There really is no substitute for hiring a professional. If you have any money at all, after cover design, this is where it should be spent.
Where can I find an editor?
The following are reputable companies that offer critical assessments, copy editing and proofreading. I have no affiliation with any of them and accept no responsibility for any contract you might take out. However, personally, I’d be happy to use any one of the following:
You can also find freelance editors via the Society of Editors and Proofreaders (www.sfep.org.uk). Simply search their directory using keywords such as ‘historical fiction’. You’ll be presented with a list of proofreaders who deal in that area. Click on any name to see details of that person’s experience, training and qualifications with further links to either their website or email address. If they look right for you, contact them and ask about availability, what they charge and their terms and conditions. Always make sure both of you understand and agree on issues such as timescale and exactly what service they’re providing.
What about regional differences in style?
English style and spelling varies widely between different countries. Any company or editor you choose should be experienced in your dialect, whether that be British, American, Australian or one of the many other variants of English spoken across the world. Always check this. If you use an established company, it shouldn’t be an issue. Most will be able to match your book with an appropriate editor whatever the location of their head office.
If in doubt, check before you hand over any money. You don’t want 80,000 words corrected according to the Chicago Manual of Style if you’re in the UK or the Oxford Style Manual if you’re in the US. However, I’ve never heard of this happening with a reputable company like the ones I’ve listed above.
Do I have to make the changes the editor suggests?
Of course not. Do bear in mind, though, that you’ve just paid a great deal of money for someone’s professional editing expertise. Don’t get precious about your work and defensive about every correction. However, if, after investigation, you believe the original spelling/grammar was correct or more appropriate, simply ask the editor why they’ve made the change. At the end of the day, it’s your book and you can overrule or ignore any suggested changes.
How long will it take?
A Critical Assessment usually takes between three and six weeks although many companies offer a ten day turnaround for an additional fee.
Copy editing and proofreading each take between two and five weeks. Again, fast track services are sometimes available. For example, Addison and Cole offer to complete a proofread in five working days for a charge of 50% on top of their usual fee.
You’ll also need to factor in the time it takes you to correct mistakes and do rewrites. Depending on how extensive these are and how many rounds of critical assessment your book goes through, you’re looking at anywhere between a few months and a year or more to complete editing.
How much will it cost?
Prices are always variable and to make matters more confusing, different companies have different methods of calculating costs. Some work on a flat fee, some charge per 1000 words and others by the hour. The following is designed to give you a rough idea of what you might expect to pay but is, by no means, a definitive guide.
Prices for a critical assessment are the most variable. For an 80,000 word novel, you can expect to pay anything between £300 and £750.
Assessments based on 10,000 to 15,000 word samples can be completed for around the £100 mark.
Copy editing is priced at £10 to £15 per 1000 words.
Proofreading comes in marginally cheaper at £6 to £10 per 1000 words.
Specialised non fiction, poetry, short stories and picture books are generally priced on a different scale, at least for the initial critical assessment. Check first whether the company in question edits your type of manuscript. Assuming they do, expect to pay in the region of £100 – £200 for a critical assessment of a two to three thousand word short story, two to three hundred lines of poetry or a children’s picture book.
Have you ever used an editor?
How did you get on?
Please share your experiences by leaving a comment.
Next time: ISBNs