The Different Facets of Editing …The Long Road (Part I)


By MJ Moores, OCT. Author. Editor.

Years ago, when I first started pursuing writing with the focus for getting published, I didn’t know there were different kinds of editors.

Now, my Creative Writing minor in University taught me the difference between the various types of editing: Content/Substantive, Line/Stylistic, Copy Editing, and Proofreading (no, the last two are not one-and-the-same, trust me). And those are important, key basics to grasp but …

The kind of editing I’m talking about is query-level manuscript editing vs. publishing house editing.

At the crux of the idea, they’re the same. Both types look at the key phases of editing I listed above; however, they do it in two very distinctive ways and for different purposes. As a freelance editor who has been through the traditional gamut with one novel, and currently works for a local small publisher, I have experienced and edited for both types, on both sides of the coin.

And trust me, they are different.

Query Editing

Here, you hire an editor to help you get your manuscript into shape for querying agents and publishers.

With a focus on manuscript formatting (as opposed to book formatting), it is the editor’s job to look at any one (or all) of the key forms of editing: Content/Line/Copy/Proof. You, the author, look at your budget and hire a reputable editor (after getting a free sample-edit completed on your first 10 pages or first chapter up to 3,000 words) who will make suggestions on how to improve your story.

Some freelance editors state upfront that they are brutal and refuse to “baby” authors with hand-holding and suggestive phrasing.

Some freelance editors are innate teachers who genuinely want to guide authors toward a better understanding of their chosen genre and the writers’ craft.

Some freelance editors are not what they seem. They might have a basic understanding of the elements above but have not mastered the idea of individual author styles, what agents and publishers are looking for, etc. They tend to follow the grammar rule book to the letter at the cost of the originality of the story and independent nature of each character.

Regardless, whichever kind of editor you choose (and your sample edits will help you find the one best suited to you), ultimately it is up to you – the author – to accept these suggested edits or not before submitting your final draft for query.

Written by

MJ Moores began her career as an English teacher in Ontario, Canada. Her love of storytelling and passion for writing has stayed with her since the age of nine. MJ relishes tales of adventure and journeys of self-realization. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres but speculative fiction remains her all time favourite. MJ runs the emerging writers’ website Infinite Pathways where she offers editing & publicity advice as well as platform building opportunities. Be sure to check out her sci/fi fantasy series, The Chronicles of Xannia. Connect with MJ at or

4 comments Write a comment

  1. To the best of my knowledge, the publishing industry (traditional or indie) does not use the term “query editing”. The standard types are developmental, substantive, structural, line, fact-checking, copy-editing, etc. There are query letters, but professional-level editing is quite a different endeavor. It would be helpful – especially to newer writers – for them to learn the appropriate terminology.

    • Agreed. “Query-Editing” is a term I have developed based on my observations of the system over the years. The list of editing terms you’ve provided is excellent and well-rounded. My point in this article is the way a freelance editor handles your manuscript will be different than how a traditional publishing editor does … because the publisher will want to place their own “spin” on your book (a topic for another day). Ultimately, the kinds of editing done to ready a book for the “querying stage” of the process looks and feels different (even though each type of editing option remains the same) than the suggestions authors will receive from an editor with a publishing house who is helping prepare your manuscript to their vision of what will sell.

      • With respect, a professional editor uses consistent industry-standard principles and terminology for preparing a manuscript for publication. I understand your point about the differences re: traditional publishers. The polishing/editing process – whether for querying an agent or publisher or for readying a book for self publishing – has the same steps and the same goals, i.e., finishing with a polished product that is ‘ready to go’ ( Anything less is disrespecting the writer and potential readers and not fulfilling the mandate of professional editing.

        When I pay a freelance editor $30/hr for basic editing or $50 an hour for substantive editing (see here for sample rates –, they’d better not be free-wheeling or approaching it using “observations of the system over the years” but working in accordance with accepted publishing standards.

        Perhaps to help writers, inserting personal views without links to industry terminology could be confusing or misleading unless they are presented as opinion or infomercial and not delivered as expert advice.

        • Ah, yes, it can be confusing to new writers if they are not already aware of the standard editing options. And again, I totally agree with you regarding the professionalism of freelance editors vs. publishing house editors. With a word count limit (that I exceeded between the two posts as it is), my goal with this particular post was not to rehash information that can be found on a myriad of other professional sites. It was my goal (and supported wholeheartedly by the WCYR Blog Editing Staff I might add) to provide a glimpse “behind the scenes” and reveal the little-known nuances that tend to catch new writers by surprise. As an editor, I give professional industry standard edits following the Chicago Manual of Style and best-writing practices. However, some of my clients who have gone on to working with small publishers, literary agents, and traditional publishing houses have wondered why additional edits of the same nature (for which they paid for previously) were being requested of them. Without fail, the discrepancy lies not in my or another freelance editor’s professionalism, but in the specific desires of that house/agent. If you feel that there is still a grievous misrepresentation of facts happening within these posts, I invite you to please send a direct email to the President of the WCYR, and we will make every effort to see that your concerns are addressed.

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