Stories come in every shape and size, and as an author, you bring your own expertise and experience to your tale. So when it comes to editing, you might not need the same sort of help as someone else.
You might excel at catching grammar problems but struggle with writing the blurb, the back-of-the-book description. You might be great at big-picture analysis but have no idea what to call your finished story.
And all of this falls under editing, because, by definition, editing is what goes into preparing written material for publication. At times, it’s condensing it, correcting it, or modifying it. Other times, it involves expanding your vision, encouraging you in new directions. Finally, it can involve summarizing what you have in succinct ways, either in making a title or a blurb.
So here are 7 different types of editing, and chances are, no matter how good an author you are, you’ll need one of them for one of your stories at some point in your career.
This can also be called “Developmental Editing” or “Big Picture Editing,” but book coaching is basically designed to help you know how a story “reads.” Book coaches look at the big picture of what happens in your story, addressing how scenes unfold, what characters say, how your world functions, and where your story stacks up to genre expectations.
Because of its “big picture” focus, it’s the ideal editing phase to start with, when you’ve finished the manuscript and are just moving into the editing process. Beta readers can help with this stage too, but unless they’re professional readers, they may not have the experience it takes to help you or have the dedication to spend the time it takes to comb through your manuscript and tell you what really works…and what is still a little rough.
Similar to book coaching, a manuscript evaluation or manuscript critique provides the same “big picture outlook” but in a summarized package. Instead of a line-by-line feedback, you usually get a 2-5 page report that outlines the story’s strengths and weaknesses.
Because of its short nature, manuscript evaluations usually cost much less than book coaching, but you do get what you pay for—after all, the size of the report will constrain editors from being able to respond to everything in your manuscript. They may be forced to leave out comments about the slow plotting of certain scenes, for example, in favor of mentioning the memorable plot hole in the climax.
This usually happens after your story is set and your scenes are locked into place. A copyeditor will go over the whole thing, looking for redundant passages or awkward wording along with grammar and spelling errors. Thus, they won’t suggest any plot-altering changes, but they will help the writing flow better and help clear up any confusing passages readers might have struggled with.
This level of editing is what we all wish our word processing softwares achieve, but don’t. A proofreader catches spelling errors and grammar problems, straightening out punctuation and capitalization, but he or she won’t rearrange your writing or point out awkwardly-worded-but-grammatically-correct passages.
At this stage, it’s all about polishing what’s there, not deleting lines, so it’s often the last step before formatting and publishing.
This step takes your text from the word processor program you were using and prepares it for the technology used by printers and ereaders, making sure it still looks good after conversion.
Formatters prevent your story from looking strange or reading awkwardly, and they provide the professional touch needed to keep readers from being distracted by how your text looks so they can just enjoy the story.
Frequently, traditional publishers will change a book’s title before marketing, looking to choose something that reflects not only the contents of the book but also the market.
If your idea sounds too close to something popular already on the market, they’ll probably want to go with something else. A title creation service works in the same way, performing the professional research to make sure your title sounds like it fits what you’ve written and isn’t the name as last year’s bestseller.
Often the domain of the publisher’s marketing team, a blurb isn’t just a summary of your story. It’s a marketing piece designed to tease and intrigue readers without giving away too much of your story in the process.
When you work with a blurb writing team, you’re hiring professionals who know how to steer clear of awkward phrases and how to efficiently describe your book with artistry and tension, elegance and style.