You can save money on your edit. I have received literally hundreds of manuscripts. Every one is its own universe. An edit cannot be a flat rate depending on word count (or, in the old days, page count.) Some manuscripts are submitted with, for example, a lot of debris that I as an editor must wade through and make sense of as part of doing an edit. However, some manuscripts have been read and revised several times by the author, who has unearthed and straightened out problems before presenting it to me for an edit. The charge for doing these two edits will not be the same.

When I determine a price for an edit, I am evaluating how much time the entire project will take me. I determine this by doing a sample edit. A sample edit may be light and take me only a short amount of time. Or it may be more time-consuming because of the number of and kinds of edits that must be made.

It makes sense, then, to do what you can in advance to reduce the cost of your edit.

1. Read your whole manuscript before submitting it for an edit

I am often surprised to receive manuscripts that are quite rough, which shows me that the author may not even have read through it before seeking an editor. No matter how limited your language skills, you will certainly find errors that you can correct. I am happy to correct them, but it will increase the cost of your edit.

2. First impressions matter

When I open up a manuscript document for the first time, I instantly get an impression of how much time I will have to spend on the edit. Be thoughtful about the small things. Do 1 inch document margins all around, make all body text 12 Times New Roman (preferably), paragraph indent 0.5, double spacing, and a ragged right margin. Break text into manageable paragraphs. Whole pages of uninterrupted text without any headers means I will have to spend more time breaking up the text and making it easy for a reader to understand.

3. Don’t use fancy formatting

All caps are never used for emphasis, bold is used rarely, italics are used sparingly. Cut down on quotes, single or double, for emphasis. I will have to clean up text like this and decide what is important to emphasize instead of you, which takes time. Also, save the emphasis for things that really matter so that you get to choose instead of me.

4. Don’t overformat

Things like indented text or using lots of spaces or tabs. One edit makes the whole structure go blooey on the screen. In parentheses, you can always say the effect you want; for example, insert (make block indent) if you have a poem or letter or a long quote from another source. End chapters with manual page breaks, keep section headers to a minimum. Number the whole manuscript consecutively, not by section.

5. Be as consistent as you can

Decide how you want to format your internal dialogue (quotes, italics, or woven into regular text) and make sure you have done that consistently. Again, I can decide that for you, but it takes me time. Similarly, give me a list of how you want to spell any terms you want done a specific way so that I can establish consistency in line with your wishes instead of looking up unfamiliar terms myself.

6. Use headers and format them consistently

Nonfiction books nearly always need headers to keep the reader oriented. I can work with your headers to make them more effective, but if I have to write and put them in myself, that takes more time. If you know how to create and use a style, do that. Otherwise, keep it simple: Main headers centered, subheads flush left. Keep type size the same, and don’t use italics or small caps unless you can create and use a style that does it automatically.

7. Be careful with your spelling and grammar checker-but use it

I thought when this software first came out that I might be out of a job. No. It’s not that simple.

Spelling: Dictionaries disagree on things like preferred spellings and hyphens, so be careful what the Checker tags as an error.

Grammar: The software tags things like “passive voice” but don’t tell you how to change it. Worse, sometimes it should not be changed. I frequently get the error “Semicolon use” or the suggestion to add or remove a question mark when the advice is not at all appropriate. “Wordiness” is another “error” that comes up. This can be useful and a signal that you should simplify your sentence or break it into two sentences.

If you understand how to use these tools and their limitations, they can be an excellent way to improve your manuscript before submitting it for edit. However, a spelling and grammar checker will never take the place of an edit.

I enjoy tackling all sorts of challenges in a manuscript, and I am happy to do it. But if a cost-effective edit is your objective, consider doing some of the above before you submit.

Ayla Myrick
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