What’s the big deal about editing? You add some periods, delete a few commas, run spellcheck, and voila, you’ve just edited a book—well done! Nope. It takes years of dedication to the craft before editors develop the necessary skills to help authors say precisely what they want to say in the most effective, affecting way possible.
For the new author, the whole editing process can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what type of edit to choose for your manuscript. One of the most confusing parts of the editing process is simply understanding the different types of edits.
Different Types of Edits
- Manuscript Critique
- Comprehensive Edit (Line Edit)
We break down the differences between a critique, line edit, copyedit, and proofread so that you can use this post to help you decide which one you think your manuscript will need.
The manuscript critique is a general assessment of your manuscript. It’s a bird’s-eye view of your entire story. Your editor looks at your manuscript as a whole and provides actionable advice on how to improve your story—in the form of an editorial memo.
Here’s what you may find within an editorial memo:
- An examination of your narrative voice and ways to enhance it
- Specific advice on how to improve the plot to keep your readers engaged
- Feedback on where you’re missing opportunities to develop your characters
Manuscript Critique Cost
The cost of a critique differs by word count and package option. Let’s review the price for a 60,000-word manuscript.
Option 1: Memo Only
If you know you’ve got some heavy restructuring work ahead of you, you might opt for just the Editorial Memo.
Option 2: Specific Feedback & Follow-up
This option has the memo but also includes comments in the margins of your manuscript. It’s a way of pointing out specific sections or paragraphs which you can improve. The memo will also include references to pages and scenes, but margin comments give the editor an opportunity to point out more of these sections, so you have additional examples of what isn’t working.
This also includes a one-hour follow-up call.
Option 3: Partial Line Edit
As you’ve noticed, the options progressively become more useful to authors with more developed manuscripts. The last critique option includes a short line edit. The editor selects 20 pages that have weaknesses that tend to recur in the prose. This line edit shows the author how they can improve their prose elsewhere during their revision.
Comprehensive Edit/Line Edit
While a manuscript critique is an entry-level type of edit that can help clarify your story, a comprehensive edit (which includes a line edit) is the most in-depth edit offered.
It addresses structural issues, similar to a critique, but here the editor is also doing a line edit.
A line edit addresses your writing style and language use at the sentence and paragraph level. The purpose of a line edit is not to comb your manuscript for errors—rather, a line edit focuses on the way you use language to communicate your story to the reader.
- Is your language clear, fluid, and pleasurable to read?
- Does it convey a sense of atmosphere, emotion, and tone?
- Do the words you’ve chosen convey a precise meaning, or are you using broad generalizations and clichés?
A line edit may get you to say, “With a few strokes of the pen on each line, [my editor] made it one million percent better. I couldn’t believe that such tight, measured prose was lurking inside my overwrought sentences, and frankly, I had no idea how in the hell she did it.”
Comprehensive Edit Cost
The cost of a Comprehensive Edit also differs by word count and package option. The examples below are based on a 60,000-word manuscript. See a quote calculator for other word counts.
At the Comprehensive Editing stage, the advice is very detailed, even with the first option.
Option 1: Comprehensive Edit
This option includes an Editorial Memo, margin comments, and the line edit.
Option 2: Extensive Follow-up
There’s more ground to cover in the follow-up for a Comprehensive, so this option includes a one-hour call and email correspondence for one week.
Many authors misunderstand the difference between a line edit and a copyedit. There are similarities between the two: both pay detailed attention to your use of language and involve a mark-up on the pages of your manuscript. But make no mistake, these are two completely different processes, handled by professionals with different skill sets, and should occur at very different times during the editing process.
The goal of a copyedit is to address flaws on a technical level—to make sure the writing that appears on the page is in accordance with industry standards.
- Corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax
- Ensures consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization
- Tracks macro concerns like internal consistency.
There will be some overlap between the work of a line editor and a copyeditor. Most line editors will point out technical errors or logical inconsistencies when they jump out because they’re trying to improve your writing, and editors tend to be perfectionists.
So, to make a sweeping and reductive generalization, an editor's job is to help you tell a better story, and a copyeditor's job is to ensure the grammar on every page is correct.
One copyedit pass with a 60,000-word manuscript with a copy-editing style sheet deliverable.
In publishing, proofreading happens after the manuscript has been typeset. A final copy of the manuscript, or proof, is then examined by a professional proofreader.
The proofreader corrects awkward words or page breaks and may do some light copyediting.
Traditional publishers require professional proofreading as a quality assurance measure. Many self-publishing authors who have had their manuscript professionally copyedited tend to skip the proofreading. If you’re on a budget, you might try to proofread your own work, since there won’t be as many errors to contend with at that stage.
This is the cost of a proofreading pass for a 60,000-word manuscript.
To see the quote for a specific word count, use this calculator.
Working with a professional editor is both a challenge and a joy. It forces you to face the ho-hum aspects of your manuscript and turn them into a hell-yeah! But, most of all, the work you do with an editor will help you become a better writer in the long run. You’ll hone your skills and will carry those lessons with you to future books.
Get more self-publishing tips in How to Self-Publish a Book: The Complete Guide to Publish Like a Pro