How I edit

Content is king.

Whether you’re a brand new author just feeling your way through your first publishing steps or a seasoned pro looking for new ways to hone your craft, you will see an immediate boost in the creative quality (and sometimes even quantity!) of your work from consulting with a good Developmental Editor.  Some people call what I do “story editing” and to others it’s “content editing”, but I take care to nurture more than just your on-page story. I excel at identifying more than just plot holes or risky characterizations: my feedback encourages you to think about both the big picture—say, the future of your series—and the fleeting, itty bitty ones (like choosing punctuation for a tricky dialogue cadence). Because I work with you as a partner to help fill in the editing and planning gaps for your specific project needs, I call this developmental editing, and it’s a synergistic combination of structural, substantive, and line editing.

I also line and copyedit.

And I have been trained by the pros at UC Berkeley. I prefer to copyedit stories I have already taken a developmental or line pass on, as part of a project-style edit, but am happy to take on copy-only projects as well if that’s what you need. If you want an editor who can do everything, from start to finish (aside from formatting), I’m your girl. See below for more details on independent line edits.

The details

If we work together, I’ll send you a Freelance Editorial Agreement (contract) outlining exactly what services I will, might, and won’t provide. You’ll have the opportunity to suggest any changes to the contract before we get started, and we’ll tweak it until we both feel good about the deal.

Below are the standard (baseline) services I offer for a Developmental Edit.

I will read the manuscript and comment on the…

  • Pace: Does it lag anywhere? Is it too fast in places?
  • Continuity: Is the reading experience smooth and pleasing? Do any sections of text feel illogical or non-continuous, or otherwise jar the reader out of the overall story arc?
  • Plot: Is it believable? Is it exciting? What may make it pop or inspire greater emotion?
  • World-building: Does the text provide natural immersion in the story world? In what ways could this be improved?
  • Characterization: Are the characters appropriately relatable, likable, complex, or despicable? How can they be improved to inspire a closer bond with readers?
  • Voice: Are the characters’ (and author’s) voices consistent? Are they too similar to one another or too disparate from intent of the story? Suggest occasional rephrasing to this end.

I will provide feedback in the Markup Area of a MS Word document (.doc or .docx format) with comments and suggested changes.

I avoid copyediting or any editorial changes which don’t contribute to the intended feel of the story or its emotional impact on a reader (which means I DO line, copy, and substantially edit where I feel it adds punch and value to a character or scene, or I will highlight areas in-line that need improvement).

You will also receive a thorough Editorial Report along with your marked manuscript, expanding on the topics above and adding additional insights.

Sometimes you just need a line edit.

If you feel confident about your story’s plot arc, character growth, and emotional impact—say, the manuscript has already undergone a straight developmental edit—and just want someone to work through the story to improve dialogue flow, prose structure, and in-line characterization, I will do a thorough line edit of your manuscript without the Editorial Report that normally accompanies my developmental edits. The rate for both services is the same, and I price both using a Diagnostic edit (more on that below), so it’s really down to what you and your story need.

Getting started

I’ll start with a Diagnostic Edit to gauge how quickly I’ll be able to finish the full manuscript. The sample you send for the Diagnostic Edit should be 1-2 chapters (4500 words or less) and the flat rate for that edit is $125. Included in the $125 is a sample of what you can expect from the full manuscript edit, including a smaller Editorial Report and the manuscript returned with editorial marks and comments. Once I finish the Diagnostic Edit, I’ll be able to estimate how long the full manuscript may take (minus the sample edit, if that section doesn’t change), then we can do a new contract with a flat fee. The fee for the full contract is based on an approximate rate of $55 per hour for the rest (using my time spent on the Diagnostic to make the estimate).

The great thing about the sample edit is that it gives you a chance to be sure you like the type and style of feedback I offer and to make sure your manuscript is ready for this type of editing. There comes a point where you’ve done as much as you can without outside feedback, and one of my goals in the Diagnostic Edit is to gauge if the manuscript is in that sweet spot. You’ll get the most out of your investment in a Developmental Edit if the story already has a strong foundation, so thoroughly work with your critique groups and personal drafts first, then we’ll talk quotes.

My rates

For my developmental and line editing services, I charge a standard rate of $55 USD per hour. The full project quote will be $125 for the Diagnostic Edit plus the flat fee based on my time spent on the Diagnostic. Even if I go over my original time estimate, you’ll never owe more than the flat fee for that portion of the work.

For copyediting services, I charge a standard rate of $0.014 per word. I don’t need to do a Diagnostic (sample) Edit in order to price a copyedit. This is based purely on word count.

I require full payment before beginning work, and my calendar often books up months in advance, so please try to give yourself as much of a time and financial cushion as possible to avoid delays on your project. My timeline for finishing an edit depends on the type of edit (developmental vs line only vs copy), the length of the book (short? novella? epic?), the nuances of the story (are there complicated accents or native customs I’ll need to research?), and the level of finesse the narrative exhibits.

Example project costs

Here are some real quotes from recent work…

  • $440 for a developmental edit (with partial line edits) of a 7,500 word (short story) romance
  • $1250 for a developmental edit (with partial line edits) of a 95,000 word (novel-length) romance
  • $1490 for a developmental edit (with partial line edits) of a 75,000 word crime thriller
  • $350 for a targeted (high level) beta read of a 90,000 word romance
  • $900 for a developmental edit (no line edits or in-line marks) of a 95,000 urban fantasy

…so the total price really depends on several factors, and how ready the manuscript is for a specific phase of editing plays a big role in my quote (hence the Diagnostic Edit). I’ve found, too, that—for line and developmental editing—more words doesn’t necessarily equate to more expensive (or more time spent), since authors commonly hit their stride mid-story. The build up and exit of the story tend take the most time, often bringing price quotes for novellas closer to a full length novel than you may expect. Just some additional insight. =)

Invest in your craft.

You may be thinking, “Holy cow, Sue, that’s expensive!” I get that a lot from new authors. 🙂 If you’re wondering whether working with me is worth what I charge, I can only point you toward praise from other authors I have worked with. My rate is based on a combination of the standard suggested range for developmental editing; the economy of the region I live in (San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA); and the years of experience, depth of insight, and spectrum of creative thinking I bring to our partnership.

Here are a few things to think about. If any of these statements makes you feel a little queasy, then consider how you can work Developmental Editing into your budget.

Readers are more impatient than ever, and many will make a stop/go decision about your book on the first page, and then again before the 30% mark.

The publishing industry, especially in romance, is extremely competitive, and honing the quality of your voice can immediately boost your chances of making a living from your passion.

You only get one chance at an amazing first impression.

Make it count.


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