What Does a Book Edit Look Like?
Whether you’re working with a traditional publisher or you’re self-publishing your book, the only way to ensure excellence in your final product is to put your work through a rigorous editorial process, consisting of more than one round of editing. Following are the three basic types of editing that your manuscript may go through. Every publisher has their own process, and they may call each step of the process by a different name.
1. The Content Edit (developmental, substantive, or macro edit; sometimes simply called revisions.) This is where the editor gives big-picture notes. Fiction: plot, characterization, scene crafting, POV’s, and all the other elements of your story. Non-fiction: logical flow of ideas, readability, strength of argument, interest level. The editor doesn’t actually edit your work in this stage, they usually give you a set of notes and send you back to work on your revisions.
2. The Line Edit. The editor works directly in your manuscript document, using Track Changes and Comments in Word. She suggests word, sentence and paragraph changes, looks for discrepancies, asks questions about things that don’t make sense, highlights inconsistencies or POV breaks, and looks for anything else that needs to be smoothed out. The line editor is responsible for seeing that the manuscript conforms to house style guidelines.
3. The Copy Edit. This is the most detailed editing, dealing with typos, spelling, punctuation, word use. Sometimes fact checking is done; permissions are checked; footnotes are verified.
At some houses, editing is a long and involved process, where at others, it hardly takes any time at all. Some publishers place a high priority on editorial excellence and put a lot of time and money into it, while others basically print what the author wrote.
If you’re self-publishing and looking for an editor, you can use the above terminology to ensure you’re getting the level of editing you need.