Many writers hire professional editors to go over their manuscripts before submission. This is especially true during the preliminary stages of a writer’s career; every grammatical error and spelling mistake can mean a rejection letter. What you might not know, however, is that there are three basic types of editing, and you’ll need to determine which of those your manuscript needs.
The first type of editing for which you might hire an editor is proofreading. This is the simplest form of editing and is also usually the cheapest. Proofreading is for writers who don’t need help with sentence structure or the content of the book itself, but need someone to simply go over the text for basic grammatical and spelling errors.
Editors typically charge less than $0.05/word for proofreading, and it usually takes an editor about two weeks to proofread a full-length manuscript. The purpose of proofreading is to have someone who has never read your manuscript go over each word for errors that might have escaped your attention, which will happen at least a few times in a full-length manuscript.
The second type of editing most editors offer is line editing, which is a little more detailed than proofreading. If your manuscript has plot holes, limited characterization, factual errors or syntactical problems, line editing is probably more your style. It costs more than proofreading, but a manuscript with structural errors won’t get past a literary agent or publisher.
Line editing will probably cost you between $0.05 and $0.25 per word, depending on the editor. I would advise you to shop around for line editing to find the best price, as there are plenty of “professional editors” who will try to cheat you out of your money. The purpose of line editing is to tie together loose ends in your manuscript and to make sure that the story flows properly. For non-fiction, line editing will catch factual errors and will also help to separate chapters and paragraphs so that they make more sense.
The final service most editors offer is substantive editing, which is even more detailed than line editing. A substantive edit can cost up to $0.75 per word, and involves the rearranging, deleting, adding and rewording of entire pages and chapters. Some editors call substantive editing a “Ghostwriting/Editing Blend”.
What Type of Editing Does Your Manuscript Need?
When you manuscript is finished and ready to be shipped off to an editor, it is best to have an idea for the type of editing required. Even if the editor feels your manuscript needs substantive editing, you are well within your rights to request only proofreading and to leave it at that. Never allow an editor to pressure you into spending more money than your budget.
To help you determine what type of editing your manuscript needs – proofreading, line editing or substantive editing – use the following questions:
Has your manuscript been rejected before for substantive reasons?
If you have a drawerful of rejection letters from agents which basically say the same things – underdeveloped plot, poorly developed characters, etc. – then you might want to consider substantive editing. The editor can help with your manuscript as a whole and make the necessary adjustments.
Do you find that your major flaw is in spelling and grammar?
If you are able to craft wonderful plots and characters, but your grammar needs a bit of work, consider requesting proofreading only. This will leave the syntax of your story in tact, but will correct the grammatical and spelling errors.
Does your dialogue sound stilted and forced?
One of the major points that line editing focuses on is dialogue. The editor will tweak your characters’ words until they sound natural. If dialogue is your only issue, line editing will probably be your best bet.