You’ve written your book, and you know you need a second set of eyes to review it before proceeding to the next step of publishing it.
However, you’re not sure what type of editing you need. Here’s a brief guideline to help you decide.
At the very least, every author’s work should be proofread.
Proofreading involves the basics such as checking spelling, basic grammatical errors such as punctuation, capitalization, subject-verb agreement, proper pronoun usage, and formatting consistency.
Proofreading does not involve any significant contextual changes or suggestions. Proofreading makes sure your manuscript is as error-free of fundamental mistakes as possible.
Copyediting takes things up a notch. Unfortunately, many folks think copy editing and proofreading are the same. Trust me when I tell you, they are not.
A copyeditor checks for everything a proofreader does, but she also checks for things like consistency in word usage and style. For example, is t-shirt spelled that way throughout, or are they times when it is tshirt or T-shirt?
Copyeditors also do things like divide long paragraphs into shorter ones – unless that’s your style. They also fix run-on sentences and recommend word substitution if they feel a more precise one is needed.
The bottom line is a copyeditor’s job is to make sure the five Cs of copyediting are implemented correctly in your manuscript. The five Cs are concise, clear copy, correct, comprehensible, and consistency.
The next step up in editing services is contextual editing – and it is the most extensive, time-consuming and expensive.
A contextual editor – often also called a developmental or substantive editor – looks for any deviations in the characters, dialogue, plot, timelines or scene descriptions in fiction works. For non-fiction, they check for factual errors and any inconsistencies or contradictions in the message of the book, as well as proper attributions.
Additionally, a contextual editor makes sure that your voice is consistent throughout by the way you structure sentences, how your paragraphs flow, the words you select, etc.
I contextually edited a manuscript once, and there was something toward the end of it that kept bugging me. It wasn’t until the third round of editing that I figured it out – the main character’s voice dialogue had suddenly changed. In the book, the main character’s father had been away for years, but when he’s reintroduced, suddenly she began to sound more like him than herself.
Granted the change was slight, but it was enough that every time I read the book, it nagged at me that something was off with the character.
It’s this type of subtle change that you want to avoid as an author and that quality contextual editor of your manuscript should catch.
Hopefully, this brief overview of what to expect from each type of editing service will guide you when you decide to hire an editor.
Regardless of what kind of editing service you elect to have done, remember this: make sure you and your editor are a good fit. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your manuscript. Your editor should respect that and give you the personalized attention you and your book deserve.