The Book Shelf

Content and Copy Editing


When writing a nonfiction book, most authors know that their manuscript will need some kind of editing. But what type of editing, and at what point? When it comes to editing, the array of terms and types of book editors can make it very confusing—what with developmental editing, structural editing, content editing, line editing, substantive editing, and copy editing. Yikes!
At The Book Shelf, we make it simple by offering two types of book editing: content editing for the big picture and copy editing for the small picture. Here’s a simple breakdown of the differences…

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The what

Here’s a simple breakdown of the differences…

Content editing Copy editing
  • Also sometimes known as developmental editing or structural editing.
  • Is “the big picture” of your book.
  • Covers the major aspects of the book, such as content, message, key themes, structure, narrative, order, length, etc.
  • Ensures that the book is a smooth journey for the reader with achievable goals and smaller stepping stones along the way.
  • Delivers a clear, valuable message.
  • Is about what you say.
  • Comes after or instead of a critique.
  • Also sometimes known as line editing or substantive editing.
  • Is “the small picture” of your book.
  • Covers the minor aspects of the book, such as wording, language, grammar, writing style, tone, sentence structure, flow, clarity, conciseness, etc.
  • Ensures correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling according to British or American English standards.
  • Delivers seamless, native English.
  • Is about how you say it.
  • Comes after or instead of developmental editing.

If you’re not sure which type you need, ask yourself: what needs work—my content or my wording? If you’re still not sure, get in touch.

The who

Hands-on content or copy editing is ideal for you as an author if you:

  • Need more hands-on help after a critique.
  • Would prefer hands-on help from the start rather than a critique.
  • Don’t have time to do the hands-on editing yourself.
  • Aren’t confident doing the hands-on editing yourself.
  • Want a professional edit done by the experts.
  • Speak English as a second language or have dyslexia.*

*We’ve worked with many non-native speakers and dyslexic authors to help them convey what they want to convey. In these cases, we’ve found that copy editing (as well as content editing) is often extremely beneficial, and we offer a more specialist service for this. Get in touch with us if you’d like to talk this through—we’re happy to help.

The how

You send us your manuscript, then we analyse a sample and assign the best editor based on the type of editing you need. (The good news is that you just get one point of contact for all services with us, so you don’t need to liaise with the individual editors, designers, etc.)

We get all of your requirements for the edit, then the editor does a hands-on edit—in other words, the editor makes changes within the manuscript, rather than a critique, which is hands-off feedback. When the editor has finished the first draft, we’ll send back:

  • A manuscript marked up using “tracked changes” in Word
  • Comments if anything is unclear or could be improved outside of the editor’s scope

Then you’ll get some time to make any changes, after which the editor may do a second draft, and so on.

(If you’d prefer a critique, you can find out more about our critique service here.)

The when

Editing is an involved process and can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months depending on the book, the word count, the type of editing, and your availability. 

Typical timescales are:

  • Content editing: Between 1 and 6 months
  • Copy editing: Between 1 and 6 weeks
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The legal bit

If you’d like to record the call for future reference, feel free to do so, but please don’t share it with anyone. 

We take our authors’ privacy seriously, so rest assured we won’t share your documents, details, or the content of our discussions with anyone. 

We delete all files after the project’s completion aside from those used for marketing purposes. 

You can see our privacy policy here.

The Book Shelf

Our experience

At The Book Shelf, we specialise in nonfiction books that make the world better. We empower our authors to write life-changing books for their readers. We’ve worked on over 500 books with authors around the globe—from first-timers to New York Times bestsellers to non-native speakers and everyone in between. If you want to change your readers’ lives, we want to help you achieve that.

Our specialist areas are:

  • Business: This might include entrepreneurship, leadership, getting out of the rat race, or building a business. It might relate to your particular business, teaching the reader a skill or sharing expertise on your subject matter (such as property development or animation).
  • Personal development: This includes books on how to make the reader’s life better, such as how to become happier. It might also mean teaching them individual skills such as goal-setting or nutrition. It often includes aspects of psychology, health, and wellbeing.
  • Philosophy: This can be any area of philosophy from ethical theories to ways of life, metaphysics to morality. It may be an analysis of traditional philosophy or proposing a new approach for readers.

What our clients say about our coaching services

"Ameesha provided a wealth of comments, questions, and analysis, far beyond my expectations. The critique was brutally honest and helped to reveal weaknesses in the manuscript, including redundancies, unclear arguments, contradictions, and places where more research was needed—so I can fix these issues before I encounter the brutally honest criticism of readers after publication.

Ameesha also helped me align my focus toward my target audience so I developed a much more focused outline and was able to decide on a writing style more appropriate for the intended reader. She was very patient with my many questions and helped me find creative solutions to my problems.

I feel like collaborating with Ameesha provided not only a much-needed critique of my manuscript but also valuable training in nonfiction editing that I will use in the future. In that sense, I was paying not only for one project but for an education in editing from a master editor."

Harrison Paul, upcoming psychology author, 2020

"Ameesha's developmental edit of my book was invaluable. She helped me identify and fix gaps in my narrative and had great suggestions to improve the overall structure of my manuscript. Highly recommended!"

Rad Wendzich, author of "Your Default Settings", 2019

"Ameesha is the best! She helped me as a structural editor on my animation book. What led me to choose her was her response to my request as she went into extreme detail as how she was going to help make my book the best it can be. She understood my target audience and knew how to structure my book to better reach them. 

Ameesha will ask the tough questions and will hit you with the truth. Her willingness be blunt will only help improve your book in the long run. She was very responsive and flexible throughout the whole process and also answered my questions in a timely fashion. 

I was hesitant spending money for this at first, but after going through the process with Ameesha, it was well worth it. She has helped make my book far better than what I could have done on my own. I’d definitely recommend Ameesha for any project that you may have."

Eric Bravo, author of "How to Get an Animation Internship: A Guide That Helps You Apply, Interview, and Get Your Foot into Show Business"
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58 x The Book Shelf on The Book Shelf

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