You know the writing process has several stages, but did you also know there are several stages of editing and types of editors? You may find yourself wondering what the next step is for your book manuscript, and you will likely need at least one of these three types of editors to help move the process along. Before you hire an editor, let’s review the three main type of editing.
A developmental editor will help you make sense of your writing. She will be able to guide you in forming chapters, flow, pace, tone, and the overall structure of your book. Think of developmental editing as looking at the big picture of your manuscript. Depending on your natural writing abilities, you may or may not require a developmental editor. This stage sometimes occurs while you’re writing; other times it follows (after you have a finished draft). Some developmental editors call themselves writing coaches. Developmental editing can be especially critical if you’re writing fiction, because in addition to all of the above, your editor will also look for plot holes, time line problems, underdeveloped characters, and more.
It is all about the details at this point! You’ve been reading and re-reading your manuscript, but now it is time for a copy editor to step in. Let the editor read your completed manuscript with a fresh set of eyes. She will make sure details are consistent throughout the book (e.g., voice, verb tense, hyphenation, even spelling), correct grammar and mechanics issues, and ensure clarity throughout your manuscript. This is the stage most people think about when they think about editing.
Whether you are self-publishing or sending your book off to a literary agent, a proofreader will give your manuscript one last look. If you’re self-publishing, proofreading is done after your book is formatted. A proofreader will find that last typo or notice the formatting is just a bit off, ensuring that everything is just right for publishing. All manuscripts can benefit from a copy edit and a proofread, but at the bare minimum, especially if you are planning to self-publish your book, you really need to hire a professional proofreader.
Some editors offer all three services; others specialize in one or two types/levels. A good editor will be up-front about where your manuscript is, what service(s) you need to make your book a success, and how she can help you (or, equally important, if she is not the right editor for your project). When you check out an editor’s website, look for some sort of free consultation where you can get on the phone (or Skype) to see if your personalities are a good fit. Explain what type of editing you are looking for and allow the editor to assess what she thinks you need.
Every editor’s process if different, of course, but here’s the bare bones of what mine looks like:
- Potential client/author books Book Brainstorm Call (my version of a consultation).
- During booking, author answers survey questions about book project (book topic, stage of writing process, type of editing they are looking for, budget)
- Book Brainstorm Call
- Author sends sample text (I ask for a few pages from a middle chapter.)
- I review text, edit a couple paragraphs, and return with notes regarding services needed/cost.
- Author and I might schedule a follow-up call
In an ideal situation, the author and I agree about the type(s) of editing required. Often that’s not the case. That’s why I edit a couple paragraphs: to show the value of editing. As I said above, at minimum, have your book proofread. It’s often the difference between a professional book and an unprofessional one!
Here are a couple tricks to get your manuscript ready for an editor (and thus save yourself some money, because you’ll be submitting a cleaner manuscript that requires less work on the editor’s part:
- Self-edit your manuscript.
- Have a select number of people read the book and offer feedback on fiction elements as well as grammar.
There’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript (or book, for that matter), but the more work you put into a manuscript, the closer to perfection yours will be.
Is your book ready for editing services? Which kind of editor do you need?
Jodi Brandon has more than 20 years’ experience in book publishing. After working in traditional publishing for several years, Jodi and her husband relocated from New York to Philadelphia, and she launched her freelance editing business. Jodi’s passion these days is working as a book editor and writing/publishing coach for creative entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who want to level up their business with a nonfiction book.