The editorial process, which all books go through to some degree before their publication date, can be arduous, confusing, and complex. This is a negative perspective, yes, and in part I think this is due to conflicting information. In a preliminary Google search of “stages of editing in publishing,” I found that different presses seemed to prefer a different order depending on their processes (see this article, this article, and this article for examples). And this makes sense. While editing might seem quite straightforward at first, the process must be flexible based on the manuscript, the genre, and the press. In this post, I’ll be giving a little bit of insight into how books are edited here at Ooligan, since we do things a little differently.
The process can start as early as acquisitions. A manuscript is accepted either as is or with the understanding that a developmental edit will take place. A developmental edit looks at the overall structure of a book. Its goals include well-developed characters, a logical plot, and clear themes—all that big-picture stuff. If a developmental edit is deemed necessary, the acquisitions team will compile constructive feedback to send to the author, who then makes revisions.
Once a manuscript has been acquired, it goes through its first round of copyediting. Students in Ooligan with editorial experience will volunteer, and small teams will take sections of the book to work on. They work collaboratively and use a style guide so that there are no errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, diction, etc. Copyediting is a much more granular process and therefore requires a couple of rounds. By employing small teams, Ooligan can get this stage done quickly. But any manuscript will have to go through two to three rounds of copyediting to ensure that it is free of errors.
Following the copyediting stage is something called XML typecoding. This is the transition from editorial to design. Coders go through the manuscript and tag design elements (e.g., chapter titles, lists, and bolded and italicised fonts) so that the design team can easily find them when they are putting together the book’s interior.
Once a book has been fully designed, it goes through a couple of stages of proofreading. First is the print proofread, where readers look for design issues and ensure that no errors have been introduced during the design process. This is also the last chance to catch typos. Then we do an ebook proofread, where we make sure that the book looks the same on each ereader platform, that different font sizes still work, and that links to chapters are functioning correctly.
There are also some variations on this general process. More books are featuring diverse characters these days, which is really exciting! However, this means it is becoming increasingly important for books to be read and approved by members of the communities being portrayed in them. Because of this, Ooligan has introduced the concept of an “authenticity edit” for some books. Ideally, this stage happens after developmental editing and before copyediting. Authenticity edits are intended to ensure that the books that are being published do not contribute to any harmful stereotypes and instead celebrate the diversity they feature.
All change, by nature, is a painful process. Growing is often hard to do. I think this is why the editorial stage (and its length) can seem daunting to people. But it is integral to the writing process. Having many eyes on a book during this stage is only going to make it a better read, so there is no need to fear the red pen.