When writing a nonfiction book, most authors know that their manuscript will need editing at some point. But what type of editing—and at what point? With an array of terms and various types of book editors, it can be very confusing. So, at The Book Shelf, we offer two types of book editing to make it simple:

Content editing (also sometimes known as developmental editing or structural editing)

Copy editing (also sometimes known as line editing or substantive editing)

Here’s a simple breakdown of the differences…

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

Editing vs. critique 

It’s worth noting that these types of editing come after a critique. When people talk about “editing”, they generally mean hands-on editing—where the editor makes changes within the manuscript. In critiques, the editor provides feedback on the manuscript, but you make the changes as the author. If you’ve had a critique and were happy making the big picture changes yourself, then you might skip developmental editing and go straight for copy editing. You can find out more about our critique service here.

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
  • 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. Get in touch with us if you’d like to talk this through—we’re happy to help.

What you’ll get after editing: 

  • A manuscript marked up using “tracked changes” in Word
  • Comments if anything is unclear or could be improved outside of the editor’s scope
  • One free round of small amendments following the edit*

*Any major changes or additions will be charged on a word-count basis

The service 

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 the author’s availability to answer queries.

Typical timescales are:

  • Content editing: Between 1 and 6 months
  • Copy editing: Between 1 and 6 weeks

The cost of editing depends on the word count and type of editing. The longer the book, the higher the cost. The cost for each type of editing is:

  • Content editing: £35 for 1000 words
  • Copy editing: £20 for 1000 words

Privacy and nondisclosure 

We take our authors’ privacy seriously, so rest assured we won’t share your documents, details, or the content of our discussions and recommendations with anyone. We delete all files after use. You can see our privacy policy here. 

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, non-native speakers to TedTalkers, 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 generally 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 could be any area of philosophy from ethical theories to philosophical approaches, metaphysics to morality. For example, the meaning of life, how to think independently, or what happiness is. It may be an analysis of traditional philosophy or proposing a new approach.


“Ameesha is amazing ! I was impressed by the consistency and discipline of her commitment. The process of editing was really fast and smooth. She managed to do an incredible job without changing the nature of the book. I will work with her again in the future.” – Jean de La Rochebrochard, March 2019

“Since this was my first book (and English being not my first language), I felt there was not enough clarity expressed in the learning lessons I shared and the book lacked the smooth and natural flow. Ameesha helped me organise and create a better flow of my book. Her comments and suggestions always challenged but also expanded my thinking and awareness, helping me to look at the big picture. You can’t see the picture if you are the one in the frame, right? So, she was there for me to see it.” – Anna Simpson, April 2018

“Ameesha’s help was invaluable. She dove deep into my first draft and found so many things that I didn’t even think about. In her developmental edit, she specified what the overall problems were as well as the problem in each section. She did it on a very detailed level and even considered things like author tone. I received pages upon pages with notes and deep insights. Comes highly recommended for anyone serious about getting a good book out.” – Christopher Raschke, May 2018