Make your book the best it can be

Whether you are an author hoping to attract an agent and traditional publisher, or someone who is planning on self-publishing, and whether you write non-fiction or fiction, you will benefit from the services of an editor. Whichever service(s) you choose to hire me for, rest assured that I will be maintaining your own style of writing (it is your book, not mine), I will make suggestions only (it is up to you whether you accept them or not) and all work and conversations between us will be kept confidential. I am very enthusiastic about helping authors produce the best book they possibly can.

In an ideal world, your book would go through several author edits, book critique group edits, beta reader edits and the three professional stages of developmental edit, line edit/copy-edit and proofread. Here’s how each of the three professional reads can help you.

Developmental edit

This is also known as a substantive or structural edit. It is the “big picture” edit. The text is looked at for an overall impression.

What it is:

For fiction, it is looking at the whole story, addressing questions such as:

  • Is it written from a suitable point of view, and is the point of view maintained?
  • Is it suitable for its target market?
  • Does it start at a suitable point in the story?
  • Does it have a strong ending?
  • Does it maintain energy through the tricky middle bit?
  • Is there sufficient back story, and is it told in a natural way?
  • Are events and outcomes believable?
  • Are all the characters necessary, and do they stay in character?
  • Is it consistent with the era it is set in?
  • Is the dialogue appropriate and believable?
  • Is there too much passive voice?
  • Is there too much exposition?
  • Do some bits need rewriting?

Answers to a lot of the above will be pointed out to the author – the editor won’t and certainly shouldn’t make those changes for you. They will all be suggestions that the editor thinks will make your book the best it can be, but whether or not you act on them and how you do that will be up to you.

For non-fiction, it is looking at the structure of the book, ensuring that sections and subsections are in a suitable order and that the language and level is suitable for the target audience.

What it is not:

  • A line-by-line edit, correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • A fact check – the editor may question things that look odd, but it is not their job to spend time checking things unless this is something you have agreed between you.
  • The only check that is needed.
  • A chance for the editor to change your writing style, impose rigid rules and rewrite the text for you.

Line edit and copy-edit

Strictly speaking, a line edit and a copy-edit are two separate passes to a manuscript. The line edit will look at word choice, wordiness, sentence construction, redundancy and repetition. The copy-edit will look at grammar, spelling and punctuation. Clearly there is some overlap with these jobs and I will generally do them together. Note, though, that if you are employing someone to copy-edit only, the copy-editor may well not point out poor word choice or sentence construction. Make it clear before your editor starts work what it is you want them to do, and expect a higher fee for line editing.

At this stage, every single letter of every single word is looked at within the context of the sentence and paragraph and the punctuation surrounding it. I read the whole text at least twice and very often a third time.

What it is:

  • A check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, use of paragraphs and sensible adherence to the use of English.
  • An English check (for example, have you used “renegade” when you mean “retrograde”?).
  • A consistency check (for spelling etc., but also for use of tenses, and for facts such as mention of the baby being born in May in one chapter and June in another).
  • A check for rogue words, missing words, text flow, sense and repetition.
  • A check for proper use of headings, subheadings, tables and figure captions, where they are needed.

What it is not:

  • Picture research.
  • Permissions requesting.
  • Design (other than marking up levels of heading etc., if that is agreed as part of the job).
  • An overview or critique of the story.
  • A chance for the editor to change your writing style, impose rigid rules and rewrite the text for you.


This is the mop-up for errors that have not been spotted or corrected from all the stages before this. Every single letter of every single word and every punctuation mark is looked at. I read the whole text at least twice.

What it is:

  • A final check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency and typos.
  • A check on language use (correct words, correct contexts, no repetitions or tautology).
  • For page proofs (that is, ones that have been typeset) a check on layout (that headings are the right size; that there is not a single line at the top or bottom of a page; that figures and tables are in the right place), page numbering, contents list, running heads, and every other element that makes up a page and a book.

What it is not:

  • A copy-edit (see above); proofreaders will often point out mistakes that a copy-editor will point out, such as wrong word usage, but be aware that these are two different jobs done at different stages of the manuscript.
  • Index creation, which is a completely separate professional job.

The proofread should be the very last stage of the editorial process – this means after typesetting/formatting for ebook. With self-publishers this often isn’t the case (i.e. the manuscript is sent as a word-processed file for reading before it is formatted), to the detriment of the book. So I will try to arrange a schedule with you that allows me to check your book at three stages if it hasn’t already been formatted:

  • After the manuscript has been edited and copy-edited and is in its final form.
  • After you have corrected the proofreading corrections from the stage above (to make sure that no errors have been introduced), and to check any text you add at this point (for example, a last-minute introduction) and other front and end matter (acknowledgements, copyright and all those other bits and pieces that get forgotten about).
  • After it has been formatted for paper or ebook (to check layout etc.).

You may be able to skip the second of these stages.

If you are having your manuscript proofread in preparation for sending to an agent or publisher for consideration, then the proofread will be on the word-processed file only.

How I work

I will edit and copy-edit on screen, although if you prefer to post me a hard copy I am happy to work on paper instead. I will use track changes in the word processing program so you can see exactly what I suggest and you can decide to accept the change or not. Where it is needed, I will supply a note of why I think the change is advisable.

I use electronic tools to help with editing and proofreading, but I also manually read the whole text at least twice and make additional checks on specific elements.

For copy-editing and proofreading I will agree with you a style to follow (such as whether you prefer -ise or -ize spellings) and I will provide you with a style sheet of spellings and other decisions.

How I charge

I base my fees on the industry standards in Ireland and the UK. To provide a considered quote, I will need information from you, such as:

  • What service you think you need.
  • What editorial work, if any, has already been done on the manuscript, and whether it has been read by a critique group and beta readers.
  • The type of book (fiction/non-fiction; genre; target audience).
  • The anticipated final word count.
  • How you intend publishing.
  • Whether this is your first book, and if you have been through the editing process with previous books.

I will ask you to send me a sample of your manuscript by email so that I can give you an idea of what to expect.