You have finished writing your book and it is now in a first draft/manuscript mode. What now?
Well, once you are done with the initial writing, the next step, as we mentioned in one of our earlier articles is getting your work edited.
And if you are looking to self-edit your book, this would be the time to get down to the editorial basics.
But there are so many kinds of editorial options explained, and elaborated on so many different websites, it is confusing to zero down on what kind of editing to take up, for your particular book, right?
In this article I will try and take a shot at simplifying this choice for you.
One of the most confusing aspects of book editing, is understanding the difference between a copy edit, and a content edit.
If you go just by its definition, copy editing, simply put, is checking the copy for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, verb, tenses and other grammatical errors. Content editing, on the other hand, is a more developmental editing.
It may mean undertaking substantial changes, or revisions to the original version of your book/manuscript.
That is where you may look at your book from a larger perspective, that of the reader and check for the consistency of plot, the correctness of the theme or the story line, a check on the subplots, the characters themselves etc.
You will also at this point, check for inconsistencies, factual errors, any discrepancies, or whether there is a proper flow, a conclusion to your story and so much more. When you choose content editing, you are choosing the option to have the right to completely rewrite your book if that is what is required.
Essentially, when you copy edit, you look at your book from a birds eye view, but when you content edit, you are at the ground level, looking at your book microscopically.
It would help explain the concept better if we take a scenario where you are purchasing a content or a copy editing service from someone else.
When you opt to pay for a content editing service, you may find that in the first consultation, many professional content editors will talk to you about your work in general without going into any kind of specifics.
They will explain where in general the concept lacks structure, or where it can benefit more from enhancement, focus or specialization, but they will not go word by word, pull out mistakes or correct them.
Oftentimes, professional content editors will not edit your book at all, they will just provide suggestions and leave it to you to figure out the interpretation and the physical output.
In my opinion that is a very good editing method. Leaving the structuring in the hands of the writer, increases the chances of the authenticity of the book being maintained.
On the other hand, when you opt for copy editing, chances are the editor will send back your manuscript with track changes, and with specific errors marked or even corrected, grammatical issues highlighted and punctuations formatted.
This is not the type of editing you want to undertake if you are in the nascent stages of the book. In the early stages, around the first draft one, what you really want is someone to tell you where if at all your book is lagging behind; what are its strengths that you can further enhance upon; and why, certain portions of it will need to be removed, changed or even added.
Also copy editor reads everything line by line to ensure that your work is polished and that may also mean that they may change certain sentences or portions of your book. A big part of copy editing is also proofreading your work.
In my opinion, the time that you should choose a copy editor is when your work is in its last and final stages and you are okay if you do not get to change or write or say in it ever again. Although in some cases, you can request that you get your work back before it’s taken up for publishing, such instances are rare.
I am sure you are still confused as to what editing option to choose for your book. So let me try and explain it in a different way.
Imagine that you will be paying for this service that you choose. Now imagine, that you can afford only one round of editing.
Which one do you think your book will benefit from the most?
A thorough and in-depth content editing or proofreading and corrections? Ideally a sales worthy book will need both. But in most cases, whether you’re hoping to be picked up by a publishing house or planning to self-publish, you may not be able to hire both the services.
Let’s try to get back on the horse.
Even the most boring story can be copy edited into a book that looks polished and prim. But will that be enough to get you dedicated readers?
A good book needs more than just correct punctuations and polished formatting. But on the other hand, if you were a reader, will you read, let alone pay for a book that has glaring grammatical errors?
So the answer to the question, “Which type of editing should you choose for your book, content or copy?” is both.
The real question is, when to choose what type of editing. In your case if you are self-editing, what to take on first, copy or content?
If you ask me, content editing always comes first. Why?
Well, logically, any revision, any developmental change, any structure correction, should always, come first. So once your manuscript is written, and is in a first draft form, start hunting for a good content editor, or start ‘content’ editing it yourself.
Look around for major lapses, inconsistencies, and basically anything that is disruptive to the story and the theme.
Think from the big picture angle and think from your reader’s perspective, and start revising. Get a complete edit done. Word to word, page to page.
Then when you are completely satisfied that your book reads well, and has no gaps or potential reader setbacks, that is when you can opt for a good clean up or copy editing service.
Also in most cases, copy editing is cheaper. So if you manage to do the content edit by yourself, you may even be able to afford a great copy editor for the second stage of your manuscript editing phase.
If not, if you could only afford one professional service and you are not very patient and thorough when you self-edit your book, I would recommend you pay for a solid content editing service, get a thorough scan of your book done, and then get down to the copy editing part yourself.
As mentioned in the earlier article on editing, copy editing can be pretty easy if you use some good tools. And there is always the good old spell check to rely on.
All in all, if you have the money, opt for both – content edits first, copy edits later. If you are doing it yourself, follow the same order. If you are paying only for one, opt to pay for a content edit and then copy edit yourself!