Do I need professional editing?

That depends. If you are pursuing traditional publishing, agents and acquisitions editors do not expect your manuscript to be professionally edited (and if they ask that you do this first and refer you to services, don’t walk away–run!). Traditional publishing includes editing, so you should not be spending money to do this yourself. You should, however, find critique partners and beta readers (whether through trades or free) to help you clean up your manuscript as much as possible before querying.

If you are planning to self-publish, you should get your books professionally edited. There has long been a stigma associated with self-published books; when anyone can publish, you’ll see books with poor-quality covers, incorrect formatting, and structural and technical problems in the text. A high-quality book includes an effective cover, correct formatting, and professional editing, and a high-quality book is one readers will feel more confident buying! Moreover, while critiques and beta reviews can be useful, a professional edit comes with the confidence of an editor’s proven track record, credentials, knowledge, and experience, as well as a quick turnaround to help you stay relevant on a self-publishing schedule.

How do I find editors?

Well, if you’re here, you’ve found one. 🙂 But I like to recommend checking the acknowledgments pages in your favorite self-published books, as well as browsing the forums on www.kboards.com in the Writer’s Cafe to find some recommendations. I also strongly suggest taking advantage of free sample edits (usually 500-1,000 words of a novel-length work), checking out the works in editors’ portfolios, and asking them any questions you may have to see whether you will work well together.

Which genres do you accept?

Not every editor is right for every manuscript and vice versa, so I only accept manuscripts I believe are a good fit. For developmental editing, I work primarily with fantasy, science fiction, and romance. For line editing, copy editing, and proofreading, I’m open to most genres of fiction, except horror. (Just ask!) Profanity, violence, and mature content are acceptable.

At this time, I do not work with poetry, plays, screenplays, or most non-fiction (except memoir) beyond proofreading.

How do I know when my manuscript is ready for professional editing?

I’m happy to edit a manuscript once you’ve gone over it yourself at least once, to save me time and you money. The better shape your manuscript is in, the lower my quote will typically be. Some amount of self-editing is not a bad idea, and some authors like to share their manuscripts with trusted critique partners and alpha readers before professional editing.

The level of editing also matters. Developmental edits are intended for manuscripts at an earlier stage with deeper issues, and line edits are appropriate once the deeper developmental edits have been incorporated. Copy edits are timely for manuscripts with content and style issues resolved, when the manuscript is more or less in the form it will be for publishing. Significant revision after copy editing is not recommended unless your copy editor is willing to check over your changes. Proofreading is the final edit before publication, and subsequent revisions are not advised unless your copy editor and proofreader are willing to check over them. Always be sure to do a final readthrough yourself before publication–remember, editors are human, too, and no editor can promise a 100% error detection rate.

A good editor will also tell you if your manuscript is not ready for the service you’ve asked for. For example, if I get a manuscript proofreading request and I notice inconsistent terminology and facts, I will advise the author to hire a copy editor first (whether me or someone else) to fix those issues.

How long will an edit take?

Typically, a developmental edit, line edit, or copy edit takes two weeks, and a proofread takes one week. I prefer not to work weekends (but will sometimes respond to emails as a courtesy). If you have time constraints and need a rush edit, a shorter turnaround can be negotiated for an additional fee.

Once you agree to accept my manuscript for editing, what is the process like?

If you decide you want to book the slot, you provide me with an estimated final word count, based upon which I give you a quote. If you accept the quote, I send you a Statement of Work as a contract with all the details via an e-sign service. From there, I’ll invoice you through PayPal for a nonrefundable 10% deposit to guarantee your slot, and upon receipt of that payment, I will hold that slot for you. Before it is scheduled to begin, you send me your final document, I make an adjustment to your quote based on your final word count, then bill you for the rest of the project. Once that is paid, I will begin the edit on the scheduled day.

During the course of the work, you will likely not hear from me until I’ve completed it, at which point I’ll send the edited manuscript (and editorial letter and/or style sheet, depending on the service chosen) back to you for revision. Once you’ve completed your revisions, you can send it back to me to check over the changes as needed (within reason) until they’re finalized. If you’re getting more than one service, you will receive the edited manuscript for revision between passes. Once the edit is done, I welcome you to contact me with questions and share your successes. I always love to hear from my clients!

Which reference materials do you use for copy editing?

I use The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition; and Garner’s Modern English Usage. However, I use these materials with careful judgment to preserve your authorial voice and character voices. Style guidelines for fiction should be used to smooth out instances of unintended jarring for the reader while preserving meaning and voice, not strictly applied to make manuscripts adhere to every “rule” of grammar.

Can you recommend some writing books to improve my work?

Absolutely! Although writing is a creative venture, there are many resources to help equip you with the tools to tell your story more effectively. A good start includes:

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come to Life by Alicia Rasley
Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland
A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King