If you have questions about copyediting in general, or my process in particular, I’ll be happy to trade emails with you or have a telephone chat, free of charge, no matter where you are in your project’s progress. If, however, you’re fairly certain you’re ready to forge ahead with a copyedit, or at least find out if my copyediting style is a good fit for you, here’s how it works.
Step One: Getting Started
First, congratulations! A manuscript or draft that’s ready for copyediting has already been through several revisions, meaning you’ve already come farther and put in more work than most of those writer wannabes. Well done, you!
If it’s a book manuscript, it must have also been read by a writing coach, a developmental (story-level) editor, beta readers (friends do not count toward this), and/or members of a critique group or workshop. Please believe me, your manuscript and your future readers will thank you for having someone who doesn’t love you read through your manuscript and give you clear-eyed and honest feedback. Of course, you’ll also need to actually consider that feedback and incorporate those suggestions when appropriate.
I am no longer considering most manuscripts that have not gone through this process.
Whether your writing is for a book or a short story or a blog post, “ready for copyediting” means you’ve worked out all the kinks at the story level, and you’re now ready to make sure that the manuscript or draft isn’t hiding any typos, stumbling sentences, and conflicting information from your review-weary eyes (Is the mysterious house located on Maple Street or Ash Street? Was your current work-in-progress inspired by your Aunt Mary or your Aunt May?). You have done all the heavy lifting, and you’re ready for a copy editor to clear away any remaining issues that could distract your readers from the mesmerizing spell you have woven.
To get started on the next step, contact me, either by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 619-892-4963, tell me that you have a manuscript or draft to be copyedited, and tell me a little bit about it. I’ll let you know how soon I can review your manuscript or draft and prepare a proposal. That review can usually happen within two to three business days of my receipt of your work, but my schedule is ever-changing. If the timetable I give you sounds tolerable to you, I’ll ask you to send me your manuscript or draft as an email attachment. Please note that I only edit in Word, although the version of Word doesn’t matter much. I do not currently charge a fee for my review and proposal.
Step Two: My Review and Proposal
If your work is a book manuscript, I’ll briefly review the first few chapters and a chapter chosen randomly from the middle; if it’s a short story, blog post, website page, email, or newsletter, I’ll briefly review the entire work. Either way, my proposal will be based on that review. In the proposal, which I’ll send in email form, I’ll identify any issues I’ve found, sometimes using a few of your work’s sentences or paragraphs as examples. Depending on what I’ve seen in my review of a book manuscript, I may provide a sample edit of a page or two.
When applicable, I will offer the choice of an edit with comments (a full edit) or one without (a modified edit). No comments means there aren’t any explanations for the proposed edits (other than what’s included in the email that accompanies the edit), and ideas that would otherwise be suggested in comments are simply incorporated for you to accept or reject. A copyedit without comments works well for authors who don’t need or want explanations; they’re either good with relying on my suggestions, or they know Chicago well and already understand the changes, or they aren’t really interested in making any changes beyond the absolute minimum. Because a modified copyedit takes slightly less time than a full copyedit, the fee would also be slightly lower.
My proposal will include a fee for the completed copyedit–one amount if the proposal is for the full copyedit only, and a second amount if I’m offering a modified copyedit as an alternative. Every copyedit I provide, whether full or modified, is the result of two full copyediting passes.
Step Three: Your Decision
Once you have my review and proposal, you can consider whether my copyediting style is comfortable for you and if my fee fits within your budget.
It’s possible that you could read my review and decide that you can make many of the edits yourself. That’s great! I would love it if you went off to do that and then came back to me for another review and proposal. If I explained the issues well enough to you and you are successful in executing the corrections, my new proposal might be at a lower rate, or might only include the lightest level of editing. Again, yay, you!
If, however, you cannot imagine, or simply do not want to be, making yet another review of your manuscript on your own, just let me know that you’re ready to proceed, and I’ll write up a copyediting agreement.
Step Four: Our Agreement
Once you’ve told me you’re ready to move forward (and you’ve indicated which type of copyedit you’ve chosen, if full and modified are both offered), I’ll email you the copyediting agreement, which will include the scope of the project, the fee, and the anticipated completion date. If you’re in agreement with everything, you may either print it out, sign it, and mail it to me, or sign it and scan the signature page and email the scan to me, or simply email me that you agree with all the terms.
If for whatever reason you determine that you’re not ready to proceed, that’s no problem; just let me know. I usually include language in the agreement that indicates an expiration date for acceptance, but that’s simply to protect me from someone coming back to me in fifteen years and asking for the same rate. It might remain the same, but it might not.
Step Five: The Copyedit
Once I get started on your copyedit, I’ll be marking your manuscript using Word’s Track Changes and Comments. If you’re not familiar with that, there are several great explanations on the internet, including this one on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7tmsWN6uH0. Using Track Changes means that all of my edits will be suggested edits, which you can accept or reject. You decide which of my suggested edits should be incorporated, with the click of a button. It’s really cool.
As I edit, I’ll be preparing a style sheet for my own reference. A style sheet is a document that lists all the editorial choices made by you the author, as evidenced by their existence in the manuscript, and any changes that I suggest in my edits. The editorial choices include such matters as punctuation, format, and abbreviations. The style sheet also includes the spelling of all names and unusual words, and in the case of fiction or creative nonfiction manuscripts, it can include descriptions of the characters and their relationships to each other. If your work is for use on your website or for a newsletter or similar communication with your readers and fans, a style sheet will help you remember how you treat certain words and terms, the way you title your posts, etc. Consistency supports your professionalism, and when you’re a writer, making your writing look, feel, and sound professional is especially important.
Depending on the complexity of your work’s content and the level of copyediting needed, I’ll send a copy of the style sheet to you when I send you the completed edit. You can update the style sheet if you make changes to names or decide on a different format; it’s yours to use, and if your work is a book manuscript, you can forward the style sheet to your designer, formatter, and proofreader to ensure consistency throughout the manuscript.
Step Six: Your Review of the Edits
Once I complete the edit, I’ll send it to you as an email attachment. Before you open that attachment, however, I strongly recommend that you carefully read the email that accompanies it. That email will include a summary of the most frequently occurring edits as well as explanations of grammar and usage changes I suggested. Reading that email will make your review of the suggested edits go much more quickly, because you’ll recognize the suggestions and understand the reasoning behind them.
I also suggest you make sure that Track Changes are turned on once you begin your review of the edits. If you decide to do a bit of rewriting, you may want me to do a “cleanup” or second edit after you’re done. I usually charge hourly for that subsequent editing, depending on the number of changes you’ve introduced. As I did for the first edit, I’ll review the revised manuscript you send to me and I’ll give you an estimated fee based on what I see. It will be a much quicker (and therefore less expensive) second edit if I can see the changes you’ve made, and that’s why it’s best for you to have Track Changes engaged while you revise. Even if you decide not to send it back to me for a second edit, being able to limit your own subsequent review of your new writing will likely be beneficial to you on a number of levels.
You’ll receive my invoice a day or so after I’ve sent the copyedit to you. The invoice will arrive via PayPal, and you can choose to pay by credit card (you don’t need a PayPal account to do so) by clicking the link on the invoice, or you can pay by sending a check to me at the address indicated on the invoice. Payment is due when I issue the invoice.