Editor and copy editor are not synonyms. Proofreader is a journalism term.
There’s a reason publishers from the Big Five to small presses employ editors. Whether a writer’s goal is submission to an agent, a traditional publisher, or straight-to-ebook independence, every book needs an experienced, professional editor.
Publishers don’t cajole New York Public Library staffers or NYU English majors into editing and copy editing contracted manuscripts. They don’t enlist neighboring skyscrapers’ residents. They don’t ask their mothers, mothers-in-law, fathers, fathers-in-law, siblings, dear friends, book club buddies, or writers’ groups’ members.
Traditional publishers don’t fast-track proven bestsellers’ manuscripts from submission to printed books. If one can’t imagine why debut to bestselling authors need in-house, editorial expertise, review paragraph two.
The Suzann-centric Skinny:
Google fiction editor, freelance fiction editor, book doctor or independent fiction editor. The chances are excellent, sifting the kajillion results will take the rest of your life.
This is not helpful. Narrowing a field that looks larger than the Los Angeles residential phone book turns the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack search into a snap.
Some freelance fiction editors post their resumes and academic bona fides. Others provide glowing client testimonials. Per-word, per-page, per-whatever rates are commonly included. More than a few present all the above.
My publishing history and credentials are available at SuzannLedbetter.com or SuzannEllingsworth.com. A writer with a finished manuscript disinclined to exercise a wee-tad’s due diligence vetting qualifications isn’t a good sign for either of us.
Testimonials: I’ve never believed a testimonial touting anything is worth squat. Private clients I’ve teamed with are terrifically generous about providing requested referrals to prospective clients. Ask and ye shall receive.
Rates: In my admitted, biased opinion, a writer seeking editorial expertise shouldn’t approach it like a shopper price-comparing canned green beans. Your story, your work is worth more than eight-ounces of vacuum-packed, Kentucky Wonders.
Another freelance editor’s advertised content summary could be perceived as a helpful tool to guide novel revisions. General trouble-spots are identified, general plot problems noted, a few to several nitties and gritties in need of improvement are highlighted.
Except a summary’s scope relative to a completed novel is as limited as a synopsis. By nature, summaries are akin to book reviews. If a review of your book is the aim, call the New York Times.
Now imagine a writer’s workshop geared exclusively to your novel. A first page to last-word detailed, itemized content evaluation covering all elements of storycraft: point-of-view, characterization, dialogue, continuity, pace, plot, and more.
Not summary generalizations. Not a quasi-review. Comprehensive, specific explanations why each problem detected is problematic.
Why is crucial. Why, in my opinion, is everything. Skip or gloss over the whys and editorial remarks can be as obtuse and arbitrary as a parent’s, “Because I said so.”
Without a reasoned, articulated why, a writer can’t assess whether a change is warranted. More importantly, the best solution may be a compromise between the original and a suggested revision. Vague, editorial summary hinders the writer’s right to discover a thoughtful, problem-solving middle-ground.
My way’s editorial notes for a ninety-thousand-word manuscript will average thirty-five pages. Single-spaced pages. All itemized by the manuscript’s page number, and usually sub-headed by paragraph number.
My way’s easy to understand, methodical madness edits and simultaneously teaches fiction tips, tactics, and techniques. The stuff of workshop and conference speakers, blogs, how-to books and magazine articles, sure, but they can’t and don’t compare to seeing concepts applied specifically and exclusively to your book.
After a client reads my emailed chunk o’ notes, digests and studies them, probably says bad things and bad words about me, the vicious ol’ editor . . . the magic happens. Without fail, the client shifts gears to fired-up, focused, reinvigorated storytelling mode. New ideas, new directions pop. Just in time for our one-on-one, (sometimes marathon) telephone conference. The fun part for us both: talking book. Your book.
No client’s manuscript is an island. My way’s goal is to aid a novel’s revisions, including the copy editing aspects. My way editing develops skills applicable to a client’s next novel, and the next.
Call me crazy, but I do not believe summaries and marking random content miscues, misplaced punctuation and spelling errors is anywhere near sufficient bang for a client’s bucks. There’s scant, if any takeaway to incorporate in future projects.
I’m very good at what I do. Very good at anything seldom comes cheap. My rate-quote specific to a project won’t be a moon-shot, but it won’t divvy to pennies-per-page, either. If cheap is the prerogative, I’m not your gal.
What I will guarantee is no client can take a my way, post-edited manuscript, zip through its notes and marked corrections, and voila: a slam-bam, done-deal submittable or e-publishable novel. An editor who does guarantee zippy, slam-bam, done-deal results is superimposing a different story, voice, and style on what was your novel.
You worked hard to write and finish your book. I’ll work hard to provide the most comprehensive editing, instructive and constructive expertise you’ll find anywhere, at any price. But fair warning, the hard-work again reverts to you, to take what is learned and revise accordingly.
The good news is, I’m always available to clients via email for all questions arising, brainstorms brewing, OMGs, new project ideas—whatever is needed, for as long as needed. It’s what teamwork is all about.
My Way Modus Operandi:
A few don’ts:
*I don’t edit partial manuscripts. A partial manuscript is cake batter without an oven to bake it.
*I don’t do strictly copy editing. Grammar, punctuation, spelling are a story’s mechanics. A mechanically perfect manuscript may be a wretched story. A terrific story may be mechanically wretched. To paraphrase Hamlet, the story is the thing. Experience has shown, they who believe copy editing is all manuscripts need pre-publication, are wrong. See paragraph #2. Again.
*I do edit unbound, hard-copy, double-spaced, single-page-sided manuscripts, exclusively. No emailed manuscripts. Why? Because electronic editing reeks at my end of the spectrum, and worse, at a client’s. Try flipping screens to cross-reference something on page four to something on page 367. Repeat by, say, fifty cross-referenced notes over a complete novel? You spare me, I’ll spare you.
*I do, selectively, edit children’s books. Children’s literature is by no means adult fiction writ shorter, with scaled-down verbiage. If I'm not a hundred-percent confident a project fits my editing wheelhouse, I'll respectfully decline.
*Per confirmed schedule, a client ships a copy of a completed book, with the agreed-upon editing fee enclosed. Courier should be of the trackable variety: Priority USPS w/confirmation sticker, UPS, FedEx. Manuscripts are returned by the same courier.
*The editing fee is paid in full via cashier’s check. A paid statement for services rendered, including the cashier’s check number and its issuing bank is enclosed with the edited, returned manuscript.
Yes, I’m aware, a fee paid in full on receipt requires enormous trust on a client’s part. Scams abound. In this not-fair, electronic-communication world, scammers seem to prosper, while casting deep shade on honest brokers. Hence, my undying gratitude to prior clients’ willingness to assure new clients of my trustworthiness.
*Project scheduling: generally a first-confirmation date, first-served basis. Thirty days from a manuscript’s/fee’s arrival date is my deadline for emailing a client’s editorial notes. It’s yet to take a month to complete that stage, but if I get cocky and shorten the time-frame, life will rudely remind me why Murphy’s Law is not Murphy’s Suggestion.
So, now you know this combo writer’s and editor’s approaches to writing and to editing, (aka wrediting). What I do, why, and how I do it. I appreciate your time, and your consideration.
Questions? Clarifications needed? Scheduling availability?
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(If no response within a day or two, check your spam file. My return email may be lodged between the ED prescription and discounted vacation package ads. )
Every book needs an editor. Every book.
Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
There’s a right way, a wrong way, and my way.