The Development or Content Editor
Authors can engage an editor to focus on the structure of their book. This form of editing is referred to as structural, development, or content editing, and deals with every detail of the overall development and content of a non-fiction book or novel. Developmental editing focuses on the overall structure and method. In non-fiction, this type of editing focuses on the flow, clarity, and consistency as well as the voice of the book, and how the reader will connect to it. Developmental editing also highlights where the book may be lacking in content, and what it needs to be complete. It focuses on what the reader will learn, what will inspire the reader, and whether the book’s overarching goal – the benefits to the reader, is met with every chapter. In fiction, the developmental editor focuses on the story: the character development and integrity as well as the reader’s reactions, the believability and flow of dialogue, the plot, plot twists, pace, suspense, and character plausibility, and the essence of the story itself. Developmental editing is essential to building a credible book. It is a task that commands a great deal of thoughtful attention, and many detailed passes through the content to polish it.
The Copy or Line Editor
The copy editor is the editor whose expertise lies in grammar, punctuation, spelling, style, vocabulary usage, sentence and paragraph structure, and fact-checking, if necessary. The copy editor often receives a manuscript after it has undergone content editing by the developmental editor. Some developmental editors also copy edit manuscripts. Most authors will engage the services of a copy editor. The copy editing phase is vital as it ensures the integrity of language used and reflects the author’s work in its best light.
Proofreading occurs after all developmental and copy editing is complete. It is typically performed on a printed proof copy of the book, and some editors recommend three proof reads to ensure every element is accurate and polished before publishing the book and making it available for sale.
Every author is different, and each has a budget to work within. Trade publishers will carry out the above editing functions at no cost to the author, however, the author has no say in the final edited product. Some authors feel that trade publishers alter the book’s structure too much, and the initial flavour of the book becomes obscured. Self-published authors do have a say in edits they will accept, and edits they won’t accept. This applies more to developmental editing than to copy editing and proofreading. Authors will pay for what they can afford when self-publishing their book. It is up to the author to determine what level of editing their manuscript needs. At the end of the day, it is a business decision. It comes down to quality versus cost. Authors who wish to sell a high-quality product will invest the necessary funds to end up with a polished book that shines.