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Editing and Proofreading

  1. Professional service rates

  2. Do-it-yourself editing

  3. Do-it-yourself proofreading

  4. What does a professional editor do?

  5. What does a professional proof reader do?

  6. Hiring an editor

  7. "You cannot overedit"

1. Professional service rates (depending on complexity)

Can 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.

We ( 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 the 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 person.

  • Certain types of books may be written in a particular 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 differently.

  • Thoroughly check for errors in spelling and punctuation.

  • Check for proper word usage. A computer spell checker will accept both “principle” and “principal”.

  • Present your manuscript in a format that will be easy 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 of Style.

  • 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 time consuming.

  • 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 READ THEM.

  • 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 IT.

  • 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 with 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 on 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 thoroughly. 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 proofed.

  • 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, grammar, 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 need explanation?

  • 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 publisher.

  • 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 support 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 starting point:

    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 out.

    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word
        if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything
        outright barbarous.

    Common mistakes – which an experienced copy-editor will be able to deal with efficiently – include:

    – the overuse of exclamation marks and emphasis, in italic,
       bold or capitals

    – 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 of copyright
    – libel
    – obscenity
    – 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

  • Ghost writing

  • Proofreading, which has a different purpose (see FAQs: proofreading)

  • Text or cover design

  • Indexing – the Society of Indexers can refer you to qualified indexers.

  • 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 well advanced.

  • 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 following tasks:

  • 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 page 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 proof 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 feasible.

  • 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 logically arranged.

  • 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 proceeding.

  • 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 qualified indexers.

  • 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 all possible.

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 want 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 your book.

  • 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 organization.

  • Once the editing sample is completed, the editor will 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 fine-tune it.

  • 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 again.

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, 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

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