It may surprise you to discover there are three levels of editing that a novel should go through before publication. The first looks at the big-picture, foundational elements (such as story, plot, characterisation, marketability, pacing, voice, etc.). The second level looks at the sentences and paragraphs. The third level is the final check.
Though there can be more than one type of service for each of these levels, normally a manuscript will only need one service from each section. The service(s) an author might pay for will depend on both their intended route to publication and the state of their manuscript.
The descriptions below should be taken with a pinch of salt. They aren’t set in stone, and what one editor chooses to offer may be slightly different to what another editor chooses to offer, even though they call their services the same thing. For example, my line editing service also contains everything described under copy-editing.
Here’s a summary of the different services at each stage:
Feel free to share this infographic!
I’ve written a more detailed description of each service in my post ‘Everything You Need to Know About Finding and Hiring a Freelance Book Editor‘.
Want to help authors with big-picture editing but need to bolster your knowledge? Take a look at my online course Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory.