Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
If you’re planning to self publish, hiring an editor for a manuscript critique or dev edit is a great first step – I salute you! But receiving feedback from your editor isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. Next you have to digest all their comments and decide whether you want to implement their suggestions. An editor might recommend you combine two similar secondary characters into one, or include more sensory description in order to bring your setting to life. If you agree, you’ll need to do more work on your manuscript. A developmental editor won’t ‘fix’ or change your story for you. They’ll give you advice on how to change it yourself. After all, this is your story, and it’s not an editor’s place to turn your book into the book they would have written.
This means that your book won’t be ready to publish immediately after hiring an editor, because there will always be more work to be done. And even after that developmental work is finished, there are other steps you might want to take before sharing your work with the world. It’s a good idea to hire a copy-editor and proofreader to get your manuscript ready at the micro level, and then you might decide to hire a cover designer or somebody to write your back page blurb. There are lots of stages on the road to self publishing, and the great thing about the process is that you’re completely in charge and get to decide which steps are important to you.
I don’t work with authors beyond the developmental editing stage, so I’m not able to help you with copy-editing or cover design, or getting your book onto Amazon. But there are LOADS of fabulous people who can help, and lots of free resources online to guide you, so I will be very happy to point you in the right direction.
Well, the writer bit’s easy. You – lovely, hardworking author – are the reason I do this job and you’re at the centre of everything I do, think, read and write.
And then the wolf part. I’ve been rather obsessed with fairytales ever since studying them on my Children’s Literature MA. I love how deliciously dark and gruesome the original stories were, and I’m fascinated by the transition they’ve made from oral tales in peasants’ kitchens to Disney musicals on the big screen. Although they were never meant for a young audience, original folktales like Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast serve up everything I love in children’s books: horror, magic, monsters and mystery.
Little Red Riding Hood is my favourite. It featured in at least three of my MA essays and I spent a significant portion of my dissertation analysing the colour of Red’s cloak and comparing her to Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I adore the story’s sense of danger and macabre and all its secret, conflicting meanings (like that the wolf really represents a sexual predator trying to tempt little girls away from their mothers, or that he’s actually a symbol of all the men executed as werewolves in the 17th century). So, a wolf felt like the perfect companion for this fairytale-loving children’s book editor.
Also, that literary image of the little girl – or sheep, or pig, or fox – creeping cautiously through the woods while the predatory wolf waits in the shadows made me think a little of the editing process. Handing your words over to a stranger is a scary thing and it takes a lot of courage to open yourself up to feedback from a professional. But I think sometimes there’s this fear that an editor is there to scold or mock you for doing things wrong, like we live to tell you how terrible your work is. That is absolutely not what most editors do. We’re here to work with you, to help you make your story everything you want it to be. Most of us are patient and kind and cheering you on. The process should be exciting and encouraging, not off-putting.
We’re not scary. And wolves aren’t as bad as Charles Perrault and the Grimms make out, either. But if you see one in the woods, run. Just in case. (Wolves, I mean. Not editors.)
Yes, it matters! Of course, there are those rare crossover books that appeal to children and teenagers – and adults, for that matter – but those are few and far between. If you want your story to find its way into the hands of readers who will truly love it and understand it and tell all their friends about it, you need to know who you’re writing for. There are different conventions and expectations for middle grade and young adult, because a ten-year-old has a completely different frame of reference to a 16-year-old. They’re experiencing different emotions and changes and viewing the world in different ways. A primary school reader might just be experiencing his first crush, while a sixth former may be in the throes of an intense sexual relationship.
Here’s a very rough guide to help you establish whether your story is middle grade or young adult. Ask yourself:
- How old is my main character? Young readers like to read up, so aim for a protagonist who’s about two years old than the reader you’re writing for. Main characters in middle grade should be no more than 13 – anything older is YA territory, with around 21 being the upper limit.
- How long is my book? Middle grade word counts range from around 20,000 to 60,000, while YA novels can be anywhere up to around 100,000 words.
- What themes am I exploring? Middle grade novels often focus on friendships, family bonds and first experiences. Main characters are trying to exert their independence but usually return to the comfort of home or whatever life they knew before. Young Adult stories tend to feature more intense relationships and emotions as protagonists question their own identities and make life-changing decisions.
There are several types of professional editing available and they all happen at different stages in the process. You might opt for just one or two editing services or you might decide to take your book through each stage. To give you an idea of your options, here are the types of editing available, and the order they should typically be done in:
- Manuscript critique/assessment: This is a big-picture review of your novel focusing on the fundamental story elements like plot, structure, character and genre. It won’t include actual edits or comments within the manuscript itself but will rather come in the form of several pages of feedback and suggestions to improve your story.
- Developmental edit: This will focus on the same issues as above but will come with comments and recommendations throughout the manuscript, usually via in-line comments or comment bubbles in the margin. It will cost quite a bit more than a manuscript critique but is much more intensive.
- Copyedit / line-edit: This stage focuses on sentence-level issues like spelling, grammar and consistency and should always come after a developmental edit because it’s likely you’ll be making some big changes to your manuscript – maybe even deleting whole chunks – and it’s a waste to have text edited if it’s not definitely staying!
- Proofread: This will be the last stage in the editing process, usually after your book has been sent to a designer or typesetter. Proofreaders perform a final quality check, looking out for sentence-level issues that have been left behind, like typos and inconsistent punctuation. It’s an important stage because no editors are perfect and there will always be mistakes hiding in your manuscript that weren’t spotted.
It’s important to note that these services can vary from editor to editor, even if they’re calling them the same thing, so double check what’s included when you hire a professional editor.
Currently in the UK there is no official accreditation for editors (like you’d find for accountants or engineers, for example). That said, the CIEP recently gained chartership status which means members (like me!) will soon have the opportunity to take accredited qualifications. Until then, there are various levels of CIEP membership and editors can work their way through the ranks by taking courses, providing evidence of their editing work and passing the CIEP’s editing test. I’ve done all those things and am currently a Professional member.
Because there’s no one way to become a professional editor, you’ll find we all have a range of backgrounds and credentials. It’s important to know what sort of editor you’re looking for so you can find one whose experience and expertise matches your needs.
I’ve trained to be a specialist fiction editor by studying – sometimes in person, sometimes online – with various professional bodies around the world. I’ve taken courses with CIEP and PTC (Publishing Training Centre), the two most widely recognised editorial training providers in the UK, and overseas with The Editorial Freelancers Association, Editors Canada and ACES. This training has covered not just the intricacies of fiction editing but also how to help independent authors on their journey to publication, as well as how to edit for specific audiences and genres including middle grade, YA, mystery, fantasy and graphic novels.
I also have two Master’s degrees in Children’s Literature and Novel Writing. My Children’s Literature degree from Roehampton University explored the literary, creative, social and historical contexts of children’s and YA books, from Victorian tracts to contemporary classics, and kick-started my own creative writing for young readers. When I edit your novel, I bring to it everything I learned on this MA: a working knowledge of children’s publishing, solid experience of analysing and exploring children’s and YA books at the story level, a clear understanding of the conventions associated with each age category from picture book to YA, and an absolutely unrelenting adoration and respect for children’s books. My 20,000-word dissertation,Painting the Town Green: Structuralist Perspectives on the Value of Colour in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, earned me a distinction and a literary prize, and taught me a lot – A LOT – about analysing children’s books on multiple levels. There was no theme, allusion, story goal, character motivation or author intention in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that I didn’t find eventually!
My Novel Writing MA from Middlesex University took a practical and theoretical approach to fiction writing. Modules included ‘Reading as a Novelist’, ‘Developing the Novel’ and ‘Research for Fiction’, and tutorials ran from idea generation and character development right through to pitching a book to publishers and agents. Each week I produced 500 words of creative writing in response to a prompt, such as ‘describe the topography and poetics of a setting considering its dual nature as physical, functional and emotional’ or ‘create the fictional voice of an unreliable or untrustworthy character’, and my classmates and tutors gave their critique. In turn, I critiqued others’ writing samples – something that taught me a lot about the craft and about giving sensitive, thoughtful feedback. We also considered genre, marketability and publishing trends and how they related to our own writing projects, and learned how to write an effective synopsis, blurb and cover letter. The climax of the MA was a 20,000-word creative dissertation, producing the first few chapters of a novel. I wrote the middle grade story of Leena, an amateur astronomer who struggles with social anxiety and embarrassing ghost-hunter parents. It earned me a distinction from my tutors, who urged me to carry on with the project and seek publication. Maybe I will one day!
Short answer: sort of!
Sample edits are a great way for editors, particularly copyeditors, to show you their editing style before you go ahead and hire them. They might offer to work on a few pages or a chapter and send it back to you to read through, and then it’s up to you to decide if this is the editor for you. It’s also a useful way for them to estimate how long the edit will take them and give you an accurate quote.
This isn’t so easy for developmental editors because one page or chapter of your novel isn’t a standalone piece of writing. Whilst a copyeditor can typically address issues such as spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax on the first page without seeing the rest of the manuscript, a developmental editor can’t comment on big picture issues like characterisation or plot without reading the entire novel. For example, if I leave a comment on page one to say your protagonist needs a clear goal, and you come back to say ‘I’ve given him a goal on page 2!’, I’ve wasted time flagging a problem that has already been resolved. A sample doesn’t give a developmental editor enough information to go on.
When you get in touch to talk about editing, I’ll usually ask you to send me a small sample of your manuscript for me to read. This is partly so I can make sure I’m the right editor for your project (is it a genre or target market I work with? Is there another step I think you should take before hiring an editor?) but it’s also so I can come back to you with some brief thoughts and feedback on your sample, letting you know what areas I’d explore further if we worked together. This will give you some idea of what it’s like to work with me!
When you book an editing service with me, I’ll send you a digital proposal via Dubsado which outlines all the details of that service and what to expect. Once you’ve confirmed you’re happy with all that, click ‘next’ and you’ll be taken through to a digital contract. That contains lots more detail and all the T&Cs to keep us both protected and happy while we work together. Once you’ve signed that (which is super simple and digital – no need for a printer or fax machine!), you’ll be taken instantly to your invoice. You can download all of these forms as PDFs and also access them in your client portal once you’ve signed your contract.
I’ll ask you to pay a £100 deposit within two weeks of booking in order to secure your spot in my calendar. If you’re not able to pay within this time, don’t panic! It doesn’t mean we can’t work together – we just need to wait until you’re ready. If you don’t pay the deposit within those first two weeks, I’ll send you an email to chat about it. If you’re definitely not ready to pay yet, I’ll release the project date in my calendar so that somebody else can book and then we can chat about booking a new date for your manuscript.
I’ll ask for the remaining fee before I deliver the project. Two days before the project delivery date, you’ll receive an automated email from me with a link to your invoice and details on how much of your fee is remaining. If you haven’t paid this by the time I’m ready to send your project, I’ll send you another email with this same information and let you know your project is now ready.
You can always pay more than £100 when you book. Some people prefer to pay the entire amount upfront to get it out of the way. Some choose to pay half now, half later. Or you can pay in instalments as and when you’re ready. The online invoice allows you choose how much you pay and you can come back to the invoice any time and pay off some more. The invoice is saved in your client portal so it’s always accessible.
When you pay your invoice, you’ll have the option to pay via:
- PayPal (you don’t need a PayPal account)
- credit or debit card
Credit and debit cards are taken securely through Stripe, a third-party payment processor so I’ll never have access to your bank or card details. PayPal is also a secure third-party payment processor which handles all of your card or bank details without sharing them with me.
Through PayPal you can either register as a user and connect your bank account or cards or continue as a guest and simply use it as a card processor, similar to Stripe.
If you’re in the US, you can also pay via e-check which is handled by a third-party provider called Plaid. Here in the UK we don’t use e-checks (most businesses don’t accept paper cheques anymore here, either) so this isn’t a method I’m super familiar with but if you have any trouble, let me know and I’ll do what I can to help! This payment method isn’t available to authors outside the US.
I can’t accept payment via direct bank transfers, paper cheques or any other method not listed above. I only use secure payment methods and will never have access to your bank or card details.
Although I’m based in London, I accept payments from authors all over the world! I list my prices in GBP British pounds sterling (£) but when you pay via PayPal or Stripe they will give you the balance in your local currency. It will be converted into GBP my end.
Because my annual earnings are below the VAT threshold in the UK (currently £85,000) I cannot charge VAT. I do, however, pay taxes to HMRC in the UK as a self-employed sole trader.
If you need to cancel or pause the project before the start date, you’ll receive a full refund. If you cancel after the start date but before I deliver the project, I’ll charge you for the work I’ve done so far and send that to you.
It’s my policy not to send final edits to authors without full payment, but don’t panic! If I’ve finished working on your project but something’s come up and you can no longer afford to pay the remainder of your balance, I’ll hold onto your edit until you’re ready to pay. I won’t delete your project or charge interest – I’ll keep it safe in a folder in my computer and send it to you once payment has been made, however long it takes.
When you book an editing service with me, I’ll send you a digital proposal via Dubsado which outlines all the details of that service and what to expect. Once you’ve confirmed you’re happy with all that, click ‘next’ and you’ll be taken through to a digital contract.
After including all the details of your manuscript including the name and word count, I list lots of information about the project and what you can (and shouldn’t) expect:
1. Scope of work
This is where I outline the service I’m providing and what you can expect.
2. Planned communications
I list all the points at which can expect to receive an email from me throughout the project.
3. Fees and payment
I tell you how much the service costs and how you can pay. I also cover cancellations and refunds.
I list exactly what you can expect to receive when I deliver your project, including files and follow-up support.
5. Further terms and conditions
This is where I include all those terms that keep us both protected during our work together. The headlines are:
- The Editor confirms that she/he is self-employed, is responsible for her/his own income tax and National Insurance contributions, and for paying VAT (where applicable) and will not claim benefits granted to the Client’s employees.
- Any content created by the Editor as part of the editing process will become the copyright of the Client once full payment is complete, unless otherwise agreed.
- The nature and content of the work will be kept confidential and not made known to anyone other than the Client without prior written permission. Nothing the Client supplies the Editor, including the manuscript, will be shared or used externally.
- The Client agrees that all material submitted to the Editor is their original work.
- Editing is a process of offering advice and suggestions to the Client. While the Editor will make every effort to identify and bring questionable material to the Client’s attention, it is not possible to guarantee error-free content.
- The Editor’s responsibility is limited to notifying the Client of any suspected or unresolved issues within the edited work. The Client is responsible for accepting (or rejecting) the Editor’s suggestions and resolving any issues identified by the Editor (e.g., suspected plagiarism).
- Rejecting or disliking the Editor’s suggestions is not a basis for refusing to pay the fees outlined in this contract.
- The Editor will add the Client to her email newsletter subscription list. This newsletter is sent out no more than once a month and will contain content that the Editor believes the Client will find useful. The Client may unsubscribe from the email list at any time.
You just need to type your name in the field at the bottom of the contract and click ‘agree and next’ and you’re done! Then I’ll sign it myself in the same way.