I can edit or proofread nearly anything that’s written in English: book manuscripts, short stories, essays, website content, blogs, marketing materials, or even financial statements (I am also a Certified Public Accountant)! But my passion is fantasy and science fiction. I also have a soft spot for horror. In other words, I’m not terribly picky!
Great question! Generally, you review your own first draft and write a second one to fix obvious errors and make improvements. Then you’ll get a developmental edit, which focuses on the big picture. After a new draft, if you’re close to being ready for publishing, you’ll get a copyedit, which helps make improvements at the sentence level. Then prepare your manuscript for publishing and get a proofread to correct any lingering errors. See my blog on The Editing Process for more detail.
It comes down to an estimate of how much time it will take me. I’ll ask you to send me your project, or at least a sample of it. I’ll skim through it to get an idea of the amount of work it will require; the cleaner it is, the lower the rate.
Also, the rate may be higher if you have a short deadline (i.e., a rush fee). Once I know this information and the exact word count, I’ll provide you a total amount that the project will cost.
Once we have agreed on the level of service and the price, I will send you an agreement specifying the terms. The agreement is in place to ensure that we are in accord about the services to be performed, the deadline, and the payment terms. The agreement must be signed and returned to me before work begins. If you have any concerns about the terms of the agreement, please discuss them with me; they are not set in stone.
My payment terms are 100% up-front payment for new clients via PayPal. Payment is due before I schedule your project to begin work. This may sound scary, but before we get to this point, we’ll have had discussions about your project and your needs and perhaps I’ll have provided a sample edit. I believe you’ll feel comfortable that I’ll deliver the edit and that you’ll be satisfied with the results. If there’s any lingering doubt, I’m happy to provide references. For existing clients, if you need different terms, please contact me.
Short texts (about five pages or fewer) will generally be returned within forty-eight hours. Longer projects will depend on word count, whether you have a deadline, and other projects already in the queue. For novel-length works, I generally ask for sixty days. I expect to get it back to you sooner, but that gives me a cushion in case life happens.
If you have a deadline, please communicate that up front. Also, keep in mind that I must receive your signed agreement and payment prior to adding your manuscript to my schedule.
I prefer to use Microsoft Word. I use Comments extensively for developmental edits to point out areas where improvements are needed and suggestions for how to implement them. In copyedits and proofreads, I also occasionally use them to ask questions or explain why I changed something. Word also has a Track Changes feature, which enables me to make my suggested changes in copyedits and proofreads within the text. With Track Changes, all you have to do is either accept or reject my suggestions. If you accept them, then your writing is automatically updated with no further work required. If you’re interested in learning more about Track Changes, see my blogs on Using Track Changes as an Editor and Using Track Changes as an Author.
Google Docs has a Suggestions feature that is similar to Track Changes that I can use if Microsoft Word doesn’t work for you. However, it doesn’t have as many nifty features as Word, so it is not preferred.
If your document is a PDF, I use a tool called PDF Annotator that enables me to mark suggested changes. Unfortunately, you would still need to do the work of incorporating the changes into the final document yourself since I would be unable to edit a PDF directly.
Websites are a little trickier since they’re not in document form. I will usually copy and paste content and make suggestions in Microsoft Word using Track Changes as described above. For other things like spelling errors in menus or broken links, I will either describe the problem (if it’s easy to follow) or capture an image and mark it up either in Word or in a PDF. I am also open to making the changes directly in your website editor if you prefer.
I use Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which is the style guide used for book publishing.
If you’re a new copyediting or proofreading client, I will also ask you to fill out a preferences sheet or provide a style sheet specifying how you prefer certain things to be presented, and I stick to your preferences when providing my services. I also encourage you to give me feedback so that I’m not marking things that you don’t want marked, which saves both of us time.
I generally use Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for spelling and hyphenation decisions.
Finally, if you have a style sheet, character list, summary, or other information that will be helpful as reference when I’m working on your project, I ask that you provide those.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can replace professional editing. You wouldn’t expect to build a house without having to pay for it, right? Think of professional editing the same way and see if you can scrounge up the money to make an investment in your writing career.
However, if you definitely cannot do that, there are some other options.
Consider whether you can afford a manuscript critique or coaching sessionns. You won’t get as detailed of guidance as you would in a developmental edit, but it will give you a professional opinion on big picture areas to improve so that you can make your writing stronger. It will just require more effort on your part to learn how to implement the suggestions.
Use beta readers you trust to give you honest, critical feedback. They should be people who are avid readers in your genre so that they are familiar with genre expectations and what makes a good story. They should look for areas where a character’s motivation isn’t clear or seems like something that character wouldn’t do. They should inform you of plot holes where maybe something was in your mind but didn’t make it onto the page. Consider using paid beta readers so that they will take the work seriously and meet your deadlines. You don’t have to pay much, but if you do pay, you’re likely to get better results. This is essentially a manuscript critique by non-professionals.
You can also take the time to learn to edit the work yourself. It’s ideal to have someone who isn’t intimately familiar with the work review it, but self-editing is a wonderful skill to have. There are lots of books and online resources available to help you learn how to edit. Maybe even take an online class. Take advantage of those resources and apply your knowledge to your own manuscript. Even if you end up using an editor at a later stage, the cleaner your manuscript is, the cheaper the edit will be.