After the beta reader stage is done and you have carefully reviewed their suggestions and applied them as needed, you may want to have it developmentally edited. This just means helping you hone your story and characters. I do some of this, but my real expertise comes in the next phases: copy editing and proofreading. There are definitely many authors who skip right from writing to copy editing. And some can, but they are rare creatures. If I’m hired to do a copy edit and find it’s far from ready, I’ll let you know and we can put a hold on your edit. If it is ready, I’ll still have plenty to do. (Please don’t take it personally. Everyone has (and needs) edits—even editors when they’re writing!)
You’ll likely see corrections for grammar, spelling, punctuation (which are all things checked during proofreading too), as well as style inconsistencies, word choice, awkward phrasing, redundancy, wordiness, incoherent sentences, etc. You’ll also have comments from me with suggestions or questions if I’m lost with something minor in the story or character or something just doesn’t add up.
When I’m done, I send it back to you to make the changes. I can’t force you to make them (unless you ask me to accept them for you), but keep in mind that anything I mark is done for a reason. Usually a “rule” type of reason. If you ever question why, ask! I’d rather explain why than have you think I’m just giving you grief. After all, more marks from me means more work and time for me too. I make changes and suggestions that will take your writing to the next level. I never want to take away from your story or your voice. We’re in this together. I want to help make your work shine.
Once you’ve incorporated all the changes, it’s always a good idea to then get it proofread. This checks over everything one more time to make sure nothing was accidentally added in or deleted and it’s ready for publication. You’d be amazed how often a simple change can make a mess of things. You’d rather a proofreader find that than a reader, right?
That said, I know that many authors, especially those self-publishing, simply don’t have the means to pay for proofreading and copy editing. If you have to pick one or the other, go with copy editing. You get much more out of it overall. But it’s absolutely worth it to do both. It’s amazing what can sneak in between a copy edit and publishing.
Just please promise me that you won’t write a book and then start selling it without a professional editor having gone through it at least once. Just like with beta readers, if you don’t have it edited (and I’m not talking about your cousin who was an English major), readers will notice. And they will care.
So, let me know where you are in the process, what you need (or what you think you need) and we’ll get a plan together.