You’ve finished your first novel after years of painstaking work. You’re sure it could be a best seller and everyone you know is very enthusiastic. Yet your manuscript is returned by publishers, with a form letter providing no clues as to why they didn’t like it. Having your work independently evaluated gives you an unbiased opinion, helping you to tighten your manuscript and fix problems you may have overlooked.
A substantive edit involves detailed content assessment. This may include comments on characterization, setting, dialogue, believability, structure, plot, language, research and references. It also includes a summary of the strengths and weaknesses (if any) of your writing, along with comments on writing technique, format, technical ability and market potential.
A substantive edit is different to copy editing, which is performed by an experienced professional. Copy editing covers grammar, spelling, punctuation and many other details that writers are sometimes unaware of but publishers care deeply about. Substantive editing also differs from proof reading, which checks the final details before a book or article is printed or published. Following an in-depth substantive edit, both copy editing and proof reading are still needed before publication.