Many years passed before I realized that he did this by choice, for a living, and that he was not unemployed or mentally ill.

— Anne Lamott, on her father’s vocation as a writer, in Bird By Bird (1994)

Frequently Asked Questions

Which publisher do you work for?

I am freelance, which means I work for any publisher that hires me! It also means I occasionally work with unpublished, unsigned authors too.

What types of fiction do you work on?

If you have a look at the portfolio page, you’ll see that I’ve worked on a variety of fiction, from youth (sometimes called middle grade fiction) and YA to mysteries, fantasy, speculative, rom-com, straight-up romance, chick lit, historical, and a lot more. I don’t really have a preference (in work or in personal reading)—for me, each new story is like a puzzle (I love doing jigsaw puzzles!) that I get to solve. It’s fun! I enjoy the collaborative process.

Do you edit nonfiction?

Absolutely! Again, check my portfolio page for a complete list of published books on which I’ve worked. Critiques and unpublished manuscripts are not listed.

How come you don’t post your fees?

Because each project is unique; it’s difficult to make a rate schedule that covers everything that comes up. Contact me and we’ll talk.

So how much do you charge?

Before we discuss that, let’s talk about what you need. Take a look at my page for writers to help you learn some basic terminology. Then look over my services page. To give you an accurate quote or estimate, I’ll need to know what type of editing you desire, whether your manuscript is fiction or nonfiction, and what the word count is. I’ll also have you send me a sample chapter. You have no doubt reviewed the published rates of many, many other freelance editors; you’ll find my rates are neither the highest nor the lowest.
Note: neither a quote nor any discussion of my process implies acceptance of work. I decide whether to take a job based on evaluation of sample chapters and synopsis.

My manuscript’s only 200 pages! (It’s 100,000 words, btw.)

Here’s how to format your manuscript:
• Set up your document so that you have 1.25-inch margins on left and right (1.0-inch margins top and bottom will do).
• Use 12-point Times or Times New Roman type, double-spaced lines. (Don’t double-space after periods, though.)
• Don’t insert a return after each paragraph (and don’t add extra points at the end or beginning of a paragraph); use the ruler to set up indents.
• Don’t insert returns to move your chapters to the next page; instead insert a page break.
• Be sure to double space.
Now we can do an accurate count, and I can give you a fair fee quote. You can read more about how (and how not) to format your manuscript here.

Is this how you quote copyediting too?

Yes. My rule of thumb is to assume I can complete four pages per hour during a copy/line edit. Sometimes I move faster, sometimes more slowly. This allows me to check spelling (not by using a spell-checker), look things up in the Chicago Manual of Style, and so forth. A “page,” according to the Editorial Freelancers Association, is 250 words. So if your manuscript is 80K words, that’s roughly 320 pages, which could work out to 80 hours of work.

I’m planning to self-publish; can you help me format the document for uploading?

It’s not in my purview, but I can refer you to someone I trust who does this. I can also recommend typesetters and cover designers.

I want you to work on my book. When can you start?

It takes twenty weeks or more to get on my production schedule once we have come to an agreement and have decided to work together. Sometimes I can start sooner, or sometimes something in the queue ahead of you takes a little longer than expected. For more information about scheduling, read this.

That’s a long time!

As a freelance editor, I have to keep work “in the pipeline.” You’ve probably checked around with other editors, so you know this is standard. Once I start work on your project, I can give you a fairly accurate delivery date.

Okay, I’ll be back in touch in twelve weeks and we’ll get started.

Actually, we need to come to an agreement before I’ll put you on the production schedule. I can’t hold space for your project without some sort of commitment from you too. For critiques, first pages, and developmental edits, I require the fee in advance, and your check is your commitment. I’ll let you know that I’ve received it, and will not deposit it until I begin the work.

How long does it take once you get started?

A lot depends on the length of the manuscript, of course. It also depends on whether you choose to pay for a follow-up read. I can be more specific when we are discussing your project.

I’m really anxious to get this ready for submission! I’ll never be able to sit still that long! I read my manuscript every day and tinker with it.

There’s an old adage: Good, fast, cheap—pick two. You can get it good and cheap, but it won’t be fast. You can get it good and fast, but it won’t be cheap. Neither of us wants to consider the third option. One thing about the editing process: when you turn your manuscript over to your editor, you must stop working on it until you hear back from me. Seriously, there can only be one manuscript, and we have to take turns with it. So when it’s in my court, you have to walk away, take a break, go see a movie, write something else. To be honest, it’s good to step away from your manuscript because you come back with fresh eyes.

Only one copy? How can I tell what you’ve done in my manuscript?

We’re going to use the “track changes” function in Microsoft Word, so we can each see what the other has done. If you’ve never worked with track changes (on the reviewing toolbar), I can send you a little tutorial.

I’m in. Where do I send the check?

I’ll let you know via e-mail.

Oh, btw, I need you to sign a nondisclosure memo, Jamie.

In all the years I’ve been editing, I’ve signed two nondisclosure contracts, both for nonpublished, unsigned authors. The nature of what I do is such that if I talked about it—publicly or privately—I wouldn’t have any work to talk about.

Can you help me find a publisher—do you act as an agent?

No. Agenting is something else entirely.

Why should I work with you?

Is this a trick question? :) Editing is subjective; give a manuscript to five different editors and you’re liable to get five different sets of notes. All I can tell you is this: I have some good experience and I love what I do. Here is a list of blog posts to help you get started; whether you’re planning to pursue traditional publishing or will self-publish, you might want to read the entries regarding why you need an editor. I do think it helps if an editor and author can find some areas of commonality, and if they “click,” so much the better.

I really like your site and would love to know more about how publishing works.

Thank you! I’ve blogged about the process here (part 1) and here (part 2). These posts should explain a lot.

I’m an aspiring writer and I need a little advice. Can you tell me how to …?

Check out my blog! All my free advice—and there’s lots of it—is there. I’ll do my best to blog questions you submit as time allows.

I just signed a book deal …

Congratulations! Did you know you can request me as your editor? Don’t worry about rocking the boat; this is a common practice. And even if you change publishers, we can continue to work together. I am interested in establishing long-term collaborations so I get to know your style and way of working.

Jamie, I would love to chat with you about my book … May I call you? Can we meet?

Actually, would you mind if we don’t chat right now? At this particular moment, I’m working on another author’s project, so anything you say to me now about your book will be a dim memory by the time I start to work on it. E-mail me and I’ll have a record—in your project folder—of everything you want me to know about your baby.

What do you mean, you don’t want to talk to me?

It’s not that I don’t want to talk—but that takes time I could spend reading your manuscript; just about everything I need to know is on the page. If I have questions, I’ll ask, honest! We will end up talking a lot—mostly via e-mail—as we work on your book together, but we can’t truly have a discussion until I know your material the way you know your material.

But … !

Please remember that the only thing I have to sell is what’s in my head and my time. That time thing, it’s huge for me.