The terms "editing" and "proofreading" get tossed around so much that most people aren't even sure what they mean exactly. And for good reason ...
"Editing" actually encompasses several types, each valuable in its own right, and each essential for producing a book of excellence. In fact, no matter how good a writer you are, employing a professional editor—for developmental/
content and copy editing—is a non-negotiable must. Proofreading involves the crucial final phase of book production and should not be confused with editing.
Here is an explanation of the different types, the order in which your book will require each, and why you need it.
Developmental or Content Editing [ #1 ]
As the term suggests, this is the phase of editing where the manuscript is well developed in every aspect, and is the first type of editing you will need performed for your book.
In nonfiction, a skilled developmental editor ensures the overall structure, presentation, chapter cohesiveness, tone, clarity, accuracy of facts, soundness of references, and flow of your book are impeccable, as well as ensuring the goals of the book are met for the reader.
In fiction, a skilled content editor works to ensure an appropriate story arc, well-developed characters, consistency in characterization, a strong plot, realistic dialogue, a sense of place, use of the five senses, accuracy of story facts, sound research (if applicable), an engaging beginning, and a satisfying end.
As you can imagine, this is no easy task in any genre. Looking at individual parts as well as the whole requires many passes through the material, a strong instinct for what works and doesn't, a keen sense of how to remedy inconsistencies, the wisdom to restructure appropriately, and an eye for cohesiveness. This is why good editors need time to perform their work well, and why excellent editors command a competitive fee for their expertise.
Note here that some developmental/content editors also perform copy editing, but not all.
In fact, these two types of editing actually require completely different skill sets. Some editors have a gift for developing a manuscript but are not as verse in the skills of mechanics; some editors excel at the details of mechanics but don't have the instinct or training to develop a manuscript fully. As such, be certain you know exactly what type of editing your provider offers – it's not uncommon to hire one editor for developmental and another for copy editing; however, the two can be performed concurrently if the editor is proficient in both. What's important is that you know what you're contracting for before you begin the partnership.
As a writer – even a bestselling writer with multiple awards and accolades – there is simply no way to see every element that may need help within a manuscript. This is why employing a professional editor is crucial to the success of your book. No bestselling author with a traditional house would ever go to print without numerous rounds of editing, and if you want to be a successful author with an excellent reputation and high credibiilty, neither should you.
Copy Editing / Line Editing [ #2 ]
In the world of books, copy editing refers to correcting the various elements of grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, word use, and clarity inherent in every piece of writing, and the same expertise is applied to nonfiction and fiction. It also includes fact-checking of references and review of other elements of the manuscript, such as spelling of proper names and places, or accuracy of quoted material. This phase is performed either concurrently with developmental editing or after, in a second phase altogether. You may also hear this referred to as line editing.
Great copy editors are typically born grammarians, voracious readers, language buffs, and lovers of the written word. The skill required is often honed through self-driven study of books, courses, and/or articles, but there are also certificate programs available in some colleges. In addition, some copy editors will have worked for a publishing house or corporation in an editing capacity.
While a certificate is not a requirement to be an excellent copy editor, it's best to request writing samples from the editor of work they have done for other clients. This is actually a good practice for any type of editor you hire.
I've worked with or known numerous writers, who are experts in their fields or excellent storytellers – even famous and award winning – who have little to no command of the rules of grammar and punctuation. Don't let this bring you down if you're one of them ... that's what good copy editors are for!
Proofreading [ #3 ]
In the literary realm, proofreading typically occurs AFTER all other editing has been performed, with the book in printed form. The proofreader uses this "proof" or "advanced reading copy" (ARC) to carefully read for lingering mistakes of any kind in the book, including cross-checking the table of contents, verifying correct pagination and running page headers, cross-checking the index, and ensuring all references are correctly cited.
Believe it or not, reading a book in printed form is much different from reading a manuscript on the computer. You'd be surprised just how much even a trained eye can miss on the screen. For this reason, it is customary to go through multiple rounds of proofreading printed copies – at least one professionally and others with the author and his/her circle – to uncover any overlooked missing words, mechanics issues, or other content concerns the author may want to alter before going to final print and launch.
Knowing that credibility with your readers is paramount, I am personally dedicated to meticulous attention to all aspects of the book you worked so hard to write—acting as both a developmental editor (for nonfiction only) and copy editor (for both fiction and nonfiction).
The following outlines the key details I focus on as a developmental editor when preparing your book for the world to read:
Book's overall structure
Continuity and focus within chapters
Clarity and flow of material
Sense of your position as an expert (if applicable)
Clear transitions between paragraphs
Conveyance of clear benefits to the reader
Engagement of reader in subject matter
Research and content additions
- Intended audience/appropriate tone
Correction of awkward writing
Improvement of clarity and flow
Overall presentation of material
Portions of the manuscript may be restructured in this process, and copy editing is included.
◦ $80 per hour
The following outlines the key details I focus on as a copy editor when preparing your book for the world to read:
G R A M M A R
◦ proper word usage
◦ accurate subject-verb agreement
◦ proper use of English language
(subject/object usage, prepositions,
verb forms, etc.)
S T Y L E
◦ clear and appropriate sentence
◦ eliminating repetition of words
◦ varied vocabulary
◦ correction of unclear phrasing
◦ appropriate tone for intended audience
◦ avoiding overuse of clichés
M E C H A N I C S
◦ proper punctuation, spelling,
capitalization, and hyphenation
◦ quotation marks vs. italics
◦ consistency of correct usage
Copyediting is typically performed after or concurrently with developmental editing.
◦ $60 per hour
The following outlines the key details I focus on as a proofreader when preparing your book for the world to read:
All areas listed above, after typesetting and copyediting is complete, as the final stage of the editorial cycle. This stage is performed with a printed copy of the book.
Employing more than one proofreader besides your editor is highly recommended. We are only human – you'd be amazed what can be overlooked, even by the most meticulous editors!
◦ $2 per 250 words OR
◦ $40 per hour
As a professional editor who hasn't been immersed in your manuscript for months—or even years—as you have, I have the advantage of approaching your work from a distance, mentally and emotionally, enabling me to see both the big picture and the smallest details of your book, many of which you may easily overlook. I have structured methods of accomplishing this careful analysis, not the least of which is multiple reads, each for specific reasons. I employ these methods both in developmental editing and copyediting, as well as in proofreading, to guarantee an exemplary result.
In partnership with you, I'm committed to producing a book that beautifully presents your material from cover to cover, free of mistakes that a discerning reader could allow to diminish your credibility, and that you will be as proud to call your own as you would if it were edited and polished by a traditional publisher.
To see if I might be a good match for you, please fill out my questionnaire to share your book project with me!