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RevisionsHere is the secret to self-publishing a book like a pro - editing!

Every great author has a an editor behind them helping to shape and refine their books for publication. One benefit provided by traditional publishing houses was that they connected each author they signed with an editorial team. It was one of many investments they made in an author to improve the chances of making a profit.

As a self-published author you are responsible for finding (and paying) your own editorial team. The term editor is a little misleading - you will need more than one person to get the work done. There are at least three separate and distinct editorial stages. A person good at one task may not be the best for another.

The three editorial stages are the developmental edit, the content edit, and proofreading. Here is an overview of what happens in each stage.

Developmental Edit

Every book goes through the developmental editing process. This is where the high-level structure of the book is evaluated. Entire sections may need to be added, removed, moved, or broken apart and spread around the other parts of the book.

Sometimes the author does the bulk of the developmental editing work. But, if you find yourself with a first draft that just doesn't seem to be working, and you can't figure out why, a little outside help may be needed. When a major overhaul is required, a Content Editor (aka Book Doctor) is the person to call.

Content editors focus on the book as a whole. They suggest major structural changes, as well as give notes on point of view, tone, pacing, clarity, and readability. It is important to find a content editor who specializes in the genre of your book. A brilliant crime fiction editor will not necessarily have the insight needed to evaluate a business management book or a history of medieval architecture.

Copy Edit

The heart of the editorial process is copy editing. The rough edges of your first draft are smoothed out to create a well written text that places the focus of the reader where it belongs - on the content. If you can only afford to invest in one outside editor for your book, a copy editor is the one to hire.

Copy editors work through a manuscript correcting grammar and punctuation problems. They will highlight poor word choices and flag confusing passages. They also make sure that the style of your book is consistent. They may also fact check the content as well.

Your book will probably need at least two passes by a copy editor if you have to make significant changes to fix issues identified in the first edit.


The final stage of the book publishing process is essentially a quality control check. It is your last chance to catch mistakes before your book ends up in the hands of paying customers.

Proofreading occurs after the manuscript of your book has been converted into whatever format is used for publication and distribution. Issues like grammar, sentence structure, spelling, word use, punctuation, and other editorial issues have been addressed during the earlier copy editing stage.

During the proofreading stage you will be looking for dropped words, letters, punctuation, and sometimes whole paragraphs. You will correct any errors introduced during the formatting process as the manuscript is prepared for publication.

A proofreader does not need to be an expert in your book's genre. It is more important that they are meticulous and have a good grasp of spelling and punctuation. If you choose to do the work yourself, break the process down and focus on one type of error at a time. Start by reading the text to make sure that no content was dropped, duplicated, or moved during the formatting process. Then, go back and look for missing punctuation, spelling errors, etc.

It is easy to miss mistakes when proofreading your own book. You are familiar with the content so your mind will often 'auto-correct' mistakes while reading so you don't notice them. Proofreaders use a few tricks to help them see the text as it is. One method is to read backwards when looking for spelling mistakes. This switches your brain's focus from the content of the sentence to the individual words.

Choosing Your Team

Depending on your financial resources and the earnings potential of your book, you may have a tight budget for hiring editorial help. There are creative ways to get some of the work done cheaply. For the rest, you need to make sure you get maximum value for your money.

Assembling a group of readers can help you gain insights into the structure of your book. Look for people interested in your book's genre who are capable of making critical notes without worrying about hurting your feelings. Writers' groups are a good source of local people. Online forums are another place to connect with readers.

When choosing a developmental editor or copy editor, seek out recommendations. Online forums and writers' groups are good places to ask around. These editorial services are the most expensive, so take your time, check references, and request samples to make sure you find a good fit.

For basic copy editing tasks and proofreading, check local college english departments or online freelance job sites. It is surprisingly easy to find people with advanced degrees and experience who will handle these tasks at reasonable rates.

The Bottom Line

If you believe in your book and it's potential in the marketplace, invest the time and resources needed to prepare it for publication.

How Do You Handle Editing Your Book?

Leave a comment below with your tips and tricks for editing!

The Process of Book Editing, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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