Developmental book editor - Elizabeth Lyons

Book Editing

Because words look better polished.

Book Editing

You’ve written the words. You’ve put your heart and soul into getting your message or story out of your head and onto paper. Now, you want to ensure that your message or story is perfectly presented to the world—in a voice that’s so much your own that when your readers interact with you, they will say (with relief), “You are exactly who I expected you to be.”

As the daughter of an avid editor, Elizabeth’s words have been critiqued and honed since I first uttered, “I want a cookie and I want a brownie and I want a half gallon of ice cream.” (For the record, there is a much more concise way to say that, and the sentence is missing a comma or two as written.)

As a bestselling author with 20+ years’ experience editing a variety of works—from professional documents and academic papers to memoirs and works of both fiction and non-fiction—she’s passionate about working in partnership with authors to verify proper syntax and improve overall flow while ensuring that the author’s unique style and tone are maintained throughout.

If you have a manuscript that is ready to go to edit, we would be honored to speak with you about how we might partner together. For rates or other inquiries, please use our Contact Us form to get in touch. We can’t wait to speak with you about your project!

The Book Editing Process

All editors work differently. I tend to liken my editing process to that of a landscape designer.

I have a 3-round developmental editing process. The investment is for the total project (it’s NOT a per-round investment). Developmental editing includes suggested modifications to flow, style, structure, and consistency as well as copy/line editing.

Round 1

As is the case with landscaping, the first thing I do in Round 1 pull weeds. In this case, weeds are anything that absolutely should NOT be there (apostrophes in the wrong place, repeat words, missing or incorrectly used punctuation, glaring grammatical errors…). While I’m doing this, I’m also looking at the manuscript as a whole to get a sense of where there are holes, where information could be communicated more clearly, where the reader could build stronger rapport with the reader, and what pieces of content may not belong in the book at all.

The BEST thing an author can do to ensure a transformational editing experience is clean up as many of the weeds as possible before sending the manuscript to me so that my primary focus is flow, content, style and tone–not obvious line edits. If the author doesn’t do this, I will of course take care of it, but it makes it far more difficult for me to see the story for the weeds (so to speak).

Round 2

In Round 2, I continue honing any line/copy edits that may have been missed in Round 1. I also engage with new material the author has written pursuant to Round 1 suggestions and continue to make additional suggestions to tighten the content/flow even further.

Round 3

Round 3 is typically a “clean up” round. At this point, we’re asking questions such as “Does this rose bush look good here? Do we need another one? Do we want a rose bush and a cactus in the same yard? Are we bothered by a lack of vegetation in the corner?” We all know when our own garden “feels” right for us. And so it is with our books. One person might want two trees. Another person might want zero trees. The challenge lies in making it work either way!

Important Note: Just as different landscape designers will have different ideas as to how to arrange a yard, editors will have different ideas on how to arrange a story. In most cases, none of them is inherently “wrong.” They are simply different. Be sure to choose an editor you feel “gets” you and your story, and trust him or her as your partner in making your manuscript as strong as possible! 

Book Editing Guidelines and Expectations

What You Can Expect

  • A thorough edit of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax (copy/line editing)
  • A consistent edit. For example: the serial comma is not right or wrong. Further, % and percent are both acceptable. What’s important in both cases is that your choice is consistent throughout the manuscript.
  • Suggestions that will improve flow/structure of manuscript based on my understanding of the intention of the manuscript. If there are areas where you have specific questions about whether a nuance is too subtle or whether or not the reader will pick up on [fill in the blank], please let me know before I begin editing. [If the nuance or the nod is too subtle, I likely won’t notice it enough to mention that it’s too subtle!]
  • Suggestions on areas to explain a concept or feeling more in depth
  • Suggestions on content to remove altogether if it doesn’t seem relevant or necessary, or doesn’t add to the manuscript as a whole
  • Suggestions on modifying or removing frequently used words, punctuation, or other habits that are distracting to the reader.
  • Guidance (if necessary) to ensure that your unique voice/style/tone are coming through to the reader
  • One 30-minute phone consult (if desired) to ask specific questions about edits or content as a whole. This is one 30-minute consult per project, not per round. Additional developmental discussions are always available via 1-hour coaching sessions.

 

What NOT to Expect

  • Manuscript formatting¾consistency of paragraph indents, chapters starting at top of page, margins, etc. will not be addressed within the edit. In other words, your book WILL need to be professionally formatted before going to print.
  • Elizabeth to write any additional content (if additional content is suggested)
  • Critique of book or Elizabeth’s opinion on the commercial viability of book
  • Publishing or marketing consulting. I offer consulting on publishing/marketing approaches, questions, and concerns on an hourly basis, and would love to schedule a call with you should you have questions about the process that you’d like to chat through!

Frequently Asked Questions

From start to finish, 3 rounds of developmental editing typically takes 4-8 weeks. This timeline can be impacted by my workload, the word count of the manuscript, and how quickly the author is able to return suggested edits and modifications to me for the next round of editing.

My fee includes ALL 3 ROUNDS of editing. It is a per-project fee, NOT a per-round fee.

I require 50% downpayment to start the project. The remaining 50% is due when I’m ready to send Round 1 back to the author. I will not send Round 1 back to the author before having received full payment for the project.

I have a standard confidentiality and rights clause to which I adhere. If any client wishes for me to provide them with a signed clause, I am more than happy to do so!

Confidentiality & Non-Disclosure

All of the information shared with the Editor by the Author will remain confidential on the part of the Editor. “Information” refers to any communications spoken, written, and/or recorded. The Author will always be made aware of recorded calls, and all recordings will be deleted by the Editor upon completion of the project. The Editor will not share, disseminate, or otherwise disclose any version of the manuscript to any other parties, unless given permission to do so in writing by The Author.

Ownership

The Editor hereby retains no ownership rights to the work/manuscript and fully grants, transfers, and assigns exclusively and irrevocably to the Author all rights in the work, including copyright. The Author owns 100% of book rights (all formats), 100% of all proceeds from book sales (no sharing of royalties), and all other interest therein, including but not limited to all audiovisual, literary, moral and other copyrights, patent rights, trade secret rights and proprietary rights.

Each editing project includes one (1) 30-minute phone consultation between myself and the author wherein the author can ask questions about suggested edits, seek clarification on editing suggestions, address roadblocks, or ask any other writing/publishing related questions.

Beyond this 30-minute call, hourly coaching/consulting sessions ($250/hour) are able to be scheduled to handle more time-consuming questions or concerns.

I tell authors that their book will never be 100% ready. Truly. I go back today and re-read my own published books and think, “Why on earth did I say that that way?” And yet, in truth, it’s fine. It gets to a point where we all use the line “I just need to go through it one more time” as nothing more than a way to avoid the possibility that someone else might tell us it’s not good enough.

The bottom line is: you KNOW it’s not good enough! The work of NO author, no matter how successful, is good enough having been read and re-read (and re-read again) in a vacuum. In the end, it needs fresh eyes in order to become all that it can be.

I advise authors to begin working with an editor when they are about 94% sure that they’ve done as much as they can do. They’ve read (and re-read, and re-read again) enough that, at this point, they’re debating whether they should refer to the bench as teal or aquamarine. They’re debating whether or not the fifth paragraph in chapter 12 makes sense. They’re wondering whether they should take out the bit in chapter 8 about their difficult family member. Or they’re having the  very clear yet entirely non-descript concern: “I think maybe there should just be…more.”

This is when it’s time to get the work in front of an editor who can help you answer those questions and put your mind at ease that the work will be, in the end, perfectly capable of standing strongly on its own.

When you get to this 94% point, take the leap and put your trust in someone else to help polish your words into the impactful gem they are destined to become.

I can only speak for myself, but within my editing process there is a difference between copy suggestions and outright re-writes. One is copy editing, the other is copy writing (or, in the case of book manuscripts, ghostwriting).

I absolutely let an author know when a scene or memory could use a bit more description. If simply adding or changing a word or two would help, I certainly make that suggestion. But if an entire new paragraph (or three) is needed, I don’t typically write that content. Instead, I clarify to the author what I believe is missing and why. I clarify the questions the reader might have, or I describe the kinds of details that I think would make the scene or memory more robust. The author then writes additional content in response, which I review during my next round of edits.