Manuscript Critique

Affordable Book Editing From Stephen King's First Editor

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a book edit include?

There is no uniform definition specific to all book edits. Editors tend to develop their own terminology, and some separate the various tasks they perform into a menu of services.

The scope of my manuscript edit includes a thorough proofreading and line edit. My edit includes marking up your manuscript and providing a thorough report that is typically twenty-five to thirty single-spaced pages in length explaining the marked items you will find on your marked up manuscript. I look for every factor of concern that could prevent your manuscript from being perceived as professional in form and substance. If you carefully address all of the issues in my report, there should be no need to pursue further editorial assistance.

What does a book edit cost?

My fee is 1.75 cents (that's CENTS, not dollars) per word per software word count plus a base fee of $50 and ten cents per page setup fee. (EXAMPLE: 60,000 word, 300 page manuscript is $1,130) This fee is considerably lower than that charged by other editors with comparable credentials; in fact, some editors charge more than this for simple proofreading alone. While other editors charge more, their edits are neither more effective nor greater in scope.

How long does a book edit take?

If your editor has a full-time job and other family and personal responsibilities, a book-length edit could take weeks. I'm a full-time editor who works six days a week and most holidays, so a book-length edit for me takes only a few days.

Why are sample edits a poor basis upon which to select a book editor?

An effective book edit cannot be judged by the number of markings on a manuscript. One with relatively few marks could be less marketable than one riddled with markings. The quality of an edit is determined by how well the markings are explained. Even the weakest of manuscript editors can appear deceptively strong on the basis of marks alone on a few pages of text. Inexperienced manuscript editors encourage "sample" edits because it gives them a misleading opportunity to compete with more seasoned book editors who don't have to "prove" anything. If a manuscript editor has actual experience with major New York publishers, what more could you want from a prospective book editor? Don't be fooled by a mere snapshot image of what a true edit is all about.

In truth, in the world of editing, only a handful of true pros with decades of legitimate commercial experience exist. They're the "A" list, while the rest are Bs, Cs, and even Ds. A seasoned pro would be insulted if asked to provide a sample, much like a medical doctor would feel if asked to perform a sample physical examination.

Where can I find out if a book editor I'm considering engages in dishonest practices?

For your own protection and peace of mind, you should verify a prospective book editor's credentials. Also, check Preditors and Editors, a site devoted to warning you about dishonest people in the publishing industry.

Why is manuscript format important?

In the editorial process, format determines the available white space on a sheet of paper where a manuscript editor can make markings and notations. If a potential editor doesn't require a format that maximizes white space, perhaps he/she doesn't intend to make many notations anyway. A double-spaced 12 pt. Courier or New Courier font extends your page count, but provides more space for editorial notations.

When ready to submit to commercial publishers, reformat to double-spaced 12 pt. Times New Roman font. If you self-publish, your publisher will have specific requirements in terms of font, margins, and other layout issues.

Why do I need a book editor?

If you plan to submit your manuscript to traditional publishers, you should eliminate all possible errors in advance as identified by your book editor. You have only one opportunity to make a first impression on agents and publishers.

If you plan to self-publish, you'll want your printed book to compare favorably with commercially published books, all of which are subjected to thorough edits. You could be seriously embarrassed if your published book is riddled with amateurish mistakes. A careful edit is just as important for self-publication as for commercial works.

What can I realistically expect from self-publication?

Selling self-published books, especially fiction, can be extremely difficult. Don't rely on your publisher for help; they are notoriously ineffective with sales assistance. Have your own solid, creative marketing plan firmly in mind before you venture into self-publication, and beware of the unrealistic promises of publishers. Historically, non-fiction self-published books have an exponentially higher success rate than self-published fiction.

What is the most important consideration in selecting the right book editor?

Actual commercial publishing editorial experience trumps academic credentials exponentially. If a potential manuscript editor cannot verify actual commercial experience with a major publisher, look elsewhere. I'm not the only good book editor out there, but trust me, only a few exist. Less experienced manuscript editors are not likely to give you satisfying results. I've edited over 2,500 book length manuscripts with a client satisfaction rate of over 99.5%. Few, if any, other editors can claim such extensive experience.

Don't confuse editing with proofreading. Any decent English professor can proofread your manuscript to correct/identify poor grammar, punctuation errors, incomplete sentences, etc. but that alone is virtually worthless in terms of meeting professional publishing standards. My book edit includes all of these, plus a thorough assessment of your manuscript that involves "reading between the lines" to evaluate your focus, cohesiveness, structure, characterization, etc. English professors are not qualified to address a manuscript from a commercial perspective.

Will my manuscript be print-ready following a book edit?

Manuscript edits are largely misunderstood. No editor can improve your style; only you can do that through continued practice. Edits alone can't make a manuscript publishable. Editors are like coaches; they can't play the game for you, but they can prepare you for your best performance.

A ghostwriter, on the other hand, might make your novel print-ready, but only after you pay thousands of dollars for him/her to essentially rewrite your entire manuscript, which goes far beyond the scope of a book edit. I personally know of an author who paid $20,000 to have his novel made over by a ghostwriter and it still didn't sell to commercial publishers. Making a novel print-ready isn't about making grammatical and punctuation changes alone; many critical issues identified by your editor will require sentence-to-sentence reconstruction which, again, is the work of a ghostwriter rather than an editor.

What if a potential book editor's credentials are difficult to verify?

Consider someone else instead. Don't take anyone's word for his or her credentials.

Are you affiliated with any other manuscript editors?

Absolutely not. I'm a one-man operation and personally edit every line of every manuscript. I never sub-contract work to anyone else.

Why is total payment in advance necessary?

To get the best, most accurate evaluation of your work, a book editor must be totally honest and candid in his/her remarks. If paid half up front and the remainder on completion, manuscript editors may have a tendency to sugar-coat their comments to prevent angry clients from withholding final payment. Remember, you're paying for honest criticism. You may not agree with everything your book editor says about your work; sometimes the truth hurts. Only total honesty from your book editor will prove helpful. Book editors who allow payment plans cannot be as forthcoming in their comments as those who require full payment in advance. PayPal offers a purchaser protection service that takes the risk out of payment in advance. Your money will be refunded for non-delivery of promised services.

Do book editors ever sub-contract their work to lesser qualified people?

Yes, some book editors incorporate deceptive practices in attracting business based upon their own impressive credentials, then subcontract manuscripts to lesser experienced individuals for the actual work. Ask any book editor to whom you're giving serious consideration if he/she performs all of the work himself/herself. I never sub-contract work.

My agent insists that I hire a specific book editor to edit my manuscript, yet the manuscript editor he is pushing has less impressive credentials than others and is more expensive. What could this mean?

When one specific book editor is heavily endorsed by someone in the industry, there could be a kick-back commission arrangement going on wherein the referring party receives a percentage of all referral business; in other words, the referring party has a selfish financial interest for steering you toward someone in particular. In this case, you typically lose because the recommended book editor is not likely to be the best/most qualified professional to edit your manuscript.

Likewise, publishers are in the business of publishing and agents are in the business of agenting. If either urges you to pay for their editorial services, go elsewhere. Rarely are they qualified to offer such services.

Are book editors usually qualified across the board or do they specialize in specific areas?

As is the case with most professions, book editors are typically experienced within only a few select categories. No one is qualified to professionally edit everything. For instance, a children's book editor would be of little help in editing a science fiction novel.

Is there a down side to hiring a book editor to work directly with my master file and make all changes/corrections for me?

Hiring an editor to work directly with your master file excludes you from the learning process you would otherwise experience by making corrections to the manuscript yourself. If you're serious about a career as a professional writer, you should take time to learn what your book editor points out to you so that you won't make those same mistakes in the future. Also, a thorough edit typically requires a thorough rewrite, which would usually be performed by a ghostwriter at a significantly higher fee.

Should I copyright my manuscript before sending it to a book editor?

If you're concerned about the security of your manuscript during the editing process, visit the U.S. Copyright Office's FAQ page. You'll find that your work is protected by law even without formal registration. It's possible, but highly unlikely, that your manuscript will be plagiarized.

Could an unscrupulous book editor steal my idea?

It's possible, but again, highly unlikely. Serious writers rarely wish to write someone else's idea; in fact, all serious writers whom I know have more ideas of their own than they'll ever have time to write. The theft of an idea is essentially a needless fear.