Common Terms Used in the Self Publishing Biz and the BFF understanding of them:
ARC - Advanced Reading Copy, a ready-for-publication manuscripts that an author sends out, at least a week prior to publication, to a trusted list of faithful fans for them to read and hopefully then to review (See Reviews) on the day the book goes on sale (aka: "goes live" or PDay - publication day) on the eBook vendor/website of their choice (e.g., Amazon - of course, being the biggest, but also Goodreads and BookBub, Smashwords, Kobo etc.)
Side Note: A Plea to Authors: Send out fully edited stories (proofread as well, if possible) to your ARC readers.
You will be doing yourself and your ARC team a kindness. If you are asking them to write a fair and honest review of your story, you want them to be reading the final copy. Don't put them in the awkward position of either having to come to you with a long list of editing issues they've found and had to laboriously transcribe (if they are conscientious and loyal to you) or of having to write a bad review of your book (if they are scrupulously honest and thinking of the future reading enjoyment of others). Be a good Book Friend and put your best work out there for all the world to read.
Conventions - are the societally agreed upon rules of language usage. There are both verbal and written conventions. Written Conventions usually refer specifically to grammar, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure. Written conventions are slower to change than verbal conventions. Written (contemporary) dialogue, therefore, often reflects the more quickly changing societal norms of verbal conventions.
Editing Types -
The “Developmental Edit” – As with the other services listed below, there are a vast array of understandings about what this entails throughout the industry. My understanding is that it is a service which offers support and guidance as the writer develops their story from outline through character development and plot formation. It looks at the big picture in regards to structure and theme, development of characters and plot.
These are the bones of the piece. They need to be balanced and strong to support the weight of the writer's meaning and vision.
The “Beta Read” - Most authors enlist the help of at least one beta reader. This term means different things to different people but at its core it is a test drive for the story so that an author can get feedback from one or more readers. It is a term adopted, or so I've been told, from the beta testers of computer software. The ideal beta reader gives honest feedback (see Beta Reading Questions for suggestions) about how the story and characters affected them. Many authors will request that a beta be alert for certain things, like how quickly they felt a connection with the protagonist, whether or not they found the dialogue natural or situations funny, and things of that nature. Authors need to know if the story resonates with readers.
I think of this as the testing of the reflexes (i.e., the 'funny bone'!) of the story as well as whether it is pleasing to the senses. How does the story make them feel? Does the language sound in-tune? Do they experience the story as the writer intended? Basically, how well does it do the job of communicating the author's meaning?
The “Copy Edit” and "Mechanical Edit" - These levels of editing are often linked together. Copy Editing is the surface editing that includes grammar, spelling and some punctuation. Mechanical Editing is about the Manual of Style used which includes spelling, abbreviations, punctuation, capitalization, formatting, etc.
I've organized these two kinds of editing together because they both deal with the overall professional look of the piece. I think of them as the polish, or cosmetics and wardrobe, that make the piece feel and look well-put-together and stylish.
The “Line Edit” and "Substantive Edit" – Line Editing is a term (say it with me:) defined and used slightly differently by different people. Some even use the term Line Edit and Copy Edit interchangeably. But the Line Edit looks at each line or sentence in the context of the story and takes into consideration vocabulary and syntax, general word choice and connotations, the structure of the sentence and the meaning it conveys. The Substantive Edit is more in depth than the Line Edit. It is similar to the Developmental Edit in that it looks at the overall story structure, but whereas the Developmental Edit looks at organization, continuity, and big picture elements of crafting the story, Substantive Editing looks at tightening the prose and crafting the language so that the meaning is clear.
I associate Line and Substantive Editing together because I think of them as working with the meat and muscle of the story. We tone and tighten and trim away the fat to make it as sleek, strong, fit and functional as possible.
The “Proof Read” – Proofreading is a term that originally applied to the word-by-word comparison of a first printing with the final draft of the story, making sure that the printers hadn’t accidentally changed anything (picture a "Fine-toothed comb" level of scrutiny where each line of text is looked at carefully, as the edge of a fine-toothed comb (or a ruler) is slowly moved down - or up!- the page.) Now-a-days, with online digital publishing, we have no worry regarding typesetting issues, but it often takes MANY EYES and read-throughs to catch all the typos and little errors humans invariably make.
This is like checking in the hall mirror right before you walk outside, to make sure your shoes match, slip isn't showing/tie is straight and hair is behaving.
Google Docs - Google has a format for sharing a document whereby many people can be invited to read and comment or edit the same piece, simultaneously and/or interactively. Schools use this a lot for peer group projects and critiquing each other's work. The editing tools are good and I personally have found it to be quite useful when working on a rush editing project. The author can access the earlier part of the document that I've already edited, while I am still working on the latter part, thereby saving time, plus the communication between author and editor is quick and easy, right there in the document.
Microsoft Word - MS Word, or Word is a word processing system that has a huge capability for creating and editing graphics and text. The editing tools are very good and the capability of the author to Track the Changes the editor makes, easily Accepting or Rejecting additions or deletions, is a major bonus. Comments in the margins are a helpful way for editors and authors to communicate. Another wonderful tool is Search, which enables author and editor to find every occurrence of a word or phrase in the document. Also, when the editor is finished and sends the document back to the author, they can look at the document revisions in different formats or even in Read Mode, which enables the author to see the document without all of the editor's cross outs and highlighted text that distract the eye and mind from the suggested content.
Reviews - Reviews are the blessing and bane of an independent author's life. Reviews advise readers, their scores affect the algorithms that determine ranking and marketing, and who knows what all. I am no expert. I just know that authors need and appreciate when their readers write constructive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or BookBub etc., not only to help other potential readers find a good book, but also to help them improve their craft. Unfortunately, reviews/reviewers are not always trustworthy, and prospective readers should try to get as good an overall impression from as many reviews as possible and not rely on only a few, either excellent or very bad reviews.
Personal aside: I am in the editing industry now because I didn't feel that many of the independently published books I was reading were being well-enough edited before publication. I would read a fantastic story that I wanted to write a good review for but ... my conscience wouldn't allow me to let those editing issues slide. So rather than write a bad review, I would often write to the author and ask if they were interested in feedback. If they were, then I might be able to send them my reading notes or some specifics of proofreading oversights. If they were happy to receive those and eager to improve their story then I would generally go ahead and write a favorable review. I've rarely written a bad review.
My Mamma taught me 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.' I think that reviews are too often motivated by the opposite. If a person likes a restaurant or an appliance or a book, they assume all is as it should be and they go on their way. But if something is wrong (service or food is poor, it broke in the first week, plot is not to their liking) they want to make sure no one else makes the same mistake, so they issue a warning in the form of a review. I think more people should also compliment, support and uplift the positive experiences in life with reviews. And that's all I have to say about that.
- Style refers to the author's manner of writing: how their voice is conveyed in their writing, the tense in which it is written, the mood of the story, the point of view, the syntax and word choice.
- A Manual of Style is an authority publication for a field (academic, literary, scientific, journalism) such as Associated Press or Chicago Manual of Style in the US. (see further listings below) These rules or standards provide uniformity for the industry or field in which they are adopted.
- A House Style Guide is the condensed version of a Manual of Style followed by a particular company or firm.
- A Style Sheet is also based on a particular Manual of Style and spells out the very specific decisions on style that are made for a particular piece of writing.
Examples of Manuals and Style Guides for English -
- In the USA: The Associated Press Stylebook Basic Books ISBN 978-0-917360-63-3, the Elements of Style. by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White., and the Chicago Manual of Style., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- In the UK: Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers Judith Butcher. 3rd ed. 1992 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-40074-0 and The Oxford Style Manual (2003 ed.). Combines The Oxford Guide to Style and The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, which concentrates on common problems.
- In Australia: Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers Snooks & Co for the Department of Finance and Administration. 6th ed. ISBN 0-7016-3648-3
- In Canada: The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing. by Dundurn Press in co-operation with Public Works and the Government Services Canada Translation Bureau. ISBN 1-55002-276-8
- In New Zealand: Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa Style Guide of the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc), and the Writing Style Guide, University of Otago.
Track Changes - this is a tool for ... wait for it ... tracking changes an editor makes in Microsoft Word documents! It is a way for an author to see what has been changed and gives them the opportunity to accept or reject the addition, deletions, correction, re-arrangements, or what-have-you. There is also room in the margin for Comments to be attached to portions of the document or to specific changes that have been made to explain or suggest or ask questions or just generally make comments to the author.
WIP - Work In Progress - this is also pretty self-explanatory in the right context. This is what we call the story manuscript while it is in the midst of being created and edited.