What to Expect from the Editorial Process

copy editor looking at a book


You’ve written your book (or your business documentation), done all your groundwork, sorted out your budget and found an editor you’d like to work with.

So what happens next? What can you expect from working with an editor?

question mark

Every editor is different. Just as there are different types of editing, there are different ways of approaching an edit, but generally the process will remain the same.

Let’s break it down into stages …

  1. You’ve approached your editor, made sure your manuscript is ready, given them a sample of your work, a budget has been agreed and the type of editing has been agreed upon.
  2. Next you will have to book your work into their schedule. Never expect that as soon as you are ready to go your editor will have space for you. Depending on the scope of the edit you may have to wait a while. Generally, editors like to know that they have work scheduled, so many will have booked work a few months in advance. Expect to wait a couple of weeks to a couple of months before they can start work on your manuscript. If they work in a highly specialised field you may have to wait longer. Don’t see this as a bad thing – once you’ve found an editor who you feel you can work with, the wait will be worth it.


  3. Send all your relevant details. This includes not only the manuscript that the editor will be working on, but your preferences for style. If you are writing for a company send the editor your company’s style guide. If you are an author let the editor know if you have been using a style guide such as New Hart’s Rules or the Chicago Manual of Style, and which dictionary you prefer. If you have made your own style guide too, let your editor know. You’ll be working together to make your writing the best it can be, collaboration is key – don’t expect your editor to be a mind reader.
  4. Let the editor do their job. Once your slot has come around you may be contacted by your editor who will let you know that work will be starting. Now is the time to sit back and let them get on with it. Do not hassle them with ‘oh, by the way …’ or ‘can you just …’ or ‘when will you send …’ or ‘have you finished yet’. Editing is both an art and a science. It takes time and concentration. If your editor has questions that are important to the flow of the job they will contact you. Just sit back and wait. Patience is a virtue.

    copy editor

  5. Review the document. If you’ve spoken to your editor you should know how they work on your manuscript and how many passes or rounds of editing are involved. The terminology can be loose, but generally a pass means how many times your editor has gone through your manuscript, a round can mean how many times it goes between editor and author. For example, when I edit your work I will generally carry out two passes in one round of editing. In this example my first pass will be to look through your document for obvious layout errors, spelling mistakes, stylistic errors etc. (a fairly mechanical process). My second pass will be where the majority of work is carried out: the nitty gritty editorial process using Word’s tracked changes. The document will then be returned to you for review and any queries and comments will be addressed. That round of editing is then complete. Any further rounds will require payment as a new edit.

    big tick, correct
    When you get your document back for review take your time to read it through and address any comments from the editor. You may want to just go through it yourself, thank the editor for their time and move on, or you might want to ask the editor a few questions. This is the time to do it. You are perfectly within your rights to reject any changes that have been made, but you must take into account that rejecting one change may impact on the sentence and those around it. If you really don’t like, or understand, the change this is your chance to talk it through. Remember that an editor is a trained professional, but this is your document and you must feel comfortable with the edit.

    next step in the process

  1. Move onto the next stage of your publishing process. Once you’ve reviewed the edit, and you’re happy that the document is ready, it’s now time to either move on or add another round of editing. Some people will go back and rewrite after an edit, focusing on the editors comments, while others will accept all the changes and feel that the job is done. It all depends on the type of edit carried out – a developmental edit is one at the beginning of the process, whereas after a copy-edit you should be ready for the final stages of publishing. When you’re happy, it’s time to get your manuscript ready for publication and hire a proofreader for that final look-over.

So, you see, the editorial process isn’t at all mysterious. The main thing to remember is to talk with your editor, communicate well and don’t take comments personally. It’s very easy to get protective of your work, but trust your editor, they want what’s best for you and your work.

If you would like to work with me, contact me and we can talk through your project.

10 small things that will make your document ready for an editor

editorial checklist


Let’s admit it, it’s a big step hiring an editor.

You’ve researched editors in your genre, you’ve sorted out your budget so it’s realistic and you have your manuscript in a Word document (or ten). After approaching a couple of professional editors you’ve found one you’d like to work with.

What next?

After an initial chat the editor will want to see your manuscript (or at least a few chapters) to assess it. This is how we determine how much work is actually needed, rather than how much work the client thinks is needed (hint: listen to your editor, they know how to make your manuscript work). By all means let your editor know what you want – no editor will force you to have a developmental edit if all you want is a proofread – but listen if they recommend that the manuscript isn’t ready for a final polish.

You may think the document you’ve been working on is ready to be sent, but is it? Is it really?

A few quick polishes will make sure that the editor will see your manuscript in a good light and you’re more likely to land the editor you want to work with.

editing and proofreading checklist


Here are ten small things that will make your document ready for an editor:

  1. Sort out your margins. It’s fairly standard to have one inch (2.54 cm) margins all round.
  2. Set your line spacing to double spaced (2.0). It may look too spaced out, but the aim here is to have your document as easy to read as possible. If your editor wants to print out pages to work on, the generous margins and line spacing will give them space to make any notes they need without having to squish them in.
  3. Ditch the fancy fonts. Ditch them. Use a standard 12pt font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Courier or Calibri. Yes, they can look boring, but the aim is to have a readable document. When you publish your book your designer will help you find a suitable font that takes into account subject, publication type and audience – until then just have a nice, clean readable file. No editor wants a manuscript sent to them in Comic Sans, or any other fancy font. I’ve had my share of these ‘fun’ documents, and believe me, you’ll just give your editor more work to get the document into a useable form, and you will be charged for it.

If you follow steps 1–3, this should get you to roughly 250 words per page, which is how many editors see a standard page. Setting your page out this way makes it easier to read, your editor won’t need to alter anything and it’s how many publishers prefer their manuscripts to be laid out.


  1. Add page numbers. This will make it easier for your editor to make comments and to track where they are in the edit. A simple number in the footer, bottom right, or in the header, top right, will suffice.
  2. Add a header which includes at least your name and the book title. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s good practice and can let your editor see exactly what they are working on at any time.
  3. Set out your document using Styles. It’s a fairly quick and painless way to make your document look professional. I’ve written out some instructions to guide you through the process. It’s not complicated and it will make your document setup easier to navigate if anything structural needs changing. Remember to make your paragraphs indented using Styles rather than using the tab key and don’t add any unnecessary returns.

    Do Not Copy watermark

    Remove watermarks – they show lack of trust

  4. Make sure there are no watermarks on your document. Trying to work on a document that has been watermarked is extremely difficult and totally unnecessary. If your editor gets a watermarked document the chances are they’ll return it for watermark removal, or they may even refuse to work on it at all. The relationship between author and editor is based on trust and if you show that you don’t trust your editorial professional they may decide the relationship won’t work. If you use a professional editor, who is a member of a professional organisation such as the SfEP, they are bound by the society’s professional code of conduct. A professional editor will never breach your copyright.
  5. Decide on a style guide. This could be something as simple as using oxforddictionaries.com as your preferred dictionary, to more complex decisions such as letting your editor know you prefer to use New Hart’s Rules as a basis for your style guide. Style guides are important to allow your editor to follow your preferences, so deciding on one at the beginning will save you both time. If you’re not sure, ask your editor for advice.
  6. Run the whole manuscript through a spell check. The final step before sending your document is to check your spelling.
  7. Read your manuscript through one last time to make sure everything is as you want it to be. Really read it, don’t just skim. Once your editor starts work, this is the document they will be using so a final check is essential.


If you follow these ten quick steps you’ll have a document that looks as good as it (hopefully) reads. A good presentation shows that you value all the work you’ve put into your manuscript and it will send the right signs to your editor.

Not sure how to carry out the changes? That’s OK, don’t fret – I wrote a blog post especially to help you with that.

Think I’m the right editor for you? Contact me and we can talk through your project.

Copy Editors Matter

newspaper editors

Yesterday copy editors on Twitter came out in solidarity with their colleagues in the New York Times.

The paper is reported to be shifting to be more reporter focussed and is cutting down on the number of copy editors in the team from over 100 to around 50. And expecting the same level of accuracy in its written material.

As you would expect there is outrage, upset and a whole load of copy editors soon to be out of jobs. At a time when you would expect that accuracy would be foremost in the minds of the media.

I don’t work there so can’t comment other than it seems to be the state of things to come.

To give them their due, the New York Times actually reported on the walk-out.

If you want to see the Twitter thread go and search for #whyeditors

newspaper editor

I’d like to say I was shocked when I heard about the restructuring, but I wasn’t. It seems to be the way things are going at the moment. We are living in a world that increasingly wants things NOW and to hell with factual accuracy, readability and good plain English.

Go online and you will find ‘news reports’ from a large variety of providers that have obviously been typed up quickly and posted without any kind of editing or proofreading. Words are missing, grammar, spelling and punctuation is woefully bad and accuracy gives way to the immediate gratification of the readers. It’s the same with printed matter.

Books, magazines, newspapers, company information … wherever you find shortcuts you will find errors. Errors that can be easily and quickly remedied by hiring a copy editor.

‘It’s ok, we’ve used Hemmingway, Grammarly, Word spell check, given it to our English teacher/friend/neighbour/dog to proofread’, they’ll say.

‘No-one notices/cares/has the time or money or the inclination’, they’ll mutter.

But you know what?

People do notice and do care, and those automated helpers will only take you so far.

Computers cannot take the place of a real human being, no matter what the tech bods will have you think.

Copy editors:

  • Catch bias
  • Catch blindspots
  • Catch politically incorrect language
  • Catch potential libel
  • Catch potential offensive language
  • Catch copyright problems
  • See what you wrote, not what you thought you wrote
  • See what the readers see, not what you see
  • See holes in your argument
  • See padding in your prose
  • Fix errors in grammar
  • Fix errors in punctuation
  • Fix errors in format
  • Fix errors in style
  • Fix errors in voice
  • Spot missing information
  • Spot mislabelled information
  • Spot wrong information
  • Find repetition
  • Find overused phrases
  • Find ambiguity
  • Check readability
  • Check facts
  • Check links
  • Uphold quality
  • Uphold credibility
  • Uphold standards
  • Are invisible
  • Are invaluable
  • Save your ass more times than you realise

So you see, while editors tend to remain invisible, once they are gone you will notice.

All those errors will creep in, the standard of material will hit rock bottom and your credibility and accuracy will suffer.

If you want to remain ahead of the game, stand out above the crowd and be seen as having a quality product you really cannot ignore the role of the copy editor and the value they bring to your business.

why editors matter


There’s been a lot of interest in this image, so I’ve made it available over on my Redbubble site.