Proofreading and Editing FAQ

Having your manuscript edited isn't quite as simple as passing it over the second you finish writing "The End". The more you can do with your manuscript before handing it over, the better your finished work will be - the last thing you want is for an editor to rewrite the majority of your hard work.

Proofreading and Editing

First and foremost, our company exists to help independent authors as much as possible and to ensure they have a polished product, ready for publishing.  Initially, we didn’t offer any editing services and wanted to focus specifically on cover and interior design.  Sadly, too many of our clients were being misled by organisations offering editing services and either taking deposits and not following through with any actual editing, or they would turn in an inferior edit.  After having to help out a client whose editor only made changes to the first half of her book, and made a terrible job of the first half, we thought it would be a good idea to offer it as an actual service rather than a last-minute rescue.

To that end, we tried to keep the prices as low as possible.  Yes, we’re aware that we should be charging at least twice as much, but that would only lead to our clients going elsewhere and risking a poor edit.  It’s a balancing act – we want them to be as professional as possible, so if we provide them with top-notch cover and interior designs and then their final product is let down by a substandard edit (knowing that the reason they went elsewhere was to save money), then we’re doing our clients a disservice.

Simple reason – every manuscript is different, so it’s not possible to say, “A 100,000-word manuscript will cost X amount”.   One manuscript of 100,000 words may come back with a revision count of only 2% whereas another may end up with 20% of revisions.  It would be unfair to charge both authors the same amount when the second author was having ten times as many changes made, but paying the same price.  Our prices are therefore tier-based and are dependent entirely on a completed sample edit.

  • Tier 1 – £5 GBP per 1000-word block
    For manuscripts whose sample edit came back with a revision count of between 0% and 5%
  • Tier 2 – £10 GBP per 1000-word block
    For manuscripts whose sample edit came back with a revision count of between 5.1% and 10%
  • Tier 3 – £15 GBP per 1000-word block
    As above, but for manuscripts with revisions between 10.1% and 15%
  • Tier 4 – £20 GBP per 1000-word block
    This is our final tier, covering manuscripts with a revision count of between 15.1% and 20%

Everything thereafter would be charged at £25 GBP per 1000-word block.  Regardless of whether we made revisions amounting to 21% or 80%, you would be charged at £25 per 1000 words.  While it’s unlikely that you’d ever fall into that category, it has been known, and our highest revision count thus far was 46% on a manuscript whose author’s primary language was not English.

The length of time will be determined by a number of factors.  First and foremost, your word count.  The longer your manuscript is, the longer it’ll take to work through, so every word can be read in full and not skipped over.  Every piece of punctuation is given attention.  The number of revisions in your sample edit will also determine how long we expect to work on it.

At the end of every editing project, we update a spreadsheet where we enter the initial word count, the date started, the date it reached completion, and the number of revisions made.  The spreadsheet then calculates the total number of revisions and a “words completed per day” calculation is made, which then updates an at-a-glance table.  If the manuscript took a little longer than expected, then the number of days for an edit of that size will be affected, but it might only end up having an hour added on to the expected timescale.  Each newly completed project makes tiny alterations to the timescales within the table, so we can quickly see how long it would take for any given manuscript, based on averages.

For example, a 100,000-word manuscript in tier one (£5 per 1000 words, based on 0-5% of revisions) is expected to take 13 working days, getting through an average of 7692 words per day.  Taking that same manuscript, but applying a tier-four edit (£20 per 1000 words, based on 15-20% of revisions) would have it take around 41 days, with an average of just 2404 words per day.  This level of editing is typically reserved for clients whose manuscripts were translated from another language and therefore require a considerable amount of sentence restructuring.

Taking the first example above of 13 days, but applying that to a smaller manuscript with a higher revision count, our table shows that a 25,000-word manuscript with 10-15% of revisions (a tier-three edit) would take around 12 days, so almost as long as it would take to edit a tier-one manuscript of 100,000 words.  This is why we don’t charge by the hour and don’t charge solely based on word counts.

If you come to us looking for editing, we expect that you’ve self-edited your manuscript several times on your own before passing it over to have it polished for a better reader experience.  We expect to restructure sentences, move chunks of sentences around for flow, delete bits here and there, and perhaps even write additional chunks.  Please be assured, though, that we will not change your voice – if you would normally write “they could smell her perfume as she entered the room”, we’re absolutely not going to add something like “she entered the room, making her presence known immediately as her sweet fragrance permeated the air and invaded their senses”.

A proofread, however, is your last line of defence (or defense, depending on your location) before your manuscript is unleashed to the world.  It would have been self-edited, as before, and then passed over to one (or more) professional editors for them to make all necessary changes.  Since no editor (or proofreader) is infallible, your proofread will take care of anything that was overlooked during the editing process.  In most cases, a proofread deals mainly with punctuation and the occasional typo.  Now and again, there’ll be a missing word, a doubled-up word, or even an incorrect word.  It’s highly unlikely that entire sentences will be rewritten, but it may happen sparingly.  A proofread is, in simple terms, a final spit and polish prior to publication.

Ideally, no.  Your formatter will already have taken care of everything necessary to get your manuscript to the point of being ready for publication.  If you were to have your formatted manuscript edited, any changes we make could ruin everything that your formatter had done to that point.  One of the things an interior formatter will do is to ensure there are no widows or orphans in your text, and that all chapters begin on the right-hand page (among myriad other things).  Any changes we make to a formatted document could knock everything out, and you would then have to take your manuscript back to your formatter and have them complete the job for a second time.

To answer the question, though… yes, we CAN edit a formatted manuscript.  We, and your formatter, would prefer not to.  If you have already had the manuscript formatted and you’re considering passing it to us for proofreading, we’d ask that you first clear it with your formatter.  Make sure they’re happy to go back through your manuscript and re-format it if necessary, or, at the very least, check through every page to make sure nothing has been affected.  Dropping it on their lap without advance notice could result in a breakdown in your relationship.

All manuscripts are edited in MS Word using “Track Changes”, so you can then take our completed work and easily see what changes were made.  Explanations will be provided in the comments so you can see why changes were made, rather than blindly accept based on the premise of “they made the changes so they must be correct”.  We don’t believe in that.  Our role is not only to polish your work and give you the most professional end product but to help you grow as a writer.  If you use “lay” where it should be “lie”, or “lay” where it should be “laid”, it’ll be explained in full why the changes were made and examples will be given so you can fully understand the logic behind the change.  Next time, when you come to write “lay”, you’ll hopefully remember what was explained in the comments, or, at the very least, it’ll spark a memory that’ll cause you to quickly check the Internet “what’s the difference between lay and lie” and you’ll use the correct term.

As well as commenting to help the author, we’ll also create a detailed spreadsheet as we go through your manuscript.  Every time a new person is introduced, they’ll be added to the spreadsheet along with a description, who they are, and what their relationship is to other characters.  So, if you’ve mentioned early on that they were blonde (we’ll also make note of whether you use “blonde” or “blond”), and later on, you mention their brown hair… we’ll make a note to come back to that at a later point after seeing whether they were later referred to as blonde or brunette.  If only those two instances exist, we’ll flag it up and let you know that you’ve used both hair colours and let you decide which one to go with.  Similarly, if you happen to refer to someone as Claire’s sister, and then later write that Claire was their cousin, we’ll make sure it remains consistent.

This extends beyond mere characterisation, though, and we’ll take notes of any specific spellings you might have, any words you’ve created for your own universe, locations, currencies, and even the type of punctuation you use.  If, for example, you’ve used spaces on either side of ellipses up until a point and then switch to no spaces, we’ll see how many instances of each exists and make changes accordingly.

Ideally, no. Just as you should have read over your manuscript several times prior to sending it to your first professional editor, and then read it over again after they’d finished it — reading and actioning all of their suggestions in the comments — you are expected to do the same with our edit or proofread. Every editor that you go through will make necessary changes to your manuscript, but will also make a number of recommendations that would improve the flow and readability of your finished product. Some may actually go ahead and make those changes, but many (like us) will simply advise you in the comments section and explain why we think you should carry them forward.

So, just as your manuscript would have been a thorough read-through every time it went through someone else, you should take our completed edit or proofread and go through every change that was made, and every suggestion that was put forward, and decide for yourself whether you agree or disagree. The worst thing any author could do would be to blindly accept any edited document, and “Accept” all changes without looking at them on an individual basis, as well as ignoring and deleting comments made by the editor or proofreader. This isn’t our book, it’s YOUR book, and so you need to make sure you’re happy with everything. I might end up introducing an Oxford comma to your manuscript (because, really, it’s the right thing to do if you want to remove any ambiguity when mentioning several things at once) and you might hate this, but if you don’t read through your manuscript and only notice it after you’re holding a physical copy of your published book, then you won’t be happy.

We, therefore, recommend that your manuscript goes through the following stages prior to publication:

  1. You self-edit your book several times until you’re happy with how it flows, based on what you want as your reader experience.
  2. You then send your manuscript to either a developmental editor (if you want someone who will make recommendations on structure and flow, and who will guide you through the best ways to keep a reader engaged at all times) or a copy editor (the person who will deal with all issues, initially).
  3. You go back through your edited manuscript and look at each change made by your editor, accepting them or rejecting them as you go. Any suggestions made by the editor in the comments area should be taken into consideration and either actioned or ignored, depending on what you feel best suits your book.
  4. Have it edited again, albeit on a smaller scale, to fix as many residual errors as possible – typographical errors, repeated words, missing words, overlooked issues – because there will likely still be issues left over.
  5. Repeat item 3 on this list, because you can’t blindly accept what you don’t know has been done.
  6. If you want to make doubly sure, send it out again for a final proofread.
  7. Repeat item 3 again. Seriously. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Only after your manuscript has been self-edited several times (at least) and passed through either a developmental or copy editor initially, then read through again at least once, and ultimately proofread… and read through again at least once… should you go ahead and publish. Professionals will follow protocol, but how your book reads is ultimately up to you.

Sadly, yes.  There’s a number thrown around a lot in editing fields, which is 95% accuracy.  Even though 95% accuracy sounds high, it means that a 100,000-word manuscript could still end up with a whopping 5000 errors.  This was reportedly said by a senior editor from Gollancz at WorldCon in 2014:

“When I joined Gollancz they explained how editing works. The copy editor catches errors the author missed, the proofreader catches errors the copy editor missed, the printer catches errors the proofreader missed, and there will still be errors.”

The reason our tier-based pricing starts off at 0-5% is that the majority of manuscripts will fall within that category.  In real terms, by the time we finish editing or proofreading a manuscript, we’ll have made between 3.5% and 4.5% of revisions.  Please also bear in mind that almost every manuscript we receive has already been edited by the author three or four times, then passed on to a developmental editor, then back to the author, and the author may even pass it on to a copy editor before sending it to us.  Yet we’re still able to catch between another 3.5% and 4.5% of issues.

This is because some editors won’t include a comma after an introductory clause, or they’ll avoid using commas before “and”, regardless of context, because many believe that the number of commas used should be cut down.  Similarly, some editors will allow commas where semicolons should be used or semicolons where periods should be used to split sentences, or splitting sentences with periods where a semicolon would have added flow.  Other editors would avoid that entirely by adding a couple of words to bring the sentences into a single compound sentence.  There ARE rules, but there are also myriad contradictions and every editor will have their own interpretation of what constitutes correct.

Ultimately, the job of your editor and proofreader is to make your book flow as much as possible, to make the experience pleasant for the reader.  To give you an example of how many errors could be missed, time and again, we should look at Tolkien’s work.  If you’re not aware, J R R Tolkein was actually an editor himself… of the Oxford English Dictionary.  Despite that, errors are still found in his work to this day, even though they’ve been through countless revisions over time.  It is reported that the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Lord of the Rings had more than 300 errors fixed from the previous edition.  When it comes to the next edition, they’ll likely find another 300.

Take a look at this breakdown of The Hobbit, as an example:

This would depend on how much work we currently have on, whether any of our current clients are in a position to delay their own project if they have no deadlines, what size your manuscript is, and what the sample-edit revision total comes back as.  We don’t like letting people down, but squeezing in a manuscript edit is nowhere near as simple as making room for a rush cover design or interior formatting job.  Even a 25,000-word manuscript with 0-5% of revisions would still take between 3-4 days, and it could be a lot to ask of our clients to have their work delayed.

Please ask, though.  We will either say yes or no, and our existing clients are all great people, and very accommodating.  So, you never know.

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