The first step to having your manuscript edited is to understand the difference between the various editing services offered by companies. Educating yourself about copyediting, substantive editing, and proofreading is essential. Here’s why: A company recently advertised their editing services as being offered at a price that is much less than their competitors. A review of their offer quickly shows that what they call “copyediting” is what 1106 Design and most editors call “proofreading,” and an author who compares the fees quoted by this company and 1106 Design for “copyediting” a book of 60,000 words would quickly come to the conclusion that 1106 Design is too expensive and the competitor is the better choice. The comparison that the author should really be making is between their copyediting service and 1106 Design’s proofreading service.
So what is copyediting? To answer this question, let’s look at where copyediting fits on the spectrum of editing services.
At the top end, we have what we call “substantive editing” (also known as “structural editing” or “developmental editing”). Authors who require substantive editing know there are serious issues with their books. The words are on the page—there might even be a complete manuscript—but there are issues with the logical flow of the content and the author is open to a complete restructuring of the book if needed. The book might be out of focus, or written to the wrong audience… there’s just something wrong! And the author looks to the editor to identify the issues and make suggestions as to how to fix them. The author may recognize that the writing is not quite up to par, and the editor will coach the author on improving the writing style, and possibly rewrite some sections in partnership with the author. In short, the end result of a substantive edit is that the book might be completely busted down and then built back up again. In case you are wondering, this is the most expensive type of edit and is akin to a “book rescue operation,” and the editor will go through the book at least twice. Due to the extensive nature of the revisions, copyediting is suggested after the author has finished the rebuild.
At the other end of the spectrum is proofreading. Obviously, a proofreader looks for typos, incorrect punctuation, along with formatting errors and inconsistencies. We suggest that proofreading takes place after typesetting for this reason. Proofreaders will also correct minor grammatical errors that do not require sentence restructuring. They’ll check that place names are correct and that the name of the famous person whose quote you included is spelled properly. They’ll make sure the chapter titles match the table of contents and the page headers, that the pages are numbered properly, that the numbering for footnotes and endnotes is correct, that the copyright page is complete. One of our proofreaders admits that he looks out for inconsistencies in tone and story flow as well. A good editor will never pass up a chance to suggest a revision if it will make the book a better end product, even if he or she is only being paid to proofread.
In the middle, filling the gap, is copyediting. It’s such a wide gap that it’s understandable why the definition of copyediting is difficult to nail down. A copyeditor will find and fix all the grammar issues, along with incorrect spelling and punctuation, and suggest improvements for sentence structure. If there are structural issues, issues with the logic, flow, style, and tone, the copyeditor will suggest how to solve these issues but may not coach you through the changes in the way an editor doing a substantive edit will do. A copyeditor will watch for times when you switch tenses, and make suggestions as to how to make your writing have more impact. He or she will catch you when you’re being too wordy or too passive in voice and correct these issues. Improving sentence and paragraph structure should be part of a copyedit as well, along with catching redundancies and repetitions. The copyeditor will also carefully review your citations, footnotes, end notes and references. In summary, a copyeditor will do everything a proofreader will do, but will fall short of coaching you through rewriting the book.
You may come across an editing service called “line editing.” Line editing is part of what most copyeditors already do, so once again—buyer beware. Make sure you compare more than just the prices when you are getting quotes for editing services; compare the service being offered as well.
Which editing service is right for me?
How do you know what editing service you need? Ask for an editorial evaluation. At 1106 Design, an editorial evaluation is included with copyediting or substantive editing. An editor will review the first 75 pages of a manuscript and comment on the quality of the research, writing, overall clarity, and potential level of market interest. Then we’ll summarize the services needed to improve the manuscript and/or the book’s eventual marketability. The editor will let you know if there are major issues with your book, giving you an opportunity to fix them before beginning the editing process.
As always, it pays to be clear about what you need, and to take the time to educate yourself and research the options. Contact Michele at 1106 Design to find out more.