Man with cigar

All About Editing

By John Prince

When I was a kid reporter back in the early 60s THE CHIEF EDITOR was akin to a deity. The stereotypical editor was short, rotund, pugnacious, mean spirited, and subject to sudden, violent temper tantrums. He often had a fat cigar stuck in his face, half smoked, which he used as a pointer, hammer, and sometimes, a missile when he was upset with a reporter. You didn’t want to be hit with the wet end. He had the power of life and death with a story. Invariably they were men.

The Copy Editor was a much nicer person who received the story (remember, these were in the days before computers) with much blue-pencil mark up from the Editor. He (or she) reviewed the story for content, phrasing, completeness (were there any unanswered questions?), and overall suitability for the publication. Sometimes they did some checking to verify quotes and facts. By the time your story got to the Copy Editor you knew you were halfway to getting it in the next edition.

Proofreaders were picky, persnickety, and mysterious. Grammar, punctuation (and most importantly) spelling were they’re obsessions. They didn’t care a whit about the story—there were legends about how they read the piece backwards so that they wouldn’t get distracted by the narrative in their unrelenting search for a typo. Often, they were mature ladies, maybe former teachers, for whom life was a black and white adventure. There was only one way to spell “encyclopedia” and their way was correct.

Many of our authors request editing services. (A good editor makes a great writer, you know.) And there’s often confusion around just how we define the levels of editing. So, here’s the primer and cost range.

Editing by the hour is, in our view, unfair to everyone. By-the-word means the author knows the cost; the editor knows that they will be paid. Everyone wins.


Developmental/Content Editing:

A senior editor in some ways comparable to the CHIEF EDITOR, without the “life and death” power and the cigar antics.

Developmental editing is a thorough and in-depth review of the manuscript examining all the elements of your writing, from individual words and sentences to overall structure and style. In fiction, this edit will also address any issues related to plot and characterization. Good developmental editing will keep your target audience in mind and evaluate your work based on industry standards and expectations. Our Development/Content editing includes Copy editing and Proofreading.

Expect to pay from 3.75¢ to 4.75¢ per word.*


Copy Editing

Copy editing fine tunes a book’s text, otherwise known as the ‘copy.’ A copy edit will generally address grammatical or punctuation errors, incorrect and inconsistent facts and narrative, discrepancies, and typos. Overall, the purpose of copy editing is to ensure that the narrative supports the writer’s intent — while catering to the needs of the potential reader. They usually won’t enter into overarching issues such as characterization, plot or pacing; instead, they will go through the manuscript line by line and focus on all the little things you might not have thought about. They’ll catch scenes in which the flowers were on the sideboard in one chapter and on the table in the next. They’ll pull your book together page by page. Copy editing usually includes Proofreading.

Expect to pay from 3¢ to 3.75¢ a word.*


Proofreading / Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling (GPS)

Proofreaders are still those mysterious people who might read your manuscript backwards so as not to be distracted by the story. They’ll make sure that your book is free from spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other issues that could spoil a reader’s enjoyment of your writing. A professional proofreader strives for consistency using the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and The Chicago Manual of Style as their guides. Essentially, a proofreader must have the attention of a dedicated reader and the sharp mind of an editor — seeing everything, missing nothing.

Expect to pay 2.75¢ to 3¢ a word.*


*Costs are approximate and subject to change depending on the genre, complexity, and subject. Generally, novels take less time (and therefore cost less) than historical or scientific books. Each manuscript is reviewed and estimated separately.

4 thoughts on “All About Editing”

    1. Steve:
      You’re correct. But then, if I had used that spelling, I would have had to put a question mark after “their.” 🙂
      Thanks for referring JBucks. Interesting MSS.

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