How to Edit Your Book – Method 4: Professionals

This chapter explains how to transform your self-edited manuscript into a finished manuscript. A high-quality book requires extensive testing and copyediting. You can get these processes done without a traditional publisher, but you cannot eliminate them. Your goal is a book that looks and feels as good as any book from a big-time, traditional publisher.

For all the goodness of crowdsourcing, you still need someone to review your manuscript with a magnifying glass and a professional eye to optimize your content and to kill virtually every typographical, grammatical, and factual error.

You might not need a content editor if you have enough smart, hardcore voluntary readers, but the probability that you will find every spelling and grammatical mistake is zero. Word and other word processors may even introduce typos and grammatical mistakes:

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

(“Candidate for a Pullet Surprise,” by Mark Eckman and Jerold H. Zar. Hat-tip to Bob Soltys for this pointer.)

The going rate for copyediting is $35 per hour, and copyeditors can work their magic at the rate of roughly ten pages per hour (although this can vary depending on the complexity of the material), so you’ll pay approximately $1,000-$1,500 for a three-hundred-page manuscript. This is one of the dumbest places to try to save money, because poor copyediting destroys the quality of your book.

One of the challenges of hiring a copyeditor is figuring out if he or she is any good-particularly for your first book. Here are four ways to find a good one:

* MCAT. Rachelle Mandik was the copyeditor for What the Plus! and APE, and she put together a test called the Mandik Copyediting Aptitude Test (MCAT). It’s an early version of the preface of APE with Rachelle’s corrections. Give copyeditor candidates the document and compare their corrections to Rachelle’s to determine how good they are. It’s not a foolproof instrument, she cautions, but it’s definitely a good place to start, especially for nonfiction. The document is at

* Authors. Ask authors for their recommendations. This pitch would work on me: “Dear Guy, I loved your book. May I ask who your editor and copyeditor were? I’d like to hire them to help me with my book.”

* Moonlighters. Many content editors moonlight as independent consultants, so you may be able to hire the kind of editor you would have gotten at a traditional publisher anyway.

* Social-media referrals. Ask for referrals on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I’ve found many good contractors and vendors using social media.

* Websites. Use a website like Guru or Elance to find independent contractors.

Edit911 has an interesting model: it helps you hire PhDs. These sites enable customers to rate independent contractors just as eBay and Amazon enable customers to rate vendors. Serious independent contractors care a lot about their ratings.

Another kind of website to use, though not strictly for finding editors, is Task Rabbit or Amazon Mechanical Turk You post a task on these sites, and people submit bids to complete them. For example, as mentioned earlier, APE contains approximately four hundred hyperlinks. In order to check them all, we posted a project to Task Rabbit,, and in twelve hours there were forty-one bids. We accepted one bid for $36, and we had a complete test of all the links less than twenty-four hours after the original post.

The Kirkus Solution

While writing APE, I learned that Kirkus Book Reviews, the book-review magazine and website, offers three editorial services

* Collaborative Editing. This service focuses on content editing and examines tone, organization, voice, characterization, dialogue, and clarity.

* Copyediting. Kirkus copyeditors go through your manuscript line by line to fix typical copyediting issues such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

* Professional Editing. This package includes a consulting session and three rounds of editing that includes both collaborative editing and copyediting. At the end of the process your manuscript should be ready to publish.

We have not used these services, but Kirkus is worth looking into if you’re on a tight budget. You can check its prices at the Kirkus website.


I enjoy the editing stage of writing a book the most. My goal is to produce the best book ever about a topic, so when people point out content or copyediting issues, I rejoice. There are four ways to obtain editing input, and I suggest that you use them all to produce something that you’ll be proud of.

Guy Kawasaki has written 12 books, 10 of which were traditionally published. His newest book is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, which helps people understand how and why to self-publish.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, is available as an eBook ($9.99) and in paperback ($24.99). Visit

A book-loving book publicist. Former journalist, loves cats, chocolate, Kindle, rubber stamping, politics, coffee.

One Response to “How to Edit Your Book – Method 4: Professionals” Subscribe

  1. Fiona Ingram September 24, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Great article. LOVE the poem!

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