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One of the problems I've had, both as an aspiring writer and the owner of this site, is understanding the role of the editor and the publisher. Starting with the assumption that writers are not gods and therefore their work is not perfect then, very loosely, an editor's function is to help polish the manuscript and turn it into a professional piece.
The problem is that sometimes, the editor is tied into the publisher. It's most obvious in newspapers and periodicals. Editors have to ensure that items fit in with the publisher's policies and even the available space. An independent editor has no such obligations and is only answerable to the writer.
So, what is often seen as editorial policy is actually part of the publisher's domain. Both a colleague and myself have had manuscripts rejected because there was no sex in them. That is publishing policy. Maybe sex does sell but the Harry Potter stories manage without it.
In Harry Potter's case the target audience is young teenagers so sex is inappropriate. It is worth thinking about your target audience and finding a publisher who aims at the same reader.
Like everyone else, publishers make mistakes, follow conventional wisdom and miss opportunities. It is why self-publishing is worth considering.
However this brings us back to editing and why it is so important.
I have two basic weaknesses. Firstly when checking my own work, I see what I expect to see. It means that I see what I wanted to write and not what I actually wrote. My other weakness is that I've developed a lot of bad habits over the years. My editors despair of correcting 'its' and 'it's' with an apostrophe. I know the difference; I just never remember it when I'm writing.
Remember, your readers have paid good money for your masterpiece. Unless you can guarantee that you don't have your own weaknesses then it really is a bad idea to allow them to be the first ones to see it in its entirety.
The following pages describe the various processes in editing your manuscript.