Does Your Manuscript Really Need Editing?
After countless hours of writing and agonizing, you’ve finally typed “The End” on your masterpiece. You’re proud of your manuscript, and you should be. You’ve accomplished something most writers only ever dream of. You then run your manuscript through a grammar and spell-check program, get rid of all those annoying squiggly red and green lines, and now you’re ready to query or publish to the retailer of your choice. But are you?
Even if you’ve read and reread that manuscript a dozen times and had your Aunt Betty with the eye for grammar read it, your manuscript may still need editing. This is especially true if this is your first attempt at writing a book-length work, you need a big-picture assessment of your story, you don’t have a critique group, or you’re self-publishing. Well-crafted stories and clean manuscripts are the marks of a professional author.
Writers taking the traditional route to publishing will have their manuscripts edited by their publishers if their book makes it out of the slush pile. For these writers, a well-edited first few chapters may make the difference between a request for a full manuscript or an out-and-out rejection.
Now that you have a better understanding of why you might need an editor, let’s take a look at the various types of editing. For a more detailed description of the types of editing, tap or click here to read Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Editing.
The Types of Manuscript Editing
A manuscript assessment is a broad, top-level look at your manuscript to help identify overarching structural issues and determine its readability. It is a highly recommended first step, particularly for first-time authors and those who have never had anyone read their manuscript in its entirety.
Substantive or developmental editing identifies and improves upon key structural elements of a manuscript. Unlike an assessment, which does not involve heavy document markups or editing, a substantive edit may involve significant markups and deep restructuring of story elements.
Style edits, sometimes called line edits, are undertaken by editors with an eye for cadence. Style manuscript editing focuses on correcting issues at the paragraph and sentence level and should be done on a manuscript that already has a strong plot, story, and structure. A style edit improves a manuscript’s overall clarity.
Copyediting has become somewhat of a catch-all term for all editing. But copyediting typically only addresses grammar and usage issues, spelling and punctuation errors, and word choice. Copyediting also addresses a manuscript’s correctness. It is less focused on rhythm and flow and more concerned with ensuring accuracy.
The final phase of the manuscript editing process is about double-checking the manuscript, not assessing or improving style or subject matter. Proofreaders check for typos, spelling, and layout issues.
Choosing the Right Editor
Many won’t need all of the editing services listed above, so it’s important to understand your story and to receive enough feedback from beta readers and critique groups to determine the scope of editing you’ll require. Do your research when choosing an editor. Make sure the editor you choose understands the various types of editing (no matter what names they use for it) and is skilled in the type(s) you’ll need. Ask for references and read their testimonial page. Ask what style guide and dictionary they use—the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary are the industry standards.
Most editors will provide a sample edit prior to quoting a rate or taking you on as a client. Take advantage of this offer to help determine whether or not you and the editor will be a good fit. Also, be conscious of timeframes and deadlines; many experienced editors book out weeks and sometimes months in advance.
How Much Should Editing Cost?
Manuscript editing rates can vary as much as their definitions. Depending on the type and complexity of the edit, some editors charge anywhere from .008 to .08 cents per word. Other editors charge by the page, with rates ranging from $2 to $10 per page. Still, others charge hourly rates ranging from $20 to over $100 per hour. The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) has a handy rate-chart that provides an overview of average hourly rates. Click or tap here to visit the EFA website. I’ve set my rates to be competitive and to reflect my years of experience and training, my commitment to excellence, and my desire to help writers at all stages of their writing careers.