Publishing A Book – Editing and Proofreading Stages

Understanding the steps in the editing and publication process can improve your book, and may save you a bit of money!


There are 4 stages to the editing process. Understanding them will help you produce a quality book, and might just save you some money. In between each step are the things that you do, as a writer.

  • Developmental Edit – overall treatment and structure.
    ~~ writing ~~
  • Line Edit – eliminating redundancies and improving phrasing.
    ~~ revising ~~
  • Copy Edit – grammar, typos, and other wording errors.
    ~~ final revisions ~~
  • Layout – The interior formatting, in which the pages are put designed for a typesetter.
  • Proofreading – Catch layout errors and typos or other errors that might have crept in during the layout process.

Developmental Edit

It’s easy to overlook something like the Developmental Edit. After all, you already know what you want to write — or at least you think you do. But having worked with a professional editor like Matt Lusher in the past, I can tell you that an extra pair of well-informed eyes can make a tremendous difference in the quality of your book.

Because that editor isn’t so mired in the details of the subject, it’s easier for them to take a big-picture perspective — and to do so with the eye of a prospective reader, all of which combines to produce a style and plan for the book that is likely to meet real needs.

A good developmental edit, then, can help you outline the overall plan of attack, and help to determine the best sequence for your material.

Line Edit

As someone who is prone to repeating himself once or twice, I can tell you that a good line edit is invaluable. Bits of the golden prose you’ve constructed can get shifted around, so isn’t lost, but is gathered together with other bits that are saying the same thing. 

And a good line editor strikes a balance, too. At times, you’re told that something doesn’t need to be repeated, because you said it a little while ago. At other times, something that was said much earlier needs to be repeated, to bring it back to the reader’s attention, so they can more easily understand new material that is being presented.

The decision to repeat or not repeat, therefore, depends on the sequence of the material — which is why the line edit occurs after the developmental stage, when things are structured and sequenced.


In my case, I needed a better understanding of the critical difference between Copy Editing and Proofreading. To understand that difference, it helps to understand that the layout proof is created — one page at a time — using a high-power design tool like InDesign.

A good layout person like Jill Ronsley will send you 4 different layout samples. You’ll like how headers appear in one, how the text appears in another, and how sidebars and other graphic items appear in a third.

You’ll identify all the things you like in each of the samples, and send back your choices. The layout person (lay-er out-er?, formatter?) will then create a sample that combines those things. You’ll go back and forth a bit on that sample, until you get it the way you want it. Then the interior formatting (layout) begins.

The problem of course, is that because changes are made individually, one page at a time, from that point on any changes you want to make to the manuscript or to your formatting choices get to be expensive!

Copy Editing vs. Proofreading 

I’ve put those two together in this article, because it turns out that it’s important to understand the difference between them! (I didn’t, so I engaged a great copy-editor/friend as part of the proofreading process — a decision that improved the book tremendously, but which cost me a fair amount of money! Since I learned an important lesson in the process, I’m writing this article to pass on the knowledge.)

It turns out a professional proofreader confines themselves to things like:

  • Layout issues – Are the headers consistent? Is the pagination right? (e.g. Do chapters start on an odd page?)
  • TOC and page references  – Because the flow of the text could have changed where things wind up, compared to the original document).
  • Small typos, of course – But not wording errors that might change the flow of the text, and not transgressions against the Manual of Style that might precipitate a global find-and-fix effort. 

My friend, of course, is a great copy editor. I’d worked with her before, and knew how good she is at catching things. (She has an eagle eye that catches a ton of stuff!) She proved it once again, on this book. (In fact, my editor plans to hire her in the future.) But since neither of us knew better, I engaged her as a “proofreader”. Oops.

Now, of course, I know better. (And now you, too, know the difference! ) So the excellent copy editing wound up costing me a fair bit of change, because it occurred so late in the process — which brings us to something else you need to know:

  • In the proofing stage, the “proofs” you’re working with are low-resolution files, not suitable for use by a printer.
  • The version that goes to a printer is the “high-resolution” printer’s copy you get at the end of the process.

Copyright © 2017, TreeLight PenWorks

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