Step 1. Developmental Review and Copyediting
Possible Timeframe: 4 – 8 weeks
You have completed the beginning drafts of your manuscript but question whether the story or information is presented in the clearest or most concise manner. Have you maintained point of view and tense throughout? Are the characters strong enough? Does the story seem interesting? If the work is non-fiction, have you presented the facts in a way that is clear and concise? Is the material well-organized and easy to understand? This is where a manuscript evaluation would be useful. An evaluation (developmental review) can point out areas of weakness or confusion, suggest content reorganization, or help you remove redundant or extraneous content. Occasionally, major reorganization needs are discovered during the copyediting process, which can be far less cost-effective. This is because once major changes are made to the copy, a new copyedit should be completed. If you feel your manuscript might need substantive revision, an initial evaluation is almost always a good first step.
Author’s Final Draft: Copyediting
Your developmental evaluation and subsequent revisions are complete (if you chose to go through this process). You have gone through it countless times and are finally ready to begin pursuing production. Wait! This would be a good time to have your work copyedited. Because you are so close to the work, it is easy to miss crucial errors. One reason for this is because the human brain tends to supply us with the information we expect to see. A copyeditor can catch many of the things you may have been unable to catch, as well as help you to increase the overall readability of your work. This can include correcting sentence structure, increasing clarity, re-writing awkward sentences, adjusting dialogue, and enhancing flow.
You have gone through the editorial corrections, made the suggested changes to your copy, and completed reviewing author queries and subsequent adjustments. Whew! At this stage, you may consider sending your work straight to the book designer, or you may consider having your work proofread. Proofreading is almost always a worthwhile process simply because there is almost always something new to catch. This does not necessarily mean that the editor did a poor job in editing your manuscript or that you did a poor job in making the suggested changes. The fact of the matter is, it is rare when a traditionally published book sees less than three different editors. (A developmental editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader.) Once the book goes to the design and production phase, it can become costly to make editorial revisions. It’s best to catch them now.
FAQ: I’ve gone through my book many times already, so can I skip copyediting?
It’s not recommended to skip this step if you plan to publish and promote your book. Some authors go straight to the book design phase but while the layout is important, it won’t matter when it comes to reader reviews if the book is full of errors. Readers can be brutal! Just read a few negative Amazon reviews if you’re not sure of this. (The lower your scores, the fewer sales you will garner.) A professional copyeditor can catch things you would not catch on your own. Remember, a good editor is in the business to make your work the best it can be. Every bestselling author has an editor working hard behind the scenes.
If, however, you are only publishing for yourself or family and friends, you may be able to get away with skipping this step. (It’s still not recommended!)
FAQ: What if I can’t afford it?
Copyediting can be expensive—especially if your work has a high word count. There are a few things you can do to try to offset the cost.
a.) Have friends and family review the work and THEN submit to a professional. The cleaner your manuscript, the easier it will be for a professional to correct. Easier equates to less expensive and less time-consuming.
b.) Forgo the developmental review and final proofread, but shoot for at least a Basic Edit of your work. Some editing is better than none.
c.) Many editors will allow you to break the payment up into parts. Ask what your payment options are. Don’t be afraid to request a payment schedule that works for you.
FAQ: How do I go about choosing an editor?
These are the things you should look for:
a.) Make sure you receive a free sample of your work! This should be at least a few pages of your work so that you can see precisely what the editor will do for you and your book.
b.) While you’re reviewing the sample, check for ease of use (editors should be using “track changes” functionality on their word processor so that you can see their edits overlaid against your original).
c.) Make sure that they have maintained the tone of your story (or helped you to define it). A good editor ENHANCES your work; they do not supplant their own voice and style.
d.) Make sure their rates are comparable to other companies in their bracket. (A professional editor cannot compete with the grad student willing to review your work for $100 and free pizza! But keep in mind that if you choose to go this direction, you may be getting what you pay for.) Most companies charge between $0.01 per word and $0.02 for a basic edit, and between $0.02 and $0.06 for more extensive edits.
e.) Make sure their timeframe fits within your schedule, but please be realistic. Editing is the largest task of the pre-production process. Works of 100,000 words or more could take more than a month if the edit is extensive.
f.) Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with the editor. Ideally, you should be able to talk them, either by email or phone. You should feel comfortable asking questions—and know that they are not going to abandon you the second the edit is complete should you have questions as you go through the manuscript. If you feel good about the changes they make in your sample edit, then this is a good sign!
Now, on to the next step!