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The editor’s role in producing your book

The editor’s role in producing your book is to edit the manuscript to make sure it  is well-structured and error-free, so it is ready for the next stage of production.

A brief overview of the editing process

First, the editor needs to clarify the manual to be used as the main guide when editing the manuscript. There are several manuals that could be used. The main guide I use when editing Australian publications is the current edition of the  Australian Style Manual.

The editor creates a style sheet to ensure the language, style and formatting are consistent throughout the manuscript. For more information about how to create a style sheet go to: IPEd – the editing style sheet.

Structural editing

The editor needs to decide whether the language, style and overall design of your manuscript meet the needs or expectations of the intended audience. If they don’t, the editor may recommend major structural changes; for example, moving chapters around, deleting chapters or sections, writing or rewriting paragraphs or even whole chapters.

The editor will consult with the writer about who is the best person to make those corrections; for example, the writer might do the extra writing required and the editor might do the rewriting and the other major corrections.

For more information go to: Structural editing

Copy editing: Line editing and fact-checking

Non-fiction manuscripts should always be edited so they have correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Fiction and creative non-fiction manuscripts need to be edited so they are consistent in style, will be easily understood by the reader, and are ‘believable’ – that is, they show what people really would say and do in those situations.

The editor may need to fact-check the manuscript by cross-checking the information in the manuscript with other sources to make sure it is correct. Information that may need to be checked includes ensuring all descriptions of items, places or events that are based on real things are correct. It may include checking photo captions, referencing, links to web pages and quotes from other publications.

Fact-checking is usually undertaken as part of the line editing process.

Copy editing: the final copy edit

Copy editing (which some people call ‘proofreading’) means correcting the spelling, punctuation and occasional grammatical errors remaining in the document so that the manuscript is ready for the graphic design stage.

Copy editing a manuscript includes ensuring the following are correct: the inside pages text, the cover text; captions, footnotes and/or endnotes; and the ‘extras’ such as introduction, preface, half-page information and appendices.

For more information go to: Copy editing explained.

How many edits does a manuscript need?

Most (but not all) manuscripts need to be edited more than once, and each time a manuscript is edited, this is called an editing ‘pass’.

  • If the manuscript needs major structural corrections, the editor will need to undertake at least one structural editing pass to ensure the manuscript is ready for the line editing stage.
  • If the manuscript needs a large number of grammatical corrections as well as spelling and punctuation corrections, the editor will need to undertake one or two copy editing passes, or more if required, to ensure the manuscript is ready for the copy editing stage.
  • If the manuscript is more or less correct apart from spelling, punctuation and occasional grammatical errors, it usually only needs one copy editing pass.

What happens after the copy editing stage?

If self-publishing:

  1. Graphic design: Stay posted for my upcoming article about the graphic design stage.
  2. Proofreading: go to Proofreading hardcopy publications, and Proofreading the ‘final proof’.

If not self-publishing:

  • It is not the editor’s role to help you find a publisher or agent; you will need to do this yourself. These tips will help:  Finding a publisher or agent.

Helpful links to more information about editing

The information in this article is drawn from my own experiences as owner/operator of On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading: editing reports, policies and publications; and writing, compiling and self-publishing hard copy publications. See other articles for writers, about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading, at: For writers, about the editing stage.

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing

Image: Pixabay – Creative Commons licence (no attribution required)


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