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I'm done with self-editing the first draft of my manuscript. What should I do first? I'm having troubles on whether I should pick the latter or the former:

Step 1: Beta reading
Step 2: Hire a copyeditor
Step 3: Revising
Step 4: Submit manuscript to a publisher

Or

Step 1: Hire a copyeditor
Step 2: Beta reading
Step 3: Revising
Step 4: Submit manuscript to a publisher


Or should I go with the beta reading step, revise, and only then, hire a copyeditor before submitting it to a publisher?

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  • What did your self-editing process involve? May 22 at 7:10
  • Also, at least in the UK and USA, you usually submit to an agent rather than directly to a publisher (with possible exceptions for some smaller publishing houses) May 22 at 7:10
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Beta Readers:

Self-editing is good, but it's no substitute for either beta readers or copy editors. Self-editing is what you do so your work is legible and coherent enough for copy editors and beta readers to understand.

Beta readers are there to look at the content of your material and say stuff like, "Who is Sam, and why does he suddenly appear in chapter 5 like he's a long-time character?" and "You do realize you character is just blindly stumbling through the story making no decisions, right?" Beta readers point out to you stuff that, as the author, you can't see because the whole thing is in your head. All a reader can see is what is on metaphorical paper.

While you COULD have a copy editor go through your story right away, you run the risk of making major structural changes to the story after your beta readers rip through it. Trust me, you WANT them to rip through it. Let you beta readers know that, while they are free to point out spelling and grammatical errors, it's not their job. Anything bad enough that they can't understand your point will also stymie a copy editor, so it's fine if they point it out to you up front.

Copy editors are there to make sure the right words are used, the right grammar and sentence structure is present, and to let you know that you used the word 'just' just about a thousand times in an 80,000 word story. I have sometimes had problems finding good beta readers, and ended up having some before and some after the copy editing. It gets messy. A really good copy editor will do some of what a beta reader will do, but it's NOT their job. If you keep revising after you copy edit, everything you change is unedited. Unless, of course, you want to copy edit TWICE (an expensive proposition).

So go with beta readers before copy editors, like liquor before beer. You can do it the other way, but it leads to bad things.

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I plan to do two beta readings with my current manuscript. The first one with the more devoted/patient/friendly readers (i.e. friends and selected family members), and the second with more people closer to actual readers.

Between these two beta readings, I'll involve a professional editor (for at least one round of editing–some editors have offers for a reduced price on a second edit I might feel necessary if they suggest big changes...)

After each round of reading/editing, I'll do a rewrite.

It's a waste of money to send something I know has faults to a professional editor and it's a waste of beta-reader patience to do the same to them. Always rewrite the text after each set of feedback.

You can count on writing the first draft once and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite... and then if an agent/publisher gets involved, there is even more rewriting.

So I plan to do both of your versions.

The first beta (call it an alpha reading?) to get some external input in order to send a better text to the editor (don't want to waste money on stupid mistakes anyone but me would spot), and the second to get input from people who would like to read the text when for instance asking on social media groups for beta reading.

My self-edit roughly follows James Scott Bell's, "Revision and Self-Editing for Publication," with added stuff from other books, the internet, etc.

Speaking of editing. There are actually three types of editing:

If you're planning on sending the manuscript to a publisher/agent you should be ok with a line edit. If you plan to self-publish, the safest way to go is to do both a line and copy edit.

A developmental edit is probably only necessary if you (or your beta readers) feel your text needs it (or you feel you might even need a writing course but want to hear it from an editor...)

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I would recommend Random non-biased testing. Get random people (NOT YOUR FRIENDS) to read it and tell you how they feel, interpret and how they would improve your story before turning to any expensive methods. You can even post it on a forum for example.

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