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Stylistic copyediting for self-publishing authors

First, an introductory discount.

I’ve been a professional writer and editor for over a decade but editing novels isn’t a service I’ve offered before, so I’m giving a big ol’ discount while I get into the swing of things:

  • If you book and pay your deposit before 30 April 2023 and schedule your edit for the first half of 2023 (the edit must begin by 30 June 2023), I’ll give you £250 off the final price.
  • The first three people to book will get £350 off the final price.

These discounts only apply to manuscripts of 50,000 words or more. Naturally there are limited spots available, so if you’re interested don’t hesitate to get in touch. But do finish reading this page first.

Want to self-publish your book? Proceed with caution.

I recently stumbled on a self-published sci-fi novel with a compelling hook – the kind of melancholic, apocalyptic scenario I usually devour. The cover was good. The blurb was good. The premise was excellent. So I downloaded the sample and, uh, it was … not good.

I mean, it was okay. It’s probably a perfectly serviceable story, but I’ll never know because I can’t bring myself to invest my cash or time in 300+ pages featuring things like ‘off-white-colored walls’ instead of simply ‘off-white walls’, thoughts that switch from present tense to past tense halfway through, and a character’s muttering – a famously quiet thing to do – being punctuated with an exclamation mark. And that was just in the first scene, the most heavily edited and manicured part of any book. Whew.

Was this book edited? I doubt it. Maybe the author tried to do it himself, or asked a friend to help. Maybe he hired a proofreader because it’s cheaper. Those things are better than nothing, but when countless new books cascade onto Amazon every day, they’re not enough. Not if you want more than the 3.6 stars this book has. Not if you want to catch people’s attention and keep it. Not if you want fans.

Now, I’m not saying I can guarantee you all or any of those things. All I’m saying is you’ll lose readers and a star or two if you don’t have your manuscript thoroughly edited, ideally by a professional and definitely by someone who is not you. Fortunately I fit that description, so let’s keep going.

The nitty-gritty of how I’ll improve your book.

When I edit your novel, I will do all the standard stuff – fixing spelling and punctuation, smoothing grammar, ensuring consistency throughout. I’m talking ‘if you’ve used the wrong sort of dash, you’d better believe I’m going to fix that’ levels of pedantic, to a degree that would be annoying if I were a redditor giving unsolicited advice. Which I’m not, thank god, so hopefully you’ll feel like you’re getting your money’s worth instead.

But ensuring your manuscript is written coherently, consistently and correctly is just one half of what I do. The other half is making sure your writing is as powerful and compelling as possible. There are various things I’ll do to make that happen – mostly tightening things up and suggesting more striking word choices – but don’t worry, none of them are ‘rewrite this whole thing, because ew’. (I reserve this approach for my ‘innovative solutions’ corporate clients.)

I will never replace your style with mine. When I’m finished, it’ll still be your voice on the page. The flow of the sentences, the rhythm and feel of the writing – still undeniably you. And if you’ve decided to buck convention by, say, going all Jose Saramago and omitting quotation marks and that other junk we call punctuation, I’ll respect that. I might even enjoy it. Seriously, have you *read* Blindness?

Here’s what all this looks like in real terms:

  • Correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Tidying up the formatting (goodbye, double spaces after full stops)
  • Formatting dialogue correctly and removing unnecessary tags (if it’s obvious who’s speaking, you don’t always need them)
  • Fixing inconsistencies (your character’s eyes remain blue the whole way through, unless they undergo some sort of horrific experiment and/or mystical enlightenment)
  • Removing redundant words (I can almost guarantee the biggest offender will be ‘that’)
  • Keeping your tense and point of view straight
  • Replacing incorrect words (don’t you hate it when your fingers tap out a different word than the one you intended?)
  • Addressing cliches, jargon, stereotyping, and janky metaphors
  • Untangling ambiguous wording
  • Improving the flow of sentences (so they don’t sound too stilted or bland)
  • Altering repeated words (unless you did it on purpose)
  • Suggesting stronger word choices (e.g. ‘shove’ instead of ‘push hard’)
  • Weeding out filtering and distancing words (‘she saw a creature looming in the darkness’ becomes ‘a creature loomed in the darkness’)
  • Reining in the overwritten and purple prose
  • Highlighting when character voice sounds off (like something they wouldn’t say or think)
  • Decimating crutch words, so only a few instances remain (one of mine is ‘just’)
  • Culling exclamation marks, probably

I spoke with the designer – his wife is a trained proofreader and always spots something, but not in your case.

He said you even spotted things only printers spot (something to do with dashes … it was over my head for sure). Anyway, I thought you might like to know how highly rated your work is 🙂
–Giles Ruck

Here’s what I will not help you with.

My copyediting services are for after you have completely finished your story. That means there’ll be no restructuring, no rewriting, and definitely no starting over, either during this edit or after it. I MEAN IT. Put that red pen away. Or better yet, give it to me.

Look, I’m trying to help you out here. It would be pointless and a waste of money to have your book copyedited, only to go back and change things afterwards. Most likely you’ll have edited multiple drafts yourself, the latter ones based on feedback from beta readers, a writing partner or a developmental editor. If you haven’t done any of that, consider whether your book is truly ready for this level of editing. Because it probably isn’t.

Unless it’s obvious from the outset, I will not assess whether your story is in good shape before agreeing to take it on, because that would require, well, reading the whole thing (and let me tell you, I’m a slow goddamn reader). I’m here to make sure the prose itself is good and I’ll work with what I’m given, so the better your book is before you send it to me, the better the final product will be. It’s on you to make sure it’s ready, okay?

Right. Moving on.

How will this work?

1. Email me!

If you read this page and thought, Hmm, yes, I would like this person to edit my book, she sounds fabulous, or something roughly equivalent to that, get in touch with me using the info at the bottom of this page. I know you’re probably scouting around trying to find the best editor for you, so there’ll be no pressure to hire me just because you sent me an email.

Also, I know I just went on a huge rant about ensuring your book is ready before sending it to me, but that’s for conducting the edit – not for scheduling it. I can’t always start work on an edit immediately anyway, so I’m happy to book you a spot further down the line if you’re still finalising your manuscript. As long it’s ready by the scheduled date, it’s all good.

2. A sample edit

Before we decide to work together, I’ll conduct a sample edit of around 500 words. This’ll help make sure we’re a good fit for each other. You can either send me a sample of your book when you first get in touch, or I’ll ask for one later.

3. Administrative shenanigans

Assuming we decide to work together, I’ll put together a deposit invoice and a simple agreement for us to sign. The invoice will be for 50% of the total cost, and your edit won’t be fixed in my calendar until it’s paid. The remaining amount will be due on completion. (If your manuscript is on the longer side or 50% feels tricky for you to swing, we can talk about different payment plans.)

4. The full edit

From start to finish, the edit will take roughly 2–3 weeks and consist of:

  • Tracking changes
    I’ll conduct your edit in MS Word, using Track Changes. This means all your original text will still be there, and you can reinstate it with the click of a button if you want. Naturally I would advise against this, but in the end it’s your book and you get the final say. I’ll send you two copies of your edited manuscript: one showing all the changes, and one ‘clean’ version with the changes already implemented.
  • Commentary
    I’ll also include a lot of commentary with the Comment function. This may include explaining changes I’ve made, offering suggestions for changes instead of directly making them myself, and highlighting things that commonly need changing so you can be more aware of them in your future writing. If the mood strikes, I may also bless your manuscript with jokes and gushing praise. No need to thank me.
  • A style sheet
    As I work through your book, I’ll be keeping a separate file to track decisions you’ve made – from stylistic grammar choices to character descriptions. This will help keep things consistent throughout, and could be useful (for you and me both) if you intend to write sequels. If you already have your own style sheet for this or previous works, please send it to me!
  • Intermittent questions
    Prepare to be on call for the duration of your edit, because I may get in touch to ask questions, particularly if there’s something that keeps cropping up and I need to know how you’d prefer me to handle it. In order to finish your edit on time, you’ll need to answer these questions fairly promptly. We can do this over email, a messaging service like WhatsApp, or if you’re particularly daring … the phone. Just kidding! I know writers don’t talk on the phone except in emergencies.

5. Follow-up and final invoice

Once your edit is complete, you’ll have a week in which to ask me any follow-up questions. After that, I’ll send over the final invoice, which will be due within 30 days.

How much will this cost?

Price: £0.015 (1.5 pence) per word. An 80,000-word book would cost £1,200.
(Multiply your word count by 0.015 to get your total.)

I know what you’re thinking: Holy shit did she just tell me the price instead of waffling on about ‘tailored pricing’ for ‘differing needs’? I sure did. Partly because I hate fannying around with pricing, but also because if your writing isn’t up to a certain standard, I’m going to recommend something else instead of a full edit.

If your work needs a lot of grammatical fixes – too many to make £0.015 per word a feasible fee for me – I may suggest I do a shorter edit for you (around 20 pages/5,000 words) highlighting the most common errors. I’ll show you how to fix them and you can do it yourself, which’ll save you a lot of money. After that, you can come back and get your newly polished manuscript edited for the regular price. Or you can pay a higher per-word fee if you’d prefer me to do it all.


What the hell is QTMHCYMAYRTP?
It stands for Questions That Might Have Crossed Your Mind As You Read This Page. Snappy, I know. It’s pronounced coothmackymayortup.

Come on, do I really need an editor?
Ya sure do, pal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be me, but it’s impossible to edit your own work properly. Go ahead and print it off or view it on a different screen so you can see it with fresh eyes – you absolutely should do that and it’ll help to an extent. But you’ll still be looking at it with the same brain. There may be things in there you don’t even know are wrong or confusing to read, and there will definitely be things you know are wrong but just can’t see. Even your favourite author needs an editor.

You won’t ruin my writing with dumb little quips, will you?
No. I can’t promise my commentary will be free of dumb little quips, however.

I’m scared of being edited. How do I know you won’t hurt my feelings?
Hurting your feelings is not my intention, unless you’re my sworn enemy. I’ll operate under the assumption you’re not my sworn enemy (a dangerous way to move through life, but needs must). Obviously I’m here to ‘fix’ things in your book – the book you’ve worked super hard on, probably for way longer than you intended. It can be terrifying to even show someone else your work, let alone ask them to improve it. Oh god, do I know that feeling.

So here’s the deal: I’ve been helping people with their writing for years, and I’m used to seeing the same mistakes over and over. I won’t judge you, and nothing in your manuscript will surprise me – you’re human just like everyone else (I assume). There are things we writers just can’t see for ourselves when we’re so close to the work. My approach is to be straightforward but tactful, and to toss in a healthy dose of jokes and compliments to balance things out. Also, I promise not to call you an idiot or say your writing is awful.

My book’s in American English and I want to keep it that way. Can you handle that?
Boy howdy, partner, I sure can. Wait, no, come back!

Seriously though, I’m very familiar with US English and I’ll edit your manuscript with The Chicago Manual of Style to hand. More importantly, I got Wordle right when the answer was FAVOR.

If your book’s in something other than British or American English (but, you know, still English) give me a shout and we can talk it through.

Do you work with any particular genre?
Because I offer sentence-level editing rather than story-level, I can work with any genre, although since you asked, I’m a huge nerd for all shades of sci-fi – particularly dystopias and apocalyptic mayhem – and anything that’ll make me curl into ball and contemplate my existence. Also memoirs, which are technically not fiction, but whatever. Just don’t come at me with something featuring bar graphs or pie charts and we’ll get along fine.

I heard you’re supposed to get line editing and then copyediting. What’s that all about?
Line editing is the stylistic part I described, and copyediting is the corrective stuff. It’s pretty common for freelance editors to roll both services into one, partly because we can’t resist fixing everything we set our hawk eyes upon, and partly because we want to give you the service you need at a price you can afford. (I call what I do stylistic copyediting because it’s more obvious what it means.)

Do you offer proofreading?
No. Ideally you should have your book proofread by someone else, so they can catch things the editor didn’t. The more eyes on your manuscript before publication, the better.

Why do you only work with self-publishing authors?
Well, I wouldn’t not edit your book if you’ve decided to try and get it traditionally published, but copyediting generally comes after you’ve already landed a book deal, and your publisher or agent will sort it out for you (or you can suggest an editor you’d like to use, winkwink).

Can you edit copy for my website/business/this other excellent non-book thing I wrote?
Sure. That’s also a service I offer. However, it’s a different skill, one which pulls from my experience as a copywriter, so I have a separate page for it. Check out my business editing services here.

Hey, you made it to the end! I’ll take that as a good sign.

If you’d like to work with me on your book, or think you might, you can either shoot me an email at or fill in this form. If you email me directly, feel free to attach a sample of your manuscript, which I’ll be asking you for at some point anyway.