Why would you need an editor?
There are somewhere close to half a million novels and short stories self-published per year, rising all the time, alongside regular mainstream published fiction. The one thing that just about everyone following the ebook boom says is that any writer self-publishing should look at employing an editor. Likewise many writers, particularly those relatively new to the craft, working towards traditional publishing can benefit from having a skilled outsider look at their material before they go to submission. As a writer, it’s very hard to see flaws, particularly broader story ones, within your own work because you’re closer to it than anyone else will ever be. You need a clear, professional pair of eyes.
I’ve been a trade journalist, both full-time and freelance, since 1999, including working as an editor on a number of publications. I’ve also been a professional genre fiction writer since 2002, with six books published by members of the ‘Big Five’ in the UK and US, as both John Rickards and Sean Cregan, not to mention in translation into a dozen other languages worldwide, along with a number of short stories by commission, and I’ve also self-published several more.
I’ve been both editor and edited, so I fully understand what’s useful and what’s not, and how to frame advice and criticism in a way that’s constructive, helpful, and in-depth, and that respects your own voice and approach to your work. In addition, while I’m British, all of my published work has been US-set, a considerable chunk of my full-time journalism was for a US news service, and the majority of my editing work has been for American and Canadian authors. I’m therefore fully capable of handling English language work from either side of the Pond and beyond.
My fees are, I hope, extremely reasonable and I always try to provide an accurate estimate of likely turnaround time for editorial work because I know that as a writer you don’t want to be left in the dark for weeks at a stretch. Completion time will depend on the amount of work needed, and on the amount of other work I have on my plate, but I’ll always try to keep you informed and provide as accurate an estimate as possible. I have never yet missed a deadline. I’m also happy to perform a trial edit on a sample of your work in order for you to determine whether I can meet your needs.
What work have I done?
Since turning freelance in 2012, I’ve worked on an average of 70 or so stories per year, ranging from 150,000-word novels to 1,500-word short stories and all the way down to 150-word flash pieces, falling into just about every single genre, from romance, mystery and SF/fantasy through to family drama, literary and historical stories, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve worked with clients across the full range of experience and ability, from first-timers, through writers for whom English isn’t their first language, to authors with years of experience in the field. Those clients have come from every continent on Earth (aside from Antarctica; I’d love to complete the set though, so any polar scientists who want to get in touch…), although the bulk have come from the US, UK or Canada. Some were writing for submission to agents, traditional publishers, or publications, some write to self-publish, some for other reasons besides. To my knowledge, all of the authors in question have been very happy with the care and attention I've given to their work, and I’m pleased to say that many have become and continue to become repeat clients. Below are just a handful of examples of my past work, covering a wide range of service types and story lengths between them.
What can I do and what does it cost?
A variety of things from a story critique to a full heavy edit, all priced accordingly, and all in US dollars (note to UK clients: the pound-dollar exchange rate took a hammering after the Brexit vote and hasn't recovered. Until the weak pound starts to hit living costs I'm discounting invoices in GBP by 7.5% after currency conversion from the listed rates). They’re priced as a small flat fee + a per-word rate in cents. As well as describing what each involves, I’ve included snippets of the type of feedback you might expect below for illustrative purposes. While examples and descriptions are couched in terms of fiction, though, I’m happy to work with any kind of material, and there’s likely to be very little I haven’t already dealt with at one time or another. I'm also happy to carry out a sample edit before you book me for work if you want to have a longer, more concrete example of what to expect and to have absolute confidence in what I offer.
In a critique I’ll go through your story and analyze it in terms of its characters, plot, style etc. without touching on the technical side. I’ll also break it down scene by scene or chapter by chapter, looking at all aspects of the narrative and suggesting possible fixes for any problems I uncover and improvements you could make.
Example snippet: “While Annie Automatic has a good amount of depth and the arc you've constructed carries the reader well through to the finale, I think it's in this scene that her relationship with Jack really fell flat. There isn't enough tension between them or doubt over their feelings before this point for Jack's sudden about-face to seem like the natural pay-off to elements you've set up earlier. I think you need to drop at least a couple of subtle mentions earlier on that there's more to him than meets the eye, however small, so that when it happens the reader will feel as though they could have guessed it was coming. In addition, I think you also take too long dwelling on the physical changes in Jack as he reveals his true form. Your descriptions are rich and evocative, but there are too many of them and this hurts the pacing at a time when the reader should be feeling as shocked as Annie, and robs the moment of some of its drama.”
A critique costs $10 plus 0.6 cents per word. That’s $25 for a 2,500 word short story, $310 for a 50,000 word novel, and $490 for an 80,000 word novel. While the time involved varies according to the amount of work required, you can expect it to take on average a few days for a short story, up to two-three weeks for a full-length novel.
I can copy edit your manuscript. This means going through the document itself, fixing typos, spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors and returning the edited version to you as a change-tracked .doc/.docx file so you can see what’s been done where. On a simple copy edit, I won’t provide feedback on the story's contents, just fix technical errors.
Copy editing costs $10 plus 0.6 cents per word. That’s $25 for a 2,500 word short story, $310 for a 50,000 word novel, and $490 for an 80,000 word novel. While the time involved varies according to the amount of work required, you can expect it to take on average a few days for a short story, up to two-three weeks for a full-length novel.
A developmental edit means looking at absolutely everything, line by line, scene by scene, and suggesting ways to fix and improve everything from punctuation to word order to a scene’s emotional impact, but leaving you to make the changes. A developmental edit is by far the most lengthy and in-depth option on this list, covering as it does everything on both the technical and narrative sides, from basic grammar through story structure to voice, style and language use. Developmental editing is about continuously improving both your story and your writing as a whole, and as such the service covers as many redrafts as are needed to make your work as good as it can be.
Example snippet: “The ending to the last scene promised a lot that you don’t deliver on here; the shock of Jack’s seeming death seems to have been lost on everyone at the start of this one. While I understand that Annie is driven to push on, no matter the cost, it seems strange that there aren’t at least a couple of references to her inner emotional conflict. I would include a line before the deal she makes with the Slug trader like: ‘When the Slug’s face appeared on her screen, Annie forced herself to bury her anger. She was a pro, and had to look it if she was to get what she wanted from this sleazeball.’ Then carry on with their conversation. It’s enough to show the reader she’s still carrying an emotional scar, but it doesn’t break the flow of the action. While she’s a hard-edged character, you’ve got to be careful not to make her seem totally cold or unsympathetic…”
A developmental edit costs $20 plus 1.65 cents per word. That’s $61.25 for a 2,500 word short story, $845 for a 50,000 word novel, and $1,340 for an 80,000 word novel. While the time involved varies according to the amount of work required, you can expect it to take on average ten days for a short story, up to five-six weeks for a full-length novel.
A full heavy edit includes everything a developmental edit does, but means I also physically make the changes I’d suggest and rewrite accordingly, as well as explaining the what and the why of it. Obviously this means someone else monkeying directly with your work, so if you’re not comfortable with that idea, don’t go for this.
A heavy edit costs $30 plus 3.25 cents per word. That’s $111.25 for a 2,500 word short story, $1,655 for a 50,000 word novel, and $2,630 for an 80,000 word novel. The time involved in heavy editing can vary the most of all, and an average estimate is difficult to give.
What are my terms?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with queries or work requests. I charge up-front via Paypal (for everyone’s ease and peace of mind; for me as a freelancer it removes any danger of missing income for work done, and for you as a client it provides a robust third-party resolution system if I turn out to be unreliable. It's never happened, but I'm happy that the capability's there). While other work and life commitments will mean that projected completion times may vary up or down from those averages given above, I always provide estimates of both start date and turnaround time before any editing work is booked and on the rare occasions the situation changes I'll always keep you updated and informed. If you provide me with a short sample from the story you want me to look at, I can provide a more accurate estimate. And if you want to be sure I can do the job you want and would like me to test edit a similarly short sample, I’m happy to do that too. I want you to feel totally confident about putting your work in my hands.