Ruth Harris Reports #10: Editors and Editing (Part Four of a Four-Part Series)

Happy Weekend, WG2E-Land!

It’s time for our next Ruth Harris Report…Part Four in her Series on Editors and Editing.

You can catch the first part of this fabulous and informative series right here:

The second here:

And the third here:

Take it away, Ruth…

Today’s post is the final in the series on editors & editing. Our editors will answer questions about the form of submission, the actual process of making edits, how much time to allow and how much you can expect to pay.

As in the other parts of this series, our editors are the Edit Dude, Meghan Ward, Sherrie Holmes and Jodie Renner. I want to thank them once again for taking their valuable time to answer my questions so that when you finish your book and come to the editing phase, you will understand the process and know what to expect.

In what form should a writer submit his/her manuscript?

Edit Dude: I’ve almost always received manuscripts in MS Word format. Any format that has a feature similar to the Track Changes feature in Word would be acceptable.

Meghan Ward: Some editors may prefer hard copies, but I prefer to receive manuscripts by email as Word documents.

Sherrie Holmes: I accept just about all forms of submission, but prefer Word documents as e-mail attachments.

Jodie Renner: I do all my editing online and on-screen, using Microsoft Word Track Changes, so I don’t accept hard copies by snail mail. With my method, clients get their manuscript back within seconds of when I complete the editing, and ditto for revisions. I prefer Word docs (.doc or .docx). Some of my clients use Scrivener, but they send me a Word-compatible version.

How do you make your edits?

Meghan Ward: I make my edits using Word’s Tracking Changes.

Sherrie Holmes: I’ll accommodate the client’s wishes in this, but my preferred method of editing is to use Word and Track Changes.  If a client is unfamiliar with Track Changes, I will give them a quick tutorial.  If a client hates Track Changes, or prefers edits on paper, I can do that too, but it takes longer and will therefore cost the client more.

Edit Dude: I usually use the Track Changes feature in Word.

Jodie Renner: I use Microsoft Word Track Changes, which shows additions underlined in red and deletions crossed out in red. And I add comments, questions, and suggestions in the margin in comment boxes.

I send the client back the marked-up copy, as well as a clean, black copy, with all my changes accepted, so they can see what it would look like if they accepted all my changes. That’s less confusing for some people than looking at the marked-up version. Clients can choose whether to work on the marked-up copy or the clean copy for their subsequent revisions.

How much time should I allow for editing?

Jodie Renner: That depends on how much work the manuscript needs. My editing process is interactive, and I edit in sections of about 2 to 6 chapters, with each section going back and forth as many times as needed to complete revisions. Then we go on to the next section. So it depends on how long it takes the client to get revisions back to me. Once I receive a revised section, I usually go over it promptly and get it back to the client within 24 hours. The whole process could take as little as 2 or 3 weeks, or as long as 3 months or more, as often my clients have jobs or other responsibilities and like to think things over before making changes.

Meghan Ward: For a book-length manuscript, I would allow one month for editing. If you need it sooner than that, you may be able to negotiate a faster turnaround with the editor.

Sherrie Holmes: This is a dreadfully loaded question!  The answer depends entirely on how experienced a writer you are.  If you know the basics of writing, if you belong to a critique group, if you attend writing conferences and workshops, if you’re good at grammar and punctuation, if you belong to writing organizations such as Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America, then editing and critiquing your manuscript will take considerably less time than the newbie writer’s manuscript.

A kindly word to the wise:  I have learned that it is useless for me to ask the potential client what their skill level is, because they ALL say they are good writers and their manuscripts are polished to perfection and ready for publication, that they just need an editor to do a “quick check” before they start shopping it around.  The reality is that 98% of the manuscripts that land on my desk require considerable editing.  It can be a real shock when the writer finds out their “baby” is less than perfect.

I don’t believe in beating up my clients.  I’m probably one of the kindest editors they’ll ever encounter.  But I don’t pull my punches.  If they are going to shell out their hard-earned money for a professional edit, that is what they’ll get.  They need to be professional enough to not take it personally.  I’m not critiquing them, I’m critiquing their manuscript!

So back to your question of how long a writer should allow for edits:  be realistic, and be professional about it.  If you’re an experienced writer and know the ropes, it’ll take less time for edits.  If you’re a newbie, be humble and expect it will take longer.  Don’t expect me to be able to give you a time estimate without having seen a sample of your writing.  And remember, our goals are mutual.  We’re both working together to make your manuscript be the best it can be.  I’m not the enemy, I’m your partner.

Edit Dude: It really depends on the project. The length of the manuscript obviously largely determines how long it will take, but the type and volume of edits that are necessary based on the specific writer’s style and/or abilities. Also, there is the individual editor’s schedule.

Do you offer any other services?

Meghan Ward: In addition to editing books, I teach blogging and social media classes at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto ( and provide one-on-one coaching in blogging and social media.

Edit Dude: I’m writing a manuscript of my own, but that doesn’t have anything to do with my editing services.

Sherrie Holmes: Yes, variety is the spice of life.  I coach/mentor new writers.  I prepare spreadsheets and databases (mailing lists, etc.).  I design and write brochures, newsletters, and flyers.  I’ve even been known to answer fan mail for busy writers.

Jodie Renner: I also offer initial critiques of the first 10-50 pages. My manuscript editing services range from developmental editing and big-picture advice to deep content editing, line editing or copyediting, and final proofreading.

How much do you charge?

Meghan Ward: I charge $75/hour, which works out to about $1500-$2000 for a book-length manuscript.

Jodie Renner: Rates for editing usually depend on the amount of time and work a manuscript needs, which can vary hugely. No reputable editor will give you a blanket rate for editing 80,000 words or 300 pages, for example, without asking to see at least a chapter or two of the manuscript and a brief synopsis first. Some manuscripts can easily take ten times the amount of work as others, in order to bring them up to current industry standards. Experienced editors know this, so they won’t give you a set rate, sight-unseen. Rates also vary depending on the experience of the editor / copy editor / proofreader. Just as in any kind of services, be wary of rates that are too low.
Generally, a final proofread or light copyedit is much cheaper than content editing, but there’s no point in paying for a final proofread if your manuscript needs bigger issues addressed first, before it gets to that stage.
Many freelance editors charge by the page, which normally means double-spaced, 12-point, so about 250 words per page. Others charge by the hour. I charge by the word, as to me, a page can end after a paragraph, or have graphics that don’t need to be edited, etc. Also, be sure to ask whether their rate includes a final proofreading, or whether that’s a separate process with an additional fee.

Many freelance editors request half the payment up front, then the other half when they finish editing the manuscript. My process is so much more interactive, with a lot of communication back and forth, so I find it works best for me if clients pay me in installments as we go along.

If the manuscript is ready for the copyediting stage, I edit it in sections of about 2-6 chapters, and each section goes back and forth several times, until we’re both happy with it, before we call it “done” (at least for now) and go on to the next section. My clients pay me in installments as the work proceeds, in increments of about $200 at a time, in advance of the editing being done. If for any reason, either party feels we’re not a good fit, we can part ways and nobody owes anybody anything (or any small amounts can be paid or refunded).

Sherrie Holmes: $25/hr. for basic editing/light critiquing and $50/hr. for substantive editing/critiquing.  If you think that’s expensive, Google editor rates.  Be sitting down when you do it.  They usually average $35-$65/hr. for basic editing.

Edit Dude: It depends on the individual project, but I have a fee schedule on my website that should give you a good idea.

Find out more about our editors at their websites—

Sherrie Holmes:
Jodie Renner:
Matt, the edit dude:
Meghan Ward:

Ruth Harris

NYTimes Bestselling Author

Brainwashed, A Thriller


Hooked, A Thriller

Husbands and Lovers

Killer Thrillers, [Boxed Set}

Love And Money

Modern Women

The Last Romantics

P.S. Be sure to check out Ruth’s new blog – Ruth “Lively”, which is just a superfab fun stitch and then some!!!

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  1. Matthew Rush says:

    Hi, Ruth.

    Again, thanks so much for including me in your series. I’m so honored.

    You are the best.

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Matt—Thank *you*! Your replies will really help writers through the ups & downs of working with an editor. Thanks to you & our other editors, writers will have an in-depth understanding of what mind-set is needed in order to prepare & polish a ms for publication in a rational and professional way.

      Matt, you’re not so bad yourself! ;-)

  2. Julie Day says:

    This is so interesting as I might need another editor next year for other short projects I have in mind to do. I am getting used to Track Changes as my romance editor uses that, and I find it a lot quicker to see when I print it out.

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Julie—I’m so glad that you find this series helpful! Our editors contributed so much valuable information that a writer at any stage in his/her career can profit from their experiences & advice.

  3. Jodie Renner says:

    Thanks for this whole series, Ruth! I’ve enjoyed reading the other editors’ responses, too. I’m traveling today with limited access to the internet, so please accept my apologies if it takes me a while to respond to any questions from readers.
    - Jodie

  4. JamieSalisbury (@JamieRSalisbury) says:

    Great piece! Good to hear the thoughts/processes of more than one editor!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Hi Jodie! :-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by to comment. It was a pleasure to work with you!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Jamie—Thanks! You’re pointing out that different editors are—well—just like people. lol

      When it comes to editing, there is often no right or wrong, just a mind-meld that will get a ms into the best possible & most salable shape.

      Jodie—I have no idea why my reply to you ended up here. Pilot error, no double. ;-)

  5. This is such a great series, Ruth. Really useful info! Getting a good edit is probably the most important single step in self-publishing, and authors need to know what to expect. Will RT!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Anne—Many thanks for the kind words & for the RT. As those of us who have been around books & publishing for a while know: a good editor can & will make ALL the difference!

  6. Miriam Joy says:

    So it sounds like track changes / comment bubbles are pretty standard, right? ;) That’s what Cathryn uses (my critique partner). Seeing how much it’d cost me to get my book professionally edited makes me realise how lucky I am to have awesome critique partners, as I’d never be able to afford it otherwise.

  7. D.D. Scott says:

    Thanks bunches to our Editor Panel and to you, Ruth, for an outstanding series, that continues to be one of our most-read series on the site!!!

    Having an Editor you can count on makes a huge difference in your finished product as well as the process of writing each book. I’ve become a better writer because of the editorial process itself. I get so tickled when I catch something and change it before my editor takes his red font to it! LOL!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      DD— I’m thrilled this series has been so on-target for our readers! I want to thank our editors once more for taking the time to answer my questions in such a thoughtful & illuminating way. Their down-to-earth replies take the “mystery” & angst out of the editing process & prepare writers to gain maximum advantage from the help & insight talented, knowledgeable editors provide. As DD says, a good editor makes a good writer even better!

      As a former editor, I’m certainly biased. But as a NYT bestselling author & former publisher, I also tend to know what I’m talking about! ;-)

  8. Jodie Renner says:

    Thanks, Ruth, for contacting me about your idea to interview four freelance editors. You did a great job! I’m sure writers looking for a freelance editor had most or all of their questions answered. Editing freelance can be a solitary endeavor, so it was great for me to find out different ways that other editors operate!

  9. As usual, I’m checking in late. Just got home yesterday. Ruth, you did a wonderful job pulling this together and making this available to the masses. Judging by the responses, this was enlightening to a good many of your readers! It was a great opportunity for editors to talk about the editing process and to educate folks along the way. I enjoyed “meeting” the other editors in this series and seeing how they operate. Jodie, as you say, editing can be a solitary job, and seeing how other editors work was interesting. Best wishes to everyone, especially to Ruth, who did a yeoman’s job making this happen!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Sherrie—Thanks for checking in & thanks for the nice words. Fact is, I’m a former editor so it was a labor of love. Unless writers have the opportunity to work with a really good editor, they have no idea how good their work can be. It’s not just the writing, folks, it’s also the editing.

  10. Barbara says:

    Jodie Renner says: “Once I receive a revised section, I usually go over it promptly and get it back to the client within 24 hours.”

    Actually, this isn’t true at all. After going through half of my manuscript with me, Jodie asked for an upfront fee to edit the end to the end of my book. That was on September 20th and I haven’t gotten an edit for those pages since then. Instead, she made many excuses or I didn’t hear back… except to ask me for interim testimonials and reviews of her new books. She then sent me an email asking for more upfront money for an edit and I had to show her the previous invoice… at which point, I heard nothing back. Beware of this editor.