What Is Book Editing?
Book editing is a step-by-step process of highlighting errors in a manuscript and offering expert feedback to increase its quality. Its central focus is to provide your readers with an optimal reading experience. An editor achieves this by reviewing your manuscript in distinct phases based on specific issues.
Editing can significantly improve a book’s intrinsic value and market performance, it’s not the same as writing and rewriting. So, you shouldn’t approach a professional book editor with a half-written or freshly completed manuscript. It’s crucial to wait for at least a few weeks before you think about hiring a book editor.
Once you’re done writing your manuscript, leave it alone for a few weeks. Don’t go through it, don’t open it, just let it sit there. Once enough time has passed, you’ll be able to approach it with a fresh perspective and you’ll find a lot of space for improvement. Your book can be deemed ready for editing only when these improvements have been made. But if you must edit your manuscript, why bother with professional book editing services at all?
Why Is Book Editing Important?
Book editing is important as a quality check that ensures you’re offering your readers the best possible version of your book. Think of books you’ve read that contained typos, plot holes, or other errors that annoyed you. Didn’t you think poorly of the author and the publisher? Wouldn’t you think twice about buying a book of theirs again?
It’s as simple as that: A thoroughly edited book displays polish and professionalism. Whether you’re sending your book to a traditional publisher or publishing it yourself, you need an editor’s help. Here are the reasons you should edit and proofread your book:
- Editing improves the content, structure, and overall quality of your manuscript.
- It removes grammar and spelling errors, making your book clear and coherent.
- A line editor helps you sharpen your writing style so your sentences are compact but powerful.
- Proofreading removes all accidental errors from the book, improving its readability and polish.
- By refining your product, book editing gives you a competitive edge in your genre or niche.
Can I Edit My Own Book?
Yes, you can certainly edit your own book, and to an extent, you must. But no amount of self-editing can compare to a professional book editor’s work. They’re trained to find errors you’ll ignore and their industry experience helps them advise you on what your manuscript needs most.
So, you must thoroughly edit and proofread your book before hiring an editor. For starters, this will help you save on the cost of book editing since some editors charge by the hour. Moreover, this will let the editor focus on the more important aspects of your manuscript. They’ll be able to detect the smallest mistakes and offer superior suggestions.
As you can guess, book editing is a complicated task and so it’s undertaken in a step-by-step manner. Accordingly, the process of book editing and proofreading has been divided into four steps. Each one addresses a specific aspect of your manuscript.
Types of Book Editing
There are four major types of book editing: developmental editing, copy editing, line editing, and proofreading. Depending on who you ask, this is likely to change. Some book editors combine the processes of copy and line editing while others offer substantive editing as a distinct process from developmental editing. But all you need to understand is how they improve your manuscript!
The logical flow of editing steps moves from macro to micro reviews—from major issues to minor ones. It’s like building a house: You finalize the blueprint before laying the brickwork. Accordingly, the four types of book editing take place one after the other:
- Developmental editing (macro-level content editing)
- Line editing (micro-level content editing)
- Copy editing (macro- and micro-level mechanical editing)
- Proofreading (micro-level mechanical editing)
Now, let’s take a look at each of these steps in some detail.
1. Developmental Editing
Often the first step of book editing, developmental editing reviews the overall content, structure, and organization of your manuscript. As the name suggests, this is very much a part of your book’s development—a stage where there may be room for improvement. A developmental editor analyses your story, plot, characters, setting, and narrative point of view to help you refine them.
In the case of non-fiction, this involves your book’s structure, chapter arrangement, and overall coherence. Some editors call this substantive editing and use the term developmental editing exclusively for fiction. Either way, your first editing step should always be a macro review of your manuscript.
Usually, a developmental editor’s suggestions might annoy you the most, since they sometimes challenge your core ideas of your work. While you don’t have to accept every suggestion your editor makes, you should value their feedback. As individuals experienced in your niche, they know what your book needs to succeed. Based on this feedback, you can choose to work more on your manuscript or move it to a line editor’s desk.
When Should You Send Your Book to a Developmental Editor?
You should send your book to a developmental editor only when it is complete and has been reviewed by you multiple times. Remember, it’s not an editor’s job to help you complete your book! They simply review and improve what you’ve written. For this to yield the best results, you must send the most refined version of your manuscript.
Developmental editors don’t accept half-finished books. But if you send them a completed but unrevised, raw version of your book, you’d just be wasting your money. For your book to benefit from expert literary advice, you must do the heavy lifting. Finish your book, review and revise it a few times, and only then send it to an editor.
Alternatively, you can opt for an editorial assessment of your work. This is a one- or two-page review of your book by an editor, detailing its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re unsure of your own judgment, this external review can help you gauge if your book needs a revision or an editor’s review.
2. Line Editing
Also called stylistic editing, line editing is a close review of your manuscript on a sentence level. Quite literally, this is a line-by-line edit of all your writing. This process improves the clarity and flow of your sentences, making them easier to read. A line editor has to balance readability with your stylistic choices, which can be tricky work.
The purpose of line editing is to refine your style and tone so it’s communicated to the reader without ambiguity or confusion. This sometimes involves making a compromise between technical correctness and stylistic choice. By doing this, a line editor helps you sharpen your writing style and unique voice, which becomes a part of your author brand. Naturally, this process is quite important!
Here’s everything a line editor checks in your manuscript:
- Sentence structure
- Clarity and coherence
- Diction (choice of words)
- Tone, style, and voice
- Authenticity in dialogue
- Consistency in the use of language
Line editing is undertaken only after the major aspects of your book are finalized. It examines how you’re communicating with your reader, revealing how this can be improved. Irrespective of fiction or nonfiction books, it’s an essential step to the stylistic health of your book.
3. Copy Editing
The third step of book editing, copy editing removes mechanical errors from your writing such as grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Less creative in nature than developmental or line editing, this step is all about accuracy. The goal is to ensure clean, clear, and coherent language with consistent tone and style.
A copy editor is also responsible for finding factual errors and errors in internal consistency. So if there is any misrepresented or incorrect information in your book, they’ll highlight it and leave a comment. Similarly, they point out inconsistencies in character choices, setting details, or other aspects of your book.
While copy editing is mostly a mechanical process, a copy editor must also consider your voice and style. This is where the roles of copy and line editors overlap since both must accommodate your writing style while aiming for a certain standard. As a result, a lot of editors combine line editing and copy editing as one step, accounting for both the technical and creative side of writing. As long as your manuscript benefits from both, it doesn’t matter much whether you get it done as a single step or separate ones.
A copy editor’s responsibilities include:
- Removing grammar and punctuation errors to ensure a sound sentence structure.
- Correcting spelling errors and ensuring a consistent use of terminology.
- Following the prescribed style guide or creating a guide in the absence of one.
- Eliminating repetition, redundancies, and ambiguities from the text.
- Ensuring consistent tone, style, and formatting throughout the manuscript.
- Running a basic fact check on the names, dates, and other details mentioned in the book.
- Checking the citations and referencing (in the case of an academic text).
- Proofreading the text to ensure any new errors haven’t been added while editing (this is more common than you’d think).
Does this seem too similar to line editing and proofreading to you? Don’t worry, we’ll sort it out.
Copy Editing vs. Line Editing
While copy editing and line editing are easy to mix up, the key thing to remember is how they approach language in the text. Copy editing is mechanical and technical, focusing on the machinery of language: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting. Line editing, on the other hand, focuses more on style, mood, tone, and emotion in the writing.
Line editing distills a writer’s voice while copy editing keeps it clear and error-free. Here’s a straightforward comparison:
|Focuses on making sentences grammatically correct.
|Focuses on improving the quality and impact of sentences.
|Has a wider scope as the editing step before manuscript typesetting.
|Has a narrow scope, limited mostly to the nuances of language use.
|Offers minimum, if not none, content-level corrections.
|Analyses the artistry of writing and offers suggestions for content improvement (on a sentence level).
Once your manuscript has been thoroughly edited, it’s formatted and a “proof”, a rough copy, is prepared. You can send this copy to a proofreader, which is the final step of book editing and proofreading.
While book proofreading is technically a part of the editing process, it’s also quite distinct. It takes place after a book has been formatted and is ready for publication. Proofreading is the final check before publishing that highlights any language, formatting, or printing errors in the manuscript.
So, proofreading is much more mechanical in nature than the other three types of editing. It goes beyond the written text and also checks for printing and formatting errors. As the last quality check before publication, proofreading must be done meticulously to catch the smallest of errors.
A proofreader highlights the following errors in your manuscript:
- Accidental errors introduced during the first three editing steps
- Incorrect spelling
- Grammar errors
- Missing or incorrect punctuation
- Inconsistent formatting (font, spacing, margins, indentation, etc.)
- Pagination and indexing issues
- Problems with tables, figures, and graphics
- Citations (for academic books)
You may wonder if proofreading is necessary if a copy editor has already worked on your manuscript. Similar as they are in nature, copy editing and proofreading differ in scope and outcome.
Copy Editing vs. Proofreading
Here are the differences between copy editing and proofreading:
|Enhances word choice, sentence construction, and paragraph structure beyond simple language correction.
|Identifies technical errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting.
|Has a broader scope, combining micro-level edits with macro-level reviews and suggestions.
|Has a narrow, micro-level scope (removing surface-level errors).
|Involves an editor’s feedback to improve the manuscript further.
|Little feedback is given since the focus is on removing errors.
These processes are equally important to your manuscript, making it free of errors and improving its overall quality.
How Much Does a Book Editor Cost?
On average, a book editor may charge about $500–$3,000 for a 200-page manuscript. This is a wide range, accommodating everything from developmental editing for a novel to proofreading for a cookbook. This may seem expensive to some, but remember that editing has the power to transform your book from ordinary to exceptional. It’s an important quality check that’ll help you target your readers better and, ultimately, sell more copies.
The cost of book editing also varies according to your genre, the level of complexity in the manuscript, and the editor’s experience level. Further, some editors charge on a per-word basis, some on a per-page, and others on a per-hour basis. You can find out the book proofreading rate by visiting a proofreader’s website or contacting them.
However, let’s jot down some basic figures that’ll help you budget for book editing.
|Type of Editing
|Cost of Book Editing (per word)
|$0.03 to $0.08
|$0.025 to $0.06
|$0.02 to $0.05
|$0.01 to $0.03
If you opt for different editors for each step, you’ll likely spend more than $3,500. A good idea is to find someone who combines line editing and copy editing into a bundle. Editing companies often offer combo deals and discounts, making them a budget-friendly option. But if you’re set on finding individual editors for your book, there are some things to know.
How to Find a Book Editor
Before you start looking for an editor, make sure your book is ready for one. Let the manuscript rest for at least a few weeks before you pick it up again. Don’t think about it, don’t add to it, don’t make any changes whatsoever. When you come back to the manuscript, apply your newfound objectivity to revise and review your work.
Once you’re assured of the best possible outcome, it’s time to get a second opinion. You can send your book to friends or family members and get their feedback on it. Start looking for a professional book editor only after you’ve exhausted all other avenues of revision. This will ensure that your finished product is much more polished.
Follow these steps to hire a book editor:
1. Assess Your Editing Needs
All books aren’t the same, so your first step is to find out what type of editing your book needs most. If you’re editing and proofreading your book before sending it to agents and publishers, you don’t need a developmental editor. Your agent or eventual editor will handle this, and all your manuscript needs at the moment is a copy editor or a proofreader.
If you’re planning to self-publish, check the level of editing you feel your book requires. An editorial assessment is a great tool to ascertain this, but you can also make this decision off feedback from friends, family, and beta readers. Once you know what type of editor you need, the rest of the process becomes easier.
2. Research Editors in Your Niche
You need editors with experience in your genre, theme, and niche. This is easy enough for genre fiction since there are a lot of editors and proofreaders working in that niche. But if you’re writing a book of essays on some newly discovered bacterium, you’ll have a hard time looking for an editor.
The good news is, it can get easier. There are two ways to research editors in your niche:
Reach out to your writers’ network and ask for references. (If you’re not a part of any online or offline writing community, start today.) Recommendations from writers in your own genre are much more valuable since they’re specific. Find out which editors your fellow writers have worked with and what their experience was like. A positive review from someone you know is always much more meaningful than any online testimonials.
- Online Reviews
In the absence of recommendations, online reviews and testimonials are your best bet while researching editors. While reviews get saturated these days, you can always reach out to the writers who have left those reviews. Find people who have published books, preferably similar to yours, and why they liked the editor’s work.
3. Review Portfolios and Ask for a Sample Edit
Your research should yield a rough list of book editors which you can finalize upon some further digging. The first step is to reach out to editors and ask for a portfolio. An editor’s portfolio is a record of their past work, editing skill, and overall experience. You can reach out to editors who impress you and ask for a sample edit. Some editors even offer the sample for free!
All editors and proofreaders may not possess a portfolio, but you should always ask for a sample edit. This edit will inform you of the editor’s working style, strengths, and weaknesses. If they struggle with communication or are downright rude while offering feedback, you’d much rather not work with them! A healthy editor-writer relationship is crucial to your career, so you should be careful while hiring someone.
4. Understand Their Editing Process
All editors are not made alike. Some are upfront while others take a roundabout approach. Some are great at communicating both praise and criticism while others struggle to find the balance. In most cases, an editor’s style of working simply does not complement a writer’s. So, it’s crucial that you sit down with your editor and discuss these finer points of work.
Find out their approach to your book and more importantly, their level of interest in it. You want a book editor who:
- Respects the value your book holds for you
- Is honest about their opinion and criticism
- Is excited about working on your book and seeing it published
This will help you establish a healthy working relationship with your editor so you can truly elevate your book.
5. Discuss the Cost of Editing
The last step is the most important one. An editor will probably offer a quote in the early stages of correspondence. This may change over time, as they become more familiar with your work. Once you’ve decided to work together, discuss the pricing for their services and arrive at a final figure.
Remember that editing is a time-consuming and creative endeavor, and it’s well worth the price!
Should You Work with a Book Editing Company?
The top book editing companies in the world employ hundreds of editors and proofreaders, making the process simpler for writers. Looking for individual editors is a draining process that has a high chance of going awry. Plus, editing companies are known to offer more affordable book editing services.
With book editing companies, you get quality assurance and accountability. They usually assign a team of editors to work on your manuscript which is overseen by a senior book editor. The combined experience of the editors and the manager assigned to the project ensures that your book passes through several rounds of review.
Most book proofreading services offer free revisions in case you’re not satisfied with their work. However, make sure to look up online reviews and testimonials while working with a company, so this can be avoided altogether. Often, firms offer publishing support along with book editing services. If this is the case, they may have a bundle offer that can help you save up on your editing fees.
We hope you’ve learned just about everything there is to know about book editing and proofreading. If you have any questions about book proofreading and editing services, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll resolve it!