What Kind of Book Editing Do I Need?
The first rule of editorial is “Two sets of eyes on everything.” Everyone — and I mean everyone — needs an editor. Even the most meticulous of writers need a fresh set of eyes to review their work. But just what sort of editorial review your material needs depends on a variety of factors, including level of writing expertise, what stage your manuscript is in, and who your audience is, to name just a few.
Assist authors with the overall structure and content direction of a work.
Why You Might Need One: If your manuscript is still in the early stages and you’re unsure how you want to structure it — or even what you want to include — you may want to have a developmental editor work with you. These editors can either work as sounding boards or they can be more hands on, taking existing material and providing it with structure and vision.
Example: A travel agent has an idea for a new type of travel guide about Hawaii, but she wants to refine it. At the very early stages of the project, a developmental editor can help outline the format of the guide, determine a target demographic, and assist the writer in deciding how to differentiate the book from other travel guides (i.e., creating a USP, or unique selling proposition). If the writer already has a few pages written, the developmental editor can offer feedback on how to format the travel guide (e.g., by activity, by region), how to highlight information (e.g., sidebars, pullquotes), and provide other advice that will inform the remainder of the book.
But the onset of a book’s life cycle isn’t the only time a developmental editor can be useful. If the writer already has a lot of written material on a subject — in the form of notes, articles, lectures, speeches, etc. — the developmental editor can help craft those documents into a single cohesive format.
In some cases, the amount of work required for a specific project may be above and beyond that of a developmental editor and may actually require a co-author or ghostwriter.
My Rates & Process: When offering my services as a developmental editor, I do very little actual writing but rather restructure material and offer suggestions on content, or advise on how to do so. This is to maintain a clear division between editing and writing. Developmental editing is offered on an hourly basis: $125/hour
Review copy for grammar, clarity, and consistency, as well as structural issues such as plot holes.
Why You Might Need One: If you’re a strong writer and just want that second set of eyes after a first draft is complete to give your copy a thorough scan, a line editor may be what you need. With this type of editing, the editor looks at your copy under a virtual microscope, making sure the grammar is correct, ideas are clearly laid out, and thoughts flow smoothly. Rewrites may be suggested and the author’s voice is kept intact. Although grammar and punctuation are considered, the main purpose of the edit is to ensure that the overall manuscript works.
My Rates & Process: After reviewing a sample of the overall manuscript, a flat rate is calculated based on the estimated number of hours the copy will require. An 80,000-word manuscript that requires average line editing would take roughly 40 hours to edit, for a total of $2800. Read another editor’s take on rates for editing books.
Review for pure grammar and punctuation when the rest of the manuscript is complete.
Why You Might Need One: Everyone — and I mean everyone — needs a copyeditor before a work is published. Just when you need it is another issue. If you consider your manuscript complete and just need to have it reviewed for general issues such as spelling, punctuation, etc., you’re ready for a copyeditor. At this stage, the editor does not offer feedback on plot holes or fact-checking, although those issues may be noted if they are egregious. It’s generally a good idea to have someone who has not worked on the manuscript in the previous stages to copyedit, as anyone who is already familiar with the copy may be too close to the work to review it with fresh eyes.
My Rates & Process: After reviewing a sample of the overall manuscript, a flat rate is calculated based on the estimated number of hours the copy will require. An 80,000-word manuscript that requires average copyediting would take roughly 40 hours to edit, for a total of $2400. Read an article from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders about why you need a copyeditor.
Reviews final layout for mistakes, both those that previously existed and those that may have occurred during the layout process.
Why You Might Need One: As with copyediting, every manuscript should go through at least one round of proofreading before it goes off to press. Because errors may have been introduced during the layout and design process, the proofreader makes a final review, checking both the main body copy as well as any captions, charts, tables, etc., that may have been added.
My Rates & Process: At this time, I no longer offer proofreading services.
Note: Manuscripts are edited in Microsoft Word and use the program’s Track Changes and Comments features. For manuscripts with a specific lexicon, a style guide might be compiled, if the client does not provide one.