John Rickards - Freelance Editor & Writer

Editing Services

I provide professional freelance editing services across all genres and lengths, from short stories to novels. My fees are very reasonable, I always aim to meet the specific needs of my clients, I pride myself on my thoroughness, professionalism and attention to detail, and I aim to provide as prompt, constructive and helpful a service as possible. Let me help you make your writing as good as it can be; just get in touch.

Why choose me?

I’ve been a professional genre fiction writer since 2002, with six books published by the ‘Big Five’ in the UK and US, as well as a number of short stories and a variety of self-published releases. I began offering editing services in 2012 and I’ve since worked on hundreds of stories for writers in all genres and of all levels of ability. I’ve also been a trade journalist, both full-time and freelance, since 1999.

I’ve therefore 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 thorough, yet respects your own voice and individual approach to your work - the kind of thing no automated service or AI provider can do. While I’m from the UK, 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 since turning pro has been for American and Canadian authors. I’m fully capable of handling work from anywhere in the English-speaking world.

“I never thought I’d hear anyone go into such great detail about my writing.” - SA, short story, crime/romance; developmental edit.

“An amazing job (far exceeding my expectations)!” - DQ, novel, SF; developmental edit.

My fees are very reasonable (a critique, for instance, on a 2,500-word story would come in at only $37.50) and I always provide an accurate estimate of turnaround time for editorial work because I know that as a writer you don’t want to be left in the dark. Completion time does depend on the amount of work an individual story needs, and on the amount of other jobs I have on my plate, but I’ll always keep you informed and I’ve never yet missed an estimate or seen a client fail to hit a deadline they were targeting. 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 before we begin.

Some of my clients have been published after working with me, some have won awards for their writing, and others have found success self-publishing. I've also had traditionally-published clients turn to me for proofing, early reading, or copyediting because they were unhappy with their publishers’ own editing, and come away delighted with the results. I’ve also worked with publishers themselves as a freelancer.

“You’ve taken a rough jumble and ironed out the kinks, making it far more professional than it would have ever been on its own.” - SR, novel, fantasy; developmental edit.

“Thanks a ton for giving so much to my story - of your time and talent. The thoroughness of your feedback is impressive and very appreciated!” - UA, short story, family drama; critique.

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 through short stories of all lengths all the way down to 150-word flash pieces, in just about every genre, from romance, mystery and SF/fantasy through to family drama, literary and historical stories and erotica, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve worked with clients across the full range of experience and ability, from first-timers, to writers for whom English isn’t their first language, to authors with years of experience in the field. I’ve had clients from every continent on Earth (aside from Antarctica; if any polar scientists want to get in touch I’d love to complete the set), although the bulk come from the US, UK or Australia. Some clients write for submission, some to self-publish, some just to hone their craft. I’ve also worked (and continue to work) freelance for publishers, particularly as a copyeditor. To my knowledge, all of the authors I’ve worked with have been very happy with the care and attention I’ve given to their writing, 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, representing a wide range of editorial service types, genres and story lengths.

Ashes of America - Fergus McNeill
Curses of Scale - SD Reeve
Dreamwalker - James Oswald
Strangers - CL Taylor
Sorcerers - Maurice Broaddus
The Messenger - Ed James
Tribal Dawn: Mordufa - Cassie Wolf
Queen of the May - Suw Charman-Anderson
Fook Island - Don Bosco
Midnight 99 - Ashley Christine
Ten of Swords - Cal Moriarty
The Moment Between - Gareth Frank
Ula and the Siren - JA Stockdill
Where's Pops? - Max Evans
You Don't Know Me - Brooke Magnanti

“Fantastic! Thanks so much. I feel my story has become much stronger with your help.” - SC, novel, fantasy; developmental edit.

“You are very quick to see what needs work... I’ve had trouble with the tone, content, and structure of this ending for eternity.” - JP, short story, crime/horror; developmental edit.

What can I do and what does it cost?

I offer a variety of editing services from a story critique to a full heavy edit, all priced accordingly in US dollars (though I’m happy to convert into GBP or EUR). As well as describing what each involves, I’ve included snippets of the type of feedback you might expect for illustrative purposes. While the examples and descriptions are couched in terms of fiction, though, I’m happy to work with any kind of material, and there’s not much I haven’t already dealt with at one time or another in terms of content, style, or genre. 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; do feel free to ask for one.

  • In a critique I’ll go through your story and analyze it in terms of its characters, plot, structure, pacing, style, etc. I’ll also break it down scene by scene or chapter by chapter, looking at every aspect of the narrative and suggesting possible fixes for any problems I uncover and improvements you could make, without touching on the technical, grammar side of things.

    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, in this scene I think her relationship with Jack 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 $30 plus 0.5 cents per word. That’s $37.50 for a 2,500 word short story, $280 for a 50,000 word novel, and $420 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 weeks for a full-length novel.

  • I can copyedit your manuscript. This means going through the document itself, fixing typos, repetition, spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, flagging or correcting factual issues, tweaking for fluency if needed, and returning the edited version to you as a change-tracked .doc/.docx file so you can see what I’ve done where. On a simple copyedit, I won’t provide feedback on the story’s contents, just fix technical issues and smooth kinks in the prose. Proofreading and copyediting are functionally much the same thing - typically the only real difference is the point at which it takes place. Proofing is just a final copy check before going to production (in which there should be very few issues to correct). That being so, I do offer proofreading as well, all in this bracket.

    Copyediting costs $15 plus 0.7 cents per word. That’s $32.50 for a 2,500 word short story, $365 for a 50,000 word novel, and $575 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 weeks for a full-length novel.

  • A developmental edit means looking at absolutely everything in your story, 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, guiding you through the changes I’d recommend making and highlighting aspects you’ve written well. 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 I’ll work with you through as many redrafts, and as many queries or ideas in email, as it takes for however long it takes to make your work as good as it can be, all as part of the same service. I don’t describe it as mentoring, but in reality that’s precisely what developmental editing has become with some of my clients, and it’s also pretty close to the full publisher experience, from those early drafts to the final copyedit.

    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, pulpy character, you’ve got to be careful not to make her seem totally cold or unsympathetic…”

    A developmental edit costs $30 plus 1.6 cents per word. That’s $70 for a 2,500 word short story, $830 for a 50,000 word novel, and $1,310 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, with subsequent drafts generally turning around much more quickly as they need less work. On average, most developmental edits past through 2-3 drafts, but there’s no upper limit whatsoever; I’m happy to work on your story until you’re totally happy with it.

  • 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 allowing someone to mess directly with your work, albeit under change-tracking for ease of reversion, so if you’re not comfortable with that idea, a developmental edit is a much better choice (and unless a client is working to a too-tight external deadline or is thoroughly fed up with trying to revise their own work, is normally what I’d recommend anyway). As in a developmental edit, a heavy edit includes a full report and as many redrafts as it takes until you’re completely happy with the shape of the story.

    A heavy edit costs $45 plus 3.3 cents per word. That’s $127.50 for a 2,500 word short story, $1,695 for a 50,000 word novel, and $2,685 for an 80,000 word novel. The time involved in heavy editing varies the most of all, and an average estimate, as opposed to a specific, individual one on the basis of a sample or the full manuscript, is difficult to give.

“Your edits/suggestions feel spot on every time, and I’m so grateful for your help and guidance.” - EL, novel, family drama; critique.

“I’m really pleased with the end result!” - SM, short story, erotica; developmental edit.

What are my terms?

Email me at with queries or work requests. I charge up-front via PayPal for everyone’s ease and peace of mind, though I can be flexible on payment method if there's any issue with that. On occasion a client will book a heavier degree of editing than a story turns out to need. When that happens, I simply refund the original payment down to whatever level is suitable (most often from developmental edit to copyedit rates). You therefore never need to worry about being charged for work a story simply doesn’t need. I want to help make your story as good as it can be, not to treat clients like cash cows.

While other work and life commitments will mean that projected completion times may vary up or down from the averages given above, I always provide a start date and likely turnaround time before any job is booked and on the very rare occasions the situation changes before or during a piece of work, 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 work time estimate. And if you want to be sure I can do the job you want and would like me to test edit that short sample, I’m happy to do that too. I want you to feel totally confident about putting your work in my hands and that I can help you make it as good as it can be.

Client quotes above are taken from email replies I’ve had after carrying out work; one thing I’m far too British to do is ask anyone for endorsements or promotional quotes. As they’re from personal correspondence, and while I doubt they’d mind being quoted in this way, I’ve therefore kept the actual name of each client private.