jessicasteiner: (Default)
This is the fifth and final installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag. It may be the shortest of the series, but in some ways it's the most important.


Each editor's rates is, of course, set individually.

Some editors charge by the hour. Depending on their experience, they can charge anywhere between $20 and $50.

Others charge by the page. This seems to be more likely for small projects, such as resumes or academic papers. Though I didn't look too deeply into this, it appears that there's a base rate, such as $20, and then it goes up from there based on the number of pages in the project.

It appears that sometimes, particularly on the job boards, an editor will offer a flat rate for a large project like a novel. I suspect that an editor with few credits is willing to take a hit to the size of their paycheque in order to get experience editing a novel. I've even seen an editor offering her work for free, just to get the experience. If your budget is fairly small, this may be a good option, but you run the risk of not getting the best edit possible.

On the large job boards, it's fairly easy to cross-check different editors and compare how much they charge for various types of jobs, and it's worthwhile to check around if you're shopping for an editor, so you have a number in mind. However, my experience with the job boards was that the projects are generally smaller than a full-sized novel, so it's difficult to gauge how it will compare simply by looking at the listings.

Though it varies, getting a full novel edited is not cheap. If you think about it, it takes several hours to read a novel. Reading while taking notes and making changes can take many, many hours. A full, substantive edit can run upwards of a couple of thousand dollars.


It's important to see the terms under which the editor is going to work. A reputable editor will send you a contract, which sets out the work and how much it will cost. Scrutinize the contract - and by that I mean, read it. If there are bits you don't understand, ask. And if the editor isn't willing to clarify, run.

You shouldn't send your manuscript to someone - or several hundred dollars - unless you're sure that the person is legitimate. There are a lot of people out there more than happy to part someone from their money and not deliver anything.

Both you and the editor should have a clear idea of exactly what each of you is expected to do, and how much it will cost, before you begin sending money. Obviously for a large project where there is unpredictability in how long it will take the editor to get through the project, you may only have an estimate of how much it will cost, but you should have a good grasp of exactly how the final bill will be calculated. That way, neither of you will be surprised or angry at the end.

I will say this isn't advice only specifically for hiring an editor, but for pretty much anything you do that involves a contract.

How it Turned Out for Me

One of the people I was referred to seemed to click with me right away. I scrutinized her website and saw that she had some good credits under her name, justifying her hourly rate, which is on the higher end of the range I saw.

At her request, I sent her a plot synopsis and three chapters. She suggested that I do a Manuscript Evaluation, and quoted me $800, saying that it could end up being lower because my writing was generally good. She will be documenting her hours - good, and if she ends up taking less time than expected, I won't have to pay the full amount, but she does want half up front. I feel that's quite fair.

The entire process of finding her and deciding to hire her took about three days, so when I made the decision of who to hire, I wasn't quite ready to actually take the step and send off my manuscript. I had expected it to take quite a while to find someone suitable, who was willing to take me on. Because I was still working on my own edit, and wanted some people to read my novel before I sent it out, and my editor was about to go on holiday, we decided that the work would start in June when she gets back. So I haven't signed the contract yet, and I also haven't sent any money.

And that is the end of my series on what I learned while working on hiring a freelance editor. If you know something I've missed, please feel free to share! And stay tuned as I go through the process. I'll definitely have updates.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
This is the fourth installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag.

Before I set out to do my research, I thought that there were basically two, maybe three kinds of edits. I thought there was a substantive edit, where the editor would go in depth about structure, style, characters, plot, and everything else. I knew this was a major undertaking (though I didn't quite understand HOW major, or how expensive), a copy edit, which I really didn't know what that was, and a proofread, which is basically just checking for typos, and which I wasn't sure was actually separate from copy editing.

Boy, was I wrong.

Manuscript Consultation

As an unpublished novelist, the first thing that most of the editors that I contacted suggested I obtain is a manuscript consultation. This isn't really an edit, but more of a general overview, giving me feedback about all kinds of things, from style to pacing. My impression is that an editor will give detailed notes on my manuscript, but won't actually go line by line and suggest fixes.

The idea is that for a first time novelist, you may not want to embark on a thorough substantive edit if your book simply isn't anywhere near publishable quality. As editors charge by the hour, if your writing needs major, major work, a full, line by line edit may be hugely expensive, because there will be so much that needs fixing.

A manuscript consultation allows you to get feedback from a neutral third party, which you can then take and try to either improve on that manuscript by applying the feedback, or chuck it out and start fresh if it's completely broken and not worth saving. Many people have never had anyone other than themselves or maybe a loving spouse or parent look at their work, so a consultation can be the first time they've ever gotten real feedback on things that they can try to improve.

Substantive Edit

This is basically what I expected it was, going over the book and doing a major review of macro-level issues, such as plot, structure, pacing, etc. Some editors will call this a structural edit, or simply a manuscript edit.

Stylistic Edit

Some editors offer this type of edit as a separate item from their substantive edit. Instead of looking at logical, structural items, the editor will help you to polish your own, unique voice and make it consistent throughout the manuscript. The editor also helps to smooth out the language by clarifying meaning and eliminating jargon that may make your manuscript difficult to understand. I have a feeling that editors who don't offer this service do this as part of the substantive edit.

Copy Edit

This is apparently the most comment type of edit that freelancers do, though it wasn't what I was looking for. The editor will go through line by line and correct grammar and sentence structure, clean up consistency problems, and fix punctuation.


Proofreading is the last thing that is done before the book is sent out to be printed. It's merely a process by which the editor ensures that no mistakes have been made, such as typos, in the final proofs. (A proof is basically a document that gives the printer everything they need to create a finished, printed book). They will check things like headers, page numbers and layout to ensure it all looks perfect, not just look at the words in the manuscript.

Other Stuff

Many editors also offer other services, such as project management (helping you to turn an idea for a book into a finished project), fact checking, and indexing.

Next time will be the last post in the series, in which I talk about pricing in more detail, as well as describe some of the legal issues that you should be aware of when hiring an editor.
jessicasteiner: (Default)
This is the third installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag.

So once I was all organized and ready to go, I began my search. Being a simple-minded sort of person, I went to Google and typed "Freelance Editor" I think. And boy, there sure are a lot of them.

The first thing I discovered is that people hire people to edit a whole lot of things that I never imagined. Like resumes. I certainly know the value of having a good resume, and I had my mother and my wife look mine over for typos and did a lot of research about resume-writing when I was developing my first resume, way back in the mists of time. It never occurred to me to pay someone upwards of $30.00 to edit it. But I can see the value.

But money is for another time.

There seem to be two kinds of places where editors hang up their shingle, and depending on what you're looking for, you may prefer one or the other.

Job Boards and Organizations

There are a myriad of organizations that exist to connect freelance editors to people who want to use their services. There are huge advantages to these websites, such as:

  • Rating systems: Other people who have used the editors through the site can usually leave comments about their experiences, and rate the editors. Very useful in trying to choose a good editor for your work.

  • Searchability: The websites incorporate keyword searches, so you can search for editors who deal with your specific kind of project, instead of having to wade through every one individually.

  • Price Comparison: The nature of the website makes it easy to compare different editors. You can see how much they charged for different projects, to get a sense for how much they would likely charge for your project

The websites I looked at were: Edit Avenue and oDesk. They both have different formats and advantages. Edit Avenue was focused entirely on editors, but the projects were generally less than 20 pages, so I'm not sure if they actually take full-length novels. oDesk had everything from ghost writers to editors and many other kinds of professionals, but was very searchable, making it easy to narrow down the search.

The one downside I found from these websites was that - rightly or wrongly - I got the sense that the people there had less experience. They have a less professional feel than the individual websites. While I'm sure that many of the editors on the sites are highly competent and experienced, anyone can show up and hang out their shingle, though thankfully the sites also include a resume.

Ultimately, I didn't end up contacting anyone on the job boards, though I did note down several I wanted to contact. I'm sure if the steps I took hadn't turned out, I'd have contacted a few people on both Edit Avenue and oDesk.

Individual Websites

My googling also tracked down a couple of people who had created websites of their own. These are individualized websites, so they're all very different. One of them had a form that you could fill in if you were interested in getting a quote. Another had a blog that I snooped in as part of my research, to see if I felt any kind of connection with the person.

The websites had information about pricing, and about their experience. It seemed overall that people who had made their own website were more highly experienced freelancers, with significant credits to their name.

Beyond the more professional feel of having a website, I found that I felt a more individual sense of who these people were. As a result, I felt more comfortable diving in and contacting a few right off the bat, to ask for quotes.

I wound up contacting three people like this. I filled in the form on the one person's blog, and for the other two I simply sent emails outlining generally what I was looking for and asking for a quote.

Two people got back to me within 24 hours. Both of them told me that they didn't have time to take on my project, but offered to refer me to someone else who was equally experienced and might have the time. I took them both up on this offer, which takes me to the third section of this post.


When you think about it, the entire publishing industry basically works on referrals. There's definitely something about having someone say "Hey, this person is good" that just gives people more confidence. I found it very gratifying that the people who didn't have time to take on my project immediately turned around and referred me to someone they trusted.

I'm sure that the editor felt the same way, that a friend of theirs was putting me in touch with a writer that they thought would be a good fit.

I was careful to note down who had referred me to whom in my editing spreadsheet, so that when I contacted them, I could refer to the original person. I really wanted to be able to say "So and so suggested that I contact you", to create a connection. And one thing that I really wanted was to find someone that I connected with on a personal level, someone that I can build a relationship with. I wanted to find an editor that I could work with well, rather than having a faceless person reading my work and giving me suggestions.

Next time, I'll discuss the types of edits that one can hire a freelancer to do for you.
jessicasteiner: (Default)
This is the second installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag.

Before I began my search for a freelance editor, I knew I really had no idea what I was in for. I wasn't sure if it was going to be like searching for a publisher, where I would need to prove myself and hope someone was willing to look at my work. I also didn't know how long it was going to take. So I came prepared for a long, difficult search.

It turned out not be nearly so difficult as I feared, but I still feel that the steps I took to get organized before I began helped out.

I created myself a spreadsheet, modeled after a spreadsheet that I had seen in the "Writer's Market", which is supposed to be used to organize a search for a traditional publisher or agent. I set the spreadsheet up like this:

Manuscript TitleOrganizationContact NameQuote RequestedResponse ReceivedQuoteComments
The Sleeping DeathJane Doe Editing Ltd.Jane Doe
$800Liked the website and blog. Referred by John Smith. Sent synopsis and first three chapters on 04/13/2012.

The idea behind the spreadsheet is just to keep track of who you've contacted, where you found them, and how long it's been since you heard from them. This is to prevent you from accidentally contacting the same person multiple times, or from forgetting who people are when they contact you back.

The comments section can be used to record details that don't fit anywhere else. I used it to mention anything unusual about the particular person, and to leave myself reminders about what we had talked about already.

It also gives you an easy way to check whether enough time has passed that it might be worthwhile to follow-up. This basic spreadsheet can be useful for a lot of applications, and you can always add in more columns as needed. I set it up so that I can reuse the spreadsheet for other projects, maybe contacting people I've looked at before, for OtherWhere when I'm ready to do so.

As I did my research, I threw in links and information about various people I had looked at, even if I didn't think I was likely to contact them, so that I wouldn't ever repeat my work or cover ground I had already spent time covering.

In the end, I contacted three people at the end of my first day of research, though I had looked at about ten on various websites. I sent a short, polite email letting them know where I had found them, and describing what I was looking for the editor for - a fantasy novel of approximately 110,000 words - and requested a quote.

Two of them got back to me within 24 hours, both of them to tell me that they didn't have time to deal with my project right now, but both offering to refer me to people they knew who might have time.

I accepted those offers, noted down in the comment section whom they had referred me to, and added new lines for the two new people. In the comment section for those people I also noted who had referred me to them, so I could tell them if they asked. I wound up hiring one of those referrals, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there.

As you can see, just a tiny bit of organization goes a long way. I immediately had a place where I could compare the people I had spoken to, and knew exactly when I had heard from whom and about what, without having to poke through my emails. And if none of those initial contacts had panned out, I had a central place where I could move on to my next choices and contact others, or recognize that I had to widen my search and go back to the drawing board to get more names.

Next time I'll talk about the places where I found editors, and the various pros and cons of each!
jessicasteiner: (Default)
This is the first of my series on the process and what I learned in hiring a freelance editor to edit my novel, The Sleeping Death. Go here to see a list of the rest of the planned topics.

Though this is a more meta topic compared to the 'how-to' nature of the rest of this series, it's actually critically important to the whole rest of the process, so it's worthwhile considering this question yourself in detail if you decide you want to go this route. Your own reasons will determine if hiring an editor is something you want to do and also exactly what you will be hiring the editor to do, because there are different options. It will also help you determine your budget.

E-Publishing Makes it Necessary

The big, overarching reason why I decided to hire an editor to go over my novel is because I am not planning to go the traditional route with this book and shop it around to mainstream publishers. Instead, I'm epublishing. This means that when I decide it's time to release the book and send it out into the world, that's it. It's done. There's no gateway that will stop it and tell me that my book is just not good enough for public consumption.

If I were intending to go the traditional route, I wouldn't necessarily have to worry about it. The publisher will provide an in-house editor who will edit my novel and help me get it ready for publishing. But in the epub, independent world, the only option is to hire someone to do it myself.

Many people who want to traditionally publish will still get a freelance editor to look it over. This is quite an investment of money considering that the publishing houses will edit your book for you, also. But if you really aren't sure that your book is good enough to even be accepted by a publisher, a manuscript consultation seems to be something marketed to you. In a later part of this series, I'll go into more detail about what manuscript consultations are.

It's Not Something I Can Do Myself

I might be able to format my book myself, and promote it. If I were artistic I might even be able to do the cover for myself. I can figure out how to upload it to the various online book stores.

But editing isn't like that. I have spent a lot of hours editing the book myself, but there comes a point where a second set of eyes is the only way to get it to that next level. I can show it to my friends and family - and I will - but I feel that a fully-trained, experienced editor, with knowledge of the genre and the field, will bring expertise to my novel that my friends and wife simply can't. And an editor is an unbiased third party who won't be afraid to tell me what's really wrong with it.

So when it comes to business, when there's something you can't do yourself, you have to pay to have someone do it for you. Writing is a business, so I'll shell out.

My Name is On This Thing

I'm looking to build a career, starting with this novel. Since I'm putting myself out there, this book will be something that some people will read and decide never to read my stuff again - while others will read it and be excited to read the next thing I put out.

When it comes down to it, I want as many people as possible to be in the second category.

I want this book to be as good as I can physically make it, before anyone buys it. It's worthwhile spending the money to do that, because the return on investment should be worth it. I'll sell more copies, not just of this book, but future ones, if this book is good enough to impress people and leave them wanting more.

So these are the three main reasons why I decided to take the plunge, open my wallet, and shell out some pretty big bucks to hire a freelance editor.

Next week I'll discuss how I prepared for my search.
jessicasteiner: (Constructive Criticism)
A major thing that's been occupying me lately was the search for a freelance editor for The Sleeping Death. This whole process was completely new to me, and I had to learn a lot in a short time. So I've decided to do a series of posts on what I've learned through this process, hopefully so that it will benefit someone who might want to do what I've done!

The series will be on the following topics:

The links will take you directly to the specific post, so you can skip over the ones that you're not interested in.

I hope that this information is useful to you, and at least saves you a little time and worry. For any of these topics, if you know anything I've missed, or if I've misconstrued something, I'd very much welcome you sharing your own knowledge for the benefit of everyone.

I'm also doing this series as part of the [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw fest, so I won't be crossposting it outside of Dreamwidth until after I finish posting all the sections. Enjoy this semi-exclusive content ;)


jessicasteiner: (Default)
Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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