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Professional Book Editing

Do I Need to Hire a Professional Book Editor?

Why You Need to Hire a Book Editor

By Karen S. Cole of Ghost Writer, Inc.

I have been a ghost writer for over two decades, so you might want to consider this article on how editing is very important for book authors. In fact, it’s also about how editing is important to ghost writers – many ghosts make their “main money” from book editing, so a lot of them are really only book manuscript editors and not ghost writers per se.

When you present your manuscript to a literary or book agent, or even a commercial publisher, it’s very important for the book to be almost ready to run and print. If it isn’t, and it’s full of typos, spelling errors, and syntax dilemmas and problems with the overall writing of the book manuscript, often the agent will turn away from it.

You don’t want your book to be passed over. So it’s best to always hire a professional book editor to give your manuscript a thorough going-through before presenting it to an agent or publisher. And many book editors advertise their services as professional ghost writers. A lot of literary agents and commercial publishers hire the services of ghost writers to work on incoming manuscripts that they feel provide worthwhile and marketable info, but which are poorly written and need substantial editing. So you can either pick and hire a good book editor yourself, or gamble that the agent or publisher you are contacting will see about arranging a book editor for you.

There are several types of editing that a manuscript might need. I will list the major ones below, concentrating on the various styles and what they entail.

Styles of Book Manuscript Editing

  • Line editing and proofreading. This form of editing means going over a manuscript line by line and editing it for grammar errors as you go. It doesn’t entail any extensive rewriting, but there may be some use of color editing to liven up flat prose slightly, and there may be some reduction of redundancies, such as repeated information. Basically, line editing and proofreading just checks for the most basic of grammatical and syntax errors. This style of editing may include the use of a style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Color editing/style editing. This is the most basic form of rewriting for style, involving rearranging some of the copy so that it reads better, flows, and is more consistent overall, while sticking to the basic structure of the manuscript. This is not really true rewriting, just some reworking of the wordage to make it more colorful, spicy, provocative or original in its style.
  • Show not Tell editing. This is an upgraded form of color editing, where some minor to major rewriting may be involved. The idea is to take prose that is only Tell not Show, or in other words flat, lifeless and merely going through the motions, and turn it into prose that transports the reader right into the scene, making them feel like they are actually there. This style of editing is often called rewriting, but its nuances are far more involved than mere rewriting.
  • Content editing. This style of editing involves some major rewriting, such as rearrangements of entire scenes, some scene deletion if redundancies are involved, minor reworking of the major and minor characters to include some new characteristics, and it may involve changes in overall tone and development to include new characters, new plot lines, etc. This style of editing is sometimes called extensive rewriting, and it somewhat fazes into the next style, developmental editing.
  • Developmental editing. You add in a lot of new info generally, and take some of it out if it’s lifeless and undeveloped; or in other words, you plow deeply into the book and develop most of its info much further. You may add new traits to characters, adding in whole new characters, scenes and plot lines; but the point is to take what’s already there and develop it further, drawing out the good in each scene. Developmental editing includes pretty much all of the above styles of editing, and is the most extensive and costly form of editing.

Costs of Hiring a Book Editor

As the style of editing gets more involved, the cost for each type of editing goes up. Basic or line editing and proofreading runs anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 USD for a typical 25-50,000 word book manuscript – and the pricing goes up from there for each larger style of editing. The most charged-for developmental editing can run anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, again depending on the amount of work that is actually involved. Pricing largely depends on the budget of the book author and the needs of the book editor or ghost writer, and is determined on a per project basis. But spending money on your book is worth it, if you want a workable, hassle-free “clean copy” that you can present professionally to the right people.