An independent or freelance editor, sometimes called a book doctor, is someone who for a fee will undertake to read and edit your manuscript for structure, style, plot, character development, continuity and grammatical and technical errors.
What’s the difference between an independent editor and an in-house editor (an editor employed by a publishing company)?
An in-house editor works with authors on a publisher’s behalf, editing books prior to publication. They edit to their own taste but also to the publisher’s standards. Any book acquired by a reputable commercial publisher will be edited in-house. Editing is part of the publication process, and the author isn’t charged for it.
An independent editor is an independent contractor working directly for, and paid by, the author. What kind of editing is done, and how extensive it is, is entirely up to the author.
Most independent editors offer different levels of editing. These may include:
Manuscript assessment or critique. A broad overall assessment of your manuscript pinpointing strengths and weaknesses. Specific problem areas may be flagged and general suggestions for improvement may be made, but a critique won’t usually provide scene-by-scene advice on revision.
Content editing (also known as developmental or substantive editing) focuses on structure, style and content. The editor flags specific problems – structural difficulties, poor pacing, plot or thematic inconsistencies, stiff dialogue, undeveloped characters, stylistic troubles, flabby writing. The editor may rewrite to fix these problems or may provide notations and detailed advice so the author can address them.
Line editing. Editing at the sentence level, focusing on paragraph and sentence structure, word use, dialogue rhythms, etc., with the aim of creating a smooth prose flow.
Copy editing. Correction of common errors (grammar, spelling, punctuation), incorrect usages, logic lapses and continuity problems.
Proofreading. Checking for typos, spelling/punctuation errors, formatting mistakes and other minor mechanical problems.
Editing terminology is fluid. Some editors define the above terms differently, or use different terminology. Others simply provide “light,” “medium,” and “heavy” editing – light being on the order of copy editing, medium and heavy being some combination of line and content editing.