Wondering about some things?
What do you charge for your services?
The industry’s basic minimum for fiction copyediting starts at $0.02 (2 cents) per word and ranges upward to $0.04, although that higher range is rare for me. For short projects, I have a minimum fee of $100. There are a number of factors I consider when figuring out a rate. How complex is your project? If it’s a smooth read from the outset—hopefully I can tell by your excerpt—I’ll quote on the lower end. If I anticipate lots of corrections, I’ll quote higher because it’s more time-consuming. If your story involves world-building or an intricate storyline, for example, this will factor in too. I also account for administrative work, such as emailing, invoicing, and drafting a contract.
Is my manuscript ready for copyediting?
Is your story arc solid, are your characters well developed, is your setting clear, does your timeline make sense? These don’t need to be flawless, of course. But if you’re unsure, you might need a different kind of editor for this “big picture” stuff: a developmental editor, who can identify and solve these issues. They can also suggest how to reorganize or rewrite whole paragraphs, sections, or chapters. Otherwise, to make sure your story has strong bones, you could benefit from a professional beta reader, who gives opinions based on the target audience, or perhaps a writing coach, a mentor from conception to completion. A solid foundation is key. All these professionals help ensure your story is ready for the next stage: line editing and copyediting—that’s me.
What’s the difference between copyediting and proofreading?
In the U.S., proofreading is the very last stage before a manuscript is launched into the wild (publication). It deals with only egregious errors, such as an apostrophe in the wrong direction, missing spaces, that sort of thing. I don’t offer proofreading services, because I wouldn’t be allowed to make bigger changes if a manuscript needed more intervention. Copyediting is the stage before this and addresses errors in grammar, consistency, sentence structure, capitalization, word choice, POV issues, and many more.
Why should I choose you as my copyeditor?
Besides everything on my About page, I also have an elevated opinion of writers; it’s so difficult to create something out of nothing but an idea. A blank page is daunting to me, and I imagine an entire Word doc full of red Track Changes is equally intimidating for you. Take comfort in the fact that I’m not reading your story and twirling my proverbial mustache, laughing at errors. I have great empathy and approach each project, each author, with the utmost respect, wanting nothing more than to bring out the best version of a manuscript. My edits will be comprehensive and in-depth but kind and constructive. Although some corrections are subjective—give a raw paragraph to three editors and you’ll likely see it manipulated in different ways—my editorial decisions are not random; they’re based on years of experience and training.
Why do you need specific information in my initial email?
The whole point is to put together an accurate estimate for you. Knowing about other edits helps me assess what your story needs. If it’s been through beta readers, critiques, and/or developmental editing, it’s likely ready for copyediting. If I’m the first to read it besides your mom—no offense to her—it may need extensive work and that means a heavy edit. The more work you put in before it gets to me, the smoother my editing will go. Keep in mind even the most successful authors need copyeditors, because we come at a story from a different perspective.
Do you really read every word, or do you skim it?
I read and consider every syllable. If a line sounds awkward in my head, it’s going to read clumsily for other people too, so I’m always on the lookout for tongue twisters, like “she sells seashells on the seashore” alliterations. Everything matters. Each word builds a sentence and a paragraph, which in turn powers your story. Typically, I’ll do one very slow read, constructing your style sheet and making edits, queries, and notes for myself along the way. Then I’ll skim it and clean it up.
Will my copyedited manuscript have any errors?
Any copyeditor worth their salt will tell you you’re paying for their best work, not perfection. In fact, an editor’s need for perfection can easily alter a writer’s voice, which is why I strive for accuracy instead. For books, most copyeditors do a single pass and maybe a skim (I do both), which simply will not catch every single error. Traditional publishers hire people for multiple rounds of copyediting and proofreading because perfection can never be guaranteed. With me, you also have the option to pay for a second round of copyediting if need be. But I always recommend, before your story is published, you ask someone to proofread it, preferably a professional. Every intervention you take is quality control.
Will my manuscript be formatted for publication?
If you need simple, specific tweaks—leaving a space after the ellipsis character, for example—I’m happy to incorporate that, but formatting isn’t what I focus on. The way it looks for copyediting isn’t necessarily the best formatting for publication. For our purposes, the ideal file will be a Word doc in Times New Roman 12-point font with double spacing. Why? It’s the clearest way to see punctuation that needs fixing (straight quotes or a weird apostrophe), and it's a no-nonsense font that makes for an easier read. I also need to see where the paragraphs are, so it’s important that your indentations are obvious. If your text has some fancy formatting that affects my editing, I’ll either try and change it myself or send it back for you to do so.
Can you help me find a literary agent or publisher?
That’s out of my wheelhouse. I stick to what I’ve studied and trained for: copyediting and line editing.
What will I receive once you’re finished?
After I receive final payment, I’ll send three documents attached to my summary email:
- The copyedited manuscript with all Track Changes visible and ready for your approval.
- A “clean” version, where I’ve accepted all the edits and only queries in comment bubbles remain—this makes for a more seamless read. (You’ll also find this view in the Simple Markup tab in Track Changes.)
- A detailed style sheet with character names, preferred spellings, and style choices to keep things consistent.
Should I feel nervous about sending you my story?
You have nothing to fear—I take your privacy seriously. I’m not a failed writer looking to make my mark on your creative endeavor. I’m an enthusiastic professional who has found an outlet for language skills beyond pointing out typos in ads or on storefront windows. Editing is what I do for a living, and I've worked very hard to get here. I have nothing to gain by violating anyone's trust. Rest assured, I'm on your team.
How do I know you’re not a bot? Do you take phone calls?
I like to have everything documented, so I prefer email. It protects you and me both. I hope that you can get a sense of my sparkling personality from all the info on my website—including some testimonials from writers, publishers, and colleagues—and my online presence elsewhere. I’m a real live human!
“Combined in Lisa are all the elements of the top-notch copy editor: a precise hand, a sensitive ear, an eye for the errant mark. She can field a range of content with equal aplomb. Seek her out when you want impeccable work delivered with vim, vigor, and a dash of wit.”
Sylvia Tan, associate editor
Photo credit: Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash