by Joelle Steele

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Editing is a necessary investment in the successful completion of your work, especially in this day and age when so few publishers provide this important service. Let's start by taking a look at what's involved and who's doing what when it comes to editing.

Editors, in general, are highly skilled wordsmiths who charge by the page (which is derived from their hourly rate), and it can take a long time to do a top-notch editing job. If anyone is ever going to hang on your every word, that person will surely be an editor!

Line editors go through your manuscript and correct grammatical errors along the way. They carefully pore over your words and look at grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary. Any English teacher should be able to perform this type of an edit.

Content editors, on the other hand, look at dialogue and dialect, semantics, character and plot development, how plot lines wrap up, descriptive techniques, inconsistencies, duplications, overstatements, (non)sexist writing, inaccuracies in content (to the extent that they are able), overall organization of the work, appropriateness of extraneous matter (photos, illustrations, tables, graphs, poems, quotations, glossaries, bibliographies, and other appendices), and anything that might impact positively or negatively on the ultimate marketability of your work. Their sole job is to make you look good in print.

A good content editor will give you more than just a bunch of pages filled with red ink. He or she may additionally advise you to make possible changes and/or enhancements, to correct any problems encountered in the edit, such as a weakness in a character or plot line, or an inconsistency you may have missed when wrapping up your story. Whether you decide to take any editor's advice is entirely up to you.

If you are a reasonably good writer, a grammatical edit of a 250-page manuscript (double-spaced) will likely run from about $250-$500. If you do not know basic grammar and can't spell or punctuate, a grammatical edit for 250 pages could easily run up to $1,200. A thorough book edit of 250 pages can easily run $2,000 or more, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

In the end, it's always about time. The more work you do on your manuscript as far as grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., are concerned, the less costly any kind of edit will be. This is especially important when it comes to having a content editor work on your manuscript. They are going to be trying to look at the bigger aspects of your work, and all those little grammatical errors are just distractions that will slow them down, driving your cost up. Again, it's all about time, and in editing, like all other jobs, time is money.

To prevent your editing costs from escalating beyond what is already a considerable amount of money, you must edit your own work to the very best of your ability before you turn it over to a professional editor. Editing — or rewriting — your own work is a necessary part of the writing process anyway, and you will inevitably edit your work several times before it ever goes to an editor. And when it does, it should be thoroughly spell-checked (by eye and with your spell checker), properly punctuated, and printed out on white paper (20 lb minimum) in proper editing format: 1" margins all around, double-spaced (not one-and-half-spaced — give your editor room to write because you will eventually have to read what they wrote!), ragged right margin (not full justified), and Arial or Times Roman font in 12 point.

Once you have made the editor's corrections, you must carefully proof the manuscript yourself, and then have it professionally proofed (at a considerably lower cost than editing) before it is submitted to your publisher or before you self-publish it.

This article last updated: 04/26/2014.