Knowing what type of book editing you need can be tricky. But if you’re thinking about it, that means you’ve already taken the first step—realizing you need an editor for your book! There are several levels of editing, though, and book editors define them differently. And not all editors perform all types of editing. Whatever these types of editing are called, they each perform a critical role in getting your book to the publishing stage.
Here’s how I define the different types of editing:
A manuscript evaluation, also called an assessment or critique, looks at the manuscript and reviews various elements. The purpose of a manuscript evaluation is to communicate to the author what is working well and what needs improvement.
This evaluation is performed from the reader’s perspective: will the reader understand the action, identify with the characters, and believe the story? Are there parts of the manuscript that can be reworked or even eliminated for clarity? Is there a logical flow to the story? Does the plot make sense? Does it get resolved in a satisfying way? Are there issues with grammar? Could the book benefit from the inclusion of a glossary or an index?
Manuscript evaluations may also include information on the book’s intended audience and on the book’s marketability. The editor provides the author with a manuscript evaluation that addresses all of these items and suggests recommended actions. There is no actual book editing involved. A manuscript evaluation does not correct anything; it provides a holistic view of the work, suggests areas for improvement, and recommends direction on next steps.
Developmental editing, also called a structural or substantive edit, is a heavy edit. A developmental edit looks at the overall story—plot, setting, character development, logic, pacing, flow, and structure. It makes sure the foundation of your story is solid.
Again, editors may treat this stage in different ways. Some do the heavy lifting—rewriting, rearranging information, moving paragraphs or even chapters, etc. Others only suggest major changes like moving chapters, but make other edits like rewriting certain passages or sentences for clarity.
Developmental editors may include a summary of their edits with the edited manuscript, or may offer a call or meeting to review them and answer any questions. It’s important that the author understands how an editor performs this type of edit. If you want an editor to offer suggestions but not do any rewriting, you’ll need to clarify this before beginning this stage.
Line editing is similar to copyediting, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. It’s also sometimes referred to as a content edit. There are some differences between the two, however. Line editing is more about style, whereas copyediting is more about mechanics. What do I mean by that?
Line editing looks for the flow of sentences, awkward phrasing, repetition, filler words, verbosity, and tone of the writing. A line edit also includes suggestions on how to tighten up the writing and ways to make transitions smoother.
Copyediting, sometimes called mechanical editing, looks at the mechanics of the language in a manuscript. The mechanics are the essentials of grammar. This is more than just correcting misspelled words, though.
A copy edit looks at sentence structure for things like dangling participles, ambiguous pronoun usage, verb tense and other usage issues, as well as punctuation. I tend to do both copyediting and line editing at the same time.
Proofreading is what a lot of people think of when they hear the word editing. But proofreading is different from editing. Proofreading happens after developmental, line, and copyediting have been done and the book has been formatted. A proof is an unpublished version of the final manuscript. It is a proof of how the book will look when it’s published.
Proofreading is the final check of the unpublished book before it gets published. A proofreader looks for things like odd page or line breaks, orphans and widows, and page numbering. Since the proof also includes any charts, graphs, or other images, a proofreader makes sure these elements are where they’re supposed to be. And a proofreader also reviews the book for typos, misspelled words, and consistency. While used in other editing stages, a style sheet comes in handy in the proofreading stage so the proofreader is aware of any specific word spellings in the manuscript that are outside the norm.
These are the different types of editing as I define them. Before you find an editor for your manuscript, think about which type of editing you need or want. If you don’t know, that’s fine. An editor can help you decide which stage your manuscript is at and what level of editing will best serve the manuscript.
Whether you know what type of editing you need or not, I can help. Contact me when you’re ready for the next step in your book publishing journey!
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