editing stages - write edit publish

Editing stages that self-publishers should know about

One of the attractions of self-publishing is that it offers authors more control over their manuscript than traditional publishing. However, the process of developing the text is similar to that of traditional publishing (e.g. with a large publishing house, often through an agent).

The 3 stages of editing

Developmental editing (sometimes called substantive editing) looks at whether all of the text hangs off the central point that is being made and whether the way the information is laid out makes sense. A developmental editor will suggest improvements that can be made to the way things are structured, whether sections should be moved around to improve the flow of the text, that arguments develop logically and are backed up by the supporting information, and check that the tone and style of language used is consistent throughout. This stage should be done on an initial draft.

Copy editing (sometimes called line editing) ensures that the text is consistent and well written. Sentences that are unclear are restructured, unnecessary jargon is tackled and the editor will make sure that things are written in a way that is appropriate for the audience, such as using plain English, Grammar, punctuation and spelling are checked, and the editor will also make sure that style rules are being followed. This stage takes place before something is laid out or ‘set’ in its final format such as a PDF or for printing. It is important that this stage is done once you have a final draft. If you make extensive changes after a copyedit, you will waste time and money having to have the manuscript copyedited again.

The final stage, proofreading, takes place after the text has been set, and it’s a final check for typos and layout errors. Quite often, people ask for proofreading when what they actually want is the more in-depth work that is copyediting, so it’s useful to be clear about the difference if you’re going to work with an editor.

You can do one or more of these stages yourself, but it’s advisable to get professional help with at least one stage. Even professional editors tend to get someone else to do a final proofread, because the more you look at something the less likely you are to spot a typo. It’s amazing (and sometimes a little alarming) the things a pair of ‘fresh eyes’ can spot.

As well as editing, other considerations include illustrations, permissions and clearing legal issues, marketing, cover creation, ISBN registration, indexing and production.

If you’re looking for help with your manuscript, I offer developmental and copyediting services. Contact me to find out more.

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