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  • 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.) Alternate terms for developmental editing include "substantive editing" or "structural editing." Line editing is also sometimes called "stylistic editing." Copy editing is sometimes referred to as "mechanical editing," "content editing," or (again) "substantive editing." Other times, "content editing" is used to refer to any type of editing that alters the contents of the manuscript, so it would include dev editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Sensitivity reading, meanwhile, is sometimes called "authenticity reading" or "targeted expert reading." The variations in terminology and what's covered by each one can be very confusing, which is why you should always look for an editor who describes the scope of work you can expect from each of their services instead of just dropping a term and expecting you to know what they mean by it.
  • What is involved in line editing? Do you offer that service?
    I do offer it, just not as a separate service. Line editing is a tricky beast. Its scope is necessarily vague and can vary dramatically from one publisher or editor to another. It involves more structural and stylistic elements than just straight copy editing but not as much as developmental editing. Examples of line editing could include maintaining an appropriate language level throughout a manuscript, marking sentences and paragraphs to be deleted because they're off-topic, or re-arranging sentences within a paragraph to improve coherency and flow. Some definitions include it as part of developmental editing, some as part of copy editing, and some as its own step. Some publishers have each of these steps handled by different people, while others have them all handled by the same person. In my experience, most clients who hire freelancers have no interest in paying for line editing as a distinct and separate service, so I usually do line editing as part of my copy editing service. Copy editing and line editing have quite a bit of overlap, so I find it a more intuitive combination, and the definition of copy editing in my Services & Rates page reflects that.
  • 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. ​The more specific you are when choosing a sensitivity reader, the better the results are likely to be, so you should look for someone who has lived experience with the circumstances you want to check in about. For example, the experience of a Jewish person from Toronto who isn't very religious will be different from the experience of a Jewish person living in an Orthodox community in New York City, and both of those experiences will be different from that of a Jewish person living in Tel Aviv. The experiences of a parent to a transgender child will be different from the experiences of that child, and their knowledge of the trans community and trans issues will be different also. Hire the person whose experience is closest to what you actually need, even if that means your ideal sensitivity reader is incredibly unique. (You may not be able to find that exact person but the closer you can get, the more accurate and believable your portrayal will be. Depending on how close you can get to an exact match, and how many different perspectives, groups, or cultures are being represented in your project, you may want to hire more than one sensitivity reader.) Sensitivity readers are just as useful when writing nonfiction, where writers may run afoul of terms or concepts that they aren't aware will be offensive to a large number of people, both inside and outside of their target audience. For instance, the author of a book about gynecological health may not realize that a lack of inclusive language means the book won't be read by nonbinary individuals or by transgender men, even if those are both groups who might benefit from the contents and who the author was hoping to reach. Rather than the author having to become an expert on those communities overnight, they can hire a sensitivity reader to advise them on how best to approach (and retain!) those readers. Some people may see this as pandering, but that's a shortsighted view in many ways. Not only should every writer pride themselves on the quality of their writing, but more people connecting with your work means more people buying it. (And, if they enjoy and respect it enough, recommending it to others.) What author doesn't want more sales?
  • I'm under a time crunch. Can you start edits on my project right away?
    It's very rare that I can accommodate this. 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?
    Sometimes, when clients contact me, they are shocked by how long my waiting list is; at two or three months long (depending on time of year), it's longer than they expected the whole editing and self-publishing process to take! One of the things I hate breaking to them is that their expectations of how quickly they can get their newly drafted novel-length project published are nowhere near accurate. It's especially painful in cases where I know they had hoped to have it ready for a particular event or have already started advertising a release date. Because I know this information is not often easy to find all in one place and the process can be extremely opaque to first-time authors, here is a very rough breakdown of how long each step in the editing and self-publishing process for a novel-length project might take: 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. Two weeks to get a sample 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 very optimistic.) 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. (Again, this is very optimistic.) 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. A week for the proofread.) All told, the process described above comes in at 49 weeks, which is just under a year. And that's assuming that editors can always work on your project right away and that you don't have to take breaks due to budget or time constraints. Yes, in this day and age, you can have your book published overnight through a service like Kindle Direct, without ever going through edits or design, and that's absolutely a valid (and increasingly popular) option. But whether it's the book you want to be publishing is another question. Most of the clients who contact me really want a polished, professional-quality product, but publishing a book takes more time than they realize and rushing it will only hurt the end result. Hopefully this breakdown is helpful!
  • 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 thinking of skipping a developmental edit and going straight for copy editing, 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 useful free developmental feedback from carefully chosen 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. Let's say you've gone through a few rounds of informal developmental feedback with beta readers and now you think your manuscript might be ready for copy editing, but you want a professional's judgment to help you decide exactly which level of editing to hire someone for. Or, maybe you think you can only afford one service, not two or three, and are trying to decide which one will best serve the story you've written. Either way, I'm happy to look over the manuscript for you and provide an assessment before we do anything else. This service is outlined on my Rates & Services page.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.) Because I do have overlapping projects and multiple clients, and because I am a disabled individual dealing with a number of health issues behind the scenes, I like to set deadlines I know for certain I can meet. I would rather surprise clients if things get done early than potentially throw a wrench in their publication schedule by having to push back a deadline. Plus, unlike some editors who only do a single pass, I do multiple passes in my editing process to make sure the end result is as solid as possible. Reliability and producing a quality product are important to me, and thorough work takes time.
  • 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: Flash Fiction: Less than 1,000 words. 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.
  • What is standard pricing for editing?
    I provide my rates on my Services & Rates page, but clients who are seeking professional editing services for the first time may not know how those rates compare to the rest of the industry. The largest professional organization for primarily English-language freelance editors is the Editorial Freelancers Association, who do regular polls of their membership to determine the going market rate for editing services. The results are published on their website as a resource for the public so that prospective clients know what to expect: The fact that my rates are at the low end of that range is not indicative of my experience level or representative of the quality of my work, but rather a deliberate choice on my part. I set my fees where they are in an effort to help keep them accessible to indie publishers, self-publishing authors, and marginalized authors, many of whom are working with tighter budgets.
  • 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.
  • 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!)
  • 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!) Before handing over any deposit, I encourage all authors to request a sample edit as part of vetting their chosen editor. That editing sample is how you protect yourself against sending a deposit to someone only to discover later that their work is subpar or that they're not a good fit for you. (Some editors charge a small fee for sample edits, while others offer them for free. I'm in the latter group.)
  • 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. For editing samples, clients send me their manuscript, and I read through the first few chapters for context before diving in. I rarely choose to edit the first chapter, because the beginning of a book is often the part that's been the most heavily self-edited or workshopped; instead, I usually choose a section further in, where the state of things is messier. It gives me a better idea of what to expect from the manuscript as a whole. For proofreading samples specifically, I also require a copy of the style sheet prepared by the copy editor so that I can make sure to follow it. Clients always get one hour of my time for free samples—how much of the excerpt I get through in that hour depends on the state of the project and may vary wildly. Clients whose manuscripts only require a light touch may get a full ten pages of edited material back, while I may only have been able to get through half of that (or less!) in the case of a manuscript that requires heavy edits. Either way, it works out to the same amount of feedback overall, so clients always get a thorough taste of what to expect from working together.
  • 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.
  • I think I want to hire you. What does the process of working with you look like?
    Here are the general steps that you can expect working with me to follow: 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!) In the case of new projects from repeat clients, we usually skip steps 1-4, but I will still ask to see a good chunk of the manuscript so that I can make sure the level of editing you want me to perform on it is the level it actually needs!
  • 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.) For proofreading, the manuscript should be in PDF format (having already gone through the layout and design stage) and will be marked up using comments in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • 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.
  • Do you have a résumé?
    Of course! It contains information (phone number, mailing address, etc.) that I'd prefer not to post freely online, so prospective clients can request by email to see it if they wish.
  • Do you have references?
    Check out the "Client Feedback" section of the About page. More can be provided upon request.
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