Editing and Proofreading
Professional service rates
What does a professional editor do?
What does a professional proof reader do?
Hiring an editor
"You cannot overedit"
1. Professional service rates (depending on complexity)
you benefit from a professional service? Probably.
Your work already needs to be very good and deserving of the
investment. Even the best editor in the world can’t turn a mediocre
work into a gem, but they can make a good work great. Most successful
self-publishers rely on competent editors and proofreaders.
(BookDesign.ca) do not provide these services in-house. If our clients
require these services, we rely on outside professional associates.
Proofreading and light copy editing $2 - $4 per page
Standard copy editing $3 - $6 per page
Content editing/ fact checking/re-writing $10 - $15 per page
Indexing $3 - $5 per page
2. Do-it-yourself editing
Write your complete book draft first, then edit it.
You’ll never finish your book if you try to make chapter 1 perfect
before going on to chapter 2.
Do as much editing as possible yourself to reduce
amount of work (and expense) for the outside editor (if you are
planning to engage one).
Maintain a consistent style throughout your book. If
your story is written in present tense, don’t slip into past tense; if
your are writing in first person, don’t slip into second or third
Certain types of books may be written in a
style; try to conform to the accepted style.
Avoid unnecessary repetition of character and place
descriptions. If you must repeat a description, try to do it
Thoroughly check for errors in spelling and
Check for proper word usage. A computer spell
will accept both “principle” and “principal”.
Present your manuscript in a format that will be
for the editor to use. Don’t be concerned with the way it looks, but
rather on how easy it is to read.
Check all punctuation thoroughly. If you’re not sure
about something, check it out in a grammar book or The Chicago Manual
The edited copy of your manuscript must be as close
to perfect as you can make it before sending it to the book designer.
Once the book design process has started, changes can be costly and
Do not spend time on laying out your book before
speaking with your book designer. You may find his/her suggestions will
save you time and money.
Get another opinion from someone you trust. Ask
someone else to edit the document after you’ve finished self-editing.
Don’t ask your spouse or mother, though; they’ll
probably tell you it’s wonderful. A teacher may be excellent for
spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but a reader of the genre may be
better to point out loose ends you need to tie up in a mystery novel.
Someone who isn’t familiar with the subject matter may be helpful for a
how-to article; if he understands your explanation, other readers
probably will also. On the other hand, sometimes an expert in the
subject is best to ensure that your information is accurate.
You can join a critique group to get feedback from
other writers. The more people reviewing your work, the more likely it
will be the best you can make it.
When your book has been written, edited and made
ready for the book design process, the self-publisher must change roles
from author to production manager.
3. Do-it-yourself proofreading
Once your manuscript is finalized, your book design
is completed and you have the print-ready PDF files, TAKE THE TIME TO
Once you send the electronic files off to an offset
or print-on-demand printer, they’ll either give you the option to pay a
few bucks extra for a “proof” or “galley” print for final inspection,
or send one for free as part of their process. TAKE THE TIME TO READ
Cover - You’ve seen the cover a hundred times,
probably approved a final version from a cover designer or artist
already, but check it again. Make sure the title is spelled right, make
sure it’s centered on the book properly and you aren’t losing some of
the image over the edges. Make sure the ISBN number on the back is the
correct one for your book. Same for the price. Proofread the back cover
text a final time.
Spine - Make sure the spine text is centered on the
spine and not creeping onto one of the covers.
Book Jacket (Hardcover) - Hardcover book jackets
inside flaps must be proofread again. Make sure that the case-binder or
whoever is producing the actual cover of the hardcover gets the title
on the spine correct as well.
Margins and fonts - Make sure the margins in the
proof agree with the margins in your design. Make sure the fonts are
the ones you selected, and more importantly, that they look nice. Check
the top and bottom as well, with a ruler. If you find a mistake, don’t
be surprised if the printer tells you not to worry about it because the
equipment they use for one-off isn’t the same as the equipment they use
for production. However, get your objection on record so if the real
book is screwed-up, you won’t have to pay for it.
Headers and footers - Since a header error appears
every other page in the chapter, or throughout the book, it’s too
serious of an error to pass on.
Chapter headings, TOC, Index - Check them
It is possible for errors to creep in during final editing changes.
Picture Placement and Descriptions - Make sure that
your pictures all appear in the right places. Depending on the
technology used by the printer, this could be an easy mistake for them
to introduce. Also make sure that the picture captions are correct, and
Proof in final form - Sit down and read through your
whole book in the final proof or galley form.
Now that you’ve finished, give it to someone else to
do it again.
4. What does a professional editor do?
from The Society for Editors and Proofreaders
Professional copy-editors correct errors in spelling,
punctuation, style and usage. However, copy-editing is not just about
dotting Is and crossing Ts. Editors also tackle the following:
Suitability of text for intended audience Has the
language been pitched at the right level? Do any terms or abbreviations
Extent Is the work too long/short? If it hasn’t
already been done by the publisher, the copy-editor, knowing the
approximate number of words that the publisher wants per page in the
finished book or journal, will calculate how many pages the text will
make. Illustrations, if any, shouldn’t be forgotten. All preliminary
pages (title page, table of contents, etc.) should be included, as well
as such things as footnotes, glossary, appendices and index. If the
work is too long or too short, a solution will be sought with the
Content and structure Is anything missing or
redundant? Is the order logical? Headings break up text and make it
more readable: are there enough of them? If there are more than four
levels of sub-headings, the structure probably needs to be rethought.
Are footnotes essential? Could ‘supporting material’ go into an
appendix? Is a bibliography necessary? Should there be a glossary?
Sentence and paragraph length This is dependent on
the readership, the type of copy and how the copy is going to be read
(e.g. in a book or on a computer screen). In general, however,
sentences should be kept short or at least uncomplicated, and new
paragraphs should introduce new ideas and help break up a page.
Typesetting may change line length, and the copy-editor will know what
to do to compensate for this.
Consistency A list of decisions about alternative
spellings and hyphenation has to be kept. Illustrations and tables
should agree with the text and captions, as should chapter headings and
running heads with the table of contents.
Illustrations and tables Illustrations should
the text and have appropriate captions. Text referring to tables should
comment on the data, not simply repeat it. The location of each
illustration and table should be roughly indicated in the manuscript
(to guide the typesetter when laying out the pages). The copy-editor
will also need to ensure that all artwork is suitable for printing or
(if appropriate) for reproduction on the web.
Style George Orwell’s six rules for authors –
contained in his Politics and the English Language (1946) – are a good
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of
speech that you
are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a
can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything
Common mistakes – which an experienced copy-editor
will be able to deal
with efficiently – include:
– the overuse of exclamation marks and emphasis, in
– very long sentences with little punctuation
– very long paragraphs
– changing between the first and the third person
for no good reason.
Accuracy All spellings of names of people and things
should be checked. The extent to which facts, dates, quotations, etc.
are to be checked will be agreed with the publisher/client.
Legal issues All identifiable instances of the
following should be flagged up during copy-editing, even though
responsibility for them remains with the author/publisher: – breaches
– incitement to racial hatred.
Technical matters The copy-editor needs to know
enough about the technical side of publishing (printing, web design,
etc.) to be able to discuss various issues with designer, typesetter or
printer, to minimize costs and maintain schedules.
What does a copy-editor not do?
Rewriting and restructuring text in depth – often
known as developmental or substantive editing
Proofreading, which has a different purpose (see
Text or cover design
Indexing – the Society of Indexers can refer you to
Research, beyond basic fact-checking
Seeking permission to use copyright material.
5. What does a professional proof reader do?
from The Society for Editors and Proof readers
Page proofs (or draft web pages or, increasingly,
PDFs) represent the first, and usually the only, chance for authors and
others involved in the work to see the words integrated with the other
elements – e.g. design, illustrations, graphs – to become a coherent
whole before publication (or before ‘going live’). From the relatively
‘fluid’ state of raw copy, where changes can be made easily by the
copy-editor, the work is now relatively ‘fixed’ and production is now
The proof reader’s role is to check that the editor,
designer and typesetter have each done a satisfactory job, and to use
good judgement in marking amendments, to minimise costs and delays.
Professional proofreaders will undertake the
Compare the proofs with the edited copy line by line
(known as ‘reading against copy’). Alternatively, the work may have to
be proofread ‘blind’ (i.e. not read against copy).
Check that page numbers are consecutive and that
headings are correct.
Ensure consistency – particularly of alternative
spellings and hyphenation – by following a style guide if one is
supplied or by compiling their own.
Identify necessary changes and mark them on the
with the appropriate British Standards Institution (BSI) marks. This is
generally done on hard copy (that is, text printed on paper), and most
errors will be picked up in this way. If proofs come in electronic
format as PDFs, they can be printed out and marked up in the usual way.
Page proofs, draft web pages and PDFs can also be read on-screen, but
this is usually less successful than proofreading hard copy.
Professional proofreaders will not be tempted to
re-edit the work at this stage. Acceptable changes are corrections to
editorial or typesetter errors, clarifying ambiguous grammar and
dealing with inconsistencies, but not restructuring or rewriting.
Mark amendments accurately and consistently, taking
into consideration the budgetary implications of any changes. Adding or
removing just one word may, in some circumstances, have a knock-on
effect that drastically alters page layout, resulting in unacceptable
costs and delay.
Watch out for typographical and design
inconsistencies as well as textual ones.
Cross-check chapter titles with the table of
contents. Check that the list of end matter – that is, appendices,
index, etc. – corresponds to the text.
Check or insert numbers in cross-references where
Eliminate inelegant or confusing word, column and
page breaks. ‘Widows’ and ‘orphans’ – i.e. short last or first lines of
a paragraph that appear at the top or the bottom of a page,
respectively – are undesirable. It may be necessary to adjust the text
to correct for these.
Ensure that illustrations and their captions and
labels correspond with each other and with the text.
Check that each page is aesthetically pleasing and
Liaise with the copy-editor and/or the author to
resolve queries or bring them to the client’s attention.
If required, collate the author’s changes with their
own, rationalizing or querying conflicting instructions if necessary.
If extensive changes are needed at proof stage,
proofreaders will discuss the situation with their clients before
What does a proof reader not do?
Copy-editing. Changes on proof are relatively
expensive, so should be kept to a minimum. Corrections to grammar and
spelling, application of house style and, especially, restructuring or
rewriting should be tackled at the copy-editing stage, before
typesetting and page layout.
Indexing – the Society of Indexers can refer you to
Page layout. This is another specialist skill.
Seeking permission(s) to use copyright material. Not
only is this not a part of the proof reader’s duties, but if permission
is denied at this late stage, it can be costly. For example, if an
illustration has to be withdrawn, this can have a serious effect on
page layout. Permissions should be obtained before typesetting, if at
6. Hiring an editor
by Irene Watson, Managing Editor of Reader Views
A big mistake self-published authors make is to try
to save money by doing the editing and proofreading completely by
themselves. No author should rely on his own editing or on that of his
niece, the college English major. Most professional writers feel that
hiring a professional with experience editing and proofreading is
necessary before publishing a book. Without the help of a good editor,
an author risks his book being filled with typos and grammatical errors
as well as plot or content issues that may confuse the reader, but
which the author did not realize existed.
Shop around when looking for an editor. Yes, you
a good price, but the price may not directly correlate with the
editor’s skill. Find an editor whose editing and personal style work
for you and your budget.
Lots of editors have hung out their shingles, some
with no editing credentials. If you have writer friends, ask them for
suggestions-if they had good relationships with editors, they will be
happy to give referrals. Feel free to consider several different
editors. It is fine to make them audition for you.
Audition? Yes, in the sense that you send the
prospective editors a chapter or a few pages of your manuscript and ask
them to give it a sample edit. Most editors will agree to spend an hour
or edit a few pages for you so you can see what they think your book
needs. You will then be able to tell whether they will respect your
style making your book sound better, while still making it sound like
Never hire an editor based on price alone. Some
editors state a simple flat rate, such as: “I charge $2,000 to edit a
book.” There needs to be a basis for that price, both to be fair to the
author and to the editor. If the book turns out to be 20,000 words, the
author may be overpaying. If the book turns out to be 200,000 words,
the editor has probably short-changed himself.
Never hire an editor without it being clear what he
will do for you. Requesting an editing sample is the best way to
determine if you will get what you pay for.
The editing sample not only provides the author with
an idea of the editor’s style, abilities, and vision for the book, but
it allows the editor to calculate approximately how many hours it will
take to edit the book based on the author’s writing abilities, grammar,
punctuation, sentence structure, character development, and
Once the editing sample is completed, the editor
give a price for editing. An author is generally wiser to ask for an
overall price and settle on it rather than agree to pay the editor
hourly. Hourly adds up fast, and a good editor can provide a price
quote that takes into account any little issues that need to be handled.
The editor will base the price on the book’s length,
the degree of editing needed, and the approximate number of hours
required to complete the work. If the editor feels from the editing
sample that heavy editing will be needed to resolve major grammatical
errors, inconsistencies of character development, plotting and
organizational problems, you might request an editorial evaluation of
your entire book where the editor does not rewrite anything but gives
you advice so you can rewrite it yourself before you have the editor
Editing levels vary from something as simple as
proofreading to light and heavy editing. Light editing might require
some rewriting of a sentence here or there along with proofreading for
errors. Heavy editing may include rewriting passages, correcting major
grammatical errors, making decisions about paragraph order, larger
structural issues, and deleting unnecessary passages. Ask the editor
what level of editing he feels you need; if you disagree with him after
reviewing his justification for it, seek a second opinion. Make sure
the type of editing required for the book and the cost to you are
agreed upon before the work begins. You do not want the editor to edit
only half of your book, and then ask you for more money.
The most important aspect of choosing the editor is
not the cost or the time frame to complete the work. It is how the book
sounds when you read it after it has been edited. Make sure the editor
respects your style. A good editor will make the book sound like your
voice while correcting your grammar and helping you to develop or
delete passages as necessary. You don’t want the editor to change your
tone. After all, it is your book.
You’ve spent hours writing your book, so you owe it
to yourself to have it be the best book possible that readers will
enjoy, remember, and recommend to others. Finding a good editor is key
to achieving that success.
7. You cannot overedit
You cannot overedit, whatever anyone says. I dare say
I’ve never read a book without finding a mistake, but when I see one in
my own work, there’s nothing that can make me feel good about it.
I cannot submit my work to an editor without reading it
aloud. In fact, before any novel manuscript goes to the publisher, it
has been read aloud at least three times. Then, when the manuscript is
returned from the publisher for some level of review, I read it aloud
It doesn’t have to be tedious, we make it fun around my
house: the task gives us a reason to eat, drink, and smoke a cigar on
my back porch, which overlooks a lake. Sometimes when my husband is
feeling like it’s time for a bourbon, he’ll swing by my study and ask,
“Got anything to read?”
And still, a copyeditor will find things wrong with a
submission — every single time. And recently, while I was reading my
book, Echoes of Edisto, into the Talking Book Services at the South
Carolina State Library, I found errors. Little things I should have
caught, things a proofer, an editor, and a copyeditor should have
caught. Those tiny mistakes slid past so many eyes, and it frustrates
the crap out of me.
Why do these things happen? Because editing is human, pure and simple. No computer program can completely edit a manuscript.
Thanks to the technology of today, any author or
publisher can go back and upload a corrected copy of a manuscript, but
you cannot undo the first impression of a mistake to a reader. I dare
say I’ve never read a book without finding a mistake, but when I see
them in my work, there’s nothing I can do to make me feel good about it.
So, when you are editing, read your work aloud, the more
times the better (within reason). Have someone read it to you. Let
other eyes read it. You can even use an app or program that reads aloud
to you while you follow along. Try ReadAloud or NaturalReader or go to
this post on Quora.com, where they’ve rated 10 programs for you.
You cannot overedit, regardless what anybody says. Put
the manuscript away and read it after time has lapsed — weeks or a
couple of months — when your brain no longer remembers how you wrote
it. At the same time, send it to your beta readers, the group of folks
you trust to read it and dissect it properly.
You want your work to be error-free and pristine, but
the occasional mistake will arise. Most editors will forgive one
mistake in a short piece — maybe two — and a publisher will forgive one
error for every 10,00 words. But when a submitted piece has an error
every 500 words … chances are you won’t hear from them again.
There are a million ways to edit your work. Embrace them all.
C. Hope Clark