Step 3 – Edit/Proof

The importance of good editing and proofreading cannot be stressed enough. It is the vital step where you ensure your publication does you justice.

You want credibility? Respect your work — give it the polish that will give you confidence when you release it. A novel, article or report that is riddled with mistakes will affect the credibility of the finished work and can also mean poor sales.

Editing and proofreading a book

What is editing?

Editing has different layers. For example, a structural editor ensures your writing is logical, readable, and appealing. The editor will eliminate poor sequencing, or great leaps of understanding or weak and inconsistent characterisation, scenes or events.

A copy editor will check for inconsistencies in style, grammatical and spelling errors, checking that the language used is appropriate for that genre and audience.

Sometimes these two aspects of editing are carried out simultaneously by the same person.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading also has different layers depending on the extent of the publication. Essentially, the proofreader looks for errors of spelling, punctuation, grammar, word breaks, paragraph indentation, and page numbering. Consistency, style, and accuracy are very important, for example, headers, footers, chapter headings, sub-headings, tables of contents, bibliography — all must pass the proofreader’s ‘close reading’ test.

A manuscript should be read twice — once before it is laid out and again after the layout is complete to check for font substitution, missing text and format changes which can occur during the layout process.

Know your needs

The process of good editing and proofreading requires particular skills. Editing a children’s picture book is a very different process than an academic reference book or a substantial adult novel.

Know your goals

It is important for you to be clear about:
• the goals for your self-published work;
• the audience it is for; and
• how you intend to promote and sell your self-published work (if you wish to)
These points will have an impact on the decisions you make about the level of editing and proofreading your work will need, which will then be weighed against your budget and available time.

Some examples to illustrate the point:

Picture book for family — a picture book you wish to self-publish for your children or grandchildren will need limited editing and proofreading, but even in this scenario, it is important that the text is correctly spelt etc.

Picture book for a wider market — a book that you have aspirations to sell to the wider public will need very careful editing and proofreading. The pictures will need to be thoroughly checked to ensure they reflect the text and the general mood of the story. The relationship between the pictures and the text is vital. You have a lot of competition on bookstore shelves, so you must offer a top-quality product.

Family history — a family history will need editing for general readability and accuracy.

Novel — if your goal is to write a novel that will sell widely, then it is critical that you meet acceptable publishing house standards. Professional editing and proofreading services are strongly recommended prior to layout, with further proofreading once you have your proof copy.

Editing and proofreading your book

Editing and proofreading your book will assist you in understanding what is involved in the editing and proofreading process.

What you’ll get:

  • A comprehensive guide to grooming your work for self-publishing.
  • The knowledge necessary for you to communicate with the editor and/or proofreader you contract to help you, and ensure that any work is done to an acceptable market standard.
  • A handy checklist and style sheet.