The Traditional Publishing Process Part 6: Working with an Editor

typewriterPreviously, in Part 5, I discussed the process of getting and accepting an offer of publication. But once you’ve accepted the offer, what happens next? What’s the process of working with an editor like?

Every editor’s process is different, just as every editor-author relationship is different. In some cases, editors speak with authors on the phone to discuss their plans for the book at the very beginning of the process—maybe even before the deal is made. In other cases, you might not speak to your editor at all until you receive the edit letter (and that will almost always take months). But rest assured that the process of working with an editor is generally a collaborative one—you and your editor will discuss the potential revisions and work together to brainstorm solutions.

So what is an edit letter? Simply put, it’s a document your editor provides that lays out their thoughts and proposed edits for the book. Edit letters can vary widely in length—either three pages or twenty pages are both possible. (A longer edit letter doesn’t necessarily mean that there are more issues, and a shorter one doesn’t always mean fewer changes.) They vary just as much in content. An editorial letter might include suggestions for developing worldbuilding, plot, character, pacing, and more. The letter should provide you, the author, with direction to move forward with the first round of revisions.

Note that I say first round, because there will be several. Some editors will deliver a marked-up copy of the manuscript along with the editorial letter; others will wait and do a round of line edits separately. Some authors will complete several rounds of large-scale content edits before moving on to line edits, while some will complete both in the first round. Regardless of when  it happens, know that a line edit is, essentially, just what it sounds like: the editor goes line-by-line through the manuscript and addresses sentence-level issues. Problems with syntax, word choice, dialogue, rhythm, and more are addressed in this phase.

Once the content edits and line edits are completed (whether in one round or five), your editor will formally “accept” the revised manuscript. Acceptance is great, because it means two things:

  1. You might get another advance payment! Many advances are broken up into multiple payments, and one of those payments often occurs upon “delivery and acceptance” of the manuscript. So, for example, you might get half of your advance upon signing the contract and half upon acceptance. Which means you now have your full advance payment—hooray!
  2. Your book will move into production! The production stage is exactly what it sounds like: when the publisher prepares to produce the book. This means that other departments in the publisher will start getting involved, and lots of exciting things will start to happen—you’ll be assigned a publicist, artwork will be finalized (if it hasn’t been already), and more! I’ll talk more about the production phase next time in Part 7.

But wait! Does this mean you’re completely finished with editing the book? Of course not. You still have yet another round to complete: copyedits. At this point, the latest version of the manuscript will be sent to a copyeditor (or more than one). This copyeditor is someone who hasn’t ever read your book before, so they’ll be able to catch errors that you and your editor missed. Plus, they specialize in copyedits, meaning they’re experts at identifying issues with grammar, spelling, formatting, and more. Your copyeditor(s) will comb through the manuscript and mark up their suggested changes. Then you’ll need to read through all of their edits and approve each one (or, in some cases, decide not to approve the change).

And now you’re finally done with edits, right?! Well, no. You’re mostly finished, but you’ll still need to read the manuscript at least one more time, once you receive your first pass pages. What are first pass pages? I’ll cover that, plus the rest of the production phase, next time in Part 7!

Have any questions about this process, or any experiences to share? Let me know in the comments!

Related Links:

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 5: Getting an Offer!

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 4: Submission

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 3: Working with an Agent

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 2: Research and Querying

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 1: Writing and Revision


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