.” Since Anne Rice started selling into the millions with her popular vampire chronicles, I hear that she absolutely refuses to have an editor so much as change a comma! For the rest of us, however, an editor will do just fine!


EAC Directory of Editors, by the Editors’ Associations of Canada

Recipes into Type, by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon (New York : HarperCollins, 1993). *Note: this book is currently out of print and may be hard to find.

“Why Every Writer Needs an Editor,” by Janelle Gates (SPAN Connection: The Official Newsletter of the Small Publishers Association of North America, Volume 4, Issue 7/40)

For more cookbook publishing resources, head over to our Cookbook Resources section.