It’s such a romantic notion, the idea that once you sell a book, all your hard work is done. If only, if only. To be completely honest, the hard work has only just begun. Because now you’ve been assigned an editor and there’s no such thing as a book that is 100% ready for publication as soon as it’s purchased. There are many stages of the editing process. Let’s look at them.
The first thing that’s going to happen is your editor is going to read your manuscript and they’re going to give you an edit letter. This is usually where big edits happen. This is where they might tell you they want more scenes with a character, they want to work on the ending, they want to change the structure of the book. This is the part where the editor changes the stuff that’s going to affect everything else. It’s probably the most exhausting part of the process especially since you’ve done so many major edits yourself. When this is done, the editor might present you with another edit letter if they still think big changes need to be made, but hopefully one round of structural edits will be enough and you can move on to the next step.
This is the part of the process that varies the most depending on the project and the editor. This is where the editor goes through and makes requests line-by-line. This is where the editor and the author are focused on the language. It’s where they’re focusing on each scene and chapter individually, on things like dialogue and setting and sentence structure. It’s a much more in-depth challenge and sometimes takes longer to find all the right words than a structural edit might take. Because of this, it can take multiple rounds. This is a process that has to be repeated again and again until both editor and author are satisfied with the final product.
Copyedits can be difficult depending on the copyeditor and the author. At this point in the process, the editor passes your book on to a copyeditor. This person will go through and look for things that don’t make sense. They’ll fact check things, they’ll make sure your timeline doesn’t have holes in it, they’ll make sure your main character has the same color eyes on page 312 that they had on page 28. Some copyeditors are a little pickier and make more comments than others. Then you, as the author, have to go through and fix anything that absolutely must be fixed.
So, your book has been designed. There’s a cover, a dedication page, and little designs in the corner on all the pages. Fun, right? Well, now you have to read the book one more time, and this time with a fine-toothed comb. You have to go through every single sentence and make sure there are no typos or mistakes, and if you do find a mistake, well, there’s the rub because the book is already typeset, which means that if you want to take out a word, it can throw off the entire design of the book, so if you decide you want your character to have blue eyes instead of green, that’s probably an easy swap, but if you have to remove a sentence, that could destroy everything, so you want to replace it with a sentence of equal length so it doesn’t throw off everything. This is a process that can be tricky, so it helps if all eyes were paying close attention in copyedits to avoid any changes at this stage of the process.
And that’s it. Sometimes an author or an editor might ask for a second or even third pass on those last pages, but probably not. And if they don’t, your book is all set to go to printing.