What kind of book editing do I need for my manuscript?

How to Edit Your BookEvery author needs an editor.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

But what KIND of editing does your book manuscript need?

Well, there are at least five different types of book editing, and I’ll list them below. Your manuscript may require a combination of these approaches.

I recommend hiring a professional book editor for any of the first three services on this list. The last two options are good for getting your manuscript as ready as possible before either sending on to a professional book editor or going straight to publishing your book (in the event that you can’t afford to hire an editor).

The five most common forms of book manuscript editing

1. Developmental editing

A developmental editor assists the author (sometimes through multiple drafts) with elements of structure, concept, content, tone, and overall presentation. A developmental editor may also help with research, competitive market analyses, and chapter outlines. Their aim is to make the text clear, readable, engaging, and marketable. They’re kind of like a coach, only without the whistle.

Developmental editing is sometimes referred to as substantive editing or comprehensive editing.

+ Here’s some advice from Alan Rinzler on what to look for when hiring a book editor. 

+ And here are nine ways to vet an independent book editor.

2. Copy editing

During this process, also called line editing, an editor will check for mistakes or inconsistencies in grammar, punctuation, syntax, style, and format. They also read for overall clarity and continuity, making suggestions where the text could be improved, and help get the manuscript ready for the next step in the publishing process.

3. Proofreading

According to Wikipedia, “proofreading is the reading of a galley proof or an electronic copy of a publication to detect and correct production errors of text or art. Proofreaders are expected to be consistently accurate by default because they occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication.”

A proofreader should catch human errors (typos, mistakes in pagination or layout, etc.) and any similar glitches or bugs that may’ve been introduced by a computer program when creating the proof.

Past this point, any missing periods or misspelled words are out there to be discovered by your readers (who will silently judge you).

4. Workshopping

Many of the same concerns that a developmental editor would bring to your manuscript can be addressed during a workshop process. Workshopping can take many forms, including exchanging manuscripts with writers online and sharing your critiques, meeting regularly with a writing group, or consulting with creative coaches at a place like The Attic Institute.

The more feedback you get early on, the more tough questions you’ll have asked yourself about your book. When you do send a manuscript that’s already been workshopped to a professional editor, it’ll be that much closer to finished.

5. Crowdsourced editing

By harnessing the power of your community, including your social media followers, fellow writers, and your readers, you can accomplish many of the editing tasks mentioned above at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional editor. “Beta readers” can offer crucial feedback to help you improve your story, fix your grammar, and much more.

The obvious downside to this approach is that some of your most loyal supporters will have already read the book (in an earlier iteration) when your finished book is launched; they’re probably not going to be all that eager to buy and read it again upon publication. But hey, they helped you release a better book than you might’ve otherwise, so send ’em a free copy with a big thank you!


Which of these editing approaches does your book need? Let me know in the comments below.

Whether you want help finding dangling participles, checking the facts, or structuring your plot, BookBaby Editing Services are here to help. BookBaby Editing Services are a solution for authors who need premium book editing for an affordable price. BookBaby has negotiated special rates with an exclusive network of book editors who work with traditionally published authors in every genre, including many on the New York Times bestsellers list, making them available for the first time ever to authors looking to self-publish. Find out more here.

BookBaby Editing Services


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