Manuscript editing as a new author can feel like a daunting process. There are so many types of edits and editors to choose from. How do you know if you should edit your work yourself or if it’s time to hire a professional? And if you do hire a professional, what kind of editor are you looking for? Understanding the different manuscript editing types will help you feel more confident when editing your book.
Self-Editing Your Work
Before you hire a professional to edit your manuscript, you should always start with a self-edit. You want your work to be as clean as possible before you hire another person to look at it. I recommend using an editing software such as ProWritingAid or Grammarly to polish your writing as much as you can.
For more resources to help with your writing and publishing process, check out my Writer Resource Page.
Self-editing programs can help you find grammar mistakes, and problems with sentence structure. They can also help you rework confusing sentences and paragraphs to make your writing sound clear and concise. I use ProWritingAid to self-edit and polish my work before I even consider sending it off to a professional. I don’t want to pay someone else to correct mistakes that I could have fixed myself.
Once you have gone through your manuscript multiple times and found all the obvious mistakes, then you can move on to hiring an editor. The next question is, do you even need to hire a professional editor?
Do I Need To Hire A Professional Editor?
The choice to hire a professional editor is entirely up to you (and your publisher). If you are unsure if you should hire someone, ask yourself how professional you want your writing to be when it’s finished.
If you are just writing social media copy or emails, you probably don’t need a professional editor to look them over. Your self-editing software should be enough. However, if you’re writing longer content, such as short stories, essays, or books, you may want to hire an editor before you publish your work. Once you put this content out into the world, it represents you. The more professional your writing sounds, the more professional you appear as a writer and expert in your field.
Personally, I don’t hire a professional editor for writing that is mostly for content purposes. My social media posts, blog posts and short stories that go up on my website are completely self-edited. However, if I were submitting a shorter piece of writing for publication in a magazine or to compete in a writing contest, I would hire a copy editor to polish my work.
I always recommend hiring a professional editor for published books. Because of the longer length of the average book, it’s easier to make mistakes and to miss them in a self-edit. Books require more time, effort, and financial commitment to bring them into the world. And once they’re published, they provide a long-term asset you can use to promote yourself and your brand for years to come. For this reason, you want your books to be as flawless as possible. Always hire a professional editor, or several, before publishing your books.
What Type of Manuscript Edit Do I Need?
There are several types of manuscript edits to choose from when you are ready to send your work to a professional. The most popular are the Developmental Edit, Line Edit, Copy Edit, and Proofread.
Some editors specialize in multiple types of edits, but many like to focus on one type of edit over others. Make sure that you know which type of edit you need at each stage of your process. Double check that the editor you choose is proficient in that type of edit for your genre. You don’t want a romance editor working on the developmental edit of your self-help book.
The right editor should understand the nuances of your genre and specialize in the type of edit you are looking for. They should also offer a sample edit option so you can assess their editing style before you send them the full manuscript.
Understanding Different Book Edits
The Developmental Edit is the first type of book editing service you will need. Shorter writing may not need this type of editing, but it could still benefit you if you are using your work professionally. The developmental edit is usually the most expensive type because it’s also the most thorough and takes the most time to complete.
A developmental edit for fiction books involves analyzing plot, characters, settings, pacing, and world building. Your editor will probably read your manuscript multiple times and give you notes on which parts of the book need more development and focus. Most developmental edits come with a multi-page report that breaks down the details of your manuscript.
For non-fiction books, the developmental edit will look at the overall theme and clarity of purpose. Your editor will assess your use of examples and anecdotes, and make sure that your book achieves the goals you have set for it. They may also suggest further explanation on certain topics and move sections around to help with the flow.
Many authors skip the developmental edit because it’s the most expensive and the hardest to stomach. Paying someone to pick apart the work you spent months creating is difficult for anyone. However, those who swallow their pride and push through the developmental edit anyway usually have a better product in the end.
I encourage you not to skip this step if you want to be a professional author. Why would you put hours upon hours of work into a project only to cut corners on editing and sacrifice quality? Your book deserves the full effort, so don’t skip it.
The line edit is usually less intense than the developmental edit, but no less important. Once your developmental edit is complete and you are happy with the overall message and pacing of your manuscript, the line edit comes next.
This edit focuses on sentence structure, clarity, and compliance with professional language standards. Your line editor will help you find the best ways to convey the point you are trying to make with your book. They may suggest clearer word choices, and sentence restructuring to aid with audience understanding.
This type of edit makes your writing sound crystal clear and professional.
Some line editors will also perform a copy edit, but some will not. So, make sure you understand what services your editor will provide you at each step of the process.
The copy edit focuses on grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Your editor will probably follow a set of style guidelines, such as CMoS (Chicago Manual of Style) or MLA (Modern Language Association). This edit really polishes your manuscript and makes you sound competent and professional.
The proofread is the last editing step and usually takes place after you have formatted the manuscript for printing or e-reading. The proofread makes sure there are no typos or mistakes in the book. It also checks for style inconsistencies. The proofread is the final polish that will make your book shine.
Where Can I Find a Good Editor?
There are many places to find a professional book editor. You can hire a freelancer or an established agency to edit your work. I would not recommend hiring a friend or colleague to do your editing for you. Editing is a tough process, and you want to work with someone who has experience, will vibe with you, but also be willing to tell you when something doesn’t fit.
If you are looking for a freelance editor, I recommend checking out Fiverr, Reedsy or Upwork. Decide on the parameters you are looking for in advance and compare several individuals. If you are looking for a professional editing agency, a few that I recommend include First Editing, NY Editors, and Bublish. However, you can easily do an online search to find more options.
What to Look For When Considering an Editor
When considering someone to edit your manuscript, look at the genres they have experience with. Browse through the books they have edited in the past and even read a few pages if possible. Also, consider the type of edit they plan to do, how much they will charge for each type of edit, and how long it will take them to complete it.
I have found that freelance editors are often more flexible on price. However, editing agencies are usually better at sticking to a strict timeline. Decide what your priorities are in advance.
Finally, ask the editor you are considering hiring to perform a sample edit on a few pages of your work. Before signing a contract, make sure you like their editing style and agree with their choices. A good sample edit should make you feel like the editor really understands you and the points you are trying to make in your writing. They should be able to bring out the best in your work.
Manuscript Editing may feel daunting when you are first getting started. However, understanding the process can ease your mind and help you move forward. Start with a self-edit and polish your work to the best of your ability.
For longer works, such as books and novellas, move on to the developmental edit to upgrade the plot and structure of your book. Then, complete a line and copy edit to clarify and refine your writing. Finally, use the proofread to take care of any outstanding errors or typos.
Good manuscript editing can make all the difference between a mediocre book and an amazing one. Don’t skip steps. Your work deserves the best!