Editer vs. Ghostwriter


There are a few things I do not understand about editing. I took an editor to be an individual whose job is to read through rough manuscripts and find and fix errors. I don’t mean I thought an editor is going to find a sentence they don’t like and/or don’t think it fits in a certain paragraph, so they take it out. No, I thought that an editor would fix common errors, such as misplaced commas, incorrect end punctuation, replace omitted quotation marks, or find and correct misspelled words or words that have been used in the wrong context.

But, according to my publisher, if an editor so much as places a comma, that editor has become a ghost writer. Okay, so then, what is an editor? Is an editor’s job to simply find errors and then notify the author of them? If that is the case, then, say you have your sister read your manuscript and she finds grammatical errors and fixes them for you, has she just become a ghostwriter for your novel? Do you need to add her name to the list of people who contributed to your book as a co-author, sub-author, or ghostwriter? I always took a ghostwriter to be a person who write an entire, or at least, part of a book for another person, like what Ash Upson did for his friend Pat Garrett while writing “The Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid“. I believe that if, for example, I came up with a plot for a story and had my friend write the story going off my ideas, my friend would be a ghostwriter. But if that friend edits the book I wrote myself, I’m not going to consider him to be a ghostwriter.

So my question: what is an editor? 

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