SJ Sutton

Book Editor, Script and Screenplay Story Consultant
Publishing Consultant, Television and Film Industry Veteran
DreamWorks, Disney, Showtime, Lifetime, HBO

S.J. Sutton has worked in the book publishing and the film industries for thirty years—on the front lines and behind the scenes—finding projects to publish and/or produce, and developing and editing them, seeing them through to completion on the page or screen.

In the book publishing industry, she was a developmental editor, copy editor, and proofreader for large publishers. In the film industry she worked as a story analyst and development consultant on feature film and television projects for DreamWorks, Disney, Showtime, Lifetime, among others, and worked on the development of films such as L.A. Confidential (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published), Get On Up, Enigma, HBO’s Vinyl, and countless others. She assisted writer/director Albert Brooks on Defending Your Life.

Professional freelance editor, story and script consultant, and developmental editor with a background in publishing and the film industry.


Manuscript Critique/Assessment

Provides broad feedback on your manuscript to refine its content and structure to best achieve its overall intention. An assessment considers big-picture issues such as story, plot structure, pacing, theme(s), character development, voice, consistency, clarity, and any other strengths or weaknesses specific to the work. In the form of an Editorial Memo, with annotations/comments/ suggestions in the margins of the manuscript, you will receive specific advice on how to revise your manuscript to ensure it is structurally sound, and to address such issues as:

• the book’s intentions and goals;
• the narrative voice and how it can be strengthened or improved;
• the overall structural with regard to narrative impact, including what needs to be cut, rearranged/reorganized, or further developed to enhance the story;
• in fiction, what’s at stake in the narrative? Do the characters face sufficient obstacles and conflicts to overcome?
• in fiction, fleshing out characters and their relationships;
• narrative pacing, rhythm and flow;
• if the intended readership and the book’s purpose are clear;

A critique can help a writer decide what is needed next with regard to a project—another authorial revision, a developmental edit, line editing, copyediting, proofreading, etc.

Rate: $4/manuscript page (avg. 250 words)


Developmental/Comprehensive Edit

The most in-depth edit available consisting of two parts: an editorial critique/assessment, as described above but at a micro and more detailed level, followed by a line-by-line intensive edit to ensure a book is clear, readable and enjoyable, and its premise, ideas and intentions successfully conveyed (i.e., making sure what’s in a writer’s head, heart, and imagination gets onto the page and translates to the reader).

The edit of the manuscript will include marginal comments addressing such issues as:

• Story elements – scenes, descriptions, character actions – that can be strengthened in terms of needed tension, details, logic, and clarification
• character arcs that may need strengthened or refashioning for best effect
• Loss in the narrative’s momentum or shifts in focus
• stylistic inconsistencies

The word-by-word edit of the manuscript, done with Word’s Track Changes, may include substantial changes in prose to ensure readability and prose that is clear, coherent, convincing, and compelling:

• Words, phrases and sentences may be trimmed, refashioned and/or restructured to ensure flow, rhythm and pacing;
• Dialogue and/or scenes may be tightened or developed for best effect
• Overuse of specific words will be modified
• The narrative will be checked for content, consistency, clarity and comprehension
• Strengthening the clarity, flow and gracefulness of the prose
• Ensuring effective transitions
• Correctness of grammar, syntax, usage, diction and locution

At the completion of a developmental edit, your manuscript will be highly polished, down to the level of copyediting.

Rate: $.06/word


Copyediting Services

Copyediting is appropriate for a manuscript with no further “development” or structural revisions needed, and does not alter the content of the text. Its primary goal is to ensure grammatical correctness, focusing on the mechanical issues of style, such as syntax, spelling, grammar, punctuation, terminology, semantics, consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization, as well as the continuity of plot, setting, and character traits.

Rates: $.025-$.045/word depending on the level of editing (light/medium/heavy)


Proofreading Services

Suggested for final, edited drafts of manuscripts. The goal of proofreading is to polish a manuscript, making it as clear, concise, error-free and professional as possible.

Rates: $.015/word


Beta Reading

A concise, very broad assessment of the work from a reader’s perspective, focusing on what is and isn’t working with regard to the core elements—concept, tone, structure, characters, dialogue, plot—as well as readability and marketability.

Rate: $2/manuscript page


Trial Edit

If you’d like to see what’s involved in an edit and if it will benefit you, submit up to 5,000 words, along with a brief synopsis of the overall story, and indicate the level of edit you would like – developmental ($.06/word), copy edit ($.02-$.04/word) or proofing ($0.15/word). You will be charged only for the number of words you submit; and if you contract for additional services, the Trial Edit fee will be deducted from your final invoice.


Ghostwriting/ghost rewriting: $150/hour




“Submitting my story to an editing site was a huge leap, and finding the right editor, S.J. Sutton, moved me from trying to get the book finished to actually being able to finish it. The guidance and instruction given by SJ was detailed and incredibly useful in getting me to the final page!” Anna Elizabeth Taylor

“Working with SJ Sutton has been a wonderful and positive experience. She provided expert copy editing, creative inspiration and much-needed encouragement. SJ is super responsive and works with lightning speed.” Pete Crowley

“The hunt for the right editor can be a daunting task, especially for a first time writer. After discussing my project with several editors, SJ’s ambition, friendly nature and experience set her apart. In the editing process, she’s collaborative, engaged, supportive and honest. She does everything in her power to improve the manuscript and give it every chance to succeed. From the business side, she’s competitive in her proposal and in the end, on time and on budget.” Zack Klamn

“Jagged Films has worked with SJ as a story consultant to find and develop projects for film and television. She brings an experienced, critical, and intuitive eye to evaluating screenplays and books (fiction and non-fiction, for adaptation), assessing the strengths and weaknesses of key story elements such as premise, plot, structure, characterizations, dialogue, and marketability. Development is her forte, and she can be relied on to offer intelligent, insightful, and creative suggestions and solutions that insure a project reaches its fullest potential. We rely on her good taste, professionalism, and utmost discretion in very way.” Victoria Pearman, President, Jagged Films, and Mick Jagger’s producing partner

“Her sense of story is unparalleled and she has the skills you need at every stage of your projects, from developing a story that is both coherent and commercial, to delivering a manuscript that’s as clean of grammar glitches as humanly possible. if you hand her a piece of coal, she’ll give you back a diamond.” Kat Parrish, author of Bride of the Midnight King

“SJ Sutton is the finest and most thorough editor I have ever had the fortune to meet. Coming from an extensive background of manuscript development and editing and critiquing screenplays, her suggestions are first class.” Anne Loader McGee, children’s author, Cedar Creek Mystery Series

“Getting my screenplay to SJ was a real game changer for me. She is very detailed and right on with with STORY, CHARACTERS and STRUCTURE. Working with only one set of her story notes, I was able to make my screenplay better.” Frank A. Rossi, Writer, Actor, Acting Coach

“After SJ edited my last novel, I submitted it to my publisher. The editor on this third book in the series had only one comment: that the manuscript was clean, the story tight, enjoyable, and a real page-turner. The book went straight into production and four months later, Koolura and the Mayans was published.” Michael Thal, author of the Koolura series, Goodbye, Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom

Tags: childrens books editor, copyeditor, developmental editor, fiction editor, line editor, manuscripts, middle-grade-editor, nonfiction editor, proofreader, screenplay, screenwriting, script-editor

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