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.

Happy Editing!


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Maco Stewart on January 30, 2019 at 4:56 PM

    As a former technical writer/editor, the copy and line edits are what I first inflict on my own darlings, who are then rightly decimated. Jerry’s YNB course has helped do that better with my fiction. The tricky thing for me is getting enough distance from the work to be able to see it anew, as though I hadn’t already belabored the poor thing for many months. That’s also where the joy returns: in my utterly prejudiced opinion, some of my best writing in my current WIP has been where I saw an opportunity to introduce something important and write something NEW to fill that gap. Seeing progress in my ability to write is unspeakably gratifying and encouraging. And fun.

  2. […] Okay, you have a manuscript that fits the bill. What kind of notes can you expect if we work together? I will give a thorough content edit, with some line editing of things that particularly stand out to me. For more details regarding these kinds of edits, I’m going to refer you to this post by Rachelle Gardener. […]

  3. Virginia on October 26, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    Wow. I’m so glad I found this post through a LinkedIn group.

    As an editor, I love the writers who’ve posted on here who understand the importance of the editing process.

    And as a writer, I love the editors who remind me I’m not crazy. There are, indeed, so many people hanging out their shingles saying “editor” who have no clue about the process and are heavy-handed with authors; proceeding to change someone else’s work into their own idea of what it should be.

    I really enjoy seeing my editing help an author take what started as a good book, then release a GREAT book. That should be everyone’s goal. Release the best product possible. I like to urge authors to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, too, but I also have worked with some who didn’t care about that.

    Perhaps one of the best bits of advice I’ve ever gotten–whether it be applied to editing, writing, or even life in general–is know your audience!

    And, as an editor, one of your audience–the most important member–is the author! I am always keenly aware of just how red a manuscript looks when it’s going back to a writer, and I often cringe for him or her. In one case, there were so many suggestions to be made that I also sent a file with all changes accepted and recommended the author read that before looking at the markup of his manuscript. Much to my shock, he took something in the range of 95% of my suggestions to heart. I just finished proofing the interiors, and he now has an outstanding product. I’m proud to have been associated with that book, and I think he can be proud of his work.

    Anyway, just wanted to add that I’m happy to have come across this site.

  4. Kevin on October 22, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    I have mixed feelings about the editing/critiquing process. On one hand, I know it’s necessary and helpful to have an impartial set of eyes take look at my writing and make comments (I guess that’s a layover from piano lessons:). Having beta-readers comment on my short stories has been very helpful, and even led to one of them being published.

    But on the other hand, I’m terrified, like others said, of losing my voice, of not knowing when to recognize a change should be made and when to fight for my vision. I also sometimes wonder if I can rise to challenge of making major content revisions and still keep my story intact whenever I submit my novel draft for edits–as well as if I chose the right person to submit it to.

  5. Kevin on October 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    I have mixed feelings about the editing/critiquing process. On one hand, I know it’s necessary and helpful to have an impartial set of eyes take look at my writing and make comments (I guess that’s a layover from piano lessons:). Having beta-readers comment on my short stories has been very helpful, and even led to one of them being published.

    But on the other hand, I’m terrified, like others said, of losing my voice, of not knowing when to recognize a change should be made and when to fight for my vision. I also sometimes wonder if I can rise to challenge of making major content revisions and still keep my story intact whenever I submit my novel draft for edits–as well as if I chose the right person to submit it to.

  6. Kevin on October 22, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    I have mixed feelings about the editing/critiquing process. On one hand, I know it’s necessary and helpful to have an impartial set of eyes take look at my writing and make comments (I guess that’s a layover from piano lessons:). Having beta-readers comment on my short stories has been very helpful, and even led to one of them being published.

    But on the other hand, I’m terrified, like others said, of losing my voice, of not knowing when to recognize a change should be made and when to fight for my vision. I also sometimes wonder if I can rise to challenge of making major content revisions and still keep my story intact whenever I submit my novel draft for edits–as well as if I chose the right person to submit it to.

  7. Industry News-October 21 » RWA-WF on October 21, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    […] How does a developmental edit differ from a copy edit? Agent Rachelle Gardner defines content, line, and copy edits. […]

  8. Mercey Valley on October 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Wow, I’m behind the times with this one… coming in four days late πŸ˜‰ Sorry inbox!

    Feedback on one of my recent MSs showed only “an occasional line edit” was necessary and I found this so encouraging because it showed I was better than I secretly thought I was. What used to scare me most about “The Edit” was finding out my MS was chock full on mistakes and discrepancies I’d inadvertantly glossed over from lack of fresh eyes.

    What makes me unafraid is knowing how much better my MS can be when it gets placed in the hands of an editing expert. Such trust we give! I choose to believe handing it over improves rather than detracts from the story. Editors KNOW what they’re looking at. They are far better acquainted with a desirable end result than we are.

    A published friend of mine had an email response from her publisher, “no revisions necessary”. That’s amazingly cool.

  9. Friday Features #27 - yesenia vargas on October 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    […] What Does a Book Edit Look Like? By Rachelle Gardner at Rachelle Gardner […]

  10. fcmalby on October 19, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    For me, the magic is in the content edit. The editor’s view of the story, and the parts which stand out as they read the manuscript are what makes my heart dance. I have found with the novel I am about to publish that one of the editors found strengths in the manuscript which I thought were weaknesses. I am amazed, as I send out the first chapter, by the different aspects of a story which resonate with people. Thanks for a clearly written and interesting post Rachelle.

  11. Katherine Posselt on October 18, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    I found the macro story development edit I received from Nanci Pannucio of Emerging Writers Studio to be very helpful. I’ve changed the character arc of the protagonist, intensified conflicting desires of characters, enhanced setting and plot and tweaked the writing to include more contradictions at the sentence level. Still revising and happy to be moving along after this boost.

  12. Patrick Aquilone on October 18, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    Thanks for this description as I am in need of a new editor and need to know the terminology to get the right type of editor.

    For me, editing is a must because I know my strengths and weaknesses. Of course, I am always striving to learn more and grow more but right now at the end of the day I need a Line editor to help me out.

    Again, thanks.

  13. Darlene L Turner on October 17, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    As they say–“the first cut is the deepest”! I guess that’s a song, huh? Ha! For me that first edit is tough especially when you have to cut scenes you really like (to get your word count down!). However, if they don’t move the story along they must go!

    Thanks Rachelle for this post.

  14. Kristin Laughtin on October 17, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    I have mixed feelings about editing. I love actually carrying it out. It’s freeing to transform weak sentences and paragraphs into strong ones, trim overly-wordy passages into more concise ones, and find and polish the core of each scene. But I’m pretty hard on myself and hate the fact that I often need so many edits!

    I haven’t yet tried for publication, so editing doesn’t scare me too much; at worst, I get a little discouraged when more edits than I’d anticipated are needed. I’m a little fearful of what will happen if/when I get published, though. What if, even after I work to make my novel as good as possible before submission, my editor still gives so many content edit notes that my book basically needs to be overhauled? (Although if that many are needed, why did the editor buy my book in the first place?) What if I really disagree with line and/or copy-edits? What if it interferes with my writing of another book? I try not to worry about these hypotheticals too much, and I know my agent and I can work with the editor if things become too problematic, but the thoughts still cross my mind from time to time.

  15. SJOlson on October 17, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Please list good editors you’ve worked with and what genres they work in-contacts-

  16. Melanie Schulz on October 17, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Thanks for the info. In a way editing feels like you’re handing your baby over to the butcher.

  17. Tim Klock on October 17, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    It would be painful in a sense, to see your work come back bleeding red ink. I would appreciate the professional opinions for changes, myself. I’d rather have my work get as polished as possible, rather than have mistakes that could make me look unprofessional.

  18. Samuel on October 17, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Each of my books specifically intends to “say something”, but editors like to encourage me to water it down because it is controversial.

    For me to take some of this advice is to completely void the entire purpose of the book, making it pointless.

    So, instead, I do what I want.

    I think people like straight talk and don’t mind the occasional hard edges it bears.

  19. Jo Michaels on October 17, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I love edits. They show me where my story can be stronger, where I have trouble or overuse words, and when I can take things out that are pointless or redundant. I edit for others and always worry if my words are gonna cause them to jump off a bridge or building. I’ve been quite shocked when some have come back and thanked me for my brutal honesty. We may not like to hear where we can do better, but we need to. Great post! WRITE ON!

  20. Lisa Jordan on October 17, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    I loved the editing process with my first two books. My editor knows the industry and audience better than I do, so I trust her experience to guide me to create the best book possible. Her faith in me helped me to stay focused when she asked me to cut out a secondary character. At first I didn’t think I could do it, but she showed me how I could.

    Right now I’m working on revisions before a contract can be issued, and I have to confess these edits have me more uncertain because I’m not sure if I’m going to meet her expectations.

  21. K. J. Henry on October 17, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    I never would have looked at it that way but you’re right, H.G., it is a solemn promise and we should treat it as such. Thanks for the insight!

  22. H.G. Ferguson on October 17, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    We writers tend to be sensitive, introspective (more or less) persons, and the prospect of contracting with an editor in a professional relationship can be daunting, especially if you’ve never made that commitment. But it IS a commitment, a promise before God and man that when you sign on that dotted line, you make the commitment to accept and to cooperate with what is euphemistically phrased as “editorial revision.” Sometimes this is sublime, sometimes not so much. My point is, which all of you need to take to heart (as I did), you are promising to undergo revision and behave neither as a problem child nor a prima donna. YOUR attitude — YOUR heart in this, is what will make you or break you. Working with an editor is a solemn thing not to be lightly entered into. The RIGHT heart will make you the author you never thought you could be. The WRONG heart will destroy you. So, I encourage all of you — examine your HEART before you promise.

  23. Shelly Goodman Wright on October 17, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    I have to say getting back my manuscript with all the different colors was a mental experience. At first, I felt very overwhelmed. Luckily, my editor was great at working with me and she took out the fear. I found her feedback inspirational as I dug into them. It was like she unlocked my mind and pulled out the creativity still hidden inside.

    For this reason, I hope to find an agent for my next stand alone novel. Someone with that rare talent to bring out the best writing in me.

    For now, I’m a newly home schooling mom. I love seeing the growth in my girls and I love learning the things I’ve forgotten over time, but it’s not easy and doesn’t allow much writing time.

    Thanks for allowing me to share.

    Blessings and success to all,

  24. What Does a Book Edit Look Like? | Page Pounders on October 17, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    […] more at: Β What Does a Book Edit Look Like? | Rachelle Gardner. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  25. Kat Laytham on October 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    Yes, I’m with the crazy people. I love, love, love editing. With my own writing I love seeing my work improve – it’s exciting. When I edit for other people I love helping them make their work the best it can be. And the actual physical act of editing? It is soooo much fun. πŸ™‚

  26. Daniel F. Case on October 17, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    This brings to mind my first experience with an editor–a magazine editor who had bought an article from me. Newbie that I was, I objected to what seemed at the time like major and unnecessary changes that I now understand were needed to fit the style of her publication.

    When she neared the end of her patience with me she said, “Dan, my job here is to make you look fabulous in my magazine. Do you want to look fabulous? If not, just say so and I’ll give this slot to someone else. If you’re not ready to be edited, you’re not ready to be published.”

    I learned more from that edit than from a dozen writers conferences–and in the end, I thanked her for her patience with me. And for making me look fabulous (she did!).


  27. Pamela on October 17, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    If I read a book and see even one tiny mistake – a word spelled incorrectly, a semi-colon used as a comma, a paragrah that should have been cut in have sentences ago, I get turned off the story. A good edited story is a MUST in any published (Indie or otherwise) book. I have edited medical tomes for years, and then medical journals, so editing comes natural to me, and yes, I even see it as fun. But I always make sure someone other than me edits my stories – it’s amazing what a non-involved reader can catch that an author cannot.

  28. Kathryn Elliott on October 17, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    I am just beginning the search for edit help outside my Beta circle, but the content phase gives me flop sweats – like cheerleading tryouts in high school. Line and copy edits? No-brainer, you write, you make mistakes – my skin thickened to punctuation/grammar correction after Sister Marilyn snipped my first dangling participle. Content gets tricky, more subjective – more personal.

    Yes, this shows my green, but during content edit (traditional pub) are writers and editors matched in ways more specific than genre? Are there specialists in voice, dialogue, new authors, series? The same question applies for self-pubbers, but with the added risk of vetting out the β€œself-proclaimed” experts.

    Oh – and I loved this quote from a woman in my critique group: A good edit is like a good haircut – trims up the ugly bits and spiffs up a WIP.

  29. Lori @LARamsey.com on October 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Be very careful when hiring an editor. I almost paid a man who claimed to be a big editor on LinkedIn, and found out he had been stealing manuscripts and the money. So in this it scares me, I don’t know who to trust. I’m thinking of using the people at CreateSpace, since this is an Amazon company. They are very reasonable too.

  30. Jeanne on October 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    I am excited about the thought of having an editor go through my book, when that time comes. Call me naive, but I know that a professional set of eyes will catch things on every level that can impove it. Having someone who can make specific suggestions will be good.

    At the same time, I know it will stretch me to make those content changes. πŸ™‚ Stretching is good, right? Praying for that day.

  31. Connie Almony on October 17, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Though I’ve never found the critiquing/editing process fun, I know my writing and my reading has benefitted from it. I will always be grateful to thosed who’ve helped me polish my ms so far. I’ve also seen other’s manuscripts before and after the edit and been blown away by how beautiful writing turned into and even better story.

  32. Heather on October 17, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    I love the first round of editing, when the editor suggests a change and you have that aha! moment to revise things to make them work so much better!

  33. Heather Sunseri on October 17, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    I think my biggest fear of hiring a freelance editor is that I won’t feel like the money spent was worth it – that when it’s all said and done I either hired the wrong person, or he/she didn’t suggest changes that fit the project.

    It just seems like such a gamble prior to finding the right person.

    And I agree with what others have said. I fear that an editor will spend too much time stripping my writing of it’s voice, and I won’t be strong enough, as a newbie, to recognize it.

    So, I guess, my greatest fear is hiring the wrong person for the job. Because I know if I hire the right person, it will be worth every penny.

    • Virginia on October 26, 2012 at 12:19 AM

      Just want to add a few thoughts for some of the posters here:

      As an editor, I simply adore working with writers who are like me in realizing that the editing process helps to strengthen your writing. We all have our bad habits, and extra eyes–provided they are committed to making YOUR product the best it can be–only help. Ability to understand constructive criticism is key to being a good writer, IMO.

      That said, I’m appalled at some of the experiences writers have had with editors. I am currently working on a project where the author paid an “editor” who apparently had no clue about style guides. I felt badly that she’s essentially paying for a complete book edit two times.

      She lost the money from the other editor, and wanted me to pick up where she left off, but I could not do that in good conscience, knowing the first half of the book was not in good shape. Her willingness to give me a shot after being so burned makes me want to do a STELLAR job for her. Not that I don’t always want to–it’s just her being able to trust again after that means I want to make her realize there are good editors, too.

      It’s hard to know in this virtual world who is a true pro. This post helps. I also always have contracts drawn up before working, and ensure clarity on what is to be done is there for both sides.

      One thing about this post, though, is that, like Arlene, I find as a freelance editor that it’s neither cost-effective nor realistic for many authors to have these phases done separately. I’m not even certain the big publishers get that involved any more. Do they?

      Yes, it’s ideal. It’s just not real life any more. So I, too, have adapted–if I’m working on a project requiring all three phases, I usually do as much as I can in the first pass, then make subsequent passes focusing on different parts of the process.

  34. Lisa on October 17, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    I have been terrified for quite some time. Now that I gathered the courage for critique, I am finding how much it advances and polishes my work, and I love it!

  35. Ann Bracken on October 17, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    I’m with others, I love receiving edits. I’ll agree that the first time is painful and shocking, seeing all that virtual red ink, but once I read through the comments I was hooked. I also learned things about my writing style that I corrected in subsequent chapters (darn passive voice!).

    A good editor also teaches. I’ve learned about scene structure, POV, and more from reading the comments.

  36. Bellakentuky on October 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    I recently went through my very first professional edit. I was amazed at how much it improved the story!

  37. Stephen H. King on October 17, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Going through a professional editor as an indie is an awfully expensive task, but it’s worth every penny. I, personally, enjoy the process as much as some of my sick, sick, sick colleagues who’ve already posted (you know who you are, PJ!). But I didn’t at first. At first, the commentary my beta readers had for me struck right to my core, and I sent the first book away to the editor with a great deal of trepidation. Since then I’ve come to realize and accept that the first draft of anything, much less a novel-length work, is going to be a steaming pile of large animal feces. My first revision doesn’t change it much except to pick the twigs and seeds out. Second revision reshapes it a little more, and so on. It takes a LOT of work, though, once the writing is done to make it readable, and editing by another person must be part of that.

    On that note, though–yeah, I too have had mixed luck with editors. The first one I hired was pretty dang good, all things considered. Later, when the book had been taken on by a small publisher with his own editing team, I had serious disagreements with some of the edits–some of them violations of very specific rules of grammar–and yet I was in a “make the changes or find somewhere else” position. Since I went fully indie I’ve had mixed–and strange–experiences with freelance editors, not all of whom agree with RG’s definitions. Some of them seem to consider the act of turning on spelling and grammar checks in Word to be content editing, in fact. And problem is, as a pair of independent contractors lacking training in contracting, rarely does the agreement deal with what-ifs.

    – TOSK

  38. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on October 17, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Seeing pubbed authors go through the process, I’m not scared by it. I’ve had friends hyperventilate when they received their first content edits. One writer wanted to return her advance and not have her book published. Then she drank a diet Dr. Pepper, ate some chocolate πŸ˜‰ and wrote the required changes, making the book shine. All phases of editing are necessary, but content edits take the most work, especially if the author made a lot of changes as s/he was writing. There can be a lot of facts to check. When a book carries my name on the front, I want it to be the best it can, which includes solid edits.

    • Heather Day Gilbert on October 20, 2012 at 12:05 AM

      Excellent point, Roxanne. Even though our books are like our babies and it feels like content edits will strip away our creativity, it usually has the opposite effect (with a good editor). A good editor will get our “babies” as healthy as possible before we can nurse them out into the great wide world. And it’s way too late for me to be waxing poetic about book-babies online, sorry.

    • Heather Day Gilbert on October 20, 2012 at 12:07 AM

      Excellent point, Roxanne. Even though our books are like our babies and it feels like content edits will strip away our creativity, it usually has the opposite effect (with a good editor). A good editor will get our “babies” as healthy as possible before we nurture (and seriously edit) them into the wide publishing world.

  39. CG Blake on October 17, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Thanks for the clear and succinct overview of the editing process. What scares me the most as a writer is getting feedback from an editor that the story premise doesn’t work. Everything else can be fixed, but a flawed premise dooms a story. As an editor I enjoy every aspect of the process, especially the satisfaction of contributing to an improved story.

  40. Perrin Conrad on October 17, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    I try to remain humble and receive edits as constructive, not destructive. I have to say, though, that the idea of the content edit scares me most. Sometimes I struggle through a story, and I want the help. But other times, I feel a story is “my baby” and I faint at the idea that I may have revealed too much too soon, or that one of my characters lacks a flaw. That’s probably when I need the help the most, though!

  41. Diana Harkness on October 17, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    I can’t wait. Every time I go back through any portion of my book, I find myself editing. How nice to have someone else do it for me! I work on Content, Line, and Copy until I’m satisfied. But the next time I come back to it, I edit it again. I’m tired of editing. Let someone else do it.

  42. Jeremiah Zeiset on October 17, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    It’s equally important to remember that each phase of editing is best left to the editor gifted with that talent. Some editors are good at Content Editing, some are good at Line Editing, and some at Copy Editing.

    When you look for the right editor, interview her/him and look at previous work to make sure it is exactly what you need.

    Jeremiah Zeiset
    LIFE SENTENCE Publishing

  43. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on October 17, 2012 at 4:43 AM

    I don’t mind the editing process at all, since it prevents the release of that fell beast, the Messe Uneditanus.

    I just started a book on a subject that’s of deep interest to me (character and motivation of a fighter pilot in WW1)…and in the first few pages the author made several technical errors that made me cringe. Granted that I’m probably a hyper-expert on the technology, but I don’t read to pick nits. I read because I enjoy it, and stuff that should have been caught during copy edit trips me up.

    The book’s still worth reading, because these errors stem from a very widespread misunderstanding of the rather arcane technology of the day. The author’s got the heart of it, the heart of the man, dead right.

    • Ann Bracken on October 17, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      But those kind of errors keep me from reading in the genre I write. I find it pulls me out of the story to the point I put it down when somone doesn’t do their research. An editor worth their salt will at least make the author prove they have their facts right.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on October 17, 2012 at 7:32 PM

        That’s a really good point, and probably the main reason I no longer read fiction. Seeing poorly researched work that gets published is discouraging, to say the least.

        I can overlook ‘cliche’ errors, because they’re typically pretty easy to spot and isolate (like a virus!). But systemic inaccuracies, or finding that the research gaffes substantially impact the main tenets of the work, are unforgivable, and I’ll quit, too.

  44. Joanne Bischof on October 17, 2012 at 3:51 AM

    I just turned in the line edits for my second book tonight. The content edits scare me the most, only because they are the most overwhelming. But once I’m through it, it’s exciting to see how the story has blossomed and gotten better. SO thankful for my editors!!!

    • Sarah Thomas on October 17, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      That’s what scares me–the overwhelmingness of the content edit. I like that someone is taking the time to improve my book, but maintaining continuity while making plot changes–oy!

  45. P. J. Casselman on October 17, 2012 at 2:53 AM

    I love critique. The only criticism I don’t like is that which tells me nothing. I asked Sally to shred a YA chapter for me and her comments were so helpful they helped me make some macro decisions about my writing. Ah the power of a good highlight and comment.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on October 17, 2012 at 4:49 AM

      I’ve learned to be pretty selective in finding Beta (content edit) readers. There are quite a few people who look for something to criticize, rather than simply taking them as they come.

      And all to often, these comments are designed more to show the erudition of the ‘editor’ rather than as a help in improving the MS.

      • P. J. Casselman on October 17, 2012 at 10:51 AM

        Honored to be one, though I feel unqualified. Perhaps we’re the most dangerous since we don’t know nothing about birthin’ no books, we try to say something.
        By the way, your comments were uber helpful.

        • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on October 17, 2012 at 7:29 PM

          I’m honored. Reading some chapters by a really good writer challenges me – some people can create a fictional world that’s so seamlessly consistent that one can’t imagine it NOT existing – that’s you, Jim.

    • Stephen H. King on October 17, 2012 at 9:04 AM

      Amen. “If you look at our world, it’s a world of critique.” – Jose Canseco

      • P. J. Casselman on October 17, 2012 at 10:59 AM

        I like that a baseball player said that. When I was a kid, I had a coach that tried to teach me to hit the ball harder. He criticized me so much that I couldn’t even connect anymore. It was when I was alone, without him breathing down my neck, that I embraced what he was telling me and improved my swing.

  46. Gabrielle Meyer on October 17, 2012 at 2:52 AM

    The idea of going through my book with a professional editor sounds like a blast! I’d love having someone, who is unbiased, give me honest feedback and help me make my work even better. I’m with Beth and Jim on this one!

    • P. J. Casselman on October 17, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      Arrgh, glad you have ye aboard, matey.” Woops, the pirate voice is in my head this morning.

  47. Anna on October 17, 2012 at 2:41 AM

    I always look forward to being edited by a professional. I hope to learn from it.

  48. EnnisP on October 17, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    Great post Rachelle and very appropriate for newbies.

    I recently tried the editing thing on a very small scale. I talked to several editors – some smirked at my book (it’s about tithing) – and some weren’t very clear as to which kind of editing they did. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what questions to ask.

    So instead of sinking a lot of money into one editor, I sent one chapter of my book to two different editors – the same chapter to be fair – to get a mini feedback. By your definitions, one took the “content” approach and the other did “line” editing but I had no idea what either would do until I got the responses. The feedback was revealing. It really helped me get a picture of the process and it cost me a fraction of one full edit of any kind.

    I also, added a few chapters and rearranged my book based on the info they gave.

    I’m still learning though. Even your post shed a little more light on the topic for me. I’m slow but I get there eventually.

  49. J.M. Bray on October 17, 2012 at 2:19 AM

    I have no problem being edited. In fact I have made a deposit and am in the queue of http://www.noveldoctor.com/ Thanks for listing Steve’s information Rachelle.

    • Noveldoctor on October 17, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      Hey Mark, thanks for the mention, and for using my favorite word: queue. I’m looking forward to working with you.

  50. Arlene Prunkl on October 17, 2012 at 2:17 AM

    Rachelle, you’ve described an ideal situation in which several editing passes are done at the different levels you mention. However, many self-publishing authors can only afford a single pass of editing, so, as a freelance editor, I have become skilled at editing on as many levels as possible at once, for both fiction and nonfiction. This is certainly not ideal, but it suits many of my author clients on a limited budget.

    And every single manuscript is different and has different needs. I try to recommend what is best for my clients in terms of both their manuscripts and their budgets. This is the reality for self-publishing and also for some small presses. And it is far better than having no editing at all!

  51. Beth K. Vogt on October 17, 2012 at 1:35 AM

    Call me crazy (Okay, PJ, here’s your chance!), but I love all aspects of editing. Of course, my nickname is The Evil Editor (TEE), which my friends assure me is said with affection.
    But I digress.
    Editing should help a writer hit the mark, i.e. editing should never mess with a writer’s voice. When all is said and done, I should “look” better … er, read better on the page — but I should still sound like me, not like someone else wrote the book.
    I love it when an editor asks questions and verifies facts because I’d rather it happen in the editing phase of the book than after the book has rolled off the presses — and readers start letting me know I got something wrong. And it’s fun when an editor lets me know they enjoyed a certain scene. Hey, positive feedback at any stage of the writing process is welcome, right?

    • P. J. Casselman on October 17, 2012 at 2:41 AM

      For the record, Beth, I’ve never called you crazy. “Reality challenged” or “Mars in search of her missing moon” yes, but never crazy.
      I love good edits too. Rip it apart and hand it back to me with suggestions and I feel warm and fuzzy all over. But I’m weird, which I consider a positive trait.

      • Connie Almony on October 17, 2012 at 10:18 AM

        Children! Children! Behave now. You’re in public. (wink).

        • Beth K. Vogt on October 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM

          This is behaving …


      • Beth K. Vogt on October 17, 2012 at 10:39 AM

        “Mars in search of her missing moon” — such a brilliant way to tell someone she’s crazy.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on October 17, 2012 at 4:58 AM

      The issue of preserving voice is very important, and it’s one of the hardest things an editor has to learn to do. (I know – I did a lot of it.)

      It’s also incumbent upon the author to fight for their voice, but for a new writer the process can be a little bit overwhelming, and “Uh…sure, okay, I can change that” is too easy to adopt as a Bumper-Sticker of the Brain.

      I wonder how many one-book novelists caught this kind of literary laryngitis from an overzealous content editor, and never found their voice again?

      • P. J. Casselman on October 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        Losing one’s voice to criticism seems much easier to do in a world with way too many good books for the pub houses. “You won’t change that? OK, next!” The good editors give voice lessons that help a writer use their voice at its maximum potential.

        • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on October 17, 2012 at 7:26 PM

          That’s very true, and a good picture of how writing has changed. Thirty years ago there really weren’t all that many good books. I don’t know what’s changed – maybe chemicals and radiation in the water has spawned a race of single-minded writers, kind of like literary Uruk-Hai?

    • Sharon A Lavy on October 17, 2012 at 8:33 AM

      Yes to all of the above.

    • Stephen H. King on October 17, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      Hiya, TEE! At work I’m known as The Evil Overlord of Education. Working together with sufficient numbers of minions, we could probably rule the world of education–though it’s a fairly small world, and a rather poorly-paid one at that. It might have been much better to stake a claim as The Evil Overlord of Investment Banking, though there seems to be way too much competition for that already.

      In any event, I agree that it’s grand when an editor tells you a scene is a a good one, but it was a surprisingly happy moment when my first editor told me that one didn’t. It hadn’t been working for me, either, but in my inexperience I kept trying to fix it rather than say “this doesn’t work” and depress the button on my Death Star’s primary weapon–the Delete key.

      – TOSK

      • John Walker on October 17, 2012 at 9:51 PM

        The Evil Editor. I love it. In my world TEE means transesophageal echocardiogram. You slide a scope down the writer’s throat and look right into the heart.

        • Beth K. Vogt on October 22, 2012 at 10:01 PM

          Just now seeing this comment … oh, I love the double entendre!

    • Ann Bracken on October 17, 2012 at 9:30 AM

      I do love a good giggle in the morning. Thanks guys!

      Oh, and I completely agree!

    • Joe Pote on October 17, 2012 at 9:58 AM

      I’m with you Crazy Lady!

      I love edits, too.

      My goal in writing is all about communication, and I am continually aware that what makes sense to me is not always clear to readers.

      If anyone wants to help me improve my communication by giving constructive feedback, I’m more than glad to listen!

    • Lindsay Harrel on October 17, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      Yay for editing!! (says a fellow editor)

      I sooooo prefer editing over writing the first draft. When I’m writing that first draft, the thought in my head is always, “This stinks…but at least I can edit it later!”

    • SJOlson on October 17, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      Nothing’s worst than working with a bad editor who doesn’t know punctuation or spelling, and has no imagination. With unemployment so high, so many people think they can claim they are editors. It is a tough job, and not just anyone can do it. I like the people who buy a computer program, and think that makes them an editor. I worship the ground of a good editor with writing skills, and an ability to work with people. People skills are important too. It’s hard to tell a writer their baby needs work.

    • Laura Bennet on October 22, 2012 at 8:54 PM

      Thank you for that comment! I had an editor change my writing to her style to the point that none of my voice remained. She reworded every single sentence. That editing was not helpful because it didn’t help me write better, it only left me discouraged. My critique partner, on the other hand, points out places that don’t make sense, and offers words or phrases that fit better than what I originally wrote. That approach has improved my writing. I guess I’m still a little afraid of having my writing changed so much that it misses my voice or the message I intend. However, I love editing and helping others and am glad for feedback that helps me grow.