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Editing

Our editing services are designed for authors who have already done their second draft and now need a professional set of eyes to make any necessary corrections.

Our editing services comprise several options which can be chosen on a menu basis.

To the outsider, the term editing seems to speak for itself – it’s just editing! But as a wise editor-in-chief once said:

"In the world of literary consultancy, agency and publishing, editing comes in many flavours!"

Ice Cream Scoops

Which type of editing an author might require will depend very much on the current state of his/her manuscript. For example, if you have just finished your second draft and no-one other than you has checked it, you may very well require ALL of the forms of editing. On the other hand, if your manuscript is at its fifth draft and has already been checked by several people, you may need only one type.

We have set out below brief summaries of the main points of each editing type so that you can decide which type, or types, your manuscript needs. If, after reading this page, you are still not sure, then why not commission us to prepare a report on your manuscript which will guide you.

For more information on reports, please look at the report pages on the services menu.

Please note that different consultancy houses don’t always use the same terminology; there may be particular differences between US and British houses –  so, for example, “line editing” may be referred to as “general editing” by some. To ensure that you choose the edit that you actually want, make sure to read the descriptions for each.  

 

Before we get started on Editing Services, a few words on fees...

As you will see, all of the fees quoted below are based on an hourly rate. Some, in fact many, consultancies persist in quoting fees on a "per page" basis or on some kind of "word count" basis, and some (not many) even quote on a "per chapter basis"; for example, £7 per page, £30 per 1000 words, or £45 per chapter.

 

This makes no sense at all, and unless your manuscript is close to perfect will almost certainly result in a bad edit. Why? The answer is rather obvious; take the case of an editor who has 3 manuscripts to edit on a fixed fee basis of £30 per 1000 words.

The first manuscript has an average of one minor punctuation error per page (roughly 250 words), so he/she must correct only 4 errors per 1000 words for which he/she gets £30 - fine, all good.

 

In the second manuscript, there are twice as many errors, but many are more serious errors, i.e. sentence word order is wrong, a verb is missing, the wrong tense has been used, many wrong words have been used (e.g. "there" instead of "their") so the editor must now do more than twice as much work for the same £30 - the question is: will he? Or will he just skip over the errors because otherwise, it will just take too long to correct for the money being paid?

 

In the third example, the manuscript is even worse in terms of grammatical, syntax and other errors - it is, in fact, so bad, no agent would even consider reading it. But, in this case, the story is wonderful, the characterisation marvellous, and all things considered, other than the terrible English, it is really good novel. Now, if the author is paying on a "per page" or "per word" basis, it is almost certain that this novel will never be published. Why? Because no editor is going to correct so many mistakes for £30 per 1000 words - if he did so, he would be earning less than the minimum wage, which he obviously will not do. Now, if he is being paid £35 per hour (which is about average for a decent editor), then he will correct every mistake he comes across to the best of his ability because it doesn't matter how long it takes to get it right, he is being paid for the work he is doing. So the "hourly rate" basis is the only logical method of remuneration.

The only possible objection to an hourly rate for editing is that the author cannot know with absolute certainty how long an editor has actually spent doing the edits; he could bill for 50 hours when in reality, he has only spent 40 hours. However, when the author gets back the marked-up manuscript and has the online reviews (Zoom etc.) over the course of the editing process (probably between 2 and 4, for a 60,000 to 80,000 word novel), he/she will get a very good impression of what amount of time has been spent versus what has been billed. Also, to some extent, the author has to trust in the honesty of the system (as one would for legal fees, for example) that the time billed has been spent. In any case, Castle Tower Consulting will not under any circumstances allow "per page" or "per word" billing as it is (based on extensive experience) a recipe for total disaster.

And a few words on the process...

We believe (unlike some other consultancies, where the author never even speaks to, let alone sees, the editor he is dealing with) that to get the best results from editing, the author and the editor need to work together and have regular reviews (via Zoom or Teams, for example) on how the edit is going and to how and to what extent the edit should be done (e.g. should the editor correct split infinitives or does the author feel that Captain Kirk's intro to Star Trek has made them quite acceptable? - We hope you get this!) So, our process for all of the below Editing Types is:

1) Get in touch first of all and say what you want (or at least what you think you want).

2) We will then ask you for what we need, e.g. initial chapters, the whole manuscript, et cetera.

3) Your editor will contact you to set up a meeting (e.g. Zoom) to discuss your edit based on his/her look over what you've sent.

4) You will pay your deposit for work to commence (usually 20% of the estimated total).

5) Your editor will start editing.

6) Depending on what the edit starts to reveal about your manuscript, your editor will schedule review meetings.

7) The edited manuscript will be sent back to you on an ongoing basis (e.g. every 6 chapters) so you can see what is happening.

8) You will be billed as the edit continues on a "pay as you go" basis - this avoids your paying up-front for unknown quality.

9) You will continue to have review meetings and updated corrections until the edit is complete.

10) There will be a final meeting once the edit is completed.

11) You will pay your final bill and decide what to do next (e.g. do re-write, move to proofread, et cetera).

Line Editing

Line editing looks at your manuscript one line at a time. A line editor will analyse your content for issues in relation to your writing style mainly.  The line editor is not particularly looking for grammatical mistakes but is rather more concerned with how effective your use of English is.

As feedback from your line editor, you might get comments like: “Sentence doesn’t make sense”; “You’ve said the same thing twice”; “You’ve used the same word three times in two sentences – choose some synonyms”; “It isn’t clear who fired the shot – revise”; et cetera.

Some authors can be somewhat offended by a line editor’s comments and feel that the line editor is attempting to re-write the manuscript, which to some extent is true because that’s what you are paying for by hiring a line editor.

Our line editors charge between £30 and £40 per hour, depending on experience. You can specify a cap at the outset, both to the cost and to the extent of the line edit. For example, you could say that you don’t want to be picked up on using the same vocabulary over and again, or for not having the correct pace (i.e. you are not bothered about stylistic matters), and you only want to know about sentences that literally don’t make sense. We can discuss this with you.

Line editing a typical (e.g. reasonably well written) 60,000 word novel will take about 25 to 40 hours – the time is very heavily dependent on how corrections are needed, so even the average novel has a wide spread. We have seen some manuscripts of 60,000 words that only generated 20 to 30 comments, so the time to do the line edit was only about 15 hours. On the other hand, we have also seen manuscripts that were so bad that the full line edit took over 100 hours – in other words, the whole book had to be virtually re-written to make any sense. If you are not sure and have a restricted budget, then order a report first – that will give you a reasonably clear impression of how good or bad your manuscript is.

 

Copy Editing

Copy editing also looks at your manuscript line by line, but the copy editor is only bothered about grammatical errors, spelling, internal consistency (facts) and syntax. Your editor will not make any comments about your writing style, whether you have chosen a wide variety of vocabulary or anything else of that nature.

The copy editor’s work is more objective (i.e. based on facts rather than opinion – e.g. “This is the wrong verb tense”),  and he/she will make comments like: “Michael was said to be in his mid-thirties in Chapter 1, but in Chapter 14 we find out he is 42. Which is it?”; “You have, ‘he make’ should say ‘he makes’ - revise”; “You have many split infinitives – does this concern you”; et cetera.

On the last point specifically, it will be up to you to discuss with us to what extent you want your English correcting. For example, you may not be in the least bit bothered about such things as split infinitives or the use of slang – that might be just part of your style.

Also, we must all recognise that in the 21st century, readers (and thus agents and publishers)  are far less fussy about English usage and grammar than would have been the case even twenty years ago. Certainly, grammatical deviations that would have been entirely unacceptable when Arthur Conan-Doyle was writing in 1900 are now commonplace, and few people, if any, are bothered.

As the author, it is largely a matter for you to decide to what extent you want your manuscript correcting for grammar and syntax, and this will depend on the type of book you are writing and who your target audience is. Provided that your manuscript is of an acceptable standard to a publisher, i.e. the grammar, spelling, and syntax are okay by modern standards, your copy editor is not going to be overly finickity about things like starting a sentence with “And”, unless, of course, you want him/her to be - for example, because you are writing a sequel to a Jane Austin novel, and want to emulate that style.

 

Our copy editors charge the same as line editors - between £30 and £40 per hour depending on experience – they may even be the same editors, and often clients ask for both types of edit to be done simultaneously. If this is the case, the cost per hour is exactly the same as it will just take more hours to do – though most commonly nowhere near double the hours, so it saves money to have both done together.

Again,  you can specify a cap at the outset both to the cost and to the extent of the copy edit. For example, you could say that you have written a mainly dialogue crime novel set on a rough estate, and therefore, expletives, slang and poor grammar are in keeping with the characters. We’ll discuss all of this with you in detail before starting work.

Copy editing a typical (e.g. reasonably well written) 60,000 word novel generally takes a little longer than line editing it, so about 30 to 50 hours would be the typical range. But again, we must emphasise that it all depends on how many corrections are needed, i.e. how good or how bad your manuscript is. So, as per line editing, if you are unsure and have a restricted budget, order a report first.

Structural Editing

 

Structural editing deals with how your manuscript is structured - or ordered, and although it does apply to fiction, it is more commonly an issue with non-fiction manuscripts. For example, in a book about wine-making, we read in Chapter 4 that the aspiring winemaker should “syphon-off in the manner described previously”, however, the directions for syphoning-off are not given until Chapter 6, so they are given in the wrong order and need changing. Structural editing also examines such things as chapter length and where chapters begin and end. If only a structural edit is chosen on a stand-alone basis, the editor will completely ignore grammatical, spelling, syntax and stylistic errors.

This is a more general type of edit and does not require the same level of knowledge of grammar as line and copy editing do; it is, therefore, less expensive. Typically, structural editors cost between £25 and £30 per hour. Timewise, it all depends on how bad the structure is to start off with. In some cases, it only takes as long as is needed to read the manuscript, as no major changes are needed; in other cases, it may involve dozens of alterations - in some cases a complete re-write might be needed. As per line and copy editing, this can be done by the copy or line editor in one go, in which case it will again just be a question of the additional time taken.

Format Editing

A format editor is not concerned with what your manuscript says, only how it is laid out. For example, if you are going to self-publish, you will be responsible for getting your manuscript print-ready. Format editing will check your font and font size for the target trim, the margins, the chapter headings, page numbers, and that any images are properly aligned. If your book is going to be published by a traditional publisher, then the publisher will do all of this, and you, or your agent, will just be asked to check and sign it off.

 

As no change to the text is needed (a format editor will not even read the text), this is the cheapest form of editing, and we will usually do it for around £15 per hour. For a typical novel of about 60,000 – 80,000 words, it should not take longer than around 4 to 6 hours to make any Office 365 Word document print-ready. It may take a little longer if there are a lot of images.

Fact Editing

 

Fact-checking is not part of any other editor’s role, except internal fact-checking in copy editing – see the example given of the character’s age above – so if you need this service, you will have to instruct it separately. What fact editing does is just what it suggests – it simply checks stated facts. For example, you may have written a historical novel that mentions that Queen Victoria died in 1900, in which case your fact editor will tell you that it should be 1901. You may also have written that Queen Victoria had a favourite estate called Osbourne House in the south of the Isle of Skye, whereas your fact editor will tell you that Osborne House is spelt “Osborne” not “Osbourne”, and is situated in the north of the Isle of Wight, not the south of the Isle of Skye.

 

Fact Editing is generally a fairly straightforward matter (though it may not always be – if your book is about quantum physics, for example) and can usually be undertaken by pretty much anyone with a reasonable educational background; costs, therefore, are typically in the £20 per hour region.

 

Additional Information

Other consultancies that offer editing services may mention other types of editing, such as Developmental Editing. In our case, we treat any additional forms of editing to those mentioned above as separate services. So, for Developmental Editing, please see ‘Mentoring’; ‘Proofreading’ has its own page also.

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Initial consultations always free and without obligation