In a previous post, From Author to Reader: The Line of Book Publishing, we examined the stages of book publishing. The process is a conglomerate of brains and experts who work together to get the manuscript from the author’s desk into the hands of the reader. And the first stop on the line is book editing.

At this stage, you do not only spend your money, but also your time (in months) and knowledge. But why should book editing take so much time? Some editors sometimes could be impatient and overbearing. It could even seem like they are about hijacking your book project with their “Add this-Delete that” attitude.

However, understanding the nitty-gritty of the process helps you work better with the series of editors that puncture and stitch your manuscript. Moreover, the goal is to give your book the desired shape.

Together with the author, the editor spends months helping guide the language and flow of the book’s content. Like a blacksmith, he beats the manuscript into readable and publishable shape. Book editing involves the conception, planning and specifying of the contents of a book.

The role of the editor is to transmit the author’s message to the reader in the best, most satisfying and most profitable way possible. Nevertheless, the process of editing begins with you. Let’s examine the step by step process of book editing.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Book Editing

Every stage in the process is indispensable, and has its purpose. Each contributes to the general goal: giving your book the desired shape.

  1. Self-Edit
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You’re the first line of defence. Before sending out the manuscripts, reacquaint yourself with your book. This enables you to correct mistakes and oversights in the draft. This can be as simple as fixing typos or as big as rewriting chapters. You’ll want to slow down and really read every word while doing this—maybe even read it aloud—so you can truly see and hear what’s on the page, not what you meant to write.

  1. Beta Readers

You can also get someone to read the manuscript and provide feedback. Such persons are called beta readers. However, they are no substitute for professional editors. But they can identify potential issues before beginning the editing process properly.

When it comes to finding beta readers, look for people who are familiar with the subject (nonfiction) or enjoy the genre (fiction). Make sure you choose readers who won’t simply say “it’s great”—while that may be good for your ego, it’s not good for your manuscript.

  1. Book Editor

A book editor’s job is to take a book idea from acquisition through to the finished book and beyond. Though it’s widely assumed that the editor’s main role is to correct grammar, however, his/her role encompasses a few more facets critical to the success of the finished book.

The functions of the editor include:

  • The development of the manuscript:


This involves the editor working with the author to help shape the book’s content, ensuring that the information flows properly, in a logical progression for a class syllabus.


Developmental editors usually look at a manuscript’s big-picture items. With nonfiction, those might be suggestions to improve clarity, structure, or the soundness of your book’s argument. For fiction, a developmental editor focuses on characterization, dialogue, and plot development.

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  • The selection, preparation and styling of the manuscript


After development editing, the author revises the edited manuscript per the editor’s instructions and resubmits it (the second pass). Thereafter, the editor line-edits the second edited manuscript. He reviews it with a fine-tooth comb and asks for additional corrections, clarifications, and comments. Then, the editor returns the second manuscript to the author.


The author once again responds to the queries and makes all necessary adjustments as directed by the editor. Afterwards, if the editor finds the manuscript good at this stage, it is accepted and forwarded for production.

  • The organisation and management of the entire editorial process


As mentioned earlier, the editor oversees the entire editing process.


  • Advocate the book


The editor is also responsible for finding the market potential for the book. He ensures the marketing, publicity, and salespeople are fully apprised of the individual book’s value and potential in the marketplace.


Depending on the house, editors may be required to write “tip sheets” for the sales department or catalogue copy for marketing. The editor will likely work very closely with publicity to ensure that the book and author’s respective potentials are fully exploited to the media.