Excellent writing doesn't happen by magic. Just as iconic movie scenes usually require more than one take, your favorite texts also need polishing. That’s where different types of editing for books come in.
Let's take J.K. Rowling of the world-renowned Harry Potter book series as an example. She famously creates her first drafts by hand, preferably in black ink. Next, she types them up using Microsoft Word.
Finally, she puts her manuscripts through several rounds of revisions before they transform into the versions we all know and love. Who knew that early drafts of "Chamber of Secrets" and "Goblet of Fire" presented a more likable version of Draco Malfoy?
Did you also know that author cut out scenes with the character Theodore Nott? But this is just scratching the surface — there are countless other examples of edits that don't make the final versions of our favorite literary works.
When writing your manuscript, don't expect it to be 100% perfect the first time. Instead, you can work closely with an editor, or more likely, a team of editors, to produce the very best possible version of your book.
That said, let's learn more about the types of editing for books and the different ways they'll elevate your copy!
What are the different types of editing for books?
Much like SEO editing, there’s no formal editing process when writing a book. It's not set in stone.
Publishing houses and literary agents may use some or all of the below types of editing for books. And they may even call them slightly different terms.
This section will give you a broad overview of the most common types of editing you’ll find in the book publishing world.
1. Developmental editing for your manuscript
Developmental editing will come in handy if you've got a great idea for a book but are struggling to get it down on paper. This type of editing focuses on the structure and organization of your manuscript as a whole, guiding you on the flow and overall readability.
Developmental editors also make recommendations about characters, plots, and other elements.
This stage of editing is also known as manuscript appraisal or conceptual editing.
2. Evaluation editing for your book
Evaluation editing (or structural editing) is a type of editing for books that provides a high-level critique of your manuscript.
Once you've completed a draft, an evaluation editor will provide feedback on its strengths, weaknesses, and the general flow of the text. This type of editor is also great at assessing marketability and commercial potential.
In other words, they'll let you know whether your book has what it takes to interest literary agents and publishing houses.
If you're thinking of self-publishing, an evaluation editor can also explore whether your book is ready for publication or if it needs extra work.
3. Content editing
Content editing focuses on the actual content of your book. This type of editor will assess whether your text is clear, concise, and easy to read.
They’ll also check for any plot holes or inconsistencies in your story. Although it digs into the text, it does so at a paragraph level rather than a line level.
Your content editor will evaluate your tone of voice to ensure it matches reader expectations. You can also expect them to move around sections of your writing within a chapter or remove chunks entirely to improve the presentation.
Content editing is also called substantive editing or comprehensive editing.
4. Line editing can often be helpful
Line editing is where your editor will get into the nitty-gritty of the text, scrutinizing every word and sentence.
This type of editor will help you clarify your meaning, tighten your prose, scrap the fluff, and remove ambiguity. They'll also check that your sentences are grammatically correct and easy to read.
In some cases, you might combine line editing with content editing to enhance the style and substance of your text. Either way, you should tackle the content structure before improving each individual line of text.
5. Copyediting (Very important for your book)
Copyediting is one of the most famous types of editing for books, and it happens at a relatively late stage in the project. By the time your manuscript reaches a copy editor, it should be free of any significant errors, inconsistencies, or plot holes.
The copy editor will then fine-tune your text, ensuring it meets all the necessary style and grammatical requirements.
If your publishing house uses a style guide, for example, the Chicago Manual of Style, the copy editor will ensure your book adheres to it.
6. Proofreading for a final review
Proofreaders are often confused with copy editors, but they play a slightly different role. A proofreader fixes small details before your book is printed.
Proofreaders check for typos, incorrect page numbers, and other minor errors we can all easily miss. They also compare the proof against the original manuscript to catch any new errors during typesetting.
7. Don't forget fact-checking
Fact-checking is one of the most important types of editing for a book. This process involves verifying the factual accuracy of the information in your text, including dates, statistics, names, and places.
If you're writing a non-fiction book, it's essential to have someone check your facts before publication. Even if you're pretty confident that everything is correct, it's always best to err on the side of caution.
Books that contain mistakes can impact the reputation of the author or publisher and may even be grounds for a lawsuit.
How to choose the right types of editing for your book
So, what types of book editors need to cast their professional eye over your manuscript to make it a masterpiece? The answer, of course, is it depends!
The right types of editing can depend on your experience as a writer
If you're a first-time author, you might need more support at the developmental and conceptual stages of editing.
An experienced writer, on the other hand, might need later-stage types of editing for their book. A line edit or proofreading service before publication may suffice.
The genre of your work can impact the type of book editor you need
If you're writing a highly technical book, such as a how-to guide on car maintenance, you'll need someone with experience in that field to fact-check your work.
On the other hand, a work of fiction might only need a content edit and a line edit.
The type of editing can come down to budget
If you're operating with a smaller budget and are self-publishing, then you might need to be more selective about the types of book editing services you choose.
In this case, you might want to focus on the most essential types of editing, such as developmental editing and line editing.
The stage of your writing project will influence your book's edit
If you only have a rough outline of your book, a developmental editor will need to do more work than if you had a complete first draft.
On the other hand, if you don't involve the various types of book editors until later in the project, there may be major structural changes to make before you can hit line editing and copy editing.
Ask your literary agent about the right types of editing for books
If you already know a literary agent, they may have specific recommendations for the types of editing your book will need.
Since they’re the ones who will be submitting your work to publishers, it’s in their best interest to ensure it’s as polished as possible.
Where to find the right types of book editors for your manuscript
Check out the following places that can assist with the different types of book editing for books.
Literary agent recommendation
Your literary agent probably has a list of editors they regularly work with. If you don’t have an agent, ask around for recommendations from other authors in your genre.
Editorial Freelancers’ Association
The Editorial Freelancers’ Association, or EFA, has a searchable database of book editors, copy editors, and proofreaders.
Manuscript Wish List
Manuscript Wish List is a fantastic resource for authors, especially if you’re looking for editorial feedback.
Now you know the different types of editing for a book
What’s the one thing that every literary masterpiece has in common? The answer is that editors have worked diligently on them to polish the final product through various types of book editing.
So, the next time you're struggling with writer’s block, consider which of the different types of editing for books could improve your content. The right editor could take your writing to the next level. (Learn how to find a great book editor).
For more information, also discover the best books about how to write for new authors.