The Basics: What Do Editors Want from Writers?

We want a good project. A diamond in the rough. Something we can really sink our teeth into and take from good to great. And we want writers who really, really want to see that happen.

Our favorite clients:

Most importantly, clients should understand that no editor anywhere in the entirety of the universe can make a book perfect. Why? Carol Fisher Saller (best-selling author of The Subversive Copy Editor) explains:

The manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect because perfect isn’t possible. There’s no Platonic ideal for that document, one ‘correct’ way for it to turn out, one perfect version hidden in the block of marble that it’s your job to discover by endless chipping away. It simply has to be the best you can make it in the time you’re given, free of true errors, rendered consistent in every way that the reader needs in order to understand and appreciate, and as close to your chosen style as is practical. (pg. 115)

The Basics: Why Are Editors So Expensive?

The above question is usually peppered with swearwords and followed by a frustrated sigh. But the question is a good one, and today, I’m going to answer it.

Facts About Editing Rates:

  1. While every freelance editor has the ability to set his or her rates, most rates fall within an accepted range and are updated yearly (due to inflation, the market, etc.).
  2. Whether hourly, by the word, or by the page, the rate editors charge should be based on both their skill level and the amount of work involved.
    • A young editor fresh out of college should charge less than an 20-year veteran with large publishing house experience.
    • If you’re only looking for help with the basics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, and grammar), the charge should be less than, say, a developmental edit.
    • If you haven’t run spell-check, proofread a few times, and done at least a bit of self-revision, expect to pay more.
    • Conversely, the more time you’ve taken with your work, the more an editor can help and the less you’ll be charged.
  3. After reviewing all the pieces of your project, an editor should offer a quote, along with a time frame for completion. You should then be asked to sign a basic contract. These details are crucial and help prevent miscommunication, protecting all involved.

Remember, anyone who works as a freelancer has to pay out of pocket for things like health insurance. And they deserve a living wage, just like everyone else.

The Basics: “Why Can’t I Just Use Spell-check?”

When it comes to editing services, one of the statements I’ve heard throughout my career is “Why can’t I just use my word processor? It checks spelling and grammar.”

The statement is factually correct: Most word processors do offer both spell- and grammar-check. Those programs, however, were never meant to replace a human editor.

When you misspell a word, the WP offers suggestions for correction. There are some problems, however.

As far as grammar-check:

In short, while word processors have come a long, long way, they still have miles to go. Until then, a real-life human editor can make all the difference.


The Basics: Types of Editors

There are as many different types of editors as there are publications, and their responsibilities change from company to company. The list below includes a few of the more universal positions, along with their typical duties.

Copy Editor: Spelling, punctuation, grammar, flow, consistency, fact-checking, character development, dialogue … These editors can do it all. In the case of freelance editors, copy editing services are usually broken into light, medium, and heavy categories, with the cost of the service depending upon the depth of the work. (For instance, a “light” copyedit might only include spelling, punctuation, and grammar.)

Literary Editor: Details both the strengths and weaknesses of your work while also including concrete suggestions for improvement.

Developmental Editor: Starts at the beginning, working in concert with the author every step of the way. Offers advice, answers questions, and provides the services of both a literary and copy editor.

Proofreader: The last step on the road to publication, a proofreader’s job is to catch what others have missed with regard to the core issues of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and format (but not the organization, flow, character development, etc.). (Note: This title is also used to denote an editor who only checks the basics of spelling, punctuation, and grammar.)

The Basics: What Does an Editor Do?

Editors make the written word better.

Whether a manuscript, marketing campaign, grant proposal, article, or website (and everything else in between), editors use their considerable skill and knowledge to make writing more focused, balanced, coherent, and reader-friendly.

They are not simply spellcheckers or grammarians. Rather, they carefully consider how each word fits into the overall picture the author is trying to paint, finding ways to help readers connect with the story being told (no matter the format).

A good editor has no intention of usurping your position as author. We simply want to help make whatever you’ve written the best it can possibly be. And did you know you don’t have to accept anything we tell you? The power is always in your hands. All we ever ask is that you consider.