Editing Tips Part 7: Types of Editors

So far in our Editing Tips series, we’ve shared some tips and tricks for how you can self-edit your manuscript. However, we always recommend working with a professional editor prior to querying if you’re aiming to acquire a contract with an independent or traditional publisher; if you’re planning to self-publish, we absolutely encourage you to work with a professional editor, too. Of course, finding the right kind of editor for your manuscript can be an overwhelming process, so we’ve put together some definitions and examples to help you navigate that process.

First, it’s important to acknowledge that a professional editor during the drafting and self-editing process is different from an acquisitions editor, the latter of which is the type commonly represented in the movies or on television. An acquisitions editor is someone who works for a publisher and evaluates queries—or unsolicited manuscripts—and solicits manuscripts, negotiates contracts between the author (and possibly their agent) and the publishing house, and develops a plan to produce new and revised titles. These editors should only be contacted after a manuscript has been thoroughly edited.

And who helps with that editing process?

A developmental editor is someone who focuses on the “big picture” of your manuscript. Whether your genre is fiction or nonfiction, a developmental editor will look at the pacing of your story, its structure, and the way your protagonist evolves from beginning to end. We recommend bringing a developmental editor into your self-editing process when you need a deep-dive into your story, whether that’s to provide guidance or to ask specific questions about part(s) of your plot. Typically, developmental editors should be contacted first in the editing process; if you wind up deciding to rewrite a portion of your book, it’s best to do that before you’ve paid someone for grammatical edits or proofreading. However, not every writer needs to work with a developmental editor; in the absence of doing so, however, we recommend at least a peer review partner during the developmental self-editing stage.

Once you’re confident your story is structurally sound and “works,” a line editor, and/or a copy editor, typically is the next professional in the process. Many line editors also hybridize as copy editors and vice versa, including here at Josha, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll define each independently.

  • A line editor is someone who focuses on your writing style and voice. This means they’ll look for anywhere your storytelling perspective shifts or your writing drifts into “telling” versus “showing” as well as double-checking for any inconsistencies in your plot, narration, character descriptions, etc. (although some developmental editors may do this, too).
  • A copy editor is focused on grammar. They’ll check homophone usage (think “affect” and “effect”) and provide a consistency check on punctuation (capitalization, hyphenation, and numerals).

Whether you’re working with a line editor, copy editor, or a hybrid of the two, they should be contacted once you’re certain your story is fully developed and are looking to polish its presentation. As with developmental editing, it’s possible that you may be able to perform a thorough line/copy edit on your manuscript (and if you aspire to do so, check out our tips and tricks for that process here).

Lastly, a proofreader is someone who looks for typographical errors—typos—as well as checks the layout of the book once it’s been formatted for print or digital publication. If you’re working with a traditional or independent publisher, this is something they should take care of for you; however, if you’re self-publishing, we strongly recommend hiring a proofreader to be a final fresh set of eyes on your manuscript, double-checking anything you may be glossing over because you’ve been working on your book for so long (it happens to all of us—don’t worry!). And as with all stages of editing, it’s possible to do this yourself, too (and if you choose to go at it alone, here are our tips and tricks for that).

Of course, after reading a long list of professional editors and their uses can be overwhelming, and many writers wonder if they really need every type of editor.

Our answer is that while every manuscript needs each stage of editing, it’s not strictly necessary for each book to be edited by every type of editor.

For example, some developmental editors may perform a line edit as well, or they may even perform a light copy edit, too. Furthermore, some authors may be able to perform a strong enough self-edit developmentally that they can skip ahead to working with a copy editor to check their grammar, and it may be possible to ask that copy editor if they’d be willing to perform a high-level developmental check as they go along. Either way, we suggest having a professional set of eyes review your manuscript at some point.

Ultimately, every manuscript’s needs are unique, and our recommendation to authors is this: when in doubt, set it aside. Take a little time away from your manuscript (we suggest at least a week, likely a bit longer) and then revisit it, asking yourself if you think an editor would help improve your story’s presentation in any stage. If so, remember that there’s no shame in asking for help (or hiring someone to assist you). Many editors work freelance and do so because they enjoy helping writers hone their skills and polish their manuscripts.

As we always tell the authors we work with, editing is a team endeavor, not an authoritative relationship. You know your book—and your vision for it—better than anyone, and while an editor’s job is to help you make it the best version it can possibly be, it is up to you what edits you accept. Ultimately, my recommendation is to involve an editor at some point; after all, our editors are our first readers.

Editor’s Note: Josha Publishing, LLC, only considers completed manuscripts during the submissions process, which means that it should have already been through at least one developmental edit before it has been submitted. However, our editors do take on freelance work and may be contacted via their websites for developmental work independent of their roles with Josha. Please note that the editing process discussed in this post may or may not reflect the process an author experiences if they’ve submitted their manuscript to Josha for publication, as the editorial needs for each manuscript vary.


Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about booksstories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.

Editing Tips Part 7:
Types of Editors

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