Editing • Proofreading • Spell-checking
An Editor may be contracted to perform any of several functions. First, one must clearly define the type of work to be done. Is it intended to be “editing” or “proofreading”? Further, there are two broad considerations for a contract, along with several more within each path. It can get complicated!
A commonly-used term for a quick reading with corrections of basic spelling, grammar and minor suggestions is called “blue-penciling”.
Regarding definitions, editing may be a simple reading of chapters to confirm that each one follows the overall trajectory, and that locations, characters and concepts are consistent; more value-added editing is done by penciling in suggestions for elements like tone, story development, character growth, concept extensions, or chapter additions. Proofreading can be as simple as checking for spelling and appropriate grammar.
More formally, copy editing addresses the mechanics of the paragraph, highlighting grammar issues. Line editing takes that a step further by working on the tone, tempo and time-line. The more interesting and extensive form of editing is referred to as developmental editing. An analogy for these would be in the progression that an athlete would take. A runner might start by feeling good that he/she can run faster than the others in class; then an instructor could show some details such as stride length, pace and push-off; later, a coach could match training and practice regimens; next, the athlete’s career is considered in context, considering capability and competition. This is the same as development editing, where you step back to look at the overall product and make long-term decisions.
A contract may be time-based or lump-sum based. For instance, doing the least expensive version of proofreading would be done electronically via tools like MS Word’s spell-checker and grammar checker (which authors can do by themselves) for $25 to $50. There are online services that do this. Some services charge by the page, which may be between 50₵ to $2. Blue-pencil readings can be $20 to $50 for a one-hour session.
If the fee is time-based, it could be anywhere from $5 per hour to $40 per hour. This could quickly escalate to a very high cost. The lower the rate, the longer it usually takes to be completed.
A version of lump-sum contracts gives you the security of knowing what the final cost will be and that the reader is committed to finishing to a deadline.
Editing adds the real value. General editing will cost upwards of $500. This will be a process that includes a certain amount of back-and-forth discussion with the author regarding elements of the plot, characterizations, tone, style and intended audience.
Finally, the best end result may be obtained by engaging an editor who acts almost as a ghost-writer. If the author has great ideas but is not experienced in writing for the publishing market, this can be the preferred choice for the most professional outcome. Fees for this service may start with a down-payment, depending on the genre, of between $100 to $1000; with a monthly fee of $100 to $600. A fee reduction may be offered in exchange for a percentage of gross sales.
Another advantage to engaging the right editor is employing one who can convert the story to filmscript format. As this is a completely different way of writing, with many formal and stylistic changes applied to a story, the fee is negotiated separately.
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