A writer should never skimp on editing: 5 types to consider before you hit send

A writer should never skimp on editing

A few days ago I came across a self-published book that was rife with errors. I was sad, as I really liked the premise and thought it had much potential to be a great read. The author had added a passage to her text that said something to the effect of, “I did not get an editor or edit the work, as doing so would change the meaning.”

Um, huh?

I did not hit the button to buy, nor have I ever hit the button to buy on a book with multiple grammatical and mechanical errors in the first pages.

I get it. Editing is complicated.There are lots of different editing types. It is expensive. Charges are all over the place. And when you are trying to break into the writing business knowledge about process and money to support front end expenses is often scarce. BUT. And it is a big but. If you do not do your homework and invest on editing, you are likely not going to go as far as you otherwise might.

Let’s look at the two pieces of editing I mentioned above: Types and Cost. 


I am going to break this into five types. Mine is not the only way to break it down. I recommend you research to find exactly what you need; however, this is a good overview.

  1. Assessment – This may not be considered editing by some, but it is an important service that you can find online. It consists of light feedback that focuses mostly on big plot holes and inconsistencies in the story. Feedback typically comes in the form of a report that lists strengths and areas that can be improved. If you are experiencing writer’s block or are not sure how to approach a second draft, this may be the type of editing service you need.
  2. Developmental editing – This type of editing goes a bit deeper. Think more chapter work rather than only big picture story work. It looks at quality of writing, plot holes and inconsistencies, and issues that seem to show up repeatedly throughout the work or chapter. Many developmental editors will work back and forth with you during the developmental stage and into the next stage.
  3. Substantive/Structural editing – Some people put developmental and substantive/structural together, as they have the same goal in mind, but I have seen them separated enough that I have opted to separate them here. Substantive/structural editing is the deepest type of editing that does not go line-by-line. What it does do is what is mentioned above, but even more deeply. You will have more page edits and more comments concerning development of characters and plot and sub-plot. You may get suggestions for moving entire pieces of your manuscript from one place to another or to remove entire pieces completely. As with developmental editors, these editors will typically work back and forth with you during the process.
  4. Line editing – This type of editing looks at your writing style and language use at the sentence level. It is not about the grammatical and mechanical errors or the consistency of details. Here it is about looking for repetition, enhancing and correcting dialogue, pointing out shifts in tone, and presenting ideas for making your work tighter and cleaner. The idea behind this type of editing is to clarify and enhance.
  5. Copyediting – Editing at this level is macro editing. This is where we get to the nitty-gritty of the sentence itself. This type of editing looks for grammatical and mechanical errors, spelling mishaps, and all things Chicago Manual of Style related. When you get this type of edit, you will likely also get a guide for reading the edit. This is considered the fine tuning step for your manuscript.

** If you would like to see examples of how the line edit and copyedit differ, NY Book Editors is the place to go.



Cost is hard to pin down for editing services. Cost ranges from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on what you need. If an editor charges by the word, make sure you do the math before approaching him or her. Here is an example:

Price: $0.03220 per word

This equates to a cost of $1610.00 for a 50,000 word document.

You will want to compare the cost and the background information on various editors before you decide. I have found that you do get what you pay for (as is true with most things).

The most important things to keep in mind as you begin your editing journey are to know what you need before you start looking and to do your homework before you choose. Do not simply go to Google and type editor. Ask people whose writing you admire for referrals. The Creative Pen had a great blog on choosing editors (complete with a ton of great links). When you find an editor you want to contact, find and read info on their website. You should be able to find pricing information on the page. If you cannot, I suggest moving on. That is my opinion, though, so take it with a grain of salt.

Here is an example of what you may pay for copyediting based on what one site lists. Notice that there is no guesswork involved. Click on the picture to be taken to the full slide.


Need a place to start your search? Here are some examples of webpages where those in the know offer various types of editing or links to various types of editing and to what price structures look like as a general rule for the types of editing mentioned above:

Editorial Freelance Association – I recommend starting here.

Pat Mcnee’s blog on editing and editors – All things related to editing. There is so much information here that you will need to spend multiple visits exploring.

Aidian Editing – Jen Adian is no longer taking new clients, but her page gives a lot of advice on pricing structure for editing services.

Creative Indie – This one looks at self-editing, betas, and editors for hire.

Hiring an editor can be expensive. For some, it is an impossible venture, especially in the beginning. So what do you do if you have done your research and simply cannot afford an editor at all? I suggest a beta reader (or two or five). Beta readers are not editors. They are not trained to find problem areas in the same way that editors are, and it is unlikely that they are in love with the Chicago Manual of Style, but they do know what works and what doesn’t when they read.

Some beta readers charge for their services, while others do it for free or for a copy of the book when it hits the selves. There are many ways to find the appropriate beta reader for your work. You can look for Facebook groups such as the 10 Minute Novelist where readers and writers come together to support each other. You can do a Google search to find pages such as The Book Designer where you can find many tips on finding and working with beta readers, and you can tweet or post that you are willing to beta read in exchange for a beta reading. When using beta readers, though, make sure you are giving them the best version of your book possible, and give them guidance as to what you are looking to receive as feedback.


Whatever approach you take to editing, please do it! I go back to the book I found that was rife with errors. If I didn’t buy what was probably a good story because of errors, others didn’t as well. How much money is this author losing on the back end? Don’t let this be you!

I always appreciate feedback on my blogs. Comment and forward at will. Thank you for reading.


Published by Tammy Bird, Author

I am a new author who struggles every day to balance my life as an educator and my life as a writer. I know how hard it is to stay positive, to learn, and to give back to those who give but, like you, I want it and so I move forward. Baby steps. I hope you will join me on this amazing journey. We are stronger together!

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