The book production process is long, and it can sometimes seem complicated. Once you submit your book manuscript, you’ll have several opportunities to make edits. However, there are major differences about what kinds of edits you can make at each stage. This post will demystify this process and explain what you can (and can’t) do at each stage.

Developmental Editing

When you submit the first complete draft of your book manuscript, your acquiring editors (or the series editors, if the book is part of a series) will provide big-picture feedback: is the book well-organized, are the arguments supported by solid evidence, does the book stray from its intended purpose and audience. Jessie has written a great blog post that provides more detail about this stage (Moore 2020).

Before developmental editing, authors should:

  • Ensure that the book draft is actually a final draft. It can be a waste of time for the editors to provide feedback if you’re planning to substantially rewrite sections of the book.
  • Keep in mind the main purpose or “hook” of your book, as well as the target audience. These items should remain consistent from your book’s proposal; if anything has changed, discuss with your editor before submission!

After developmental editing, authors should:

  • Address the editors’ feedback with an open mind. They are the fresh eyes and perspectives that can improve your book! Remember that they are your partner in making your book as strong and useful as possible for your readers.
  • Make any final substantial edits or additions to the text. This stage is your last chance to make any substantial edits!
  • Carefully format the manuscript for final submission, paying close attention to the publisher’s guidelines.

Copy Editing

Once the acquiring editor has approved your manuscript, it gets passed into production. The first stage is copy editing, where an editor will go through your manuscript with a metaphorical fine-tooth comb to catch any errors, inconsistencies, and formatting problems. I’ve written a blog post about copy editing, which covers all the nitty gritty details (Goforth 2020a). The copy editor will use Word’s Track Changes (or a similar software tool) to redline all their edits and leave you queries to resolve in comments.

A screenshot shows a paragraph of text in a Microsoft Word document. Several corrections have been made with Track Changes, and notes along the margin show each edit. There is one comment that says "There is no corresponding citation in the reference list. Please add."
Copyedited manuscript for Pedagogical Partnerships, by Alison Cook-Sather, Melanie Bahti, and Anita Ntem

After copy editing, authors should:

  • Approve or reject suggested edits according to the publisher’s directions. Again, remember that the copy editor is your friend. Their suggestions are intended to improve readability!
  • Answer any queries the copy editor has left.
  • Do a final read-through of the entire manuscript, and make any small adjustments that you feel are necessary. Any substantial new text or edits (adding entire paragraphs or moving sections around) may increase the production timeline and delay publication of the book.

Page Proofs 

After copy editing, the text will be finalized and entered into the page layout software. Read more about this process in my blog post about typesetting (Goforth 2020b). A designer will prepare page proofs, which will be a PDF of book pages. A proofreader will read these proofs to make sure that all copy edits were made correctly and no errors were introduced when the text was laid out. At this point it is very time-consuming to make any edits to the text, and it can also introduce new errors.

Adding substantial new text to page proofs can result in re-pagination of the text (meaning all the text after the edit reflows through the pages). Publishers want to avoid this, as it creates a lot of extra work. Some publishers will make you keep your word count the same throughout the book (so, for example, if you want to delete a sentence, you have to come up with new text of the same length to insert).

A screenshot shows the first page of chapter 13 of a book displayed in Adobe Acrobat. The text at the top says "13, Forging Forward: Concluding Thoughts and Practical Tips for Faculty. Jennifer E. Eidum and Lara L. Lomicka". A paragraph follows. Several edits are visible through striked out text. Comments are visible in the right margin.
Screenshot of page proofs from our forthcoming The Faculty Factor, edited by Jennifer E. Eidum and Lara L. Lomicka.

When authors receive page proofs, they should:

  • Answer any final queries from the editors.
  • Read/skim through the entire book and make note of any errors you see. Yes, at this point, we’d really like to only make edits if the current content is wrong or misleading. Resist the urge to make other types of edits at this point!

Following these guidelines for editing your manuscript will make for a smooth and timely journey through the book production process. And your publisher will love you for it!


Goforth, Jennie. 2020a. “Academic Book Publishing: What Happens During Copyediting?” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. February 6, 2020.

Goforth, Jennie. 2020b. “Academic Book Publishing: Typesetting.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. July 21, 2020.

Moore, Jessie L. 2020. “Academic Book Publishing: What Happens during Developmental Editing?” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. May 5, 2020.

Jennie Goforth is the Center for Engaged Learning’s Managing Editor. She works with authors to shepherd their work from proposal through production in the Center’s Open Access Book Series. She also manages production of book websites and supplemental materials for the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching.

How to Cite this Post

Goforth, Jennie. 2022. “Academic Book Publishing: Making Edits during Each Stage of Production.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. December 13, 2022.