“Susann Cokal is the most talented, insightful editor I have worked with in my twenty-year career as a professional writer. She helped make my first novel a reality with her keen eye for detail, extraordinary patience, and ear for the language. I have repeatedly relied on her editorial skills for books of nonfiction as well. She possesses a staggering range of knowledge and expertise, and her intuitive sense for structure and pace makes her feedback invaluable. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”
—Thomas Fahy, Professor of English at Long Island University and author of Understanding Truman Capote; Dining with Madmen: Fat, Food, and the Environment in 1980s Horror, and numerous other books.
Susann is the best book doctor out there. I’ve had several pairs of eyes on my novel-in-progress, but no one gave me comments nearly as good as Susann’s. She immediately understood the novel’s strengths and gave me practical, concrete suggestions for how to fix its weaknesses. Once she'd diagnosed the issues, I could clearly see for myself how to make the story tighter, cleaner, and better all-around. In addition, Susann also gave me minute, page-by-page comments about structure, pacing, character, and plot--not to mention word choice and grammar. I highly recommend her!
"Susann Cokal is a smart, sensitive editor who will help you bring your manuscript to the next level and beyond. From line editing to character arcs to plot development, Susann was an invaluable guide for me. She's a professional who loves stories--and it shows in her editorial advice."
A developmental editor will help you get those first scribblings down on paper. (You'll probably need to type them up before you show them to anybody, however.)
The staff of Broad Street Magazine, circa 2013, goes through proofs of the second issue.
Line editing, copyediting, and proofreading can look much the same--cross-outs, additions, sometimes some suggestions on query flags (Post-its). What's above is a final read-through of some galleys that are just about to go to the publisher for final printing.
What is a book coach?
The book coach has become very popular lately. This person is a counselor and a cheerleader, someone who will encourage you to get yourself to the desk and get started ... and perhaps explain how to look for an agent or publisher ... help brainstorm marketing ideas ... but mostly focus on you, the writing person, even before looking at the writing and its aftermath.
Think of it this way: The coach is sort of like a professor in a university writing workshop, sort of like a therapist, sort of like a developmental editor. You get to bounce ideas around, talk about how to defeat your writer's block and the reason you're blocked, what scares you about writing and publishing, and how to defeat those fears with a bit of guidance from someone who knows a bit about how that world works but is not an agent or editor themselves, and is not going to represent you out there--the key is to help you represent yourself.
In addition to writing my own books, articles, and stories, I've worked as a developmental editor, line editor, copyeditor, book doctor, and coach--and university professor of creative writing--for thirty years.
(Want to know what those jobs are? I'll explain below.)
My clients have included people finding their way through a first novel, a first nonfiction book proposal, or a scholarly dissertation ... and major publishers of all types of books.
I am also editorial director of Broad Street Magazine, an interdisciplinary nonfiction magazine. See our website for examples of work I've helped writers bring from draft to fruition.
Bring what's on your page to what's on everybody's reading list! I can help.
Kinds of Editing
I do all of these types of editing, often in combination--we can discuss what you're looking for and how to get there.
Developmental Editing: You work with this type of editor when you have an idea--a glimmer, a spark, or something that has already led to a hundred pages or more--and need to talk through how to make it work.
For a novel, maybe some great starting point or nugget of a mystery has occurred to you, but you don't know how to build a story around it and the books you've consulted just haven't done the trick. Working with a developmental editor, you talk through all possible aspects of your idea and construct the world of the story, the characters, plot ideas ...
Or if you're working in nonfiction, you might talk about the subjects your book will have to cover and how to organize them chapter by chapter to make a book.
Once you've got your draft done, you might want to revisit your developmental editor for a comprehensive reading--that means the editor goes through what you've written and gives feedback on the whole, often some more suggestions (if you want them!) for further work. This is still developmental editing, just at a more advanced stage.
"Big idea" editing like this comes with a variety of price tags from different editors. Some will offer a quick read for a few hundred dollars; others go up steeply from there. Make sure you and your developmental editor are clear about what exactly your work together will be.
In general, if I do any developmental editing or comprehensive reading of a project, I do not line edit (see below) but do write a substantial letter of reactions and suggestions (3 to 5 pages) and a video or phone conference one to two hours long. The price depends on the length of your project and what kind of response you are looking for.
The same person can do developmental and line editing, and line editing can be part of a comprehensive reading if you feel you're ready for it. This is a sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word evaluation--and polishing--of your manuscript, working especially on clarity of ideas and elegance of style.
Line editing as part of a comprehensive reading is the most persnickety and hands-on, hence perhaps the most expensive service offered by most editors.
A line editor will probably also copyedit your work--fixing typos, spelling mistakes, grammar, etc.--but you can hire someone just to do that job.
This editor loves dictionaries and style manuals--different types of publications use different systems of punctuation, abbreviation, etc. If you're writing for a specialized market, you might want to hire a copyeditor to fix up your manuscript so it's most easily readable to a publisher in that field. Also, it's just good sense to get rid of mistakes in spelling and grammar--you want a publisher to notice your ideas and gorgeous expression, not some clunky misuses of its and it's.
Fact checking can be part of copyediting; the spelling of brand names is definitely in that wheelhouse. But you may want to hire someone to check dates and obscure facts on their own. You can provide a list of sources you've used, and/or the person can find their own sources. You can hire someone for this service at basically any stage.
This is the final stage and usually the least expensive sort of editing. It's a matter of doing a final check to spelling, grammar, format, etc., and giving it a polish.
If you're a publisher hiring a proofreader, you're also usually paying that person to go line by line through a manuscript and the proofs--the layout for publication--to make sure no lines or words got dropped.
I do all of these types of editorial work, at rates that vary depending on what you want and need. Please send an email to email@example.com to start a confidential discussion of your project and your needs.
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