The book editing process prepares a book for publication. It combines self-editing beta readers and professional editing. Books that are professionally edited will undergo developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading.
At some point in every writer's life, they will find themselves asking the question, 'How does editing work and what does book editing entail?'.
You will probably have written your first draft and know that your book needs 'editing' before it is ready to publish, but how does it all work? When is the right time to seek out a professional book editor?
In this article, you'll discover how editing works. You'll find out about each step of the process, and you'll learn what you can do to prepare your manuscript for publication.
How does book editing work?
'How does editing work?' can only be answered by looking at the editing process between finishing your first draft and creating a manuscript that is ready for publication.
This process can be split into the following steps:
- Beta readers
- Professional book editing
In this article, we will look at each of these steps in turn and, in the process, answer the question, 'how does editing work?'.
The first step will not be to employ a professional book editor, but to, instead, try to improve your work yourself by self-editing.
At BubbleCow, we use a pre-written checklist before we begin editing any book. Our Editing Checklist (that's what we call it) is nothing too exciting; it is just a list of tasks that must be completed before editing.
However, don't be fooled by the simplicity; this little list is more powerful than it seems.
1. Check you have a backup copy – Before you start editing, make sure that you have created a backup copy of your manuscript. This way you will end up with an unedited and edited version. As a side note, we use Dropbox to back up all of our edits. They not only have a free option, but they also have 'version control', which means you can often rescue text you've accidentally deleted.
2. Turn tracked changes off – This is a point aimed more at professional editors, but I know many writers who like to edit them using tracked changes. However, even if you intend to use tracked changes, you must ensure that they are turned off at this point. The reason is that If you leave them, the next steps in this list will potentially produce thousands of changes you'll have to accept or reject manually.
3. Turn nonprinting characters on – The ability to turn nonprinting symbols on or off is still not common knowledge. If you click the 'Home' ribbon in Word you will see in the center the symbol for nonprinting characters. You need to ensure this is on. Once clicked, you will be able to see loads of formatting symbols in your text that are there to help editors, but that won't show in the final manuscript. These include paragraph breaks, manual line breaks, spaces, and page breaks.
4. Check line spacing – As a rule, we find it is best to edit at 1.5 line spacing. This is more to do with ease of reading. The way that the spacing is changed is to highlight the whole manuscript (ctrl A) and then right-click and press 'paragraph'. In the spacing section hit the 'line spacing' box and set to 1.5 lines. Once the edit is complete, feel free to change back to the line spacing of your choice.
5. Check indentation – The correct way to indent a manuscript is for the first paragraph of each new chapter to be flush and the remaining paragraphs to be indented. The way that the indentation is changed is to highlight the whole manuscript (ctrl A) and then right-click and press 'paragraph'. In the indentation section hit the 'special' box and set to 'first line'. You can alter the indentation size in the next box. Please note that this will indent ALL paragraphs. You may need to go back and remove the indentations from chapter headings and each chapter's first paragraph.
6. Remove double paragraph breaks – Paragraph breaks are what appear in your manuscript when you press Enter or Return. They indicate that a paragraph is complete. It is not uncommon for writers to separate paragraphs with two paragraph breaks (hitting return/enter twice). There's no need to do this. If you are looking for space between paragraphs, this can be added at the conversion stage. More importantly, many ebook conversion processes will strip out the extra 'white space' and using two breaks can cause potential problems.
7. Remove double spaces – In the days of typewriters, it was often considered that adding double spaces between sentences was the best practice, but this is no longer the case. Single spaces are enough. At some point down the line, someone (a typesetter or person doing eBook conversion) will need to remove the extra white space, so you should solve this problem now.
8. Replace exclamation marks with periods (full stops) – The overuse of exclamation marks is considered a sign of weak writing. You should use the context of the surrounding paragraphs to show the reader any 'shock.' The problem you face is that most exclamation marks will be in speech, and in most cases, it will be OK to replace them with a full stop. However, in some cases, other punctuation will be more appropriate (comma, question mark, etc.). Therefore, you have two options. The first step for both options is to use the find/replace tool to find all exclamation marks. You then have two choices. You can either do a manual 'find next' and replace each with the correct punctuation. The second option is just to replace all with a full stop and then pick up the mistakes when you edit the manuscript.
9. Check chapter breaks – One essential element of the eBook conversion process is the ability to identify the start and end of chapters. The best way to do this is to use page breaks. To do this, first, find the end of a chapter. You must then place the cursor at the end of the last sentence of the chapter. Once you are happy the cursor is correctly placed, click the 'insert' ribbon. On the left-hand side of the screen, you will see an icon for 'page break.' Just hit this once.
10. Check ellipses – An ellipsis is the three dots that are used to indicate the omission of a word, or perhaps a pause. You need to make sure that these are three dots in length. The problem editors face is that the 'correct' way to present an ellipsis is . . . (dot space dot space dot). Now, the issue is that many eBook conversion tools will not recognize this format. The eBook language (HTML) already has its own symbol for an ellipsis, and that's… (dot dot dot – no spaces). Therefore, it is just better, in the long run, to make sure you are using the version with three dots and no spaces. To fix this run a find and replace that 'finds'. . . and 'replaces' with …
11. Turn tracked changes on – This is optional – naturally, it is essential for our editors but less so for self-editing writers.
Once you have prepared your book the best you can, it is time to get some feedback. The first step is beta readers.
Please note, some writers like to use alpha readers. These are a very small group of readers, often two or three people, who the writer trusts. It can be a good idea to get this type of close feedback before you let a wider group of people read your book.
You don't always need professional editor's and, in fact, it is advisable to avoid the use of professional editors in the very early stages of the writing process. Whilst you are ironing out the basic issues, it may well be better to use beta readers. Beta Reader
is a relatively new term and is given to a reader who assesses a novel in the stages prior to submission to an editor. A beta reader
is given the novel with the understanding that they will read the book and provide feedback the writer can use to improve the manuscript. The idea being that by allowing a small number of beta readers to view their manuscript, a reader has the opportunity to correct any major issues before moving onto the next stage. This article explains how to be a good beta reader.
There are no hard and fast rules for picking beta readers, though I would add the following suggestions:
- Avoid very close friends and family.
- Aim for a small number (3-5) of very good readers, rather than a large number offering average feedback.
- If possible, arrange to meet them face-to-face to discuss your book (if not then phone/Skype is second best).
- Pick readers who are your target market or, if this is not possible, choose readers that understand your genre.
- Make sure they can read your novel within a time frame that fits your needs.
How to Make the Most Out of Beta Reader Feedback
Having picked your beta readers and given them your novel, the next step is to get feedback. At first glance, this can seem like a straightforward process, but it is full of potential pitfalls.
The first problem is ensuring the reader is able to give valuable feedback. As I said above, close family and friends are not the best choice. The problem is that your mum/dad/husband/wife/friend all want your novel to be great; they also like you and don't want to hurt your feelings. This means feedback from this 'inner circle' is all but useless.
For the best, most honest and most valuable feedback, you need to break out of this circle and into the big bad world. The key is to make an effort to seek out the kinds of people who would read your book in real life. These people, real readers, will give you the kind of feedback that counts.
When collecting feedback, make sure to listen more than you talk. Getting feedback via email or a Word doc is great, but speaking with your reader is the best possible solution. This gives you a chance to watch their body language and prompt them for more insightful answers. However, when interacting with readers, you must resist the temptation to explain, just listen.
Ask open-ended questions - it is these types of questions that will give you the best results.
Typically, who/what/when/where/why/how questions all work well. Asking, 'Did you like Chapter 2?' will produce a limited response. However, asking, 'What did you like about Chapter 2?' or even better, 'What didn't you like about Chapter 2?' will produce the best possible feedback.
If you truly seek genuine and valuable feedback, you need to be ready to face the bitter truth. Not everything you hear will be nice. In fact, if all you hear are nice things, then you are doing it all wrong. You want to hear about the bits of your work that are rubbish. You need to know which characters are two-dimensional, which scenes don't work, and where the reader lost interest. Will this feedback hurt? Too right, it will! It will sting for days… but it will make you a better writer.
Not all feedback is created equal, and not all beta readers are capable of giving you the kind of feedback you need.
It is, therefore, essential that you can filter the feedback, be it good or bad. Resist the temptation to leap into action. Instead of reacting instantly to one comment, take a step back, and assess. The first step is to make sure you get enough feedback. One reader is not enough, you need at least three readers to have assessed your book before you go making major changes. If you get enough feedback, then you can concentrate on looking for trends and patterns in the reader's comments.
If all the feedback says Chapter 1 is too short, then it's time to revisit Chapter 1. However, if just one reader says Chapter 1 is too short, it's probably best to ignore this comment and make no changes.
In an ideal world, following our steps on picking beta Readers
would be easy. By joining a reader group
you can meet people who could potentially beta read
your book. As well as this, you will stay in touch with relevant upcoming novels and possibly gain inspiration. We recommend joining a reader group
local to you. The Reader.org
is a great place to start. Many reader groups may become available online, allowing possible interactions across the world. It's something to consider if you are a lover of books in general.
Once you've had feedback from beta readers, and your implemented changes, it's time to seek professional help.
The best way to understand the editing process process is to begin with traditional book publishing.
When a publisher is preparing a book for publication, the manuscript will undergo three key editorial stages:
- Developmental editing.
The first editing type is developmental editing. This is the process in which the professional editor will address the wider issues within the book. The focus will be on correcting the story, structure, and flow. It will sometimes include line editing.
The second editing type is copy editing. This comes once the manuscript has undergone a developmental edit and the writer has made changes. This process focusses on correcting spelling mistakes and other sentence-level issues.
The third editing type is proofreading. This occurs once the book has been prepared for publication and laid out ready for print. The proofread's goal is to ensure that no new mistakes have been added when 'typesetting' (this is the name given to the process of creating the files needed for either printing or digital publication).
Only once a book has undergone each of these three editing types will it be ready for publication.
Let's look at each of the three editing types in more detail.
Developmental editing is the first step in the editorial process. The goal of developmental editing is to address a book's wider issues focussing on plot, flow, and structure. (BubbleCow's professional editing service also includes line editing.)
A developmental editor will look at a manuscript and provide both line-level tracked changes and a detailed report outlining the issues that they have found in a book. They will focus on a wider range of potential issues ranging from plot development, all the way up to fact-checking.
, a developmental editor will approach developmental editing through the use of questions:
- Does the structure of the book make sense?
- Is the presentation logical?
- Is there a wider story arc that engages the reader and pulls them through the narrative?
- Has a coherent viewpoint been applied? Is it consistent? Does it make sense for the story
- Does the chapter structure make sense? Does the writer understand scene structure?
- Have narrative techniques been correctly applied?
- Does each scene contain sufficient description?
- Is each new character sufficiently described?
- Is the tense consistent?
- Is the characterization believable and consistent?
- Are the characters sufficiently developed?
- Are there any obvious plot holes?
- If the novel is set in the past, are there any inconsistencies in the use of objects etc.?
- Does the book's voice, style and format match the genre expectations?
- Is the writer telling, when they should be showing?
- Are the facts accurate?
- Does the book's word count meet the genre expectations? If it is too short, how can it be extended? If too long, what approach should be taken?
- Has the writer correctly formatted paragraphs? Will shorter or longer paragraphs better suit the style or genre of the book?
- If a prologue is used, does it match the genre and make sense to the wider narrative?
- Does the book need an introduction?
- Does the book need additional end material, such as bibliography or epilogue?
- Should the writer include information about themselves?
- If relevant, is the book correctly referenced?
- If images, tables and diagrams have been used, has the copyright been correctly attributed?
- If included, are all footnotes or endnotes correctly presented and formatted?
It is important to understand that developmental editing is not checking for spelling mistakes and typos. The developmental editor will focus is on wider issues. A professional freelance editor might make changes to obvious typos, but this is not their job. A manuscript that has undergone a developmental edit will still contain line-level errors.
Developmental editing should be the first of the types of editing you apply to your book. Once the edit has been completed, the writer will be asked to make several changes to the manuscript. Once these changes have been made, an additional developmental edit may be required.
A traditionally published book will often undergo two or three developmental edits from the developmental editor before it is considered ready for publishing. It may also require line editing.
You mustn't get confused by terminology when considering this type of editing for your book. Developmental editing is also known by several other terms including, content editing, structural editing, and substantive editing. These are all the same thing. They all involve a developmental editor assessing your book.
Copy editing is the second step in the editorial process. This is sometimes called line editing. The goal of the copy editor is to remove all of the line level errors from the manuscript; in other words, fix the typos and grammar issues. One additional critical role of the copy editor's job is to add consistency to a manuscript.
A copy edit is normally carried out using tracked changes and comments. The copy editor will read the manuscript and make changes and corrections. The writer will then go through these suggestions accepting and rejecting them as they see fit.
There are two important choices to be made before the copyediting can start: which language and which style manual.
Books written in English will be published in either British English or American English. One of the first jobs of the copy editor will be to discuss with the writer which type of English they wish to use for their book. A good copy editor will be able to switch from British English to American English and vice versa.
The second important decision to be made is regarding style manuals. These are manuals that layout rules for how sentences should be written, formatted, and laid out. For example, a style manual will decide if numbers should be written as digits (10) or words (ten).
There are several different style manuals, and each has slightly different approaches to how sentences should be formatted.
If writing in American English, the two main style manuals are AP
and the Chicago Manual of Style
. The copy editor will have a preference, but this will be discussed before the copyedit begins. In most cases, the writer has no preference, and the copy editor will use either the manual with which they are most comfortable or the one which their company has suggested is best used.
If writing in British English, then it is slightly more complicated. There is no widely accepted British equivalent to AP or the Chicago Manual of Style. However, most copy editors will use Oxford Guide to Style
, formerly known as Hart's Rules
, (the University of Oxford website also provides an online style document
, but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as the book.)
Other UK style guides include:
There is one more thing to consider with style guides, and this is the use of house style guides. Most traditional publishers (and some copy editors) will have their house style guide, which provides additional directions. These are in addition to the normal style manuals, and either help provide consistency across a range of publications or help to give a 'ruling' on certain technical issues that are not addressed in the style manual.
Copyediting is a skilled and time-consuming job. However, developmental editing and copyediting require different skill sets and will be carried out by different types of professionals. It is rare to find a professional editor that is equally skilled in both types of editing. Though there is no direct qualification for developmental editors (though most will have post-graduate level education), this is not the same for copy editors. All countries have recognized qualifications for copy editors.
It is also worth noting that a traditionally published book will undergo several rounds of copyediting before it is published. A publisher will often carry out three or four internal copyedits before it is finally sent to either their internal copyediting team or a freelancer.
One thing worth understanding is that it's impossible to remove all errors from a manuscript, and even the most thoroughly edited manuscript will still contain a small number of errors. This is even more true for manuscripts that have undergone just a single round of copyedits. However, even with a single copyedit, at least 95% of the errors should be removed.
Please note, it is not uncommon to see the phrase 'line editing' used to describe this type of editing. Line editing and copyediting are the same thing.
Proofreading is the final step in the editorial process. Once a manuscript has undergone editing and copyediting, it will be considered ready for publication. At this point, the book will be prepared for printing. The goal of a proofread is to remove any errors that have been introduced whilst preparing the book for publication.
In traditional publishing, the writing, developmental editing, and copyediting stages are normally carried out using a Word document. However, for the book to be printed, a print-ready PDF needs to be created and Word is unable to carry out this conversion. This means that the text must be moved from the Word document and converted into a different format. This is usually carried out using InDesign
software, though Affinity Publisher
is becoming more popular. This layout process is complex, and it is easy to introduce new errors. For example, an image that has been added might overlap some text and hide it from view.
The job of the proofreader is to ensure that no errors have slipped through. Even today, this is often done on printed pages with the proofreader adding marks to indicate where errors have occurred. It is both a skilled and time-consuming job.
Developments in technology have meant that there is now an additional job for the proofreader. Books that are to be read on digital devices, such as the Kindle, need to be converted into either equal or mobi formats
. As with converting to print-ready PDFs, this is a process that has huge potential to add new errors. A proofreader will examine the converted files to ensure that no errors have slipped through during the process.
One word of warning. Writers often confuse copyediting and proofreading. These two terms cannot be used interchangeably. The copy editor and a proofreader are two different types of editor with different skill sets.
Other Types of Editing
In addition to the main types of editing, three other types of editing should be considered.
Editorial assessments our relatively new in the publishing world and are something that have grown to meet the needs of self-published writers on a limited budget. These tend to be brief assessments of a book's potential and try to highlight the key problems. These types of edits tend to be less expensive than any other type of editing, but, in all honesty, have limited value. Editorial assessments tend to lack any real depth and often leave the reader with no clear guidance as to what needs to be changed and how it needs to be altered. Editorial assessments should be used with caution.
Indexing can also be considered a type of editing. An indexer is someone that will create an index for the end of your book.
Fact-checking is something that may be needed for certain types of books. A developmental editor should be checking facts as part of their service, but on occasion more detailed, or expert, opinion is required. For example, for a history book or a major work of historical fiction, a specialist fact checker may be employed to ensure that no errors have slipped through.
Once you've received your professional feedback, it is important that you are able to make this most of the advice.
Getting the most from a professional edit
You've had your book professionally edited, and you are faced with the task of turning the feedback into something that lifts your book to the next level.
The chances are when you pop open that email from the professional book editor, you'll be faced with two things.
The first is a mass of detailed tracked changes within the manuscript itself, and the second is a separate report, listing suggestions on larger topics as to how to improve your book overall (pacing, plotting, etc.).
Dealing with this second element means some level of rewriting.
You will discover here how to get the most from your professional book edit.
You'll learn a step-by-step process that addresses all the feedback, while also applying those tracked changes and even doing major rewrites.
Step 1: Take in The Book Edit
OK, … so you have your feedback from your professional book editor; you are excited and scared at the same time, but you are ready to move forward.
Your feedback will consist of two elements: a separate report and your manuscript with some embedded tracked changes. Please note I am assuming that you have had your book edited by BubbleCow. Feedback from other editors may be less detailed, but the principles of this article will still apply.
The report will consist of the editor's thoughts and guidance, and the tracked changes will be smaller alterations embedded within the main manuscript.
The first step is to read through the editor's report.
One word of warning: it is human nature to react defensively to any corrective feedback. Your brain will see it as an attack, and you will revert to a fight-or-flight response. This means you'll either want to scream and shout that the editor is wrong or just go and hide. However, this is an emotional reaction, and you need to use your rational brain.
The single best way to switch from emotional to rational is to give it time. (If you are interested in this subject, Dr. Steve Peters has written an excellent book on the subject. It is called The Chimp Paradox
The first thing to do after reading your report is to stop, breathe and wait.
Authors often tell us that they'll take a couple days to absorb the report. They'll read it a few times, and, with each read, they'll start to see the value in the comments and guidance.
Another thing we often get told by authors is that nothing is really a surprise in the report. They kind of knew the issues beforehand, but they just didn't know what to do. They often say things such as, "Ah, … I did worry that I was not adding enough description, but I was just unsure at what points to expand."
Step 2: Tracked Changes and Comments in Your Novel
Having absorbed the report, and perhaps even made a few notes, the best place to go next is to the main manuscript.
You will find that a number of changes have been made to your book, using a track changes system.
This is a tool built into all major word processing software that allows an editor to make a semi-permanent change. What happens is that the editor corrects the manuscript, and the software shows the reader the changes but remembers what has been altered. The result is a manuscript that contains lots of tiny tracked changes.
For example, let's say the author has incorrectly punctuated a sentence of dialogue
. They've used a period (a full stop) instead of a comma. The editor would change the period to a comma. This would show up in the manuscript as a tracked change.
A manuscript can contain a surprising number of these small changes. In fact, it is not unusual, even for a manuscript in "good shape" before editing, to have hundreds of changes.
Your first job will be to go through these changes and decide if you wish to keep them.
The software package you are using will allow you three options for dealing with the suggested tracked changes:
Agree to individual changes: It is possible to look at each individual change and then press the accept button (in Microsoft Word, using its track changes program) to keep the change.
Disagree to individual changes: It is possible to look at each individual change and then press the reject button to remove the change and revert back to the original text.
Agree to ALL changes: It is also possible to Accept All changes in the manuscript with a single press of a button. However, this is not recommended, since you may not wish to incorporate all the suggestions.
Working with the Comments
The next step is to consider the comments embedded in your manuscript.
These are different from the tracked changes. They are not suggestions for small changes (like changing a period to a comma). They are, instead, comments directly from the editor to the author.
The content of the comments will vary greatly.
They might be a question, an indication of a part that needs more work or some feedback that links with a wider issue from the editor's report.
The best approach is to work through the comments in turn and do one of the following:
- If the comment can be resolved quickly with a small rewrite or addition to the manuscript, then do it immediately. Once you have made the change, then delete the respective comment.
- If the comment needs more work, perhaps it is part of a wider issue or indicates a section that needs rewriting, then do nothing. Just leave the comment as a reminder to work on that later and move on.
- If the comment needs no action, or you disagree with the suggested change, then just delete that comment and move on.
Since you will have already resolved the tracked changes, once you have completed this initial process, which includes addressing the easier comments, all that will be left in your manuscript are the comments that require more work.
You are now ready to consider your first rewrite.
Step 3: Start Your Rewrite
By the time you reach the point of rewriting, you will have carried out a number of important steps.
You'll have decided on all the tracked changes edits; you'll have acted on the comments that need either no, or a small amount, of work, and you'll have read over your report and will have a feel for the editor's feedback.
The best way to approach your rewrite process is in a stepwise manner.
Many authors make the mistake of trying to fix all the problems in a single rewrite. This is not a great idea. Whenever you alter a first draft, it is very easy to add in more mistakes than you are correcting.
It is, therefore, essential that changes are done deliberately and with thought.
The best first step is to find the biggest issue within your book (reread the report and the remaining comments within the manuscript) and then come up with a strategy on how this one problem will be fixed.
If needed, make a small plan with the steps you will take. Think carefully about each change and the potential impact on the story.
Once you have a plan, it is time to dive in and start rewriting.
At this point, it is essential that you work methodically and at a steady pace. Don't rush ahead; just keep making the changes as they are needed.
Once you are happy with the results, it is time to move on to the next problem.
Return to the editor's report (and remaining manuscript comments) and work out what you will tackle next.
Once again, make a plan and work methodically.
You should work through your report, focusing on changing one issue at a time, applying it to the whole of your manuscript, then repeating these steps until all the issues have been addressed.
This process can take time, anywhere from weeks to months, but don't rush.
This is probably the last chance to make significant changes to your book.
Step 4: Get Some Feedback
OK, … so you've sweated blood and applied the feedback from your professional book edit.
You are probably feeling a little bruised and unsure of just where you stand with your manuscript. This is a classic situation of not seeing the wood for the trees.
What you need is some feedback at this point, and you may want your friends and family to come into play here.
While their feedback can be very useful, you must receive it at the correct time and know how to "decode" that feedback to add value to your book.
The best time for friends and family feedback is after the rewriting stage (the book's second draft). By that point the book has been seen by a professional editor, you have made rewrites, and the story is almost there. You are just looking to gain confidence and have someone pick up any errors you added in the rewrite.
The biggest issue with friends and family is that they are not editors, and, therefore, the feedback may be biased and generic reader's feedback, where individual preferences for book-reading may cover various genres.
In essence, it means that you'll get generalized feedback that will not have an immediate application.
You'll be dealing with comments, such as "I didn't like this character" and "I wish there were more ninjas."
However, here's how you can squeeze out actionable value:
The problem is that your mum/dad/husband/wife/friend all want your novel to be great, yet they also probably like you and don't want to hurt your feelings.
This means feedback from this inner circle is all but useless. For the best, most honest and most valuable feedback, you need to break out of this circle and into the big bad world.
Seek out the kind of people who would actually read your book in real life.
It is these people, real readers, who will give you the kind of feedback that counts. You could try asking friends in your social media network or, perhaps, on forums you visit.
The key here is to pick people who will be honest and have some knowledge of your genre.
There Are Two Types of Feedback
When you start looking for feedback, it is important to understand that you have two options:
General feedback is when you give the reader your book and just ask what he or she thinks.
This type of feedback is good for getting a feel for the flow and what people will be saying about your book. It is also (potentially) good for building your confidence.
The problem with general feedback is that it is just that—general. It is unlikely it will bring up any specific questions or actionable criticism.
When collecting your general feedback, make sure that you listen more than you talk.
Getting feedback via email or a Word doc is great, but actually speaking with your reader is the best possible solution.
This gives you a chance to watch body language and prompt the reader for more insightful answers. However, when interacting with readers, you must resist the temptation to explain. Just listen.
Ask open-ended questions.
Remember, open-ended questions are magic. These types of questions will give you the best results:
Typically who/what/when/where/why/how questions all work well.
Asking, "Did you like Chapter 2?" will produce a limited response; either they did or didn't like the chapter. However, asking, "What did you like about Chapter 2?" or, even better, "What didn't you like about Chapter 2?" will produce the best possible feedback. You could even go with the supercharged "What would you do to make Chapter 2 better?"
Specific feedback is potentially the most valuable type of feedback. This is when you ask a reader to look at one potential problem and provide their thoughts.
Let's say that your editor found that your book lacked description.
The editor's feedback stated there was not a strong sense of place and that you needed to add more details as to settings. The editor's report itself had given examples of how to do this, and the comments within the manuscript had suggested where it should be added.
You have applied this feedback in the rewrite but are still a little worried if this issue was properly addressed.
This is where specific feedback comes into its own.
You could give a reader the first chapter of the book and say something like, "Read this chapter and tell me if you can visualize the locations described," or, better still, "What, if anything, should I do to improve the sense of place?"
The beauty with specific feedback is that you can get fast and accurate results.
You can go back to readers multiple times with short sections of text, asking them a specific question.
Step 5: Filter the Feedback
Not all feedback is created equal, and not all readers are capable of giving you the kind of feedback you need.
It is, therefore, essential that you filter the feedback, be it good or bad.
Resist the temptation to leap into action and apply the changes that readers suggest.
Remember, their suggestions will be things that they think might help, but most readers know less than you do about writing.
Instead of reacting instantly to their comments, take a step back and assess.
If you are unsure whether a suggestion is worthy of action, the first step is to get enough feedback.
One reader may not be enough; you probably need at least three readers to assess your book, before you make major changes.
If you get enough feedback, then you can look for trends and patterns in the readers' comments. If all the feedback says Chapter 1 is too short, then it's time to revisit Chapter 1. However, if one of ten readers says Chapter 1 is too short, it's probably best to ignore this single comment and make no changes.
Step 6: Read Your Book Out Loud
By this point, you'll have probably produced three drafts of your novel, and you are ready to move forward.
The next stage is to read through your book and check for obvious mistakes.
The best way to do this is to print out the full manuscript and read the book out loud.
There's something about seeing words on paper and visualizing the scenes that really helps you spot mistakes. The perfect scenario is that you print two copies. Then, while you read it out loud, your critique partner follows the text. This way you'll pick up those errors that your brain is autocorrecting.
Step 7: A Final Read-Through
You are now almost there, and it is time for the final read-through.
This is where friends and family can really help.
The best way forward at this step is to print out a number of copies and send them to friends and family. Ask them to read through it and mark on the copy any errors that they find.
This will provide you with fixes to make to the master digital copy, as the visceral nature of this process is both effective and satisfying.
If you are interested in a more expansive look at book editing
in general, this article will help.