Why do you charge by the word rather than by the hour?
Most of the time you'll see editing rates that are quoted by the hour, but I personally prefer to charge by the word so that prospective clients can calculate what the cost of editing their project will be right from the start. This minimizes uncertainty and the potential for misunderstandings. Handing a manuscript over for editing can be extremely nerve-racking if you're not used to it, so I really try to make the process as easy and low-stress as I can for my clients.
What is standard pricing for editing?
I've only written the first half of my book. Can I still send it to you?
Generally speaking, no. In rare cases, with established clients, I'm willing to work on a project in chunks as they complete it or can afford it. For new clients, however, I strongly prefer to be handed a completed manuscript to edit. It's simpler for both parties and, honestly, it allows me to do my job more effectively.
Do you have a resume?
I do, but it contains information (phone number, mailing address, etc) that I'd prefer not to post online. Clients can request to see it if they wish.
Do you have references?
Of course! In fact, you can see some of them under the "Client Feedback" section of the About page. More can be provided upon request.
What do your services not include?
My editing services do not include general fact-checking (unless it's something I know off the top of my head already), indexing, or seeking permission to use copyrighted material. I also don't handle creating tables of contents, building indexes or glossaries, applying pagination, arranging layouts for publication, or designing covers (though I can check all of that over for you afterwards with my proofreading service). Those are tasks for professionals who specialize in those areas. If you have need, I can often refer you to someone who has the skillset you're looking for.
Do you offer an editing sample?
I offer this free service to all potential new clients! It's extremely useful, as it gives me a good idea of the state of their manuscript (that way I know what I'll be working with if hired), and it also lets the client get a sense of whether my editing style is a good fit for them.
What is your turnaround time like?
My turnaround time for developmental edits on most novel-length manuscripts is two to three weeks. For copy editing a similar manuscript, I usually need three to four weeks. Proofreading the same usually takes two weeks. That said, these are just averages, and the turnaround time for your specific project may take more or less time depending on how big it is and what shape it's in when I get my hands on it. These averages are also only for single rounds; if you make revisions and need me to go over things again, which is likely, that will also take time. (Just ideally not as much time as the first round.)
What file format should manuscripts be sent to you in? What software do you use?
For everything but proofreading, I prefer to work with Microsoft Word files (.doc) so that both parties can make use of the Track Changes feature. (If clients don't have Word, however, LibreOffice Writer is a free alternative that is cross-compatible and functions almost identically! I'm even willing to use Google Docs in a real pinch, as it has an analogous feature to Track Changes, but it's clunkier and not as versatile.)
Can you give me some examples of how and why I would benefit from a sensitivity reader?
Absolutely. Critics of sensitivity reads have likened the service to censorship, but really it's the opposite: consulting a sensitivity reader is like consulting a specialized fact-checker or researcher, and their purpose is to facilitate you in writing the story you want to write as well as it can be written. All authors depend on keeping their readers engaged with what's on the page, and getting the details wrong can not only throw readers out of the story but cause them to give up a book entirely if the author accidentally crosses over into being offensive.
For example, if you're writing a character from the "Deep South" of the United States who speaks Louisiana Creole, you'll want to consult someone who not only knows what life is like in that area but who also knows Louisiana Creole so that you can make sure you've got it right! Likewise, if you're writing a character who is blind, there are many aspects of navigating life as a blind person that sighted people are completely unaware of; consulting someone who is blind will not only make sure you've got your facts in order but will also give you an opportunity to learn new details that you can include to improve the authenticity of your content.
I'm thinking of skipping a developmental edit and going straight for copye diting, but I'm not sure. Can you tell me what my manuscript actually needs?
Right off the bat, let me stress that I don't recommend skipping a developmental edit! Even experienced authors usually need help on a developmental level. It is possible to get good free developmental feedback from experienced beta readers and crit groups, but a professional editor is more likely to catch things they won't and is (hopefully!) more willing to be honest with you about the flaws in your work.
Will you be my editor through all the stages of editing?
I actually prefer not to do this. You might think that you'd be best served by sticking with someone who already knows your story and what you're trying to achieve with it, and there are many editors who will offer you steep discounts if you hire them as your one-stop shop, but there are serious drawbacks to that approach! It's been scientifically established that the more familiar you get with a particular text, the harder it becomes to spot problems with it. This as true for me as for anyone else. As a result, while I'm happy to be hired for several different services on the same project, the two stages of editing that I try the most to avoid in combination (or at least close proximity) are copy editing and proofreading. If you really want me to do both copy editing and proofreading for you on the same project, I request several weeks between them. This is not only so that you have enough time to address my copy edits but so that my brain has enough time to reset and regain the ability to spot mistakes. In general, though, I find that clients are truly best served by taking advantage of a second set of eyes and expertises for at least one of the stages of editing.
Do you require a deposit?
For most things, yes, but not always. For anything where the bill is less than about $200, I usually prefer to work on an invoicing system. For anything more expensive or more involved, I use a full editing contract, which stipulates that I require a 50% deposit before starting work with the other 50% due upon completion.
Some editors require deposits months in advance to hold your booking in their calendar. I don't; if we've confirmed a booking, it's yours! I reach out to clients about two weeks in advance of our start date to request the deposit and the manuscript I'll be working on. (The deposit is just there to ensure I get paid something for my work in the rare case where a client tries to skip out on their bill!)
I'm not familiar with the terms you've used for different types of editing. Are they sometimes called other things?
Yes! Editing is a global industry with lots of niche areas so "standard terminology" differs. (For instance, while the information below may be accurate for fiction and creative nonfiction, it is not accurate for the world of academia.)
Are you sometimes credited under a different name?
Yes. "Michelle" is my legal name, but I'm not a fan of it. I only use it professionally for continuity reasons, and I prefer to go by "Chelle" everywhere else. As a result, you might see me credited as "Chelle Parker" sometimes, depending on the context in which I originally met the other people on the project.
How do I know if my manuscript qualifies as "novel-length"?
As always, you will find some variation from one source to another as to which word counts get assigned which labels. But generally, in North America, in modern day, the designations are as follows:
Short stories: 1,000 words to 7,500 words.
Novelette: 7,500 words to 17,500 words.
Novella: 17,500 words to 40,000 words.
Novel: Greater than 40,000 words.
Do you charge sales tax on top of your rates?
Nope! In the province of Ontario, where I live, businesses have to be over a certain size to charge sales tax and I'm just a wee freelance editor. (Also, a significant portion of my clients are from outside Canada, so legally I couldn't charge them even if my business was bigger!)
Why can't a developmental edit, copy edit, and proofread all be done at the same time or in a different order?
When it comes to editing, the most efficient route through the process is to work from the macro down to the micro. It's a waste of my time and your money to fix the grammar in even a single sentence when the whole chapter in which it appears might get cut! And waiting until design and layout are finished to start pointing out big problems in the text can dramatically alter the accuracy of the table of contents, the placement of chapter breaks, the placement of illustrations and diagrams, etc., requiring the book designer to do a lot of extra work that could have been prevented by addressing those issues before the manuscript ever got to the layout stage. Rewrites also introduce opportunities for new errors, which then require being checked over again. It's in everyone's best interests (and in the manuscript's!) to start with the big-picture problems and only get more specific in a well-organized fashion through discrete stages; otherwise you could wind up stuck in an unnecessarily drawn-out cycle of fixes and corrections that not only makes everyone want to tear their hair out but racks up a lot of expense and could even throw off deadlines.
I'm under a time crunch. Can you start edits on my project right away?
I'm afraid not. Editing doesn't happen overnight! Any time I take on a project, it takes up several weeks in my schedule, and during that time I'm still getting emails from other potential clients who also want me to start right away. I don't like to turn down work (especially since most authors who contact me are doing so because they already think we're a good match, and they're usually right!), so I often book clients for when I'll next be free and those bookings add up. Any editor who is experienced and good at what they do will be in the same situation, so you should always expect to encounter a wait list. It really helps to try to book well in advance of your actual deadline. (How long it realistically takes to publish a book is covered elsewhere in this FAQ.)
How long does it take to get a book ready for publishing?
Manuscript Evaluation: Five weeks. (Not everyone chooses to do a manuscript evaluation, but it is helpful. Assume two weeks to assemble a list of potential editors who specialize in this service, between word-of-mouth recommendations and looking through the directories of professional organizations; assume another two weeks to get responses back and pick your favourite. If that editor is free right away, which is unlikely to be the case, the evaluation itself will likely take a week.)
Developmental Editing, 1st Round: Six weeks. (Two weeks to assemble your list; two weeks to correspond with them and settle on your favourite(s); two weeks to get samples back and handle the contract; anywhere from one week to one month for the edit itself, depending on the size and complexity of the project and the workflow of the editor you've chosen, but let's ballpark this at two weeks also.)
Revisions: One month. (This is extremely variable. How long does it take you to solve big structural problems in your book? Most self-publishing authors are trying to juggle day jobs and kids while they write. Major revisions can take months, or even years, and some authors decide to put a project aside indefinitely until they know how to fix it. One month is pretty generous!)
Developmental Editing, 2nd Round: Two weeks. (Most manuscripts don't go through just one round. It's typical for editors to limit the scope of what they point out in a single round of developmental edits to just the biggest, most pressing issues, in order to avoid overwhelming the author. Once those are taken care of, subsequent rounds of dev edits can move on to smaller issues. For the purposes of this breakdown, let's assume that your manuscript only does two rounds.)
Revisions: One month.
Line Editing: Seven weeks. (Do you hire someone to handle this step separately, or do you try to find an editor who combines line editing with copy editing? I do, but this is not universal. If done separately, assume a month to find and book an editor, as in the examples above, then a week for the sample, and then two weeks for the real thing.)
Revisions: Let's ballpark handling line edits at about two weeks!
Copy Editing: Seven weeks. (Once again, assume a month to find and book an editor, as in the examples above, then a week for the sample. The real thing can take anywhere from one week to one month, depending on the size and complexity of the project and the workflow of the editor you've chosen, but let's ballpark it at two weeks also.)
Revisions: Let's assume handling copy edits will take roughly two weeks.
Layout & Cover: Assuming you want the final product to look professional, and therefore you hire a professional, this step can also take several weeks! There will be multiple rounds of discussion and sending drafts to you for feedback, so let's ballpark this at a month.
Proofreading: Six weeks. (A month to settle on your preferred editor, a week for the sample, and then a week for the proofread.)
I think I want to hire you. What does the process of working with you look like?
You fill out the form here on my website, which provides me with some basic information about your project and what you're looking for.
I respond and we discuss, answering your questions and clarifying anything that needs it. (Maybe you're not sure what your manuscript needs. Maybe you've checked the "copy editing" box but actually want help with a developmental issue. Maybe you need something done ASAP and I can't accommodate. Who knows!)
Once we've settled on an action plan (including what service you should start with), I'll book you in my calendar for a free sample edit. (Unless you want a manuscript evaluation or sensitivity read; those don't come with samples.) Sample edits are discussed further elsewhere in this FAQ.
Once the sample edit is complete and returned to you, you can ask questions about it and we'll mutually decide if we're a good fit. I'll also confirm the total cost of the service you're hiring me to perform. (Though the rates provided on my Services & Rates page are written such that this can be calculated before you ever reach out to me.)
If we move forward, I'll book you in my calendar for the service you've chosen.
Two weeks before the start date we agreed on, I'll email you to request your manuscript so that I can calculate the word count and draft our contract. Whatever version you send me at this stage is the version I'll be working on, so make sure it's ready to go!
I send you the contract through a secure electronic document-signing service. It will include the total cost of the service you've booked and the deposit amount. The deposit needs to be sent before the start date in the contract. This is your chance to ask me any questions about the contents of the contract! Then you sign it and send the deposit.
On the start date stipulated in our contract, assuming I've received the deposit and any other materials necessary for your project, I'll start work and email you to let you know! When I edit, I do multiple "passes" of the manuscript, going through it from start to finish and double-checking (or triple-checking!) my work and my notes. I might need to email you with some questions as I go along, but there shouldn't be very many.
Once work is complete (on or before the due date in the contract), I'll email you again to let you know, and I'll send you a watermarked PDF containing part of the edited version of your project. This is called "proof of work." At that point, the other 50% of the project cost is due.
Once I've been paid in full, I'll send you the full edited version, along with any other relevant documents. I'll also likely send you a general guide outlining how best (in my experience!) to approach revising the manuscript based on my edits and comments.
After your project has been returned to you, you start revisions! If you have questions, I am always available by email to answer them.
Once you're done revisions, you have some decisions to make. Are you done with that stage of editing and it's time to move on to the next? Or do you think you need to hire me to do another round? When it comes to both dev editing and copy editing, most manuscripts require more than one round of each, and you're always welcome to hire me for follow-up rounds. (In the case of copy edits, you even get a substantial discount if you do!)