More Than Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s: The Levels of Editing

You’ve finally got it: a first draft. The last word has been written, and now you’ve got a couple hundred pages ready to be edited. You’ve completed what many consider the hardest part of writing a book, but there’s still work left to be done. It’s time for editing to begin.

All manuscripts need editing. Working with a professional editor is necessary to ensure your book becomes the best book it can be. Some writing requires basic sentence- and word-level polishing, while other manuscripts may need an overarching content edit. It all depends on the author’s writing process and where they feel their writing has ended up after the first draft. No matter what, flipping back to the beginning of the book and breaking out the red pen is a crucial step in the publishing process.

One editorial size does not fit all. The most common editing options are as follows:

Ghostwrite. A ghostwrite includes the complete drafting of a manuscript, beginning with interviews with the author and other important individuals and moving through a synopsis, outline, and chapter delivery. A professional ghostwriter has the most involvement in a manuscript. An author’s relationship with a ghostwriter can be as involved as they choose.

Writing Coach. A writing coach aids in the creation of an outline, table of contents, and writing schedule. The author writes the manuscript while the writing coach works closely with the author throughout the drafting process by editing each chapter as it is written for content-level concerns. Busy authors who are still invested in doing the actual writing of the book or those who need a schedule to stick to often opt for a writing coach to get real-time feedback.

Content Edit. A professional editor works with the author after the first full draft of the manuscript is completed. They suggest high-level structural and organizational changes as needed that may affect both the prose and content of the book. It’s a good choice for authors who have or will have a completed manuscript and are looking for high-level feedback. A content editor may rewrite sentences as necessary.

Developmental Edit. A developmental edit addresses clarity, style, and phrasing. The editor identifies areas with awkward word choice and sentences, when more information or explanation is needed, or when redundancies arise.

Copyedit. A copyedit involves an editor correcting line-by-line grammatical errors, including spelling, punctuation, word choice, tense, and sentence structure. Editing at this level aims to get the book grammatically sound and ready for print.

After completing your manuscript, you’ll likely have a sense of which level of editing you need. If you’re unsure, an editor or publishing professional can assess your manuscript for the appropriate level of editing needed.

Who will I work with?
Whether you are working with an in-house editor at a publisher or with a freelancer, ensure they have experience and qualifications to complete the level of editing necessary. Budget is a realistic concern, too, so confirm that the editor is providing a reasonable quote for a quality job. Working relationship is another factor. Depending on how heavy an edit your manuscript needs, you may be spending some time communicating with your editor, so see if you jive personally to work well professionally.

Every manuscript needs some level of editing before it’s ready to go to print, and CEOs and thought leaders often need the help of a professional to help bring their book up to scratch in a competitive market. A well written book is a must to represent yourself and your brand well, so choosing the right level of editing helps create a quality product.

As the CEO at
Amplify Publishing and Mascot Books, Naren Aryal is a recognized publishing industry expert. Naren advises authors, thought leaders, and various organizations on the opportunities and challenges that exist in the evolving publishing world. He’s guided the company’s growth from a single children’s book in 2003 to becoming one of the fastest growing and most respected hybrid publishing companies in the world. Today, Mascot Books publishes hundreds of books a year across all genres, and Amplify Publishing is a leading nonfiction imprint specializing in “big ideas” from some of the most reputable names in business and politics. 

Naren frequently speaks at publishing and business events about the importance of developing compelling content and a robust author platform. He is also the author of
How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform.

Prior to entering the world of books, Naren worked as a lawyer, advising technology companies in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and Juris Doctor from University of Denver.

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