Services & Rates, Etc.
I have worked as a Freelance Editor & Consultant off and on since 1997 (most recently since 2006). My clients include highly acclaimed publishers both large and small, including University of California Press, Counterpoint, and Seal Press. I also worked in-house for a small, nonprofit press, Mercury House, from 1993 through 2005.
- editorial assessments
- developmental editing
- substantive/line/content editing
- book proposals & MS outlines
- fact-checking/market research
- scholarly research
- assistance re: scholarly text & copyright law
- permissions coordination
- project management
- author support, including helping prepare submissions to agents, publishers, ProQuest, etc.
- referrals to other professionals for—
- interior & cover design
- project management
- publicity & marketing
- web development
- and other editorial services
- fluent in The Chicago Manual of Style; proficient in AP style; adaptable to other guides or house styles
- skilled in smoothing text written by non-native English speakers
- well versed in diplomatic author relations
- willing to proof hard copy as well as PDF
- available for long or short jobs
- happy to do a sample portion to demonstrate my abilities
Editing & Proofreading
I am an accomplished wordsmith with extensive experience editing and proofreading book-length literary fiction, translation, and nonfiction, including multi-author works, in a variety of categories: armchair travel, arts & culture/cultural studies, biography & memoir, careers, current affairs, essays, film & music criticism, history/sociology, nature & environment, and spirituality & personal growth.
(For a detailed breakdown of the various levels of editing, please see the EDITORIAL PROCESS article below.)
I have non-manuscript experience as well. Working both in-house and freelance, I’ve written, edited, designed, typeset, and/or proofed all kinds of text: annual reports, articles, blog posts, board minutes, catalog copy, contracts, curricula, eLearning scripts, grant proposals, medical manuals, op-eds, press releases, quarterly earnings, and Web copy.
Permissions Coordination & Author Support
I also have intimate knowledge of every step of the book production process, and can assist with non-editorial tasks such as research, permissions requests and copyright infringement issues, and author relations/tech support — including help with MS Word’s track changes.
Having held every position at Mercury House, from volunteer intern to editor to director, I possess a wide range of skills and expertise — virtually everything a small company might require. And as we were a small press during challenging times — the dot-com boom and bust in San Francisco — I am seasoned in stretching dollars and cutting corners without jeopardizing quality standards, schedules, or relationships.
- ARTICULATE COMMUNICATOR: I developed excellent written and verbal skills within numerous departments and am well versed in everything from promotional materials to Web copy to board meetings.
- CAPABLE MANAGER: I deftly juggle complex projects and tight schedules, I possess strong interpersonal skills, and I teach and mentor with enthusiasm and sensitivity.
- EFFICIENCY EXPERT: I excel at streamlining systems and processes so as to maintain quality without losing sight of the larger concerns of schedule and budget.
RATES & OTHER DETAILS
Regarding any prospective project—
- For editorial projects, please first read both “The Editorial Process” and “The Author-Editor Relationship” articles below, plus the “Editing Philosophy” article on my EDITING PHILOSOPHY & OTHER THOUGHTS page. From these you can get a better sense of what I offer.
- CONTACT ME to request my Author-Client Questionnaire, in which you can tell me about your work and what you’d like assistance with. Even if you’re not yet sure what you’re looking for, your answers will help me determine in which direction I can guide you.
- From that point forward, I like to break down projects into mutually determined milestones of work submission, review, and payment so we both always feel we’re on track with each other.
- If you seek editorial assistance but don’t know exactly what you need: for our first milestone I could review your manuscript to provide an editorial assessment with service options.
- In beginning the text-manipulation phase of the process, I prefer to first work on a small representative sample of your project at a standard hourly rate. Once you’ve reviewed that edit, we can gauge together how we might proceed regarding level of edit, schedule, and the like.
- For a general sense of appropriate rates for different editorial services, please see the RATES GUIDELINES page at the Editorial Freelancers Association website.
Please CONTACT ME to request my Author-Client Questionnaire to get us started. I look forward to hearing from you! Until then, read on …
The Author-Editor Relationship
I see writing as a craft. It is not an inborn talent that some have and others don’t. All writers can develop their skills; the “best” writers are simply the ones who work their craft the most.
I don’t see editing as a judgment handed down regarding the value of a piece of writing. I see editing as a collaborative process, one that may have any of many possible objectives.
I believe writing and publication do not necessarily belong on the same continuum. There are many different reasons to write; to me the most important is the sheer process of self-discovery, of uncovering thoughts and ideas that might not have been considered otherwise. The endeavor of writing, even the writing of a book-length work, need not end in publication in order for the text to be “worthy,” or for the time spent to be deemed worthwhile.
To elaborate on this last point, I liken the process of a writer seeking editorial assistance for a written work to a dancer seeking feedback regarding a dance she or he has choreographed. Again, this is very much a relationship of collaboration rather than of judgment. The dancer seeks self-expression through dance. The choreographer advises on the craft of that expression. Only the dancer can express his or her own experience; only someone other than the dancer can assess how others might perceive that expression.
The appropriate parameters thereafter stem from a simple determination: the work’s intended audience.
- If the writer/dancer wants only to perfect the work, just for its own sake, then the editor/choreographer need only perfect technique, for its own sake.
- If the writer/dancer seeks performance of the work for which tickets would be sold, but to only friends and family, then the editor/choreographer works to perfect the dance for just that audience.
- Should the writer/dancer wish to perform for a larger audience, whether just once or for a week or more, and with, say, just local promotion, then the editor/choreographer works to adapt the dance as appropriate for a slightly wider audience, advising the dancer on what will help attract a reasonable turnout.
- Should the writer/dancer aspire to performing the work extensively, perhaps even having it optioned by a large theater that will provide an extended run with full promotional efforts seeking top reviews, then the editor/choreographer strives to help the writer/dancer craft the piece such that it attracts the desired attention.
So that I may best provide the assistance you seek, it is important to me to understand which of the above scenarios you aspire to. To that end, please CONTACT ME to request my Author/Client Questionnaire. And if you haven’t yet read “The Editorial Process” piece below, please read on, as it includes information pertinent to the questionnaire. Thank you!
The Editorial Process
“So, what does an editor do?” is not the same question as, “What can an editor do for me?”
The answer to the first question, in simplest terms:
an editor collaborates with the author (and publisher) to produce a finished product that effectively offers the reader the experience the author intended.
How is this achieved? Through various levels of editorial attention, in whatever combination is appropriate for the situation. To follow I’ve broken down the total process into distinct phases as I see them — noting that authorities differ on the exact demarcations between stages.
But I want to emphasize: this is not to say that every piece of writing needs to go through all these phases — especially the earlier ones. Or, even if a piece did call for all these phases, they need not all require an outside editor. Some writers can do an admirable job of attending to much of the following. These stages merely address the full breadth of attention a written work might require — and thus the assistance an author might request from an editor (indicated by BOLD TYPE).
So let us begin. In bird’s-eye terms, the editorial process has two major considerations: Overview & Planning, and Word-by-Word Attention.
Overview & Planning
Any necessary big-picture decisions regarding the organization and content of a manuscript would take place during a DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT. This might involve how the book is structured: if it’s sectioned into chapters, or larger parts, or both; if there is “front matter,” such as a foreword, introduction, or preface, and/or “back matter”: afterword, appendices, notes, bibliography, etc. It can also concern the inclusion of art: photographs, illustrations, maps, as well as elements like text boxes and sidebars. Many possible “parts” may be relevant depending on the material; the editor would recommend if additional, fewer, or different parts would aid the structure as a whole.
Less tangible concerns of the DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT relate to content and delivery, such as: point of view (first-person narrator, omniscient narrator), timeline (chronological or jumping back and forth), and tense (past, present, future). The editor might recommend transforming any of these into different forms or might simply identify spots where a dominant approach was inconsistent. Other concerns the editor would address: What of the main thesis or theses — how well is it/are they developed? Are the arguments deployed effectively, with logic and coherence? The editor might also recommend reorganization of portions of text and point out holes to be filled — both of which can call for the smoothing of transitions.
In the DEVELOPMENTAL stage the editor makes recommendations, and perhaps does large-scale restructuring, but usually does not make word-level changes. That more-detailed handling begins at the next stage.
In working with the text at this level, the editorial goal is to—
- Ensure the ideas of the writer have been successfully translated onto the page such that the reader will perceive them in the manner intended (this includes many intangibles of style, such as tone, pacing, diction, mood — plus overall concerns of cohesion, flow, clarity, precision, concision, etc.); and
- Ensure the text successfully conveys meaning according to the general guidelines of language (this concerns mostly tangibles — spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, usage).
An editor engaged in “higher levels” of the process (see levels of editorial attention below) focuses more on the #1 items above — which often involve larger parts: chapters, sections, and paragraphs — and less on the #2 items, which are more sentence-level concerns. Why? Because there is no need to spend time grammatically fine-tuning a sentence that, in the final shakeout, might end up being cut anyway. Conversely, at later stages, especially with a light copyedit, the editor focuses almost entirely on #2 items, as ideally any #1 items have already been addressed. And, while the same person might do more than one level of editing to a piece, each level is best handled in a separate “pass.”
The following are levels of editorial attention in the word-by-word phase, starting at the large end of the scale. An editor might—
- Recommend the author write new passages, and/or GHOSTWRITE for the author.
- Recommend the author rewrite passages, and/or REWRITE for the author.
- Perform a SUBSTANTIVE EDIT (also called LINE EDITING or CONTENT EDITING). This is a blurry stage that falls in between REWRITING, which allows wholesale reworking of the structure or style, and HEAVY COPYEDITING, which, though likely involving significant tinkering, still aims to maintain as much as possible of the author’s original text. I think it’s fair to think of a SUBSTANTIVE EDIT as mainly a heavy copyedit that includes some rewritten portions.
- COPYEDIT: HEAVY, MEDIUM, or LIGHT*
*The copyedit and proofread usually take place once publication has been scheduled. Thus, all the stages preceding the copyedit could aid a work in securing a publishing contract.
At the copyediting stage, the text is reviewed with an eye to fixing errors and identifying potential confusions that could disrupt the narrative flow.
The level of copyediting called for usually depends on the extent to which the author revised the material before it reached the copyeditor. (Please see the “Concision & Revision” article on my EDITING PHILOSOPHY & OTHER THOUGHTS page.) To quote the website of the Bay Area Editors’ Forum (of which I am a member): “The key differences between HEAVY and MEDIUM COPYEDITS are the levels of judgment and rewriting involved. In a heavy copyedit the editor: improves the flow of text rather than simply ensuring correct usage and grammar; may suggest recasts rather than simply flagging problems; and may enforce a uniform level, tone, and focus as specified by the publisher or developmental editor.” Another distinction: a LIGHT COPYEDIT is the first stage in which deletion of text is considered a less viable/desirable option, and one to use judiciously. (Several links below share samples of heavy, medium, and light copyediting.)
But note that the level of copyedit employed is not necessarily determined by what the piece “needs”; it might be based on what is appropriate for a particular situation. The manuscript of a bestselling self-help author might be assigned only a light copyedit; if the audience loves her ideas, and are fans of her voice, the copyeditor wouldn’t want to tamper with that voice. But if a poet tried his hand at a how-to manual, the publisher would likely assign a heavier edit so as to better align the text with its purpose.
For a work scheduled for publication, after the COPYEDIT it is designed and typeset into “page proofs”: the first stage at which it really starts to look like a published book. These proofs are then read by a PROOFREADER, who conducts the final word-by-word, start-to-finish pass of the document with an eye to perfecting with a minimum of effort or alteration, since too much change to just one line could result in “reflowing” the page. While proofers can and do catch edits that slipped through the copyediting stage — sadly, we don’t catch everything every time, though that’s always our goal — proofers’ primary targets are typographical and consistency concerns, involving such items as: cross references, font styles and sizes, formatting, running heads, Table of Contents entries, etc. In short: the proofreader ensures all elements are present, correct, and accounted for.
And while the same editor might address a manuscript in different phases, it is strongly recommended that the copyeditor and proofreader not be the same person. A fresh set of eyes at the final stage is an essential part of the editorial process.
So, to return to the questions “What does an editor do? and what can an editor do for me?” — the answer depends on the material at hand. Many editors, myself included, are skilled at most if not all of the stages described above. Think of such editors as multi-talented collaborators, ready to step in as needed at any point in the process of creating and perfecting text. Perhaps you know exactly what you need: a copyedit of a memoir scheduled for publication, or help with just a passage where you’re feeling stumped. Or maybe you simply need an overall assessment of your essay collection to consider how others might perceive it. In such scenarios editors can advise you on next steps for you to make yourself, or do those steps for you, or some combination of the two.
Regardless of the task at hand, the best editors are highly skilled in identifying and meeting the needs of the reader while striving to protect, as much as possible, the unique voice of the writer. As such, the editor offers an essential conduit between the inspiration of the writer and the perception by the reader — from the first idea through to the last word.
SOURCES and SAMPLES
Note: authorities differ on terminology; some might equate “substantive” and “developmental” editing. I have followed the guidelines provided in THE COPYEDITOR’S HANDBOOK by Amy Einsohn, published by University of California Press.
This LINK shows Table 1: Levels of Copyediting from page 12 of Einsohn’s chapter 1: “What Copyeditors Do.”
This LINK shows Figure 1: Samples of Light, Medium, and Heavy Copyediting (from page 26).
Both my Before & After editing samples depict medium-level edits.