The Four Stages of Non-Fiction Editing - Publish Your Purpose

The Four Stages of Non-Fiction Editing

Close-up of a typewriter with words “rewrite/edit.” Let Publish Your Purpose handle your non-fiction editing.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the most important step of getting published: editing. If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you already know that editing is not a “one and done” activity. Not only are there multiple rounds of revisions, but there are actually multiple stages to the editing process. Read on to learn about the four stages of non-fiction editing.

The Four Stages of Non-Fiction Editing

While the importance of editing may come as no surprise, many writers don’t realize there are four stages to non-fiction editing. Being able to distinguish among the four stages is important because any editor you approach with your manuscript will want to know which stage your work is in before sharing their rates and services.

Let’s take a look at the four stages of non-fiction editing:

1. Developmental Editing

Developmental editing, or structural editing, looks at your story on a macro level, taking into account storyline, structure, and consistency. Anytime you rearrange or delete chapters or rewrite entire blocks of text, you are engaging in developmental editing. This stage takes into account the flow and clarity of your narrative, all with reader engagement in mind. 

Because developmental editing is so big-picture (and has the most consequential changes to your draft), it’s often the first stage of non-fiction editing, and can take anywhere from one to three months or longer.

2. Line Editing

While developmental editing focuses on the big picture, line editing looks at your work on a micro-level. Line editors go paragraph by paragraph and line by line to examine things like syntax, verbiage, pacing, and flow, ensuring consistency throughout the work. The focus here is less on the story and more on sentence structure, so this type of editing clears up language without changing the storyline. Line editing typically takes one to two months.

3. Copyediting

Where line editing is concerned with an author’s particular writing style, copyediting is concerned with grammar and ensuring a manuscript follows a particular style guide. Copyediting a full-length manuscript takes about a month.

4. Proofreading

Now, we know what you’re thinking: a fourth stage? Really?! Trust us: after you’ve been scouring a draft for months, your eyes start reading what they want to read on the page, not what the actual words are. 

Proofreading refers to the detailed correction of a final draft just before the layout process. While many eyes have been on your draft up until this point, having that final proof is critical to catch any lingering typos, like extra spaces or missing punctuation. Proofreading should be the quickest stage of non-fiction editing, but can still take two to three weeks depending on the length of the manuscript.

A Word of Caution on Self-Editing 

Given how expensive publishing a book can be, we understand all the myriad ways that new authors attempt to cut costs. One way new writers will attempt to do this is by editing their own work. Trust us when we say: this is a fatal mistake.

Think about it… In order to do a proper editing job, you need to be able to look at a piece with fresh eyes. This means you would have to effectively forget your entire book, which involves waiting at least a year (or two!) before being able to pick up the red pen. (Do you have that kind of time? We don’t!)

We can’t stress this enough: comprehensive editing is one publishing cost you don’t want to skimp on. Proper non-fiction editing can easily make or break the success of your book, and a well-published book can have exponential returns. It’s important to do it right!

The PYP Non-Fiction Editing Process

Does the thought of finding just the right editor make you want to curl into a fetal position? Never fear! Let Publish Your Purpose (PYP) handle the editing for you—at whatever stage you need. Here’s how our process differs from other publishers:

1. Our Editors Have Good Bedside Manner

When it comes to good editing, honesty is important—and kindness should be, too! At PYP, we’re extremely selective about the editors we choose to work with. Not only do we take actual editing experience into account, but we also look at integrity. Our thorough vetting process has produced an exclusive, curated collective of editors who are really good at what they do—editors who will get you and give constructive feedback. So you can rest assured that if an editor is on our team, they are the real deal.

2. Our “Editor Matchmaking” Pairs You With the Perfect Editor

Once you decide to work with PYP, what’s the first thing we do? Go fish! We send your manuscript in its current form to our team of editors to see who bites. Editors interested in working with you will respond within the week with their preliminary feedback, including what type(s) of editing your manuscript needs, how long they would need to edit the piece, and why they want to work with you. 

Not only does our “editor matchmaking” process allow us to provide a more accurate price estimate right off the bat, but it also guarantees that whoever you are matched with is someone who understands what you’re about and wants to be part of your work.

3. You Have Veto Power

Unlike traditional publishers who alter your work to suit their bottom line, PYP gives you full veto power. This means after we share our editors’ preliminary feedback with you, you get to decide which editor to go with. Maybe you want an editor who knows your specialty; maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t feel like making one more decision and you say, “You tell me. You’re the experts!” Either way, it’s your choice. 

If we do push back on one of your decisions (usually when our non-fiction editing expertise tells us something may not be a good strategy), you still have veto power. In this line of work, there are very few non-negotiables—and we will always explain to you what those are!

Your Story. Your Choice.

As an independent, hybrid publisher, Publish Your Purpose puts our writers first. Not only do we work exclusively with purpose-driven authors who want to make an impact in their communities, but we also let you take the lead. Your story is told the way you want. Learn more about PYP to see if we are the right fit for you, or chat with a publishing specialist.

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