Framework of the editing process
There are many names for the different stages of the editing process, and not all authors follow the same. That’s okay because our individual processes are fitted for our individual needs and resources, but there’s still a rough frame of how it’s usually done and in what order.
When starting out, we often don’t have the big budget for the whole process and everything we need, and getting our baby from first draft to final and upload-ready draft can be a jungle. And expensive. But there are a few places we can pay with time and patience instead of the all-mighty-green. Time is money, after all, and we’re used to trading time for money at day jobs, so that concept isn’t exactly new.
Before you start the editing process of your first book, though, you need to take time to figure out your end goal because this is where your journey starts.
I’ve written an article that may help you figure that out, and I advise you to read it before you finish this one—especially if you’re working on your first novel (or non-fiction).
Here’s the typical order
Alpha reader is counted as the one reading and commenting during the writing process or the development of the very first draft. Not everybody is happy about having eyes over their shoulder like that (myself included), so I don’t have one, other than the close readers I share a chapter with on Patreon. Others benefit greatly from it, so it's absolutely up to you. It also changes with experience as you grow more confident in the craft of writing.
Second are self-editing rounds. See a tool here to help develop your own style/tools.
Then comes the beta readers.
More self-editing and polishing from their feedback, so the last steps can intertwine and be repeated as many times as necessary. This is why it’s important to build a good working relationship.
Time for an editor. (If you’re unsure of what kind of editor you need, please read this article)
If you still feel the need for massive work, it can be a developmental editor (turbo charged betas who can juggle everything at the same time WHILE drinking coffee!).
Once the manuscript hits the line editor’s desk, there’s no tinkering and adding/ removing lots of text that isn’t specified in cooperation with the editor. It can mean an editor wastes a lot of time and your money, so have it as clean as possible once you hand it over.
After the editor comes the proofreader. We’ve decided to describe their work under editors because they’re the final step in the editing process.
At the end of all this comes formatting. This is where the polished final draft is set up for publication with everything that’s needed: Acknowledgement (optional), foreword (optional), colophon (mandatory), TOC (table of content – mandatory by many sales platforms), About the Author (optional but vital for showing readers where to find more), and backmatter (also optional, but this is where you can point readers to more of your books).
Once all that is done, you should have at least the following files: PDF, Mobi, E-pub. Those are the most used digital formats. Print files are formatted at this stage, too, before active links are added to the document’s coding.
Coding is why you should refrain from putting images into a document pre-formatting. It can leave a lot of code fragments that can ruin attempts at formatting without having to manually strip all formatting and reintroduce, methodically, every single italic word etc. It’s a nightmare! Some programs even have problems with coding fragments left if you’ve used Google Docs. Running it through a Word document first won’t make a difference.