Don’t Celebrate Too Soon!

After you and I spend a couple months working on the content of your manuscript—catching some continuity issues or working on characterization, say, in fiction, or beefing up clarity or connecting a few dots in nonfiction—you might well heave a big sigh of relief. You might do a little dance in front of the computer, or sit down in front of it to book a vacation.

Not so fast, sugar. You ain’t done yet.

There’s more editing to be done. We only worked on the content.*

I know, I know. But when I send your manuscript back to the publisher, the managing/project editor will send it on to the copy- and/or line editor.**

This process—with everything from style decisions to catching misspelled words to making individual sentences prettier—is the last stop before the typesetter makes your manuscript start to look like a book. You will participate in this process … which is why it’s best if you just put that luggage down.

For one thing, you’ll probably be asked if you want to dedicate the book—and if you want to include any acknowledgments. In your desire to finish the manuscript, you may have forgotten about them. The project editor will nudge you about these things and more.

The copy/line edit will take some time—some publishers have a dedicated copyeditor in-house, some send it out to a freelancer, and sometimes the project/managing editor takes this in hand as he or she reads through all the developmental changes. When this phase is complete, you’ll be asked to approve (or disapprove—it’s your book) the changes. In fact, you and the copyeditor may send the manuscript back and forth a few times.

It’s quite possible that content issues will come to light during the copyedit phase, something you and I missed. Don’t worry—these will be little tweaks, not major rewrites. And that’s the beauty of a multiple-step editorial process. Regardless, you’ll be intimately involved in this process.

Finally, the typesetter will get to work, and when that’s done—yep—you’ll get to see it again. You and a few proofreaders. The proofreaders are primarily looking for errors introduced by the typesetting process—bad word or line breaks, for example—but they are also backup for the copyeditor. They’ll catch anything the copyeditor missed. (It happens!)

When you’ve signed off on the proof (and please remember this is not a chance to tweak your work; only true errors should be noted), the book will go to press. Now you may take your vacation … though perhaps you should check in with the marketing team first. :)

* Sometimes I’ve been hired to handle the next step in addition to the content edit. Sometimes I am the next step, if someone else handled the content edit.
** You can read more about the particular differences in these posts, but in these budget-conscious days publishers tend to bundle it into one process.
Every Novel Needs a Developmental Editor
Parlez-Vous Editing?
What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate
The Secret Cookie Recipe
At Last! Astonishing Secrets Revealed

Note: the editorial team at Baker Books gave me the idea for this blog post. Thanks in particular to Rebekah Guzman.


Tweet: Don’t celebrate that finished edit too soon!
Tweet: Finished with your content edit? Don’t book a vacation yet.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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  1. I celebrate incrementally.

    Case in point…there are few more delightful and celebratory feelings to be had than finding defilade (a place out of reach of direct enemy fire). Bullets may be chopping away at the top of one’s ditch or culvert…but the sheer LUXURY of having a moment’s respite is better than any five-star resort.

    Of course, being able to call in tac air to give the little people a massive walloping helps, too.

  2. Sacha black says:

    This is one of those excellent timing posts. Just the other day I was rooting round your archives trying to find the posts that told us about the different types of editing. But I couldn’t find them *cries* now you have handed them to me on a plate. I will definitely link to all of these and share them in the future this post has officially been bookmarked thank you. ?