Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

Editors go by many different titles. Here are job descriptions of the four main types of editors you will come across, along with their alternate names and how much you can expect to pay when you hire them (based on industry averages).

Book coaches

Manuscripts in progress. Focus your writing and shape the overall direction of the book. May work with you from inception. Can guide you through the publishing process or for just a few months until you have your writing on track. Also called book shepherd.

Average rates: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editors

Very big picture. Shape the content of the book. Review organization of the book as a whole as well as organization within chapters; highlight areas that need work, need rewriting, require expansion, stray from topic. May overlap with copyediting. Also called content editing.

Average rates: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $75 an hour


Big picture. Work with completed manuscripts. Fix errors of grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense, as well as flow of paragraphs and word choice. Highlight further areas of development. Will do some rewriting; query places that don’t work, don’t make sense, don’t say what you think they say. Can overlap with development. Also called line editing.

Average rates: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $45 an hour


Finer details. Catch whatever the copyeditor may have missed. Fix grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense. Very little rewriting. Usually pages have been typeset so making changes becomes costly and time-consuming. For best results, do NOT use the same person to copyedit and proofread your work.

Average rates: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $30 an hour

Whenever you hire a vendor of any kind, be sure to clarify what their services include. Open communication is the best way to ensure you are getting what you expect.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing,, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.


Road to Publication: Page Proofs

What do you do when you get page proofs for your book from your designer? Quite a bit, actually. Here’s the rundown on all that happens when you have page proofs in hand, as I experienced it:

  • I received first page proofs for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro April 15 via e-mail. I immediately printed four sets. My husband and I each had a copy, and two copies  were sent out for advance reviews. I e-mailed the PDF to three more people, one of them being the proofreader and the other two being more reviewers.

    The page proofs have arrived!
  • While the proofreader was working away, my husband and I were each reviewing our sets of the pages. I read the book from beginning to end, then looked at some specific problem areas, such as the table of contents, the running heads, and page breaks. I followed my own advice, as set out in a previous blog post.
  • Two and a half weeks passed while the pages were being proofread and reviewed. Then, a few days before the proofreading due date, the proofreader scanned and e-mailed to me the pages with her corrections. I then compiled her edits as well as my husband’s onto my master set. I looked through everything once again, resolved the discrepancies that crept up among the three of us, and sent the entire set of pages back to the designer.

Because my copyeditor and I had done so much work early on to get the manuscript in shape, the proofreader had limited changes and was therefore able to (1) finish faster and (2) avoid shipping the complete set of page proofs, saving me time and money on both counts.

  • The designer had ten days to input the changes and get second proofs to me. While that was happening, even more exciting developments came my way, namely, I received reviews back from three of the five people I had approached. Two reviewers declined to review the pages, stating that the book was not appropriate for their audience. But that was OK. The three reviews I received were terrific, and I promptly added them to the front and back covers.

    The final front cover with endorsement
    The final front cover with endorsement
  • The second round of page proofs arrived a day early, which was great because that gave the indexer an extra day to complete the index. Time was getting short and I was anxious to make sure something as routine as an index didn’t cause us to miss our desired pub date. The indexer had asked for a week to complete the index, and that gave us only a few days for final revisions. If any major problems arose, we would miss the files-to-printer date. Turned out my worry was for naught: the indexer completed the index in three days!
  • While the index was being created, I checked corrections from first pages to second pages and then checked the table of contents and running heads again. I also spot-checked a few areas, reading all of the chapter-opening and -closing boxes and rereading the introduction and epilogue. As always, some small errors had slipped through. Good thing I took the time to review the pages again.

If you are self-publishing, be prepared to go through at least three rounds of page proofs. For whatever reason, it often takes until the third or fourth set of proofs for a person to notice an error in display text.

  • Corrections to the revised proofs and the edited index were e-mailed back to the designer (yes, you have to edit an index), and, lickety-split, we had third pages. We were getting close now. One more round of corrections and, as of yesterday, the interior has been finalized!

The pace of book production, once you receive those first page proofs, is mind-boggling. Just when it looks like you will never finish on time, the stars align, designers and indexers beat their deadlines, and you start to wonder why you ever doubted the outcome.

Final files go to the printer on Monday. Next up will be printer proofs. The end is in sight! The end of production, anyway. As the author, you’re never really done with a book, are you?

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

MS2BK: Copyediting

MS2BK: The Design Process

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing,, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Save Your Reputation: Edit Your Writing and Hire Pros When Needed

It might not be clear to all aspiring authors that their reputation is at stake with everything they put out into the world. A typo in a cover letter, a small factual error in a novel, a few misspelled words in a short story — who will notice? Who will care?

The truth is, although many people won’t be bothered by little errors here and there, enough people will be, and it is often these people who are the most vocal or are in a position of power.

The repercussions can include having your query to an agent dismissed, your short story rejected from a literary mag, or your novel blasted on Amazon and Goodreads. Unfortunately, you won’t get a second chance with an agent, and those online reviews never go away. Furthermore, once your reputation is tainted, it can be a major feat to get it back.

The ease with which a writer can become published via an e-book has magnified this problem. With an e-book, you can bypass every other kind of publishing professional, upload your first draft to Smashwords, KDP, or any number of other e-book sites, and — voila — in 24 hours you have an e-book. There are no gatekeepers and no one to save you from yourself. You can put out a low-quality product and ruin your reputation as a writer with the click of a button.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take matters into your own hands and shore up your reputation by producing the highest-quality writing you can. Here’s how:

  1. Perform thorough self-editing. There are lots of tricks to this. You can read my take on it here.
  2. Work with beta readers. Belinda Pollard has a nice article cleverly titled “How to Find a Beta Reader” with some helpful tips.
  3. Hire a professional editor. Editors abound. Find a good one to help you with whatever kind of writing you do.
  4. If you are self-publishing, hire a professional designer to help with layout or, at the very least, buy a template from Joel Friedlander.

While the professional design won’t help with textual errors, it will help your reputation. When you are self-publishing, anything you can do  to improve the appearance of your book will also improve your perceived professionalism and, therefore, your reputation.

Given how difficult it is to get noticed as a writer, the one thing you have to rely on is your reputation. Respect, integrity, professionalism, follow-through — no kidding, good editing can help you demonstrate all of these important characteristics through your writing. Mind your reputation from the beginning so that you do not have to fight to get it back.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing,, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Cutting Ties with a Publisher

Courtesy of douceurs d’etre.

Because nonfiction books are often acquired before the manuscript is complete, sometimes it happens that the manuscript turned in to the publisher is not fit for publication.

Although it is rare, I have twice copyedited projects that were later canceled because the manuscript was submitted in such a state that it was deemed unacceptable.

In one case, the sentences simply did not make sense when put together in a paragraph. There’s no other way to describe it. I alerted the publisher of the problem, the managing editor reviewed the manuscript, and when it was determined that the book was not salvageable, it was canceled outright.

In another case, I was tasked with cutting 30,000 words—a quarter of the manuscript—in order to weed out the tangents and uncover the true narrative of the book. This author was then faced with an ultimatum: accept these changes or cut ties. The author chose the latter.

Under these circumstances, the publishing house has the right to recoup the first portion of the advance. The author has the right to find another publisher. Both are examples of times when working with an agent may save an author considerable heartache and legal trouble. From an editor’s perspective, working with a critique group and employing some heavy self-editing may also have been in order.

If you are seeking a traditional publisher, be sure you know exactly what is expected of you before you sign. Open lines of communication with the acquisitions editor regarding how you are shaping your manuscript will also help head off problems. Enlisting the help of beta readers will further aid you in crafting a manuscript that is ready for production.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Why Does Editing Take So Long?

“Hi, I’m looking for an editor. I have all of my notes and reference books, I just need help putting it together.”

Hmm, I thought. Sounds like this guy needs more than copyediting. Maybe I can refer him to a book coach. . . .

And then,

“I need it Sunday.”

It was Friday afternoon. I’m not sure what this person thought was going to happen, but certainly no one could seriously expect an editor, or really any publishing professional, to create something out of nothing and do so in 48 hours.

This is an extreme example of the sometimes unrealistic expectations writers have of how quickly an editor can work. Still, even reasonable people want to know why copyediting takes three to four weeks, why development takes eight to twelve weeks or longer depending on how complex of a development it is. It’s a fair question. Here are my thoughts.

Editors read every word. 

As I have mentioned before in this blog, editors do not skim your manuscript. They read every word to make sure it is spelled correctly, assess every comma and semicolon to make sure it is used correctly, and evaluate every sentence and paragraph to make sure it makes sense and is in the best place for it. They check grammar and ensure consistency throughout the book, and they ensure each thought flows naturally from the one before it. Such careful reading means taking your time.

Editors read every word multiple times.

To help make sure as many errors as possible have been caught, copyeditors read a manuscript twice. Developmental editors may read the manuscript three or four times. Given that, different editors may average between four and ten pages an hour. If the development is extensive — you haven’t settled on a focus for the book, for example — the pace could drop to two or three pages per hour.

Editors research the best solution to a problem.

Four to ten pages an hour? Even when reading each word carefully, that seems awfully slow to the average reader.

The holdup is that editors don’t simply know all of the rules of grammar, spelling, and usage. They know a lot of them, but the rest they look up. Dictionaries, style guides, dedicated websites for areas of expertise — searching through these resources takes time. Experienced editors know the best places to look for answers, but they still have to look.

Related to this, editors keep a style sheet of all the terms and problem areas they research. That includes any proper names, unusual spellings, special treatment of key terms, and more that may be found in your book. Keeping the list in itself takes time. Ensuring its accuracy adds more time. However, these lists are essential in achieving consistency and correctness throughout a manuscript. They also are extremely helpful for anyone working on the project after editing, such as the designer and proofreader.

Editors have other projects.

Perhaps hardest for writers to understand is that they probably are not their editor’s only client. I like to make my authors feel as if they are my only client, but when it comes to how fast I can finish a project, the two or three other manuscripts on my desk have to come into consideration. I do not work on one project for eight hours a day. If I did, my eyes would glaze over and I would begin to make mistakes. Instead, I work on each project for a few hours every day. This helps me to stay engaged, critical for good editing.

I, as many editors do, try very hard to give my clients an accurate estimate of the amount of time a project will take. As I am a businessperson, it is in my best interest to finish a project as quickly as I can while still providing the highest quality I can. That is how I earn my clients’ trust and repeat business. That means, most likely, your editor is not dragging her feet in editing your manuscript. (It’s possible, but not likely.) More likely, she is working methodically to help you create the best possible book.

What You Can Do About It

It’s not always nice to have to wait for your editor to get through your manuscript. You might be itching to get past copyediting and on to design and layout. You may have promised someone you’d have the edited manuscript ready by a certain date. To get a good edit, however, you have to allow enough time. Take these steps to help smooth this process:

  • Build into your schedule an appropriate amount of time for each stage of editing (development, 2-6 months; copyediting, 3-5 weeks; proofreading, 2-4 weeks).
  • Contact your editor early to get on her schedule. Alert your editor asap if you will miss the date you agreed to submit the manuscript.
  • Take steps to turn over a manuscript that is as free of errors as you are able to get it.

I will say again that the best thing an author can do is find the right editor for you, one who can meet your budget, your schedule, and your expectations for quality. If you have doubts that your editor is using her time wisely, ask for an update.  If you determine your editor really isn’t performing to your standards, you may opt to pay for the work thus far and find someone else. Just keep in mind that a lot goes into good editing and often a little patience now pays off in the long run.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Why Does Editing Cost So Much? (Part 2)

It’s the rare book that doesn’t require a good stiff edit.

–Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

The Breakdown

With the importance of editing well established, it’s time to find out how editors figure their fees. It may seem mysterious, but it’s really quite a simple formula:

amount of work × rate of pay = the cost of editing

Different editors may charge by the hour, by the word, by the page, or a flat fee. However, all of these metrics translate into an estimate of how much work will be required of them. The other variable in the equation, rate of pay, is based on the service requested.

Here’s a breakdown of how the two variables are determined.

Amount of work

Length, complexity, schedule, and level of edit are the main factors in determining how much work a particular manuscript will demand. Very long manuscripts, even the well-written ones, take a lot of time to read and edit. Very complex manuscripts, such as those with a significant number of references or large amounts of artwork, take a lot of time and even more brain power to keep the details straight. Short deadlines mean the editor may have to put other projects aside and work nights and weekends to finish on time. A stiff developmental edit, which covers high-level issues such as arrangement of individual chapters, transitions from chapter to chapter and paragraph to paragraph, and organization of the book as a whole, requires vision, attention to detail, and an impeccable ability to work with authors at their most vulnerable.

An editor evaluates these factors and balances them against her experience as to the amount of effort it will take to complete the project on time and with the highest possible quality. Cost estimates based on word count, page count, or a flat fee all attempt to capture this amount of work. Pay by the hour is easiest for most people to understand, and often these other metrics come down to how much of the editor’s time a project will take.

Rate of pay

Different services are charged at different rates. Often the rate is commensurate with the amount of work required, so developmental editing is more than copyediting, and copyediting is more than proofreading.  Why is this? As I mentioned in part 1 of this post, the cost of editing tends to be a question of value added. If your book is in terrible shape, the value your editor brings to the project increases significantly. At times it would seem the editor deserves coauthorship. In place of that, the editor is paid up front for her work.

For standard rates you can expect to pay, see the Editorial Freelancers Association rate chart. These rates are based on a national survey of what publishing professionals charge. If they seem high to you — “$45 an hour? I wish!” — remember that the self-employed pay higher taxes and are responsible for their own health insurance, a significant burden for some.

When looking at rates, particularly per page or per hour, it’s important to note that your editor does not skim through your work. I recall one author saying to me, “Four dollars a page? I can read a page like that!” as she snapped her fingers. That may be true if you’re simply reading for pleasure. Editors, conversely, who question every word and every sentence as they read, are generally able to edit between 5 and 10 pages an hour. This takes into account the two or three passes through the manuscript needed to ensure as many errors as possible have been corrected.

How You Can Save on Editing Costs

Look at what the variables are that drive cost. Which of these can you control? For example, is the length of your book on target? Does it pass the bikini test — short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject? Is your art program (photographs, drawings, charts, and graphs) appropriate for your genre? Have you set aside a reasonable amount of time for the editing to take place? Have you done everything you can to achieve a manuscript in tip-top shape?

Some of the more expensive aspects of your manuscript may not be up for debate. If you are writing an exhaustive history book, for instance, you probably need a long manuscript with lots of artwork and plenty of reference material. In that case, to save money you need to have a flexible schedule and to prepare a manuscript that is as clean as your ability allows. If you opt not to perform a thorough revision of your own work yet want a high-quality product, you are essentially choosing to pay someone else to do those revisions for you. If you are concerned about costs, do your part to alleviate some of your editor’s work.

As with all services, you are encouraged to request bids from multiple editors until you find the one who can both meet your needs and meet your budget. Part of finding the right editor is finding someone you trust is earning what you are paying her.

(Read Part 1 of this post here.)

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Why Does Editing Cost So Much? (Part 1)

“If there’s only one thing you’re able to spend money on, it should be hiring an editor.”

–Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

In Defense of Editors

If you have ever looked at a cost estimate for having your book edited, you may be scratching your head. More than $1,000 for copyediting? More than $3,000 for developmental editing? And that’s for a regular old 250-page manuscript! That seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a book that you can’t be sure will make a profit. How do editors justify charging so much?

Here’s the short answer: Without a thorough edit, your book won’t sell.

For years I didn’t believe that. How would readers know the book was poorly edited until after they bought it? But in the era of ubiquitous book reviews, it is absolutely true. Either no one will buy the book to begin with or a few people will buy it, pan it in the reviews, and dissuade anyone else from buying it. That means whatever money you spent on services other than editing — design, marketing, printing or converting to e-book — was wasted.

Professional editing isn’t a guarantee of success, but it gives your book a fighting chance and keeps you from embarrassing yourself. And for that kind of value added, you have to be willing to put forth some money.

Now, contrary to popular belief, the going rate for editing does not support a lavish, high-flying lifestyle. Rather, it affords the usual comforts of life, and it is only reasonable to expect a full-time professional to earn a modest living. She does that by charging her clients what her time is actually worth.

Nevertheless . . .

Some authors still feel if they are only going to make a certain amount of money on a project, the editor doesn’t have justification to charge more than that amount. That notion, however, ignores the fact that you are not paying your editor based on the book’s potential earnings. You are paying her for the work she is doing today.

If you question whether your editor is going to be worth her fees, get a sample edit before you hire her. This will give you an idea of what kind of changes your editor will make and you can decide for yourself if it is worth the expense.

Time and time again my authors tell me I have saved them from major embarrassment; I have found errors they never knew were there; the editing phase gave them the opportunity to improve their writing in ways they didn’t expect. If you work with a qualified, professional editor, there is a strong chance you will have a similar experience. And when that happens, when you see just how much better of a book you have due to your editor’s efforts, you will understand why editing costs so much.

(Read Part 2 of this post, “The Breakdown,” here.)

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

A 9-Step Checklist for Reviewing Page Proofs

You’ve just received a set of page proofs for your book and you have no idea what to do with them. “Review them,” you are told. OK, but what are you reviewing them for?

The following checklist outlines the tasks of a professional proofreader when editing page proofs. As the author, you should be on the lookout for many of these same problems.

  • Ensure all pages are included.
  • Check pagination to ensure pages are numbered consecutively. There should be no page number on blank pages and a “drop folio” — a page number at the bottom of the page — on chapter openers.
  • Check running heads to make sure they are correct and that none are missing. Check spelling carefully. Note that there should be no running head on blank pages or chapter openers. Running heads for fiction are usually author name on the left and book title on the right. Nonfiction generally uses book title on the left and chapter title on the right, or part title on the left and chapter title on the right.
  • Check the table of contents against the text to make sure everything matches. If the word chapter is used in the TOC, it should also appear on the chapter opener, and vice versa.
  • Read through the entire book to correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, consistency, sense. Remember, you are not copyediting the book; you are polishing it.
  • Check cross-references and fill in any missing information.
  • Watch for bad breaks, such as widows, orphans, or broken contractions at the end of a line.
  • Ensure design elements are treated consistently. All first-level heads should look the same, all second-level heads should look the same, and so on. Pay particular attention to spacing.
  • Check twinning. Facing pages should align top and bottom.

Most traditionally published authors don’t check twinning or mark bad breaks. They leave those steps to the proofreader and in-house editor. Self-publishers, even those who hire a proofreader, may want to go through all of these steps, as they don’t have an in-house editor to monitor the work of the proofreader and ensure quality.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014

Proofreading Equals Questioning: Tips for Self-Editing

Tricks and techniques for good self-editing range from reading your manuscript aloud to reading it from end to beginning. These tactics can help you spot errors that otherwise may go unnoticed. They are particularly good for detecting missing words or confusing constructions. But much of self-editing is simpler than that.

The essence of good editing is knowing what to question. If you’re new to editing, the answer is, question everything. If you don’t know if something is correct, look it up. As you become more practiced, you will question less because you will have learned the rules. Even when you know the rules, however, some areas should always be questioned. The following five points are common problem areas that spell-check will not reliably catch.

  • Every time you see “your,” ask if that is the correct choice. If you mean “you are” then you know you want the contraction, “you’re,” instead.
  • Every time you see “it’s,” ask if you mean “it is.” If that’s not what you mean, then you want the possessive, “its.”
  • Every time you come across a pronoun, particularly “they” or “it,” ask what noun it refers to. If you can’t find the noun or it is very far away from the pronoun, replace the pronoun with the noun or rewrite the sentence.
  • Every time you come across a list, ask if each item in the list is in the same form — sentence, phrase, or single word, for example. Make all of the list items match.
  • Every time you see two words that form a common phrase, look them up in the dictionary to find out if they should be one word, two words, or hyphenated. Do this even if spell-check has not highlighted them.

This last point warrants further explanation. Certain word pairs are so often used together that we think of them as one unit. Some of them really are one unit. Others have been joined by a hyphen, and still others remain two words.

These days, word pairs are rarely hyphenated. While words used to evolve from two words to hyphenated to one word, today we often skip the hyphenation phase. For example, the evolution of “to morrow” to “to-morrow” to “tomorrow” took a few hundred years. The evolution from “Web site” to “website” is ongoing, but most of us never even bothered with “Web-site.”

With that bit of etymology in mind, consider these word pairs, some of my personal favorites:

time line
story line
cell mate
soul mate
full time
long-term (as an adjective)
on edge
post-traumatic stress disorder

As you can see, there isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason behind what is hyphenated and what isn’t, what’s one word and what’s two words. There are some rules set out by various style guides, but even those have exceptions. And that is why you simply have to look them up.

Editing your own work is difficult. It’s why we hire professionals. But before you get to that step, take some time to read your work with the thought to take nothing for granted. Take your time, and question everything.