Editing Services

donna cook author

I work with both fiction and non-fiction full-length manuscripts and offer a range of editorial services from developmental editing to copy editing. To see if I might be a good fit for you and your book, read about my specialties and editorial style (following the description of services, below).

Note: While the lines between the different levels of editing tend to blur, and most clients work with me from the manuscript evaluation through copy editing, the following definitions of editorial services should be helpful.

Top-level Evaluation

For book-length projects, particularly fiction, this is often the best place to start. Top-level evaluations involve a straight read of the entire manuscript (no line edits) in order to assess big-picture items. For fiction that includes issues such as plot, pacing, structure, and character development. For non-fiction I assess concept, overall organization, development of the material, effectiveness for the intended audience, and so forth. Identifying problematic issues first, before investing in deeper editing, will save time and money in the long run. Not to mention author frustration.

I charge a flat fee for top-level evaluations. The fee varies depending upon word count, among other considerations.

Developmental Editing

Even with a completed rough draft (and often even if that draft has already been through several revisions), there is still a need for developmental editing. This is where we start addressing and correcting the big-picture items identified during the top-level evaluation. Here is where I make editorial comments, suggestions, or questions on the manuscript. There may be some back and forth between editor and author at this stage, as the author continues developmental work.

This stage may also require a brainstorming session or two, depending on what’s needed. For example, we may discuss ways to elevate stakes in an under-developed plot, explore background and motivation in a flat character, or consider how restructuring informational material will better serve the reader. Brainstorming sessions tend to be a lot of fun for both myself and the author.

Substantive Editing

Particularly when working with fiction, substantive editing often overlaps with the latter stages of the developmental editing process, and the early stages of the copy editing process. Substantive editing has a more narrow focus than developmental editing, but isn’t yet concerned with the manuscript at the sentence level.

In fiction, this stage involves looking at the medium-sized building blocks of the novel: chapters and scenes. I assess, correct, or offer suggestions for issues with scene structure, organization, flow, and pacing. Substantive editing also includes, but is not limited to, effective characterization, world building (if applicable), and narration.

Similarly, in non-fiction we focus on chapters and paragraphs, ensuring the flow of content is clear, concise, logical, and effective.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is concerned with language, rhythm, and flow. In addition, copy editing with fiction focuses on things like descriptions, emotions, active vs. passive voice, showing vs. telling, dialogue, and trimming waste. This is the stage when we work to make the novel a place that captures and captivates the reader.

Edits at this stage usually take the form of line edits directly on the text, while that may have been less frequent at the earlier stages.


While I offer proofreading only in certain, limited situations, it may be helpful to define proofreading here in order to delineate it from copy editing. Proofreading comes after the writing, editing, and revising are complete. This stage involves checking for grammatical errors, punctuation errors, formatting errors, and conformity to the chosen style guide (usually The Chicago Manual of Style for fiction) and the manuscript-specific style sheet.

Your proofreader should always be different from your editor. I bid a flat fee for proofreading, based on several factors including word count, reading level, subject matter, number of footnotes, etc. I conduct two passes on all manuscripts.

I only proofread manuscripts that are relatively clean and edited. Problematic manuscripts require editing.


Every project and every author are unique. Editing fees will vary depending upon the level of editing desired and the nature of the work. For fiction, top-level evaluations are effectively priced with a flat rate, while developmental, substantive, and copy editing are often billed by the hour. Non-fiction projects are more often billed at a flat rate throughout, but this depends upon the project.

A note about hourly billing. Hourly billing eliminates problems that sometimes occur with flat bidding on projects (either underestimating the number of hours required to complete a project, or overestimating and overcharging you). Hourly billing also gives the flexibility required for lengthy projects. Even when billed by the hour, client budgets are always discussed to avoid misunderstandings and surprises.

Occasionally I will bid a flat rate for work I would normally bid by the hour. I will consider flat-rate proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Please feel free to contact me for a quote, or if you have any questions about billing or the editing process.

My Specialties:

In general, it’s best to contact me about your project to determine if I would be a good fit for you. However, here are a few guidelines to help you out.

  • For fiction, I specialize in full-length projects. Not all editors are equipped to handle the complexities of a novel. This is an area in which I excel.
  • While this should not be seen as a limitation of scope, my areas of expertise are literary, contemporary, fantasy, and romance novels.
  • I work with YA and adult books.
  • I do not edit children’s books or poetry.
  • My strength with non-fiction lies in organizational skills and clarity, particularly when dealing with specialized topics. I do not offer book coaching for non-fiction projects.
  • I have experience writing and editing for corporate and government clients, in a variety of subject matters and for a variety of uses. Please feel free to contact me about my suitability for your project.
  • I proofread and format manuscripts on a very limited basis. Feel free to contact me if these services interest you.
  • I do not handle dissertations, grant proposals, magazine articles, blog posts, etc. (I sometimes make exceptions for existing clients).
  • I do not edit non-fiction topics or fiction genres I feel unqualified to handle. Fiction, in particular, requires a high level of experience inside specific genres in order for an editor to be truly helpful.
  • I know several qualified editors, including those who specialize in book coaching, non-fiction projects, proofreading, and more. I may be able to give a referral if I’m not a good fit for your project. Feel free to ask!
A Note About Me:

As a fellow author, I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the process. I understand the logistics of crafting full-length works of fiction. I also understand the emotional fortitude it takes to bring a novel to completion and can be your cheerleader, comforter, or drill sergeant as required.

I am thorough, insightful, kind, and fiercely loyal to my authors and their writing.

If you want your book to be the best you can make it, I’m the editor for you.

Which Service Do I Need?

I almost always recommend you start with a top-level evaluation. Especially for fiction projects. As noted above, it will save you time, money, and frustration if big-picture items are addressed first. Regardless of your skill level, fiction requires a second pair of eyes to make sure the story is working on a fundamental level. There will inevitably be oversights and errors.

If you only want copy editing, I prefer (and strongly recommend) that you’ve already had the manuscript professionally edited for plot, pacing, character development, and other big-picture content items. If you’re working on a non-fiction project, we may be able to start with substantive or copy editing depending on the situation.

If you’re not sure which service you need, have questions, or would like to request a quote, please contact me. I’d love to talk with you about your project.