This will depend on budget and the quality of your writing. Some authors can get fairly close to a polished manuscript on their second or third draft, and this reduces how much work needs to be done by various editors.
Editing costs money. It’s an important skill, and almost an art form of its own. Developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading… not to mention designers, formatters, indexers, and beyond! It can be a hefty price tag if you’re self-publishing, especially if you are relatively new to the publishing scene.
If you are strapped for cash and want to maximize your investment, I usually recommend that authors get at least one round of copyediting done, and then one round of proofreading. If you can only have one, then go with copyediting. It’ll be the most valuable return on your investment. The more self-editing you can do, the better.
This is a common question that I see asked in writing groups, especially in ones regarding editing. Many analogies are shared, ranging from air traffic controllers to health inspectors. An error missed is a job done poorly. There’s a lot at stake.
Is that true? Well, it’s complicated. And it’s worth a slew of articles on its own.
So let’s keep it simple and to the point here. Editing is tricky. Every word is a potential error, and then how those words interact with each other is a potential error as well. This has an almost exponential quality to it; one word is a possible error, two words is two possible errors, plus another potential error based on whether or not those two words can interact with each other. This continues with each word until you have a sentence, and then the sentences themselves are potential errors.
In essence, editors are expected to assess every word, every sentence, every paragraph, root out the problems, fix them, and then ensure that they haven’t caused other problems elsewhere. If an editor catches 300 errors in a document with 60,000 words, what they’ve actually done is assess well over 500,000 potential errors and come back with 300 confirmed problems. That they may have missed 15 errors does not disparage their skill; it’s just statistics at work.
This is why it’s important to go through multiple rounds of editing if you can. Keep in mind that two rounds of editing that both catch 95% of errors end up catching 99.75% in total.
Editing is subjective, especially if you’re writing a book. Good grammar doesn’t necessarily translate to good writing, and in things like fiction a lot of liberties can be taken with sentence structure. English is a vast language that adopts from many others, and while it has some narrow grammar rules, it leaves the door open for interpretation and different approaches. Some of the best stories would be marked poorly by an English professor.
This is why samples are a very powerful tool when searching for an editor. At the end of the day, your editor is someone who needs to match well with your voice and your preferences. Samples show this, and they allow you to weed out editors who are maybe too heavy-handed or perhaps too light with the red pen.
Different results just mean you can pick an editor who is most aligned with what you’re looking for. It doesn’t mean these editors are wrong, just that they have a different idea of what the best approach is.
There is no standardized list of the different kinds of editing, unfortunately. Editing associations maintain webpages which go in-depth about these editorial tasks, yet each tend to disagree on at least one aspect of them.
That being said, you can generally rest easy by splitting them up into the following categories:
• Developmental editing (big picture changes regarding story and pace)
• Line editing (editing the writer’s voice directly, rephrasing sentences or rewriting them entirely)
• Copyediting (editing sentences and words for grammar, syntax, flow, and style)
• Proofreading (post-design proofing or a lesser version of copyediting)
With the proverbial Gold Rush in self-publishing, proofreading has taken on a different definition than what it used to be. Proofreading used to be strictly a post-design process, where you compared the draft with the final version and caught last-minute design and typographical errors.
Self-published ebooks approach it a little differently. Proofreading is often “copyediting-lite,” where the proofreader is doing what copyeditors do but in a more limited way. They try not to change sentences unless absolutely necessary. Some editors differentiate between copyediting and proofreading based on how many errors they find. Under a certain amount and it’s proofreading. Over it, and it’s a full-blown copyedit.
It’s best to ask the editor you want to work with what definition they use. I myself typically err towards the definition used in the previous paragraph.
About the Editor
I wish I could. Unfortunately, I can’t.
Editing is only one aspect of the publishing process, and the literary market is innately mercurial. What works once may not work again. Doing everything right might result in failure simply due to timing or luck.
What I can guarantee is that I’ll do my best to make sure you’re putting out a product that’s as polished as can be.
I am a straightforward, no-nonsense editor. If you need a mystic to decipher my changes, I’ve done a bad job.
What this means is that I’m very direct. I’ll pinpoint problems, describe clearly why they are incorrect (either objectively or subjectively), and then I’ll either correct them or offer alternatives. I never tell you something is wrong without offering you a path forward. A red pen that offers no alternative isn’t helpful.
I’m not a negative editor, however. My goal is to empower your work, so keep that in mind when going over my changes. I never seek to harm, and if there’s something you’re particularly sensitive about or insecure over, please let me know and I’ll be sure to take a gentler approach to it.
I welcome feedback, criticism, and questions, with all this in mind. If I’ve made a change you disagree with or that confuses you, you can reach out and I’ll explain myself. I will also let you know when a change is subjective, meaning that you can overrule me or have a preference with no harm done to the project.
I’m your ally, not your opponent, and together we can put forward the best piece possible.
Yes! I welcome being booked in advance. Let me know when you envision having a project for me to work on and we can discuss scheduling.
Please note that I require a deposit, which “secures your spot” if you wish to guarantee my availability. This deposit is non-refundable. What this gets you is the guarantee that when the date we agree upon comes by, I’ll be ready to start work on your project immediately. It also locks in my rate at the time of scheduling, which is beneficial if I have plans to raise my rates.
The deposit is taken off your final project value. These deposits are $25 USD per scheduled block. For example, if you schedule me for a $600 copyedit, you’ll pay me $575 at the end of the project since you’ll have already paid me $25 when you booked me.
I only offer refunds within 24 hours of a deposit being paid. Otherwise, deposits are non-refundable and the work I complete for you isn’t subject to refunding if you’re unsatisfied.
But this does not prevent me from offering discounts if something is amiss. If I’m late in delivering a project, I offer a 5% discount per day I’m late on the final invoice. So if I’m 3 days late, that’s a 15% discount!
I accept payment via PayPal or TransferWise. PayPal is USD-only, while TransferWise is CAD-only.
For first-time clients, I require a deposit upfront before I begin work. This is $25 USD. I then require the rest of the project fee after I deliver the edited copy to you via email.
If you suspect delays in payment, please let me know and we can figure something out. I expect payment within 48 hours of delivering the finished project. If you’re waiting on your own finances, we can delay delivery until you’re ready.
This is dependent on what you need done! While I’m very interested in developmental editing, it’s not yet something I’m confident in providing. I can connect you with other professionals if you need a “book coach” or a developmental editor.
Line editing is something I’m willing to provide but it is not a focus of mine. Reach out with an excerpt and let me know what you’re looking for. Please note that hiring me for more intensive work likely also comes with a higher rate.
I don’t, as this is difficult to quantify; especially when it comes to changes that are subjective in nature.
That being said, I try to reach a 95% minimum with each round of editing. The industry standard, depending on who you ask, ranges between 80 to 95% per round. Book editing is usually north of this standard due to the amount of changes made.