stages of book editing

You might think that once you’ve written your book and polished it to perfection, it’s ready to go to print.

Oh, but a long journey still lies ahead!


Because “perfection” is subjective. You only have one pair of eyes, after all, and no matter how great of a writer you are, there’ll always be something you’ve accidentally missed.

Once a professional editor takes a look at your manuscript and gives you some feedback, you’ll see just how many typos, grammatical errors, and plot holes you’ve completely glossed over.

(Trust me – as a published author, I speak from experience.)

What’s more, there isn’t just one book editing stage, but . . . drumroll, please . . . six! Ideally, your story should go through six separate rounds, each with a slightly different focus.

So, what are the six stages of editing all about? Let’s jump right in!

Stage #1: Self-Edits

You’re probably already quite familiar with this one. Self-editing is something writers do automatically as they go through multiple drafts, rewrite scenes, polish their language, and brainstorm plot holes.

What’s really important at this stage is to take book editing seriously. Personally, I went through my manuscript at least three times before it was accepted by a publisher, but your experience may differ based on what country you live in and what your writing process is like.

Don’t make any rash decisions, such as looking for an agent or self-publishing too soon.

When you’re done editing, let your manuscript sit for a few weeks or months and then begin another round of self-edits. You’ll be surprised by how many things still need working on!

RELATED READ: Edit vs. Revise

Stage #2: Beta Readers

Beta readers focus primarily on the reading experience and offer valuable feedback about the story itself, which is why sending your manuscript to some beta readers is a great starting point.

Beta readers can be found online—sometimes, it’s great to receive feedback from people who don’t know you since they tend to be more objective—but they can also be your family and friends.

In that case, remember to tell your loved ones that what you want is honesty, not just praise.

Stage #3: Developmental Editing

Now we’re getting into the high-level stuff: hiring professional editors.

If your book is getting traditionally published, your editors will be most likely assigned to you, but if you’ve decided to go down the road of self-publishing, it is up to you to find a high-quality editing service.

However, it’s not as easy as typing “I want an editor” into the Google search bar. Different editors focus on different aspects of your book, and you should ideally cover all your bases.

Enter . . . developmental editing! This could be considered the most complex editing stage since it’s all about the story itself.

A developmental (or structural) editor will offer in-depth feedback on your plot, story arc, character development, pacing, flow, consistency, and more.

Once they’re finished editing, you’ll most likely have to go through another round of self-edits since most editors will provide you with suggestions and comments rather than complete rewrites.

RELATED READ: What Type of Editing Do You Need?

Stage #4: Line Editing

A line editor will look at your writing on a sentence level. Their main focus is consistency, tone, and style.

Do all of your sentences serve a clear function that fits in with the story’s mood? Is there a paragraph that doesn’t seem to fit the context? Is your language consistent throughout, or are there chapters that differ from the rest of the book for no reason?

A line editor will ask themselves these questions as they go through your manuscript. They will offer suggestions or track their changes so you can always see all the edits they’ve made.

Stage #5: Copyediting

It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty and look at grammar, punctuation, and any errors or typos you’ve accidentally left behind!

Copyediting is all about the details. Incorrect spelling or strange sentence structures can be very distracting during the reading experience, so it’s absolutely vital your book is error-free.

A great copyeditor will catch every single mistake, but at the end of the day, we’re only humans, which means that your work should go through one final round of edits afterward.

And that stage is called . . .

Stage #6: Proofreading

Out of all the stages of editing, this one should take the shortest amount of time. A proofreader will read your book for the very last time before it goes to print to ensure there are no issues with formatting and no leftover typos.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that proofreading is easy.

Proofreaders need to have a keen eye for detail as they check font sizes, line spacing, and everything else that makes your book look like a complete and finished product.

Why Hire a Professional Editor

Even the best writers make mistakes. After all, your job isn’t to obsess over grammar or the size of your font. It’s to write an amazing story.

A professional editing service like First Editing will help you understand your manuscript on a deeper level and bring it to its full potential. Choose from multiple different book editing packages, including developmental editing, line editing, and copyediting, and watch your story thrive.

Enter your email to subscribe to our newsletter, get free advice and connect with other authors.
I am an author of:  
My email: