How Long Does it Take to Edit a Book?

This article will provide you will all the information you need to answer the question - how long does it take to edit a book?

The article outlines all the important concepts to consider when thinking about book editing and gives links to further information where needed.

Knowing the time it will take for your book to be edited is an important part of the publishing process.

It is essential to understand how long an editing service will take in order to be able to juggle the time taken for rewrites, in addition to booking other services such as copyediting, proofreading, and even eBook conversion.

Types of Editing

The best way to understand the editorial process is to begin with traditional book publishing.

When a publisher is preparing a book for publication, the manuscript will undergo three key stages in the editorial process:

  • Developmental editing.
  • Copy editing.
  • Proofreading.

At each stage, a different type of book editor is employed.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is the first step in the book editing process. It is sometimes called structural editing, or substantive editing, but it’s all the same thing.

It involves a manuscript being assessed for wider structural issues and plot holes. The developmental editor will read the manuscript, using Microsoft Word, and look to make suggestions to lift the story to the next level.

The developmental editor will be looking for several potential problems. The most common of these include:

  • Issues with the plot.
  • Character development.
  • Structural issues.
  • Issues with the narrative and viewpoint.
  • Genre expectations.

These are just a few of the key issues that a developmental editor will assess. Each manuscript is different, and each manuscript will require intelligent and comprehensive assessments from a developmental editor.

The result of developmental editing is a manuscript that contains both tracked changes and embedded comments. There will also be a separate editor's report that will outline the key problems and the suggestions that can be made to resolve these problems.

Developmental editing is a time-consuming process, and the turnaround time is normally measured in weeks and months, not days. However, the final product can transform a good novel into a great novel.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is the process of removing typos and mistakes from a manuscript. The copy editor will work at a sentence level, making changes to words and punctuation. They will also be looking to apply consistency throughout the novel. They will ensure that the correct approach is applied to each sentence and paragraph.

Copy editors work with style manuals. These are manuals that set out the best practice for how a book should be formatted and structured - the most common examples of style manuals are the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press. If you are considering a copyeditor, you should discuss which style manual they will use for your novel.

The copy edit will produce a manuscript that contains a large number of sentence-level tracked changes and comments. The writer will then be expected to look at each of these changes in turn and accept or reject them as they see fit.

Once the copy edit has been completed, the manuscript will nearly be ready for publication.


A proofreader's role is to ensure that no additional errors have been added to a manuscript when it is converted to either print-ready PDF or digital format. A proofread will typically happen after a copy edit and once the files have been converted.

It is not uncommon for self-published writers to skip the proofreading stage of the process. This is often merely a matter of budget constraints. Proofreading is time-consuming, and therefore, not an inexpensive process. It makes no financial sense for writers working on a small budget for a proofread to be completed on a manuscript that has already been copyedited.

However, if budget constraints allow, a proofread is a vital step in catching those final errors before publication.

How Long Does an Edit Take?

The process of providing a developmental edit for a novel is a complicated and time-consuming task. On the surface, it may seem that providing an edit should be something that takes an equivalent time to reading a novel, but this is simply not the case.

Reading is a very different experience from editing.

In many ways, reading is a passive and inactive activity, in which the reader looks to become lost in the world created by the writer. For an editor, the process is almost the opposite. Editing a book is an active process in which the editor is looking to engage with every element of the book as it unfolds. An editor cannot afford to become lost in a world, they must always be questioning the words on the page from a critical angle. The editor is always looking at what is written and seeking ways to improve and change the prose to create a better reading experience.

This means that developmental editing is a stop and start affair, which takes time.

An editor is constantly stopping and writing notes, correcting sentences and challenging the words that have been presented on the page. It is not unusual for an editor to have to reread a section or chapter. It is also far from uncommon for an editor to have to go back and reread sections from previous chapters. Add to this, fact-checking and line editing, and you can see how the editing process can quickly become complex and time-consuming.

Every novel is different, and each comes with its own level of complexity and depth of problems. Though many novels will often share similar issues, how these challenges are addressed and solved will vary with each writer and each novel. The fact that each novel brings with it its own problems means that the developmental editing process can be further slowed as the editor seeks to discover which problems are the most pressing and how these can be solved with the least amount of work.

At BubbleCow, we offer line editing alongside developmental editing, which means the editorial process is further delayed as the editor corrects sentence-level issues. Many consistent problems can indeed be fixed with careful find and replace, but this is only a fraction of the alterations that need to be made; it is not uncommon for a manuscript to have hundreds, if not thousands, of small line level alterations once an edit is complete.

Finally, an editor will be creating an editor's report alongside any comments and alterations made to the manuscript. This report is not uncommon to be many pages in length, which means it is both complex and time-consuming to create. It is important for an editor to identify potential problems with a novel and offer the writer at least one viable solution to resolve these problems.

It may also be the case that a novel contains a more complex issue that requires a detailed and thoughtful examination. If this is the situation, it can often take several pages of the report to resolve and even need at least one additional conversation with the writer before the novel can progress to the next level.

This brings us to the question of just how long a novel will take to edit.

There is no simple answer to this question, but over the years at BubleCow we have come to understand that an experienced editor working with a well-written novel can expect to edit between 5 and 10,000 words per day.

This means that for a novel of 60,000 words will take somewhere between one and two weeks to complete.

There is one more consideration to take into account. Experienced editors are always busy. If you come across a professional editor that's not busy, it should ring alarm bells. Therefore, whilst it may take two weeks for a book to be edited, you may be waiting for several weeks for your book to rise up the queue of manuscripts. It's worth the wait since professional editing can't be rushed.

At BubbleCow, we aim to return all manuscripts within twenty-eight business days of being submitted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions that will provide you more information.

What factors affect the time it takes to edit a book?

The time it takes to edit a book depends on various factors, such as the length of the manuscript, the level of editing required, the editor's experience, and the author's responsiveness to feedback. Additionally, the genre of the book and the publishing timeline can also influence the editing timeline.

Is there an average time frame for editing a book?

There is no set time frame for editing a book as it can vary greatly depending on the factors mentioned above. However, a standard range for editing a book can be anywhere from several weeks to several months.

What are the different types of editing, and how do they affect the editing time?

There are various types of editing, including developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Each type of editing involves different levels of scrutiny, and the time required for each type of editing can vary. For instance, developmental editing, which involves reviewing the book's structure and content, can take longer than proofreading, which focuses on correcting spelling and grammar errors.

Final Thoughts

Developmental editing is a complex and time-consuming process. It is therefore important to communicate closely with your book editor at every stage of the editorial process.

While it might not be possible to predict an exact date a book edit will be completed by a professional editor, it is possible to obtain an approximate timeframe that will allow you to plan other important steps in the publishing process.

You can find out more about book editing here.

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