How To Edit a Book: Ultimate Step-by-step Guide

Want to learn how to edit a book? Then in this post, I will show you how you can edit your book yourself or for your client.

You know, writing a book is damn easy when you compare it to editing a book.

Wait, wait. I don’t mean to scare you but this is what everyone is doing.

Everyone is scaring the writers about how difficult the editing process is and how much costlier it is.

But for you, as my community members, it will not be a difficult process. I will tell you the secret that you can use to edit any book seamlessly.

How Long Does it Take Self-Published Authors to Edit a Book?

You should be able to edit your book within 30 days after completing your first draft.

This is even applicable if you are hiring any professional editor.

You might be thinking that it is not at all matching up with the industry standard of 29-30 weeks.

So my friend let me tell you that the publishing industry is growing up very fast and if you take half a year just to edit your manuscript then how will you be able to publish your work.

This 30-week editing process can work when you are a professional writer and had a few bestselling books in the market. But if you are in self-publishing then your book editing process should not exceed more than 30 days.

Even in my book, I have outlined the process and how it can help you publish your book within 60 days.

How much should I charge to edit a book?

So if you are editing a book for any of your clients or even doing freelancing then you should check this post on how much to charge for book editing to know the exact pricing.

How Much Does it Cost to Edit a Book?

If you are self-editing your book then you can do it almost for free.

You only (if needed) have to spend money on getting some editing software to speed up the process, which costs between $20-$99, and that’s a one-time fee only. After that, you can use it for a lifetime.

There are other editing software packages available which have recurring payments but they usually don’t exceed $100.

How to Edit a Book

1. Read Your Manuscript out loud

Before you begin to work on anything – read aloud every word line by line.

When you write and rewrite then you are rearranging your information and your ear for the sound of the writing becomes corrupted.

Reading out loud will return you the true sound of your story.

And when you read out loud each and every word, line by a line forming sentences, you will see the drastic changes in your tone which will in turn demand editing.

For editing, reading a book out loud may seem like a very simple tip but it has proven to be the most useful in setting up the tone of your story; which your readers should enjoy.

When you read a long sentence and notice that you are breathless, then you will automatically know that you will have to break up your long sentence into two or three.

When reading aloud your manuscript, you will also discover that there are some sentences that are confusing and need a word added or removed for clarity’s sake.

2. Listen to Your Manuscript

Another great way to edit your novel is to listen to your manuscript.

Hearing your words will make you find the mistakes more easily and rapidly as you will be able to know which sentences make correct the sound and where there are typos.

You can ask your friends or family members to read your manuscript for you or you can use your computer or smartphone built-in speech synthesis function.

You can use either Mac or Windows PC to narrate your manuscript out loud. 

If you are a Mac user then you should click on the Apple logo at the top left of the screen, select System Preferences, go to Accessibility, and then click on Speech.

After that select System Voice and then select “Speak selected text when the key is pressed”. And then set your preferred key shortcut.

Once this feature is enabled, simply highlight any text that you want to hear and it will speak the selected text.

For PC users you can download and install the Narrator to get the most out of the text-to-speak feature.

3. Break Your Book in Sections to Edit

This step comes in handy if you are editing a long book.

It will be really helpful to edit a book when you break your book in sections, as you will know where to start the editing process and how the story will flow and what comes in the next section.

4. Use Editing Software

There are numerous editing software packages and online tools available which can help you in editing your books faster and in a more smooth way.

Though some are premium it is comparatively cheaper than hiring a professional editor.

Majority of these tools do have a free version and some of the premium versions have a one-time fee only. So it’s a win-win solution for you.

Even the free version of Grammarly has proven to be an effective way to do some of the basic editing, like spelling, grammar, punctuations, etc.

I personally use Grammarly to edit most of my stuff and I recommend that you should go for its premium version as it can really do the magic for you.

Here are some of the writing tools that you can use:

  1. Grammarly (my personal recommendation)
  2. Hemmingway
  3. ProWritingAid
  4. Ginger Software
  5. Language tool

Note: No editing tools can replace a human editor as all the tools can do is understand mistakes and rectify them but they can’t understand the feelings behind the writing and that every individual writer has their own writing style.

5. Cut Unnecessary Words

You don’t want unnecessary words in your writing. They do no good, and they slow you and your reader down.

Every word you write should be doing some work in the sentence.

Each sentence should either move the story forward or should provide some information you are trying to communicate to your reader.

Simply, a word is unnecessary if it’s doing no work, or if it’s doing work that’s being done by another word or phrase nearby.

To edit your novel you should read what you have written and cross out every word that is not contributing information.

If needed, you may have to cross out one or two words or even a sentence and replace them with one.

But most of the words that you will cross out here will require no replacement.

For example:

Long SentencesShort Alternative
It is my opinion that Michael Jackson’s dance form will live forever.I think that Michael Jackson’s dance form will live forever.
I would like to tell you that he is wrong here. He is wrong.
At that point in time I was still wearing hats.Then, I wore hats.

6. Think About What You Have Written

For any writer, it is very easy to embrace the writing muse to write something that sounds really dumb.

A writer will definitely make mistakes in his/her early drafts.

But before you type your final draft or do the thorough editing you should let at least a day pass and then read your manuscript again.

You may find that what you thought was brilliant and wrote on Monday borders on moronic by Wednesday.

On the other hand, you may discover that what seemed trivial when you wrote it is, in fact, profound.

7. Ask Yourself These Questions

While editing your novel or even if you are editing someone else’s novel you should ask yourself these questions first. 

  • Are there any punctuation errors?
  • Are any words vague?
  • Are there any grammatical errors?
  • Is it clear from the starting what the writing is all about?
  • Does each paragraph advance the subject?
  • Are any of the sentences too involved to follow with ease?
  • Is the tone consistent?
  • Is the information clear?
  • Are any more details, examples needed?
  • Are any technical details needed?
  • Is there any needless repetition?

8. Search and Remove Any Troubling Words

Every writer goes through this “Troubling Words” phase.

If you have a troubling word like whether to use whether or Weather, to or too, their or they’re, your or you’re, then you should find and replace them while editing your book.

Here are some of the troubling words that you might consider checking. These are:

  • Your/you’re
  • Then/than
  • There/they’re/their
  • It’s/its
  • Further/farther
  • Affect/effect
  • A lot/ alot

There are some editing tools also available that can help you in identifying and removing these troubling words which I will mention later in the post.

9. Remove Double Spaces

While writing many times a writer presses double space.

It is not a difficult part to edit. But it should be edited properly so that the final novel is free from any error including double spaces.

To edit you can just find-and-replace search. In MS-word, type two spaces in “find” and one space in “replace” and then hit enter.

It’s done. No more double spaces in your manuscript.

A quick and easy way to identify and replace double spaces while editing your book.

10. Check for Formatting

You should format your novel or your book only after the basic editing is completed.

A proper formatted manuscript shows the standard of your book.

Even when editing you can adjust the formatting if not done properly.

Why I am telling you to format your manuscript in editing mode is that proper formatting makes it easier for beta readers to read and it also makes your publisher understand your level of commitment.

I have a detailed post on formatting which you can read to know more on how to format your book.

11. Don’t Over-edit And Don’t overdo styling

When you are self-editing you may want to show perfection and want to make your book error-free.

You may find that you need to re-edit or edit more than once just to polish your manuscript.

If you ever feel so, JUST STOP.

Do yourself and your book a favor and don’t go too deep while editing your book.

Even after many editing and proofreading revisions there will be mistakes, maybe a human or printing error, that your beta reader may point out. So it is not required to go too deep during your editing process.

And the same goes while styling your manuscript. Don’t overdo it. Don’t add different styles, fonts, lines, or shapes just for the sake of style. Add only where it is necessary.

12. Show, Don’t Tell

When writing or editing, always make sure that you show your readers what the plot is or what’s has been going on in the story rather than just telling them.

If you want to understand more about show, don’t tell, then you can read my post Show,Don’t Tell to understand this amazing writing technique.

13. Stick to some of these basic rules for Titles

Before you start typing your final manuscript, use some of these rules to create a perfect title. 

  • The title of book should be typed on a separate page together with the author’s name. The author name should be below the title.
  • Capitalize the first word of the title. Preposition that have fewer than four letters should not be capitalized unless they are the first word of the title.


  1. The Needs of Some Chickens
  2. Of Mice and Men
  3. Beloved Dancers
  • Use Italics for the title of book.
  • Use quotation marks around the titles of articles, short stories, poem, and other short pieces of writing.

14. Use Your Common Sense

Now if you are reading this article on how to edit a novel then you might be thinking that in spite of me telling you to remove words that can be replaced by some simple words I am not always doing this in this post.

You will be thinking that I have violated my own advice.

For your information I am telling you that while writing any fiction and nonfiction book I also don’t follow all of these writing tips.

My main goal of writing any book or blog post is to please my readers, give them the information, teach them something, entertain them and give them what they want.

And these are the questions you must ask yourself. If you have provided your reader what they want then you have succeeded in your writing. If not, you have failed.

Writing for your reader is what counts.

Don’t use active voice because it is the right way. Don’t write with a strong noun and verb because you are supposed to.

Take the above recommendations as tips, not law. There is no law in writing.

15. Prepare a Perfect Manuscript

If you are proud of the manuscript you have written, you will have to present it in the best possible way.

If you are old school or prefer writing with a typewriter, then use a clean black typewriter ribbon. If the keys of the typewriter are dirty, clean them with a brush.

Use proper formatting, check the requirements of the publisher, and send them according to their publishing requirements.

All these factors play an important role in getting a manuscript approved or rejected.

If your publisher asks for a soft copy then make sure you have selected the correct page size, have suitable margins, etc.

If self-publishing, look at how to prepare your manuscript to create an eBook on your chosen platform or read How to Format an eBook post for more information.

My Final Take on Self Editing Your Book

Read all the above tips to edit your book. They will help you to successfully write and edit a book.

You can even add or do something else, which is completely fine.

Accept the fact that there is no good writing or bad writing. There are only two types of writing. There is writing that wakes up readers and writing that puts them to sleep.

Review these editing tips from time to time. If you can engage friends or family or beta readers to read your book prior to publishing, this is another good way to pick up errors but also to gauge interest in your book.

Stretch your vocabulary and most importantly develop your own writing language which resonates with your readers and either solves their problem or entertains them and gives them what they want from you. 

When you have done these, you will have the knowledge and wisdom to apply these book editing tips without any problem.

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