Editing FAQs

I tend to get asked the same or similar questions over and over, so I thought an FAQ post might be fun this week. Here are a few of the editing-related questions I am asked regularly. I’m sure you have a list of these for your business, too, right?

Q: After you edit, will my manuscript be ready to be published?

A: Editing alone does not make a manuscript publish-ready. (In fact, I include a clause in my contract that says that I cannot guarantee publication of your work.) Editing improves readability and makes your manuscript grammatically sound, but, particularly if you are planning to publish traditionally, where literary agents and acquisitions editors at publishing houses make decisions about content, no independent editor can guarantee that your book is ready for acceptance anywhere after it goes through editing.

Q: Will you rewrite my work?

A: A good editor will be up-front about how much work your manuscript needs before you hire them. Generally speaking, though, an editor does not rewrite. If there is a section of your manuscript that is not clear, often an editor will either query you OR query you with a potential re-cast. I tend to do the latter, because I try to be helpful with my feedback rather than just point out where something is not correct. This isn’t always possible, of course, if a subject matter is too technical for me to offer a good suggestion. But when I can, I do.

If you want writing assistance, look for a ghostwriter rather than an editor. If you’re looking for your writing to stay intact but perhaps be structured differently (moving paragraphs or sections, for example, within a chapter), a developmental editor will do those things.

Q: How do I know you won’t steal my idea?

A: I, like all editors, work on the honor system. A lot of people outside of publishing think plagiarism and idea stealing is rampant; it really isn’t. This issue does come up occasionally with fiction, but it doesn’t really even make sense when it comes to non-fiction. It wouldn’t do me any good to steal someone’s idea about, say, gardening, because I don’t know enough about it to do anything with the idea. I can’t blog about it; I can’t even keep a house plant alive! My expertise is book publishing, and yours is whatever your industry is.

Q: How long will it take?

A: The real answer is the dreaded “it depends.” Sorry! It depends on many factors, among them how complicated your project is as far as the type of editing it needs, the length of your manuscript, how soon I have an open slot in my calendar. Good editors are booked several weeks or even months in advance. Look for an editor early, pay a deposit, and secure a spot on their calendar. That way, you won’t waste time later waiting for someone to be available when you’re ready to move forward with editing.

Q: What’s the investment?

A: Again, the answer is the dreaded “it depends.” This depends on how much editing work your manuscript needs and how its length. If you self-edit[LINK TO SELF-EDITING POST] before submitting to an editor, this will clean up grammar and mechanical errors. In general, no matter how an editor charges (by the hour, by the page, or by the word), you’re paying for their time. The less time it takes, the less it will cost you. For a book-length manuscript (beginning at 30,000 words), you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. That generally includes at least two rounds of editing, so you won’t get your edited manuscript back and then never hear from your editor again. You’re paying for the editor’s skill but also their collaboration.

Q: What will the manuscript look like when I get it back from you?

A: I caution clients not to be alarmed when they open the Word document and see all of the comments and markings (if they look at the version with every change tracked). It’s overwhelming! And it takes you back to elementary-school English when your sentence diagrams were covered with the teacher’s red ink. (That wasn’t just me, was it? Luckily I learned to love diagramming, and I’m one of few people who skill use the skill regularly, I bet.)

Every editor I know uses Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature so that clients know exactly what was changed. Queries to the author are embedded in the manuscript as comments so they are easy to find and answer. If you’ve never used “track changes” before it can be a little confusing, but it’s quite use-friendly once you get the hang of it.

I hope this answers some of your burning questions about book editing. If you need help polishing your writing, check out my editing services. If you have other questions, let me know and I’ll include them in the next FAQ post!