Breaking down the types of editing for your novel - Authors A.I.

Alessandra Torre
July 2, 2024

On a recent edition of First Draft Friday, I talked with Kim Catanzarite, an accomplished author, editor and instructor. Kim shared valuable insights into the various phases of editing, shedding light on a process that is crucial for any writer aiming to produce a polished and professional manuscript.

Here are some key takeaways from my conversation with Kim:

Self-editing is the first phase

After completing the first draft, the writer should undertake an initial self-edit. This involves reading through the manuscript multiple times to identify pacing issues, unclear descriptions, or overly detailed sections. It’s important not to share this raw draft with others as it’s often not yet ready for external feedback.

The role of beta readers

Beta readers come into play after the initial self-edit. They provide feedback on the content, focusing on areas such as plot consistency, character development, and engagement. Kim emphasizes the importance of choosing beta readers who are avid readers or writers, as they can offer more constructive and insightful feedback.

Iterative beta reading

Conducting multiple rounds of beta reading is essential. The first round helps identify major issues, while subsequent rounds with different readers can help refine the manuscript further. After implementing beta readers’ feedback, it’s crucial to set the manuscript aside before reviewing it again for additional improvements.

Developmental editing

Once the manuscript has been refined through self-editing and beta reading, it’s time for a developmental editor. This professional focuses on the overall structure, pacing, and character arcs, providing detailed feedback that often includes hundreds of comments. It’s important for authors to understand that they don’t have to implement every suggestion; they should consider the feedback and decide what aligns best with their vision for the book.

Copy editing

The next phase is copy editing, where the focus shifts to the finer details of the manuscript. A copy editor will meticulously check for grammatical errors, punctuation, sentence structure, and overall readability. While authors should aim to address as many of these issues as possible before submitting to a copy editor, the editor’s role is to ensure the manuscript is polished and free of technical errors.


After copy editing, the manuscript requires proofreading to catch any remaining errors. This can be done by a professional proofreader or through a pool of trusted readers who can identify mistakes missed in previous rounds. It’s also beneficial for authors to proofread their work in different formats, such as on a Kindle or in printed form, as this can help spot errors that were previously overlooked.

The importance of genre-specific editors

When choosing an editor, it’s crucial to find someone experienced in the specific genre of the manuscript. Each genre has its own conventions and expectations, and a genre-specific editor can provide more relevant and effective feedback.

It was a great discussion, one you won’t want to miss! Click below to watch our 30-minute recording and hear the questions we answered from the live audience. Keep scrolling if you’d prefer to read the transcript.

More info:

Try out Marlowe, our A.I., for a critique of your novel:

Check out Kim Catanzarite’s books on BingeBooks.

Enjoy the show? Check out our past First Draft Friday episodes.


Alessandra Torre: Hello everyone, welcome to First Draft Friday. I am your host with Authors A.I. My name is Alessandra Torre and I am so excited today to introduce Kim Catanzarite. I should have practiced that. Did I say that correctly? 

Kim Catanzarite: You did. Very good. 

Alessandra Torre: Fantastic! Kim is an author and we’re going to be talking all about the different phases of editing. So I’m excited to jump into this topic. I can see that you guys are already coming into the room as we go on, don’t be shy. If you have any questions or comments to contribute, pop them into the chat. We’re going to answer as many of those as we can. But without further ado, welcome to the show, Kim. It’s great to have you here. Do you want to just introduce yourself to the audience? 

Kim Catanzarite: Sure, sure. Thank you so much for having me. I’m Kim Catanzarite. I am the author of the Jovian Universe science fiction series. I am also an editor. I edit for traditional publishers and self-publishers. I am a developmental editor and a copy editor. I’m also an instructor for Writer’s Digest University. I teach copy editing courses and I write for Writer’s Digest. Plus, I have my own blog that I write about self-publishing and writing craft. So anyway, I’m very excited to talk about this topic because, as I’ve been on my writing journey, I have met so many writers that don’t know about the editorial process. And what they do is they basically write their book pretty much on their own. They self-edit it. They keep writing, writing, writing. And then they think at the end they’ll just get a copy editor. And that’s really not the best way to do it. And it does not produce the best product that you could be producing. So if you take it through the editorial process, you know that when you come to the end, you’re going to have a very good product that’s polished and ready for the public. So I think this is really important for people. 

Alessandra Torre: And before we jump into kind of maybe the different stages, can you describe the difference between like how many different types of editors are there and what’s the difference between like a copy editor and a developmental editor? And hello to everybody that is chiming in. It’s great to have you here. 

Kim Catanzarite: Yeah. There are developmental editors first. And basically, the developmental editor focuses on the content of the book. So the story, what’s happening in the book, the pacing, the storyline, the characters, the character arcs, all those big things. The developmental editor will comment on what you’ve written and show you where you’ve gone astray. And they will give you the questions that you need to consider. How could I have done this differently? Or maybe this really didn’t work, or maybe I could go deeper into an emotion here. They point out all those kinds of things from the beginning of the book to the end. When you’re done with developmental editing, and that means the book is nailed down. I mean, the content is from beginning to end the way that you want it. It’s in the best shape it can be. 

Alessandra Torre: Okay. So sorry. I just wanna make sure I’m keeping track. So is developmental editing the first phase? 

Kim Catanzarite: It’s actually not the very first phase. You do the first phase on your own. 

Alessandra Torre: Okay. When do we self-edit? So write the book. Then…

Kim Catanzarite: The first phase is writing the first draft. And, the first draft is so much fun. I love writing the first draft because there are no expectations. You’re writing. You’re having a good time. You think it’s marvelous. Usually, you know, your brain’s telling you how great it is, and you just write and write and write. And if you come to a hard part or something that’s difficult, you just skip it and you keep going, you know? So by the time you get to the end of the first draft, you are the only one who understands your book pretty much, even though you think you got everything on the page, you really most likely did not. And there’s probably a lot of stuff that won’t make sense to anybody but you. So the first phase is actually self-editing. Don’t plan to give your first draft to anybody because it’s not going to help you. And they’re going to just get frustrated. They won’t understand what they’re reading and they’ll be like, oh my God, you know, this is a mess. And they won’t want to tell you that because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. So you have to self-edit, at least read the book through twice and go through and really try to get yourself in the mindset of the reader and look for those things where, you know, the pacing was either very slow or something was going on and you really didn’t describe it very well, or you didn’t go into enough detail, or you went into too much detail, you know, try to weed out all of those, kind of annoying things that other people don’t want to spend their time reading. So that’s the first phase. Write the first draft and then don’t give it away yet. Maybe even put it aside for that week or two weeks, if you can have the patience to do that and then go back in and read it a couple of times, at least a couple of times, then set up a beta reader. So the beta reader is the second phase. And beta readers for people who don’t know or are nonprofessional people that will give you feedback. And they can be anybody, basically.

But you have to be careful with who you choose. You would like to have somebody that’s either a writer because they’re in this too. And they know what to look for. Or a reader who reads a lot so they know what a good book feels like. And they know what they like. It’s not a great idea to use family, even though you can if you have to use a family member, it’s okay. It’s just that it’s difficult for a family person to give you feedback. Nobody wants to hurt your feelings. But anyway, this is the first beta reader, so you need to tell them to concentrate just on the content. So don’t get picky about sentences or word choice or any of that stuff. You want to know, you know, where did you get bored when you were reading? In what workplaces did the characters not seem true to life? Where was the dialogue. All those kinds of things. They can give you feedback. Now, beta readers, in my experience, don’t give that much feedback. You might get 20-30 comments on your manuscript, and that is not a lot, but you can work with it. You know you’ll get it back. And one thing you have to try to do is not to get defensive, because you know they’re going to pick out the things that aren’t great. Hopefully, they’ll also pick out some spots where they say, oh my God, this was wonderful, you know? Or I was crying here. You know, the things that you want to hear. So it would be a mix of things, but you know, they are going to pick out the things that they didn’t get. And you’re going to want to defend your book and say, oh, but it was right there. You know, it says it right there. So you have to kind of get over that. And what I do is I will read all of the notes at once, and I do it really fast, too, because I get very emotional about it. So I read all the notes at once, and then I put it away, and I just let myself kind of calm down and just relax a little bit before I go back in and say, okay, well, I can handle this. I’m just going to tackle each thing one at a time. The other thing about beta readers is that you need to realize you may not agree with everything they say, and that is OK if it doesn’t make sense to you. Don’t feel like you have to make their suggestion work because it’s your book. You know what you’re trying to do. They don’t. And they might not be writers or, you know, prolific readers. So their advice is just pointing something out that didn’t work for them. So maybe there is a small problem there, but any advice they give you may not be the right advice for you. What else can I say? 

Alessandra Torre: Is it important that you find beta readers that read your genre? 

Kim Catanzarite: I don’t think so. I think it’s important that they are readers just in general, that they read a lot. The more they read, the better. If you can find people in your genre, yes, definitely. That’s great. But a lot of people can’t, you know, a lot of people are really just trying to find 1 or 2 people who will read their manuscript, and that’s okay. That’s okay. You can use those two people. But. You know, it’s you gotta you you need somebody to give you feedback. When I first started writing, I just wrote on my own completely. I didn’t really know many writers, and I didn’t get feedback from anyone, and therefore I did not grow as a writer for a long time because I just kept working by myself. But you really need that. You really need the feedback so that you can get better. 

Alessandra Torre: One audience member. CandidlyEL says, “Do you have any idea of where we can find beta readers?” 

Kim Catanzarite: Well, you need to get active in the writing community, whether it’s online or locally. There are a lot of times, like libraries will have writing group meetings and, if you don’t do something in person or even a conference if you go to a writer’s conference or an author’s conference, you know, whoever you chat with, say, do you ever need beta readers? I need beta readers. We could swap, that sort of thing. There’s also, you know, if you get to know people online, even bookstagram on Instagram, get to know a few people. And, people on social media are always asking for beta readers and they usually find them. So I think that works pretty well. 

Alessandra Torre: Yeah. And my son was writing a military science fiction book, and I didn’t have any contacts in that space. And we ran just a Facebook ad. I think we spent like $30 and just said, this is that here’s the description. Is anyone interested in being a beta reader? You know, and he had like 4 or 5 people. You don’t need a lot. So there are a lot you go for. 

Kim Catanzarite: Four or 5 is great. 

Alessandra Torre: I’ve heard people post on their library’s bulletin board, you know, like, physically put like a piece of paper up, you know, so there’s a lot of different places. We got, Ruth from YouTube said, “I think writer circles are good as well.” 

Kim Catanzarite: Yeah. 

Alessandra Torre: So that’s a great suggestion. Okay. So beta reading. So is it self-editing, phase one. Beta readers, phase two. 

Kim Catanzarite: Yeah. Self-editing and then beta readers. Phase two. But what I wanted to say is, after you go through your beta reader comments and you make changes, read through the manuscript again. You’re going to read the manuscript at least a dozen times. Probably longer. It’ll be one more time than you can stand. 

Alessandra Torre: or 5 more times than you can stand. 

Kim Catanzarite: So, yeah, you read it again because, and even put it aside if you can, a lot of people don’t like to put it aside because we’re all in such a big hurry. Oh, my God, I just want to get this book out. I want to get this book out. But it’s like. It’s a process, like in your brain, and you have to give yourself time and space to develop ideas. You know, if you just force them all out and you’re in a big hurry, you’re going to miss, you’re going to miss out on expanding on some of your ideas. So anyway, I say, you know, read through it again. You’re probably going to make a lot more changes. And then the next phase is actually to get two more beta readers and send it to two more people. And this time it’s in much better shape. So they’re going to make different kinds of comments. And you need to do it. I mean, when you’re editing, you need to do more than one phase.

You know, you need to do a few phases, and you’re gradually just going to move through the process. And the book is going to get better and better and better as you go. So save your even better beta readers for this second round of beta readers and see what kind of feedback you get from them and input what you’re going to input, and change what you’re going to change, and then put it aside, maybe for a week, and then read through your book again. And if you feel like it’s in pretty good shape, like, oh, this is getting good now. I’m, you know, I don’t have those boring parts in there anymore, you know, and it’s and it’s getting pretty good. Then you should start thinking about hiring a professional because you’re ready for it. You know, you’ve weeded out a lot of the bad stuff. And the professionals are going to see. They’re still going to see a lot of stuff. They’re still going to comment a lot. When I do a developmental edit, there are sometimes 400 comments. There’s a lot because we’re really looking at every sentence, you know, and every paragraph. And we have a response to whatever scene is happening.

And if it’s important for you to know something, I will make a comment. I am not worried about hurting anybody’s feelings. I want to help that person make a better book. So I don’t hold back. And, of course everything is done politely and nicely, and I also comment a lot when I like something. I always comment when I like something. So it’s a mix of things as the writer goes through the manuscript. They’re seeing the good stuff and they’re like, oh yeah, that makes me feel so good. And then they’re seeing the other stuff and they’re like, “Oh, how did I not see that?” I hear that all the time. How did I not see that? Because we don’t see our own errors. We don’t see our own weaknesses. We just think it looks the way we expected it to look. And, you know, and it works. So anyway, at this point, you’re ready for your developmental editor. And, you know, they are professional. So they will know all about story structure, pacing, the character arcs, like I said before, just all of the big stuff. And you will just get lots of comments and, and again, you know, when you get the book back with the comments, you have to decide what works for you. And if something doesn’t work for you, it’s okay that a professional told you that. You have to consider it. But if it doesn’t work and you’re against it, you don’t have to do it. You know, it’s your book. That’s what I always tell my clients. It’s your book, so you know it better than anybody. 

Alessandra Torre: David from YouTube said, “It seems to me that your editor needs to be well versed in the genre of your book.” Do you agree with that? 

Kim Catanzarite: Yeah, I do, because, you know, there are the tropes and you just have to know what the genre expects. And, you know, if you have only worked on romance novels, you’re not going to be a good editor for science fiction. It’s just two completely different things. So you do want to look for somebody who has experience editing in your genre, for sure. 

Alessandra Torre: And when someone first reaches out, like to a developmental editor. Do they need to put any? Like a lot of times when I reach out to a developmental editor, I’m like, I have thick skin, so give me, give me everything, you know, like, don’t hold back. But is it nice to know, as a developmental editor coming from that side, is it nice to know if this is like a new scared debut author, or if this is an author that wants just, you know, the harsh criticism? What do you like to know about a book or a reader before you take them on as a client? 

Kim Catanzarite: Yeah, I think that if it’s a person and they’ve written their first book, I definitely have a different mindset. Because I’m going to see different kinds of errors. I’m going to see all different kinds of mistakes, if it’s the first book. So yeah, I probably. I, I yeah, I would want to know that. And I usually do know that before I get started. So. I would handle it a little bit more gently, I think I would. 

Alessandra Torre: Elaine from YouTube said, “Do developmental editors ignore proofreading errors?” 

Kim Catanzarite: Yeah they do. Not all of them do. Like, you know, it’s so funny because I’ve been copy editing for so long that when I developmental edit, I don’t mean to, but I’m fixing some things. Yeah. And they certainly don’t have to because you do really want them focused on the story structure and the big content issues. And you don’t want them looking really closely at the writing. So, yeah, they’ll miss proofreading stuff for sure. 

Alessandra Torre: So they won’t typically, like if there’s a clunky sentence or awkward dialogue, do they, do they comment on that or it’s really more just the scene isn’t necessary or doesn’t seem to have a purpose or drags on too long? It’s more like those type of things. 

Kim Catanzarite: If there is an issue with the dialogue, they might, they might make a comment like, you need to smooth this out. It doesn’t sound real, or there’s a lot of clunkiness here. You better check this out. Yeah, but they won’t go and they won’t do the copy editing for you. They might comment on it, though. Yeah. 

Alessandra Torre: We have a really great question, but I’m not sure we’re going to have time for this question. So I’m going to just introduce it. And then if we have time to get to it at the end, because we are two-thirds of the way in and we still have a few more phases of editing. But for okay, we said, “Can you discuss the kind of mistakes that first-time writers make in their manuscript?” If that’s something you could answer in a minute, then maybe we jump into it. Otherwise, I can hold it and we’ll see if we have time at the end. 

Kim Catanzarite: Okay. Well, I can tell you right now, first-time novelists often make a point-of-view mistake where they do the head hopping. I don’t know if everybody knows what that is, but if you’re in a character’s point of view, you can’t tell the reader what a different character is thinking in their head. The writers do it all the time. They’ll have their main narrator, their protagonist, and they’ll be showing you what that person’s thinking, and then they’ll jump into somebody else and say what they thought about that and it happens a lot. It happens a lot. 

Alessandra Torre: That’s fantastic. Thank you. Okay, so I guess I’m trying to follow along the stages. So the third stage is…? 

Kim Catanzarite: Where were we? We were at developmental editing. Okay, so you’re going to get your 400 comments back and you’re going to go through all of them. And then you really, really this time you need to put it aside. And this next time that when you come back to that manuscript, you are going to take a closer look at the writing, and you are going to try to weed out those mistakes, and you’re going to try to, you know, get your grammar into as good a shape as you can and just, just look closely at the writing itself, because the next stage is copy editing. And even though your professional copy editor is going to do all of this for you, you know, weeding out the errors, making those sentences smooth. You do want it to be as good as it can be when you give it to her, because it’s a huge job. It’s looking at every single sentence. It will benefit you if you have done some self-editing in that vein when it gets to the copy editor. 

Alessandra Torre: All right. So copy edit. So a quick question on developmental editing. Do you go back and forth with the author multiple times in that phase?

Kim Catanzarite: You know, you can. It depends on what the issues were and how much rewriting. Like if you wrote a lot of new content in that phase, you might want another developmental editing round. Okay. Yeah. 

Alessandra Torre: All right. So then it goes to the copy editor. And the copy editor looks at actual specific word choice, smoothness… 

Kim Catanzarite: Yes, exactly. Every single sentence and checking the punctuation. Weeding out grammar mistakes. Trying to make every sentence nice and smooth. Usually that comes with the weeding out of the errors. So, yeah, that’s what the copy editor does. They catch the typos, the misspellings. All that stuff that can be embarrassing. You know, all the commas. They have to check all the commas!

Alessandra Torre: No author knows proper commas. I’ve given up on trying to learn commas. I take what the copy editor says and trust them. 

Kim Catanzarite: So, yeah, there are so many rules for commas. It’s crazy. 

Alessandra Torre: So then after the copy editor, what’s next? Or is there something you wanted to add before we moved on to the next phase? 

Kim Catanzarite: No, I’m ready to move on to. It’s the proofreading phase, and this is what I suggest. You can do it one of two ways. You can either hire a professional proofreader because, you know, the copy editor has made so many changes that they’re going to miss a few things. They’re definitely going to miss a few things. So you definitely need a proofreader after your copy editor just to catch those little mistakes. You can either hire a professional or if you have a lot of writer and reader friends, you can make a pool of proofreaders. And when you get your ARC made or. You know, is this just for self publishers or traditional publishers, too?

Alessandra Torre: We’re mostly self-publishers. 

Kim Catanzarite: So when you get your ARCs made, send them to 5 or 6 people and just ask them to read the book and to mark any errors that they come across. And usually, people will find all different things, like each person will find different mistakes. So you’re like weeding them all out in one round and it’s great. Of course, when that is done, you are still going to proofread yourself because you have to read the book a hundred times before you publish it. But no, I seriously, I will proofread until I find less than three mistakes. And then I say, okay, it’s gotten there, but it can take me four or five rounds of proofreading my own book before I’m like, okay. 

Alessandra Torre: And I like to put my book in ebook format, and read it on my phone or my Kindle as my final sweep because it’s amazing. Like you’re blind sometimes to the mistakes when on a computer, but when you’re just sitting on your couch and you’re just reading it like you would a reader, then you’re like, oh, you know, I see this and I see that.

Kim Catanzarite: I don’t know why that happens, but that is so true. It’s like you can read it on paper and you’ll find certain mistakes, but then you’ll read it on your Kindle and you’ll be like, how did I miss this? You know, and it’s just obvious to you, you know? I don’t know. It’s a trick of the mind. 

Alessandra Torre: And a traditional publisher I worked with actually Fedexed me my manuscript in paper format. It was like a huge stack. And I read through and I marked it up with a pen and I loved that. I wouldn’t do that with self-publishing because I can’t justify that much paper and ink, but it really was like a different experience. And I feel sorry for whoever had to go through all my pages and all my handwritten notes and margins and changes, but …

Kim Catanzarite: I know, but you know what? That’s the old-fashioned way of doing it. That’s how all books used to be done. And, and I do believe that you catch more on paper. Definitely, because I don’t know what it is about the screen, but something about paper and having a pencil in your hand. You do catch more. 

Alessandra Torre: And I interview Dean Koontz and he writes every day. He writes and writes, and then he’ll edit, edit, edit on his computer, and then he prints it out and he goes through it by pen, and then he doesn’t move on to the next scene until he does that. Which is crazy to me, but that’s so interesting. I don’t mean crazy, but, you know,. 

Kim Catanzarite: That’s right. I wait until I’m done with the book and I print out the whole thing, and I’ll copy edit that way. Yeah. 

Alessandra Torre: Okay. So proofreading and then is there a final stage after that or is proofreading the last stage? 

Kim Catanzarite: Well, once the proofreading is done and you’ve taken it through the proofreading pool, I mean, you can do that twice and find some more people to get the cleaner copy and have somebody read your cleanest copy. I think that’s always a good idea. And then you are done. 

Alessandra Torre: And another interesting thing. I spoke to a huge author. He’s an indie bestseller, many, many times over, and he sends out 150 ARCs. And the first page says, let me know if you find any typos. And that’s his proofreading phase. He sends it out to 150 people, and then they write back any typos that they see. And I’m sure he goes to the same typo like a gazillion times. But I feel like that’s a pretty clean copy. By the time 100 eagle-eyed readers didn’t find it. 

Kim Catanzarite: Definitely. so thorough. But you know, that’s smart because otherwise you publish it and then you get a message from a reader. 

Alessandra Torre: We are out of time. But this comment from a Facebook user “With all this editing, I wonder how books get published with so many errors.” It’s because so many authors do not go through all of these phases of editing which is why these talks like this are so important. I currently have books published with Thomas Mercer, and they go through so many edits. And I was still reading my new release and I saw a typo and I was like, oh, you know, like somehow one got through the cracks. So, you know, we didn’t catch it. 

Kim Catanzarite: But I think every published book just automatically has at least one typo that’s going to drive you crazy. 

Alessandra Torre: There’s something there, or there’s a sentence that doesn’t have a period on the end that made it through. But thank you so much, Kim, for talking us through this process and for sharing so much fantastic information. If the viewers watching or anyone watching the replay is interested in finding out more about you or your books, where’s the best place for them to go? 

Kim Catanzarite: They can go to 

Alessandra Torre: And thank you again. For everyone who joined us, if you have not yet visited Authors.AI, we have an artificial intelligence there, Marlowe, that can read your manuscript and give you feedback in just a few minutes. And we do not do any generative AI training. So you don’t have to worry about that in terms of your manuscript. But thank you all. Thank you so much, Kim. And I will see you in two weeks, guys, with another First Draft Friday. Thank you. 

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