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Editing is one of the most important things when it comes to publishing your book. You need to be confident in the work that is being put out into the world, and the work needs to be polished and final before being released. But what is involved in editing a book? There can be some myths and uncertainties around the process, so if you’re unsure about what to expect, this article is for you!

1. What is editing for self-published books in Australia?

Editing is the procedure of revising and/or correcting written content (like your manuscript) to improve the quality, accuracy, and readability of the text. This can include grammar and punctuation, structure of the content, and fact-checking.

Editing a book can take place at various stages in the publishing process, including before submission to a publisher or after the manuscript has been accepted. However, editing needs to be completed before any final amendments have been made to files and before printing is organised. 

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2. Different types of editing

When we talk about editing a book, the common assumption that people make is to jump directly to fixing typos, grammar, and punctuation. But there is a lot more to editing than that. There are actually three distinct types of book editing and an editor can specialise in one or more of these areas.

2.1 Structural/development editing

Structural editing focuses on the overall structure and organisation of the manuscript. It’s an in-depth form of editing as it involves looking at the bigger picture of the story and making recommendations on how to improve the overall flow, pacing, and coherence of the story.

A structural editor will examine whole manuscript and address things like:

  • The overall plot and the development of the manuscript.
  • Character development and how the characters are perceived and portrayed.
  • Pacing and how well the story flows.
  • Themes and how they are explored.
  • Style and the tone of the manuscript.
  • Dialogue and how it is written.

Based on the observations that the editor has made, suggestions such as cutting out unnecessary scenes and dialogue, moving parts of the story around, and adding new scenes, will be made.

2.2 Copyediting

Copyediting focuses on the technical aspects of a manuscript such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, and consistency. The editor’s goal of copyediting is to ensure that the manuscript is error free and easy for a reader to follow.

A copyeditor will:

  • Check the manuscript for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.
  • Check for consistency in style and formatting.
  • Verify that the manuscript adheres to specific style guidelines or publisher guidelines.
  • Check for inconsistences throughout the story.
  • Check the manuscript for logical fallacies and factual issues.

Copyediting is completed after the manuscript has been developed and structured, and before it has been typeset and printed by the publisher. It helps to ensure that the manuscript is polished before it gets into the hands of readers. The editor will work with the author to make sure the manuscript is clear, concise, and error free.

2.3 Proofreading

Proofreading is typically the final stage of the editing process and focuses on catching any errors that may remain and polishing up the manuscript ready to be published. The goal of proofreading is the ensure the manuscript is as error free as possible and that it presents well for readers.

During the proofreading process, the editor will:

  • Check for remaining spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Check for consistency in style and formatting.
  • Verify that the manuscript adheres to any specific style guide or publisher’s guidelines.
  • Check for typographical errors.
  • Check the manuscript for consistency, such as numbering, headings, and cross-references.

In proofreading, the editor will review the manuscript one final time, looking for any minor errors that may have slipped through into the final manuscript. Proofreading should be done on the final manuscript, which is the version intending to be printed and published.

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3. What is good editing?

Good editing is the process of improving the overall quality and accuracy of a manuscript to ensure it is clear, cohesive, and engaging for the intended audience. It’s a collaborative process between the editor and author, where the editor provides feedback and suggestions to help the author make the manuscript as good as it can be.

Good editing can be categorised by the following aspects:

  • Attention to detail: A good editor will carefully review the manuscript and catch any errors that appear in the manuscript (such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, and consistency).
  • Clarity and coherence: A good editor will help the author make sure the manuscript is easy to understand, has a clear and consistent flow of scenes and is well organised.
  • Honesty and objectivity: A good editor will provide honest and objective feedback on the manuscript, point out areas for improvement and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript stronger.
  • Respect for the authors voice: A good editor will improve the manuscript without changing the authors style, tone, or voice.
  • Meeting the needs of the intended audience: A good editor will meet the needs of the intended audience and make sure it is suitable for them.

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4. Should a self-published author self-edit their own book?

It’s always a good idea to self-edit your book before sending it to an editor. This way, the editor can focus their efforts on the details and issues that you’ve missed instead of trying to help you essentially rewrite your first draft.

Self-editing can be a challenging process, but it can also be rewarding, too. Below are some tips we’ve put together to help you with the editing process and to ensure you have self edited your book effectively:

  • Take a break: Put your manuscript away for a while. This will help you come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind.
  • Read your manuscript out loud: This can help to catch errors in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure that may not be noticed when reading silently.
  • Check for consistency: Make sure your manuscript is consistent with style, tone, and point of view. It is also important to check that the characters are consistent throughout the book and that their actions, thoughts, and words work with their personalities.
  • Check for plot holes: Make sure the plot of your book is logical and that there are no inconsistences or plot holes.
  • Check for pacing issues: Make sure the pacing of your manuscript is appropriate. A book that is too slow can be boring but one that is too fast can leave the reader lost.
  • Cut unnecessary elements: It is okay to be ruthless in cutting unnecessary words, sentences, and scenes that do not enhance the story, plot, and characters.
  • Get feedback: Share your manuscript with friends, family, or beta readers to get some feedback on the manuscript. This can help identify areas which may need improvements that you can’t see as the author.

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5. When should a self-published author self-edit their book?

The best time to edit your book depends on a variety of factors, such as your writing process and personal preferences.

However, there are a few guidelines which can help you decide on when to begin the editing process.

  1. Wait until the first draft is complete: This means a full run- through of the manuscript can be done and allows the author to focus on getting their thoughts and ideas down without worrying about changes or revisions needing to be made.
  2. Set a deadline: Give your self a firm deadline to finish the first draft of your manuscript and schedule a specific date to start the editing.
  3. Take breaks: After you’ve been writing for a certain amount of time, you should take a break. This will give you a chance to step away from the manuscript and come back to it with fresh, clear eyes.
  4. Edit as you go: Some authors prefer to edit the manuscript as they are plodding along, making revisions and changes as they write. This can help keep the manuscript focused and on track.

Ultimately, the best time to start editing your manuscript is when you feel that you are ready. This will vary depending on each writer, but it is important to make sure you take the time to revise and edit your manuscript so it’s the best it can be. It is also important to make sure you are giving your publisher the final manuscript before any design or typesetting takes place.

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