Ask the Editor Part 1

Ask the EditorAll this month I’m running Ask the Editor posts—questions from my readers. So if you haven’t already submitted your questions, be sure to include them in the comments below and I’ll get them answered before the month is over.

Let’s dive right in.

What are the different kinds of editing services normally provided and what can we expect from each?

There are many kinds of edits and the names vary from editor to editor. What I call a concept edit others call a macro edit. Therefore, when working with a freelance editor it’s important to clearly state your expectations. Are you interested in knowing whether your grammar is correct? Could you care less about grammar, but want to know if your plot and characters are well-developed? Is the dialog real, is the pacing off, is the character arc missing?

You can have as much or as little done in an edit as you want. Which is why you want to be specific and have a conversation with that editor before you hire her.

The Macro Edit looks at big-picture aspects, which is why it is also sometimes called a Big Picture Edit. The editor looks at plot and character development, story flow, dialog, POV, show vs. tell, story and character arc, et cetera. The editor doesn’t do any revision on your manuscript, but provides a report outlining the strengths and weaknesses and suggesting possible solutions.

The Substantive Edit is also called a line edit or developmental edit. The editor works through your manuscript line-by-line making edits and entering comments in your manuscript. In this edit the editor isn’t correcting big-picture issues. He/she sends the marked manuscript back to you for review and revision. Every editor works differently so be sure to ask if the price includes only one edit or additional edits on your revised work.

The Full Edit or Complete Edit is when the editor does both the macro and substantive edits. The macro is completed first. Once you have fixed the big picture issues, the manuscript goes back to the editor for the sub edit.

Big picture issues should always be fixed before a line edit is done. A line edit ahead of a macro edit is like putting shingles on a roof without the underlying framework.

Proofreading is not editing, though it is a service that many editors provide. Proofing looks for typos, correct punctuation and spelling, checking tables, footnotes/endnotes, and sometimes fact checking. A good editor will catch many of these same things during a substantive edit, but these are not the primary tasks of an editor.

What are some less common services we may see?

Some editors also edit query letters, proposals, and synopses. Beyond that any services offered are most likely outside the realm of editing.

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. This is very informative! Thanks so much.

  2. I feel that editing is a process I could literally be in forever with my book. How do you reach the point where you know that the editing process is complete?

    • LOL, you are so right, Lisa. I find things I want to edit even when I sit and read the print or Kindle versions of my own books. I think part of that is the creative process and wanting to find the best way to express our message. I’ll provide a more complete answer in a blog post yet this month.

  3. Thank you so much! Great break down 😀

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