Your choice of book editing software will make all the difference to the final quality of your book.
Editing tools are indispensable for all authors, no matter how experienced.
Writing a book is the easy part. But after you finish writing your first draft, you will need all the help you can get to polish your manuscript and improve your writing.
You have choices, both free and paid. But take your time and make sure you choose the best one for you.
What is book editing software?
A basic grammar checker will do the job for many writers when checking an article or blog post written in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
But like most word processors, the spelling and grammar checks are not very reliable.
However, there are lots of free online grammar apps to help if you are writing short texts up to around 3,000 words.
You only need to copy and paste a text into a free app to check for grammar, spelling, passive voice, adverb use, and possibly punctuation.
For and author, though, it’s not a practical solution. A book might be anywhere between 30,000 and 120,000 words. This is why authors need a dedicated writing tool for editing.
An author needs help with much more than grammar and spelling.
Good book editing software will help check for consistency of tone and style, dialogue tags, redundancies, repetition, and overused words and phrases.
Like most new authors, you probably wrote your book in MS Word. That’s fine, but now it’s time to get to work on making your writing and your book shine.
Even if you plan to use a professional editor, the more you can do to improve your manuscript before you send it to your editor will save you money.
So what choices do you have when it comes to good book editing software?
1. Prowritingaid (Premium)
I have to start with the best book editing desktop app for authors.
Prowritingaid not only has twenty different writing reports to analyze your writing, but it also integrates with so many other applications.
Yes, it works everywhere with a browser extension for short-form and online and social media writing.
But more importantly, it integrates with book writing software, including Scrivener and Final Draft.
If you used Word or Open Office to write your book, you can also integrate Prowritingaid.
A big plus is that, unlike most other applications, there are no limitations. There are no word count or file size limits.
Because of this, you can work on your complete manuscript without the need to chop it up into chapters.
There is a free version available that has a 500-word limit. But for authors, the modestly priced premium version will be the absolute best editing tool for you.
2. Grammarly (Premium)
Without a doubt, Grammarly is the most popular writing checker.
I use it day in and day out for my short-form writing. However, when it comes to editing a book manuscript, it has one drawback.
There are limits on a premium Grammarly account that are not helpful for an author.
Document limitation: In any 24-hour period, you can check up to 100 documents or 50,000 words.
Page limitation: You can check up to 100,000 characters (including spaces) at a time when you use the Grammarly Editor. There is no page limitation if you use Grammarly for Microsoft Word and Outlook.
If you are using Grammarly for Microsoft Word on Mac, then you’ll be able to check a document of up to 150,000 characters (including spaces).
Upload limitation: You can upload a document of up to 100,000 characters (including spaces) to the Grammarly Editor. Your document’s file size shouldn’t exceed 4 MB.
Even though Grammarly is a fine editing tool, unless you integrate it with Microsoft Word on a PC, you will need to edit one chapter at a time.
If you have a Grammarly account and use Word on a PC, it will do the job for you. In this respect, it is nearly as good as Prowritingaid.
But if you use Word for Mac or any other word processor or book writing software, you have limitations on how much of your book you can edit.
My experience has been that I can only check one chapter at a time because I use a Mac.
To do this, I save each chapter as a separate Word document, and then after editing, save them all back into one document.
However, even with these limitations, Grammarly will help you enormously when you start editing your second or third draft of your book.
3. Scrivener (Premium)
When you are working on your book, you can drag and drop chapters, work in distraction-free writing mode and use all the other tools that make Scrivener so popular.
But you can also use it for your book editing. If you like, you can combine two tools into one.
Of course, it comes with an in-built grammar and spelling checker.
It does an adequate job of finding and helping your correct basic grammar and spelling mistakes. But it’s not nearly as powerful as a dedicated checker.
However, the big advantage of Scrivener is that you can integrate it with Prowritingaid. Then you have all your bases covered for writing and then editing your book.
If you are wondering about Grammarly, no, there is no integration.
But there is a workaround you can use. Tall Tech Tales have a detailed how-to article to show you how to use Grammarly with Scrivener.
4. Hemingway App (Free)
The Hemingway editor is a favorite for lots of writers. It’s not really a grammar checker, but as a style checker, it does a great job for a free app.
It can help you find weaknesses in your writing so you can work on making it much more powerful.
Some call it the rainbow editor, and it’s an apt description.
But the colors are what help you analyze your writing. You should work on one point at a time.
Perhaps start by reducing your passive voice use (green), and then move on to removing unnecessary adverbs (blue).
Then you can tackle difficult sentences (yellow).
The huge benefit of Hemingway is that you have a generous limit.
In fact, I’m not sure there is a limit. I copied and pasted a 20,000-word novella into the app, and it started work within seconds.
Sure, it’s not as sophisticated and doesn’t come with all the tools a premium app has. But for free, you get a lot of editing help for your money.
Even though I use premium checkers, I still use Hemingway from time to time to do a double-check. Very often, it finds issues that other apps might have missed.
5. Slick Write (Free)
If you’re familiar with the Hemingway app, you will enjoy using Slick Write.
I have tested it many times, and the analysis is always extremely fast and accurate.
There are a whole bunch of settings and checking options in this tool.
I would recommend that you try the demo first to see what you can do with the Slick Write app. Then you can modify all the settings to suit your writing style.
There are about thirty language points you can select from on the settings page.
One of the big plus points for this app is that you can save your work. It is an exceptional feature for a free app.
It is not a writing corrector as such. But it highlights areas where you can improve your writing. On top of that, each point has a slide-over hint box to help you make your corrections.
There is also a helpful statistics box at the bottom of the page relating to your text, reading time, and reading ease.
You make the editing decisions
No software will automatically edit your book. Whatever program you use can certainly help you, but you will need to decide what edits to make.
Editing a book is about using your judgment and writing skills to improve your text.
Software can’t tell you if your characters are weak or if there are parts of your plot that don’t make sense. Nor can it check your facts, dates, or mistakes with your character profiles.
For instance, only you can notice that a character is blonde in one chapter but brunette in a later chapter.
Editing a book is a challenging task. It usually takes longer than writing your first draft.
However, if you invest the time and use your book editing software to help guide you to areas that need your attention, you will definitely improve your manuscript across two or three drafts.
There are so many online grammar checkers available now, but very few of them can help you to edit a book.
Your choices are limited, as my list above shows. Nothing will replace hiring a real human editor, but it is very expensive and out of many self-publishing authors’ financial reach.
When you publish a book, you want to give your book buyers the best possible reading experience you can.
The best alternatives for editing software are not free, but they are cheap when you compare them to the cost of a professional editor.
But if you do plan to use an editor, the work you do during your draft process will reduce your costs considerably.
Whichever way you choose, it’s up to you to make sure your book is the best it can possibly be before you publish it.