One question my current publisher asked when I asked him to look at Lost in Lexicon was whether it had been properly edited. He meant had it been line edited, looked over closely by an experienced editor to make it tighter, cleaner, more effective, and to watch out for any inconsistencies, dropped details, or glitches of plot.
The truth is, I didn't hire anyone to do that job specifically. By the time I turned to self-publishing, I had run the whole book, chapter by chapter, through the online groups at Critique Circle, and a couple of experienced writer friends had combed through the entire manuscript. In addition, both my agent and Karen Klockner, the art director I was working with, had been editors of children's books at Little, Brown. I asked them what they thought needed work, and with two exceptions, they thought the book was ready to go.
When I first submitted the book to her, my agent asked for some extension to the ending, a little more emotional and intellectual wrap-up to bring the themes of the book to closure. I let that suggestion sit for a few days until it really seemed right to me, and then I wrote the additional couple of pages.
Karen's concern was harder for me. She wanted me to cut down the opening pages and start more quickly. She thought the first few pages didn't represent the rest of the book well. By this time, I had already reworked those opening pages for my critique group about twenty times. I had compressed the start as much as I thought I could, but I still wanted to establish Daphne and Ivan as characters and establish their everyday reactions to the world before I set them out on their adventure.
Karen suggested I cut the first two or three pages. Instead, I kept replacing them with ever tighter writing. "No," she said, "I think you can just cut them." She told me where to start, and finally, I understood. Those labored over, sweated over, first few pages finally hit the wastebasket.
Beyond that, Karen read very carefully through the book multiple times and made line edits. Then came the fierce copy editor, Joan Giurdanella. I thought copy editors fixed grammar and semicolons; I never realized the extent to which they insist on internal consistency, on proper pronoun antecedents, and on paragraphs that don't repeat the same word multiple times. Joan wanted to know whether each stop in Lexicon was a town or a village, and she wanted me to be consistent. She didn't like paragraphs beginning with pronouns. Her use of commas was much more traditional than mine. I learned a lot by responding to her corrections and suggestions one by one.
Neither Joan nor Karen, though, offered to check or edit the math sections, so I compulsively checked the numbers and explanations. I asked a couple of math teachers and curriculum developers to read it, too, to make sure I hadn't said anything incorrect or stupid. I checked and refined all the figures.
We had another round of copy editing after the manuscript was fully formatted, and even then, Karen and I continued to find errors that had somehow crept back into the text. One thing I learned from this experience is that you can never have too much copy editing. Nothing screams "amateur" more than a book riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. In the end, Lost in Lexicon's first edition had one glaring typo: a missing word. That was one word out of 68,000. Not bad.