Look no further for the answers to your burning questions about editing in bite-sized answers.
For more detailed responses, the hyperlinks will take you to the applicable blog post. You can also jump directly to the blog below which might answer some questions not listed here.
Why do I need an editor? Can't I just use a grammar checker/spell checker?
Everyone who is hoping to publish a high-quality book needs an editor, even authors who are professional editors. There are two reasons for this.
1) While grammar checkers can help with typos, these programs don't address big picture elements of the text, which means they can't help with the structure of the narrative. From a stylistic standpoint, these software are programmed to follow generic conventions, which have a tenancy to make all writing sound the same, eliminating the author's voice.
2) Unless your intended audience is machines, knowing how other humans respond to your work is essential in determining if it's effective or not. An editor is a trained professional. This means they can give a more measured and nuanced opinion of your manuscript than the average reader.
Do I need a big-picture edit (manuscript evaluation/structural edit) before a copy edit?
It is highly recommend to get a big-picture edit done before a copy edit. No amount of polish in the copy edit can solve major problems with a story's structure, and if a copy edit is performed before a structural edit, it will likely have to be redone as the manuscript's content shifts.
What's the difference between a manuscript evaluation and a structural edit? Which one should I choose?
The short answer is the amount of work the editor does on the manuscript. Both services address the big picture elements and give feedback on the same things. However, a structural edit works directly on the manuscript, including commenting on specific sections and adding or deleting material. An evaluation provides feedback in an editorial report. As a result, structural edits provide more specific guidance than a manuscript evaluation.
For a detailed overview of the differences between a manuscript evaluation and structural edit, please visit the blog.
What is the difference between a copy edit and a proofread?
The main difference between a copy edit and a proofread is that a copy edit is done on the manuscript once the structural work is finished to fix mechanical errors like spelling and grammar. This is usually done in Word, but can be done in other word processing programs or on a hard copy. A copy edit is not performed on formatted text. A proofread is done once the text has been formatted and laid out for print. In addition to fixing mechanical errors in the text, proofreading also looks at the layout and design to flag any issues with the formatting or errors in elements that aren't present at the copy editing stage, such as headers/footers, folios and images. This is usually done on a PDF. At the proofreading stage, usually only major errors to the text are corrected. Things like style, syntax and flow are addressed in the copy edit.
For a detailed overview of the differences between a copy edit and a proofread, please visit the blog.
What format does my manuscript need to be in?
For structural, stylistic or copy edits, files should be in submitted as a Word file (.doc or .docx). Ideally, your manuscript was also written in Word. Using other programs such as Pages and then converting the file can cause problems with the track changes function used to make edits.
For proofreads, files should be submitted as a PDF.
What does an edit cost?
The cost of an edit depends on several factors and is unique to each project. Word count, the type of edit and how much work a manuscript needs are all factors in the cost, as is the timeline for the edit. The longer the manuscript and the more work it needs, the more expensive it is. Structural edits usually cost more than copy edits because they include multiple passes. Manuscript evaluations and proofreads are generally cheaper than other edits because they are review passes, not in-depth edits.
As a very general ballpark, expect that any edit of a full-length novel (80,000–100,000 words) will cost somewhere in the low thousands for a single editing service. Short stories are usually a couple hundred dollars.
For authors who live in Canada, PST/HST will be added to the final cost and is not included in the estimate.
How does payment work?
For all edits, a non-refundable deposit of 25% of the estimate (the top end if a range is given) is required to book an edit. The remaining amount will be invoiced once the edit is complete. This deposit secures a spot on my editorial calendar.
For authors who are based in Canada, HST/PST is charged depending on your province of residence. This rate is not included in the estimate or the calculation for the deposit.
I am happy to offer payment plans to make the cost of editing easier to manage. The terms of this plan must be agreed upon before the contract is signed. The details will be included in the contract.
Payment by etransfer is preferred, but payment can also be made by PayPal or cheque. If paying by cheque, the mailing address will be provided with the invoice.
Why do I need to sign a contract before starting the edit?
The contract is an important document for both the author and editor for the simple reason that it makes sure we're on the same page with regards to scope of work, deadlines, payment, etc. Having all this information in one place means less chances of misunderstandings and makes sure that both parties are clear what they are getting from the edit and what their responsibilities to each other are.
How long does an edit take?
As with price, the length of an edit varies depending on the amount of work needed and the length of the manuscript. However, general ballpark timelines for a standard length novel (80,000 - 100,000 words) are as follows:
Manuscript Evaluation: 1 - 3 weeks
Structural Edit: 3 - 6 weeks
Stylistic Edit: 3 - 6 weeks
Copy Edit: 2 - 5 weeks
Formatting: 1 - 2 weeks
Proofreading: 1 - 3 weeks
Queries: 1 week