9 Things You Need to Know About the Book Editing Process

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

by Ellie Maas Davis, owner of Pressque
Ellie Maas Davis shares frequently asked questions and answers about the book editing process based on the way she runs her business.

1. What’s the first step to the editing process?

After self-editing, the first step of the editing process is an editorial review. The goal of this review is to determine the level of editing a manuscript needs before it’s ready to be published.

2. How long does it take?

Your editorial review will be returned within seven business days. Beyond the editorial review, when it comes to editing, a good rule of thumb—whether it’s a round of content editing or copyediting—is two weeks for every 50,000 words. Between rounds you’ll be given time to review your manuscript. It’s a pretty organic process, but if an author or publisher is motivated, Pressque can accomplish a two-round content and copyedit within a month.

3. How much does it cost?

With Pressque, there’s no charge for an editorial review. A one-pass copyedit can range from $0.03 - $0.19 per word and a two-part content edit ranges from $0.045 - $0.60 per word.

4. Does an author have to accept every change an editor makes?

Pressque editors use Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature to edit manuscripts; they also insert editorial comments throughout the manuscript. (You’ll receive a sample of both with your editorial review.) It’s up to you whether or not to accept or reject any given “track change” edit.

5. Is editing important?

If you’re printing a book of childhood poems for your mother, she’ll likely get a kick out of your misspellings and grammatical shortcomings; on the other hand, if you want to sell books and be taken seriously then, yes, editing and proofreading are essential.

6. Is professional editing important?

If your goal is to have a revenue stream from the sale of your book then, yes, you need an impartial and trusted editor. What our experience tells us is this: no manuscript is perfect; every writer needs editing; and, if you want to be a professional writer then it’s important to work with a professional editor.

7. When it comes to editing does genre make a difference?

We think so. Our first general classification is between fiction and nonfiction; our editors further specialize in specific genres. This isn’t to say an editor whose niche is fantasy won’t be able to edit a mystery, just that we know our editors’ strengths. This is an important distinction. We call it an editor’s “wheelhouse.” One editor’s wheelhouse is self-help, fashion, and food; another handles the bulk of our YA books; another’s specialty is science fiction; still another works primarily with memoirs. Our initial goal is to pair a manuscript with a specific editor; we do this during the editorial review, and it’s an important part of the process. We act like a dating site. Here’s another good analogy: when you have a toothache, you see a doctor; but, not just any doctor, you see a dentist—and that’s what we do. According to subject matter, genre, style, and timing, we match your book project with one of our “doctors.”

8. What is an editorial style guide?

A style guide is a set of grammar rules and standards applied to manuscripts or published documents that allows for consistency among published works. Since language is a personal form of expression where rules can be applied in different ways, a style guide gives editors a specific point of reference to review your work against and offers you an accepted editorial standard for your manuscript. Style guides can allow for differences based upon preferences of individual publishing houses.

9. Is there such a thing as 100 percent accuracy when it comes to editing and proofreading?

No. Editing and proofreading accomplish different things. A contenteditor focuses on a manuscript’s overall structure, whereas a copyeditor focuses on things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It’s always best to follow a content edit with a copyedit, just as it’s always best to follow a copyedit with proofreading. You’ll likely review a manuscript’s edits using track changes. Inherently there’s a margin of error, not necessarily on the side of the copyeditor but also by your reviewing the copyeditor’s edits. When it comes to proofreading—and we always suggest a final proofread, preferably on a galley copy or ARC (advanced reader copy)—we shoot for 99.7 percent accuracy. There’s a relatively new ecosystem in publishing; we take our role in it very seriously. Ultimately, we help authors and publishers create exciting books that are welcomed—and competitive—in the marketplace.


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Ellie Maas Davis

Ellie Maas Davis owns Pressque, a publishing consultation firm located in downtown Charleston that offers editing and ghostwriting services to authors and publishers.