You’re ready to have your manuscript edited so you visit a prospective editor who asks, “I can’t provide an estimate without knowing what service you’re looking for. What type of editing are you looking for?”
“Uh… the normal kind…” you reply, bewildered. Was there more than one kind?
“Well, do you need your book to just be proofread, or do you want it copyedited?”
You stare at your computer screen, sucking on your lip in thought. If only you knew what the difference was!
Let’s pretend your manuscript is a microscope slide. Holding it in your hands (or viewing it on your own) you find minor mistakes, but overall, it looks pretty straightforward. Concerned you’re missing something though, you hand it off to a scientist (an editor) who takes the slide and slips it under a microscope.
Without zooming in on it, the scientist sees it has some issues. It’s got some typos, tense mistakes, inconsistencies in names – you know, basic stuff. This is proofreading.
But you’re curious now because those are things that you missed. What else did your eyes skim over? You want the scientist to really examine it, to copyedit it. The scientist fine-tunes the microscope, setting the objective lens and adjusting the illuminator. Now they can discern the flaws of the manuscript. These include problems with syntax and semantics, illogical content, poorly formed paragraphs, and style. They can see all the typos and misspelled words too, but now that they’ve really zoomed in, they can gain a better understanding of what needs to be done. This is basic copyediting.
Deciding that perhaps you missed quite a few things, you decide to ask the scientist to go all out – examine the manuscript to learn all its dirty little secrets. The scientist agrees and moves your manuscript to a powerful electron microscope. They adjust it and then peer through the eye piece. Not only can they see – and subsequently address – all that they’ve found thus far, but they can now perceive discrepancies in plot and character development. They can now discern weak scenes, dialogue that sticks out or doesn’t make sense, and rearrange pieces of your book to streamline its flow. This is developmental copyediting.
Now, go forth, Author, and find an editor!