I'm an established full-time author - willing to answer questions if you have them



Well, first let’s be clear about what we are talking about. There are three types of editing:

  • Structural - which deal with the big items like plot, pacing and character motivation

  • Line editing - which looks at the prose, but doesn’t concern itself with the story.

  • Copy editing - which makes sure that all the rules of grammar (and the style guide) have been adhered to. This is the person checking for noun-verb agreement, making sure you didn’t use farther when you meant further, and knows the difference between fewer and less.

Many times the acquiring editor (the person who bought the book) will do #1.

When an “editor” is hired (by either the publisher or the author) they are usually doing #3, although sometimes an editor will do both #2 and #3 at once.

The number of possible mistakes in any given manuscript numbers in the millions. I kid you not. Even if the editor found 99.9% of the errors, a significant number would still slip through. It’s not the fault of the editor, it’s just a recognition of the enormity of the task. I’ve yet to see any book, even something like Harry Potter, that is error free. It’s just not possible.

Now the publisher will hire one editor and one proofreader, and between those two people and the author, they’ll get a pretty high-quality book. I’ve never heard of a traditional house hiring two editors because they feel 1 is “good enough.”

Now, I’ve been using 2 editors for years now, because I find the deficiencies of one is made up for by the strengths in the other. Plus, it’s helpful to have two pairs of eyes. Again, no one can see everything. That’s my approach…and I can have that luxury because my books earn well. For other authors, the budget might limit them to one…but again, I’d say that it’d be better to hire two editors for say $800, than one for $1,600.

Yes, even at the highest professional level, NO EDITOR will catch everything. As I said, the number of possible errors is just too great. Working on bestsellers and winning awards means they are at the top of their game. But even so, they won’t be able to catch it all.


Do you have any figures on what percentage of errors in your books get caught by just one editor vs getting caught by both?


What happens when the author breaks a grammar rule on purpose? Like using fragmented sentences for effect.


You don’t accept the change.

The editor should be marking up the manuscript – they shouldn’t be making the changes.


Oh, I just wondered if the author communicated to the editor up front that they do certain things for style so the editor doesn’t flag those.


You know I don’t have hard numbers. But I suppose I could do some research on that. If I were to guess, I’d say 80% are caught by both and each have 10% where which they caught exclusively.


Some editors will flag that. Others will realize it was done on purpose. I don’t count that as an error – as it was intentional and a valid stylistic approach. As for “counting” purposes, whether an editor flagged it or not wouldn’t alter the count, because no change is required.

Now, this brings up another important point. When I was self-published, my wife would be much more strict about when and how I could break the rules. And I think she was right to do so. Her argument…people may not know it was intentional and think you were uneducated or poorly edited.

When traditionally published, she “lightened up” because she felt readers would be more willing to give me the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t a mistake.

To put it another way. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is littered with poor grammar…incomplete sentences, run-on sentences unconventional dialog punctuation, and on and on and on. If a self-published author released that book, the readers would be all over him - claiming a lack of even basic high-school grammar knowledge. But when that same book is published by one of the greatest living American novelists, it’s looked upon as genius.

Perceptions and expectations can change the reading experience. And it’s something to keep in mind when self-publishing, because the reader is EXPECTING to find fault.


Some editors put their changes only in comments - which I hate because then I have to cut and paste. Most editors do them “inline” with change tracking on. That way you can hit accept/reject and cruise through the whole thing quickly, except for the things that are called out in comments which may require some rewriting.


I’ve worked with my editors enough that they already know when I’m doing something for effect. So, no, I don’t have to flag it. But if I’m working with someone new? Yeah I might put a comment on a grammatically incorrect sentence to show that it wasn’t by accident.


Tracked changes all the way, baby! LOL

I remember when it was a printed manuscript marked up with red pen.


I just try my hardest to edit as many chapters and for so so amount of time to put into it.

My Dad always says that I need to do something other than just writing and talking to people on Wattpad…


One of my publishers STILL requires a pen marked up hard copy when it comes to changes during the final proofing stage (once the book has gone through layout.


Question here, before getting a MS done and sending queries out, can you put up the book (even as 1st drafts?)



Will 100% of agents and publishers be okay with it? No. Most will, especially if you tell them – during a conversation, NOT in the query – that you had it up here for feedback.

Now since this is a multi-book series, I wouldn’t put anything more than the rough draft of book 1 up.


Ok thanks.


10% is a lot higher than I thought you’d say. If the editors differ that much, it’s definitely worth hiring two of them. If an editor misses 10% of the errors, that could be quite a lot of errors in absolute terms. Of course then we get into questions of how many errors the manuscript contains when it goes to the editor, and whether the editor’s detection rate changes if the error rate changes.


I have seen typos in traditionally published booked.

For my book I had 3 different people looking at it and I still found typos. I have a standby proofreader (different from the one I hired before) that I want to hire after I see my ARC reviews and before I actually hit publish on my manuscript. Just in case.

@MichaelJSullivan For this novel I’m publishing I used a lot of betas and many of them gave me feedback that I didn’t think was enough for me to complete the developmental edits on my own. I had one who ripped my book apart and it made me think of some things and redo them.

I used tow developmental editors and both agreed on the issues and yes, I am aware they are expensive. One had a wait list but I wanted to compare the two. I know it may have been not super smart on my part in terms of money but overall I’m very happy with the developmental edits. They both helped to develop the manuscript to the point the betas couldn’t. I think I needed to try it for myself to see what difference it makes because I come across a lot of books in my genre that I personally as a reader think could use a good developmental edit.

One thing I wanted to add is that I see a lot of people not researching editors (or types of edits) very well. Developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading required e different set of skills and what I plan on doing my next project is to have different people doing different types of edits. I feel like this can reduce the number of mistakes and funny typos. But I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Of course, eventually, I am hoping to find an amazing beta reader to avoid paying for developmental edits, but I feel like despite the price it was well worth for my this time and I think I’ll do again for the next books until that magic beta reader finds its way to me. Ideally, of course, what you are suggesting would be saving me a lot of money.


Here is the thing. If you are writing something that will contain slang, accents, local word choice, basically anything that doesn’t meet the literary standard, you need an editor who works with this type of books.

I’m one of those writers. I use fragments and a lot of slang. I used a combination of English and Spanish in my works too. This is all part of the cultural preset in Los Angeles area and I had to make sure (after a previous editor fiasco) the editors I hired knew what they were doing. If certain things are used for stylistic purposes and are not majorly confusing to a reader (unless that’s the intention), then the editor should not change it to proper English.

That’s why it’s recommended to research the editor before hiring one (if that’s the route you’re taking at least). I suppose with trad books it might be the same or might be not. The rules are a little different there.


At the beginning of a writing career, I think doing what you did is extremely smart, as long as you LEARNED from it – and I bet you did. It takes effort to learn to structure and pace and develop a novel, and a good developmental editor can move those lessons forward at light speed… if you make the effort to internalize the lessons.


Yes, I’ve learned quite a lot from both my developmental and my copy editor. I’m going to use developmental editor for my next project too just because I am jumping genres and I want to see how different one is going to be from another in general, but what was said about developmental edits is correct. It’s sometimes purely subjective (unless you have someone who has the same outlook on the issues raised as you do) and it is very expensive. The key is to find someone who will be within your budget but i highly recommend reading a book or two actually edited by that editor to help you with the final decision. Many times I see this is not the case and a lot of authors will go off the price alone or just someone recommendation and guess what? I’ve heard cases when even the person who was recommended by a friend stood up a client. I always recommend doing very thorough research before hiring someone whos going to cost ya a pretty penny.