Have you ever read a novel that has more typos than a fourth grader’s paper? Words misspelled or misused, grammatical rules all but ignored? When you’re paying big bucks to buy a book these days, you expect the story to be riveting, well-structured, and the writing free from error. Yet, many books these days show up on the shelves chock full of issues.

Several reasons can account for this: pressure to get a book on the shelf, sloppy editing, and sometimes a complete skipping of the editing process as self-publishing becomes more popular.

No matter how you’re publishing your book, whether it’s through traditional publishing methods or self-publishing, if you’re serious about being an author, then your book would benefit from the magical touch of an editor. Here’s a quick review of what types of editors are available and what your book requires before it’s ready for sale.

Types of Editors

Developmental Editor: This is where to start when looking at the big picture. A developmental editor reads through your entire manuscript and then offers suggestions to improve it. They focus on issues with pacing, plot holes, poor character development, believability, and plot evaluation. If you have any clichés or a lack of tension in certain scenes, they’ll catch it and make recommendations for improvement. These tips can cause major changes to your manuscript to make it tighter and more powerful overall.

Structural/ Substantive Editing: This type of editing helps organize your novel to appeal to your readers. These editors focus on the structure of your story, looking at overall length, how you start and close your novel, and ensure the content is suitable for your intended audience. They will look at the logical flow of ideas, recommend areas that require more research to support specific claims, and target areas that need clarification. The suggestions offered may involve some major changes. Expect your story to have bits and pieces moved or cut out entirely. This is the priciest as far as editors go, but the final product will be a book worthy of competing in today’s busy, overfilled marketplace.

Copy Editing: When you hire someone to do a copy edit, they will go through your book to ensure you’re using proper grammar, correct spelling and punctuation, and that your story is consistent throughout the entire manuscript. They will also identify issues with tone or style deviations, awkward transitions, overused words, or problems with flow.

Line Editing: An editor hired to do a line edit will do everything a copy editor does, plus they’ll go a little deeper and ensure that the story makes sense. They will correct any problems with story flow, tense, character POV, and transitions from paragraph to paragraph, and scene to scene. They will help to cut out any unnecessary rambling, strange wording or confusing sentences, make sure the story has structural integrity, and will give you overall feedback on your manuscript. It costs a little more than copy editing because there’s more intensive work involved.

Proofreaders: This type of editing is the last set of eyes to go over your manuscript before you submit it for publishing. The last check for mistakes. Someone hired to proofread your novel will basically go over the book sentence by sentence to check for errors: spelling, grammatical, punctuation, and repetitive wording. They may also check the format of your book (how it looks once completed as an e-book or printed book).

What Type of Editing Does Your Manuscript Need?

If a traditional publishing house scoops up your novel, then you will have an editor assigned to work with you. Most likely, they will do several rounds of edits incorporating all the above editing types I mentioned. Problem solved.

But what if you are self-publishing your book? What type of editing does your manuscript need? There are several things to consider; mainly cost and how serious you are about making your novel a success.

First, you should always start with self-editing, which requires combing through your manuscript, addressing any major issues, cutting out overused words, excessive adverbs, or weak verbs. Avoid using a passive voice or clichés (I’m guilty of this), or redundancies. You can invest in editing software such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid to assist you with this step. The problem with self-editing is that you’re so familiar with your story that you may be overlooking errors. It helps to have someone completely unfamiliar with the story read through it, ensuring it makes sense, and to catch errors that you might have missed.

If you’re short on cash, and writing more for fun than as a profession, your next step might include a panel of beta readers. These are people that volunteer to read your book, and give you feedback on areas that may need work, that were confusing and need to be restructured, and give you an overall review of how much they enjoyed the story. You can find beta reading groups online or in your local town. Usually these are people who don’t have any editorial background but may be authors themselves and have constructive advice to help you improve your story. You can also have your friends read through your manuscript to catch any glaring errors.

If you’re serious about becoming a writer, and you have completed your first book, you would benefit from having a freelance editor go over your manuscript. If you can afford it, hire a substantive editor, or at least a line editor, to help you whip your story into its best shape before it hits the stores. Your story will be polished, impressing readers, instead of repelling them with too many typos.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for your dream editor, check out the following sites: Editors Canada, Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), or ACES: The Society for Editing. Or if you have author friends, ask who they’ve used or if they have any recommendations. Also, some self-publishing companies have editing services available, and may include it with their publishing packages or you can purchase it separately.

Every manuscript and author is different, so it’s important to get an editor that matches your personality, genre, and needs. Shop around, checking out credentials, fees, and reviews. Most editors will provide a sample edit, where you submit a brief excerpt of your work (around ten pages) and they will edit it for you, so you can determine if you like the way they analyze and correct your writing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, treating it like an interview. You are hiring them, so they need to impress you before you fork over the cash.

If you’re at the editing stage, I hope these suggestions come in handy. You’ve put your heart and soul into crafting your very own novel. Make it even more amazing by hiring an editor so you can put your best book forward when it’s time to publish!

Happy editing, and don’t forget to keep reading!

💋 Lanie Mores