Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Editing | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process


This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to self-publish, rather than go the traditional publishing route. While some people who self-publish choose not to use a professional editor, I felt it was an important part of the process for me and something I was willing to invest in. In this post, I’ll go over the different types of editing, what I did in terms of editing, and how it worked.

Types of Editing

I’m one of those people who likes to put people and things into nice, neat boxes. I even got paid to do that back when I worked in corporate la-la land. Not actual boxes—that would be weird, even for me. And cruel—unless you put air holes in the boxes. No, these were Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator boxes. {You can read more of my musings on MBTI and writing here.}

But I digress. One of the things I found a wee bit frustrating when I started researching what was involved in hiring a professional editor was that everyone was all over the place with the terminology they used for different types of editing. What one person meant by one term was completely different than how someone else used it. Where were the neat, orderly boxes that my soul craved?

Based on what I gleaned in my research and talking to people, this is how I’ve categorized the different types of editing.


This is what I like to think of as the “Help! I’m not sure I’m on the right track!” type of editing. Early on in the process, writers may choose to have an editorial assessment. Their editor provides them with a letter which identifies their manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as in-depth feedback about things such as plot, characterization, structure, style etc. As a result of this assessment, they may make extensive revisions to their manuscript.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING (aka substantive or structural editing)

When a writer is further along in the process and has probably churned through a few drafts, then developmental editing might be appropriate. Like an editorial assessment, this type of editing also focuses on big-picture issues. The editor will usually provide you with an editorial letter along with margin comments on your manuscript.

LINE EDITING (aka stylistic editing or paragraph-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “copy editing”)

Line editing is less intense than developmental editing and more intense than copy editing. The editor looks at each line in your manuscript in detail. For example, entire sentences may be rewritten or reordered, word choice may be addressed, and some sections may be consolidated while others are expanded. I’ve seen this type of editing described as “making your prose sing.”

COPY EDITING (aka sentence-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “line editing”)

This level of editing is about providing a professional polish to your manuscript. Your editor will address things such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetitive vocabulary, usage, and consistency. He or she may do fact-checking. In my case, my editor pointed out that “Fruit Loops” are really “Froot Loops” and that it’s “Sleeping Beauty Castle” in Disneyland, not “Cinderella Castle.”


This is the final step before publication and involves one last pass to look for spelling, grammar, typos etc. that may have slipped through.

My Editing Process

Once I figured out what level of editing I wanted—namely, copy editing—I made my first mistake. I googled “copy editors” and was quickly overwhelmed. There were so many potential editors out there, all offering different types of services with dramatically different rates and processes. How was a confused writer supposed to choose the best way forward?

Well, in my case, after scarfing down a few soothing Oreo cookies, I turned to some of my trusted writing groups and buddies for advice and recommendations. I then made a shortlist of potential editors and contacted them to request details about their approach, rates, process, how many passes they did, and availability.

Chatting with them via email gave me an idea of their style and whether we might work well together, but the most important thing I did was to ask for a sample edit. I was amazed at the differences between the samples I got back. If an editor responded with an overly effusive email telling me what a great writer I was and that there were hardly any suggested edits on my sample, I crossed them off my list. An editor who didn’t try to flatter me, had extensive suggested edits and provided rationale/explanation for the suggestions made the cut. Cause, when you’re looking to publish something, having someone who makes you feel good is way down the priority list. Having someone who can help make your manuscript the best it can be is what’s important.

The other key thing I did was look at books that editors had worked on. If they looked polished and well-edited, then that was a good sign.

After I found someone who I thought was a good fit, whose rates I could afford, and who could work within my time frames, I hit the go button, sent him my manuscript, and forked over some money (half up front).

I also pointed out particular areas of concern I wanted him to keep an eye out for. For example, although I write in American English, having been an expat in Scotland and New Zealand for twelve years means British and Kiwi expressions sneak into my writing. And, I sent him a detailed timeline (because I write cozy mysteries, it’s really important to map out the murder, alibis etc. and make sure the timing is right) and a draft style sheet with character names, descriptions, locations etc.

My editor did two passes, each of which took two weeks. I thought this was a really good approach. It’s so much easier to catch things if you have two rounds of edits. The whole process took about seven weeks, which included time in-between each pass for my changes.

My Editor

My editor, Chris Brogden of EnglishGeek Editing, was awesome. He was easy to work with, delivered on time, and provided explanations behind his suggested changes. I really appreciated his keen eye and thoughtful edits. Most importantly, he respected my voice and style, making my words even better.

Chris handles the copy editing side of things, while his colleague, J.H. Moncreiff, focuses on developmental editing. I haven’t worked with J.H. in her editorial capacity, but I can tell you that she is an amazing writer.

If you touch base EnglishGeek Editing, be sure to tell them I said hi.

Want to know more?

Writer’s Digest talks about 10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You, But Should.

Jane Friedman is always a great go-to place for writing resources, including this post on How to Find an Editor as a Self-Published Author.

Reedsy has helpful tips How to Work with a Fiction Editor, as well as an e-mail course on How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript Like a Pro

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a helpful guide to Editorial Rates. You can find more information about how much you should expect to pay over at The Write Life’s post on Looking for a Book Editor?

If you like videos, check out Chris Fox’s How to Edit Your Novel series, How to Find and Work with a Professional Editor on The Creative Penn, and Jenna Moreci’s Different Types of Editors and How to Choose an Editor {Note: Jenna uses strong language at times, these may be NSFW.}

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

What are your experiences with editing?

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A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

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22 thoughts on “Editing | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process”

  1. So I am really curious about the responses you got to your sample edit and how different they were. That is kind of how I pick therapists. If they think there is nothing wrong with me, I know they are lying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for the shoutout, Ellen! I’m glad you had such a good experience with Chris. I use him for my books as well, so I can second your glowing review!

    Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult for a developmental editor to do a sample edit. How to point out big-picture issues with an entire novel after reading the first chapter? I usually end up mostly copy editing when potential clients ask me for a sample edit. When hiring a developmental editor, sample edits are a waste of time. I guess in that case, personal recommendations and getting a good sense of the person’s editing style and experience would make more sense.


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