As I read more and more self-published books, I’m dismayed over a reoccurring theme: many lack robust editing. That’s not to imply these works had no editing at all, most did. It’s just that they lacked full editing.
The first reminder to every writer is we can’t truly edit our own work. True, we must self-edit, but we delude ourselves if we think we’ll catch every error. Traditional publishers subject books to multiple edits before publication. To do our work justice, self-published works deserve the same scrutiny.
Though the names vary and their definitions sometimes overlap or even contradict, I’ll share four types of edits, using generic labels.
Edit Type 1: Fact Checking
As an author, we need to double-check our facts, especially when we self-publish. It’s possible that someone else may catch our errors, but more likely they’ll just assume what we wrote is correct. One book had the protagonist make a 200 mile drive in 90 minutes. Oops. Another common mistake is relying on memory for historic information. Don’t do that; I always verify, even when I’m sure I’m right.
Edit Type 2: Macro Edit
Sometimes called developmental or substantive editing, whatever name this edit goes by, the intent is to look at the big picture of the book. Is the overall structure sound, the organization good, and the flow understandable? I’m currently reading a memoir and the author’s timeline jumps all over the place, often backwards and forwards, several times within each chapter, making the chronology overwhelming to follow. Other considerations are if the right style is used or if the voice matches the genre and supports the story or theme. A “macro edit” addresses all these concerns.
Edit Type 3: Intermediate Edit
The next level, often called copy editing, of edit takes a closer look at the flow and structure, from paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, and thought to thought. Does the writing make sense?
Edit Type 4: Micro Edit
The final edit, usually called proofreading, looks at grammar, punctuation, and the technical details. I read one book that had a quality “micro edit” but lacked any other editing—and the work suffered as a result.
Paying others to edit our work when we self-publish is expensive, but our readers deserve no less and our career demands it.
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!