Book Editing

“My job is to lay my hands on that piece of writing and make it…better. Cleaner. Clearer. More efficient. Not to rewrite it…but to burnish and polish it and make it the best possible version of itself that it can be.” —Benjamin Dreyer, Dreyer’s English

Not everyone wants or needs the same level of editing. And while anyone with a good eye, impeccable spelling, and an excellent grasp of grammar and punctuation rules can proofread a fiction manuscript, it takes an artist to polish a novel from a rough stone into a fine gem. I am that artist. Through years of practice and natural talent, I have mastered the art of line editing, and I have a flair for fiction. Whether your novel needs just a few minor adjustments or a major overhaul, I can help—without changing YOUR unique voice.

Fees (Priced according to the number of words you send me, not what you get back, and listed in the order they would usually occur):

Developmental editingOne of my heroes, Maxwell Perkins, was the first editor to work closely with authors (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe et al.) from idea to final form. His words best describe this process: “Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.”
• Up to 100,000 words = .05 per word
• 100,001 and over = .07 per word

 Line/substantive editingLine editing is Dreyer’s “burnish and polish it and make it the best possible version of itself that it can be.” This is a close sentence-by-sentence edit to correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors; add diction and tone enhancements; recommend pacing, plotting, or structural changes; fact-check details; and maintain continuity. Line editing is what most writers want and need but fear most. They’ll say they agree with William Faulkner that they should “kill their darlings” while secretly considering their masterful phraseology immune. A great line editor will gently point out that Faulkner was paraphrasing someone else—then slash those darlings and cauterize the wound without leaving a scar.

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—wholeheartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.—Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

We all think we are our own best editors. We’re not. Even Faulkner had editors.
• Up to 100,000 words = .03 per word
• 100,001 and over = .04–.06 per word

 Copyediting or surface editing—This is what most writers mean when they ask for “proofreading,” a term that has lost all meaning now that book publishing has gone fully electronic. (Proofreaders used to check typeset galleys against editors’ and writers’ corrected manuscripts to ensure the typesetter made all the changes correctly.) Copyediting means correcting simple punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors and adding the occasional comment or query for clarification. Almost NO manuscript will need only a copyedit to be publication-ready. 
• Up to 100,000 words = .02 per word
• 100,001 and over = .03 per word

Manuscript Critique 

You finally started working on that novel* you’ve always wanted to write. You’re reading through your manuscript and wondering if it’s any good—or as good as it can be. Now what? If you just want someone who will tell you what a wonderful job you’ve done, you can show it to your mom or your best friend from high school.

But if you’re serious about your writing, you don’t need opinions, you need a critique—an expert evaluation that tells you what works and what doesn’t, and some pointers on ways you can improve your book.

If you have a finished book (or a half-finished manuscript and a complete outline or synopsis), I can provide a thorough critique with expert commentary on the elements of style: point of view, voice, plot, character development, pace, tone, diction…and more. Price includes a sample edit of any 5 pages (your choice).

Fee: Priced according to the number of words you send me:
• Up to 50,000 words = .001 per word
• 50,001 to 100,000 = .0015 per word
• 100,001 and over = .002 per word

*I critique nonfiction manuscripts, too. Email for a quote.


MAX GORDON probably wrote and illustrated her first story the day she learned to hold a crayon—and she’s been scribbling ever since. After earning a master’s degree in writing and publishing from USC, she worked in publishing, typesetting, marketing, design, and procrastinating, but has never stopped being a writer. She has one son (the light of her life) and a partner (the soundtrack of her life), and lives contentedly wherever there’s waterfront, WiFi, and great coffee.


Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.

—Sylvia Plath



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