New: Pay What You Can For Editing

Over the last few years as a freelance editor, I’ve raised my rates from my introductory offer to a level in keeping with both the quality of my work, and industry standards. As a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and in my contracts with institutional clients, for example, my rates are competitive, fair, and most importantly, accurately compensate me for the decades of experience that I bring to each project. It took me a long time to feel comfortable asking to be paid a decent wage, and I know I deserve it.

But at the same time, I also know that I lose potential clients who can’t afford to pay a professional editor, and who instead have to turn to people who don’t have real editing experience, or not much of it, just because they’re cheap. Worse, some authors skip the editing process all together. I love speculative fiction, I love the genre community, and I have stressed – a lot – over the conflict between paying my rent and helping those who could really use it.

I’ve recently introduced new editing packages to further tailor what I’m offering to a client’s needs, in hopes that no one is paying more than they should. I’ve been taking clients with budget constraints as they come to me, without advertising, whenever I can. I’ve offered sales, and I’ve quietly told friends and clients that if they know someone in trouble, send them my way and I’ll give them a deal. Still, I worry that I’m excluding authors who didn’t know that I’d help if I could.

So I’m introducing a new program: Pay what you want for editing services.

Tell me everything you can about your project, and what you can afford to pay for it. I’ll get you on my waiting list, and when I have a cancellation or open spot in my calendar, I’ll go down the list, first come first serve. You’ll get exactly the same services you would have if you had booked at my usual rate, but at a cost you can afford.

Of course, there’s a limit to how many low-cost clients I can take on in a single month. You may have to wait a few weeks, or even longer, before I can fit you in. And if you come to me with a ridiculous offer, I’ll be honest about immediately turning you down. $50 to copyedit a 150,000 word manuscript is probably not going to happen, since that’s a solid week’s worth of work, or two (depending on the quality of the writing before I get to it). But I’ll take every job that I can. Shorter projects may even sneak into my schedule more quickly, if I’ve got a free evening.

I want every author to have a chance at a professional edit for their work before they send it out to a publisher, or publish it themselves. Writing is hard enough. You shouldn’t have to revise it alone.

If you’re ready to get started, fill out the contact form below.


Sign up now open for new online workshop! “Editing 101″, begins Jan 2015

Beginning Monday, January 5, 2015, I’ll be teaching a 4 week intensive online workshop on the basics of editing. Like my other workshops, it will be held entirely online. Lectures will be sent out as PDFs, class discussion will take place in our private forum, and assignments will be due each week. This format allows students to participate on their own schedule, whether they’re working around a job or family commitments, or are logging in from anywhere in the world.

During the workshop, we will cover:

Definitions, editing marks, using (and creating) style sheets, important style manuals, levels of editing, and fact-checking.

The basics of copyediting: concepts and skills necessary for line editing (also called copyediting), relying mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed; editing vs. proofreading; tips for spotting tricky errors.

The basics of developmental editing: what it is and isn’t, including the specifics of developmental editing in fiction.

We’ll also cover rates, and working with clients, including querying about edits, maintaining an author’s voice, and related services.

I expect this to fill up quickly, so I’m posting it now for people who read my blog/Twitter/Facebook to get a jump on enrolling before I advertise anywhere else. Like with my other workshops, I’ll cap the number of students so we’re not too crowded, and the price will go up in December and January, so you’ll get the best price by signing up in advance.

Enroll now for only $75


If you’ve wanted to know more about editing so that you can polish your own work, or you’re thinking of branching out into a little freelance editing, this is the workshop to get you started.


Editing Sale!

I’ve got to get Issue Two of Lakeside Circus out, which means paying our contributors. We’re not yet fully funded through our subscriptions, so I’m running a brief sale on my editing services.

50% off any single project up to 40,000 words and 25% off any project over 40,000 words

This is a first-come, first-serve, sale. To take advantage of it, you must book and pay the deposit on your project. (Projects under $100 are payable in advance; all others require a 50% payment before the project begins, with the remainder due on a schedule agreed to by both parties.)

You can learn more about my services and usual rates here, which includes a contact form. Want to know what others think of my work? Today’s praise from a client:

I have enjoyed working with Carrie Cuinn, tremendously.  Her work ethic, professionalism and editing skill are second to none.  When presented with extremely tight deadlines, she came through and provided us with exactly what we were looking for.  I look forward to working with her again in the future on many different projects! – Howard S., Animal Media Group


Proofing and Edit Marks: A Primer

As technology advances, we often lose the manual skills that tech is meant to replace. Even knowledge fades away as new techniques are developed. How many of us have the Dewey Decimal system memorized anymore? Know how to rebuild a carburetor? How about canning your own jellies, sewing a quilt by hand, or raising chickens*? If we’re lucky it becomes trendy to “revive” these skills (in the same way that some of us collect “artifacts” like Depression-era glassware and vinyl records**), but many less popular bits of information are lost.

The problem is, we often discover that we still needed what we thought we’d outgrown — usually at the worst times. Because of this, it becomes important to save the bits of history and knowledge that are part of lost skills, even when we’re told some new advancement means we don’t need to know how to do that thing anymore. Otherwise, the information is lost, as far as the general population is concerned.

One of the skills we’re not taught anymore is how to read and use editing marks. I’m referring to the little symbols editors use to mark-up a hardcopy document for editing. Before Track Changes became the editing go-to method, we used to transform a clean, white, sheet of paper into a tangle of red ink reminiscent of a football playbook, using these symbols.

In fact, it’s often faster to edit on paper this way than it is to use the track changes feature in a Word document. Depending on what the recommended edits are, it’s sometimes easier to clearly see the suggestions. Since Adobe lets you markup a PDF in the same way, making it possible to proof digital documents already in their print layout, even if you’ll never receive old-school paper edits again, there’s still a reason for you to know these symbols.

Better: knowing how to use and read these marks will let you keep working even when your internet is down, your laptop goes missing, your desktop computer suffers the blue screen of death, or you suddenly realize your deadline means that you have to finish those edits in the 45 minutes before your next panel while your editor sits next to you marking up pages a moment before she hands them to you to read.

Editing marks are a little different from proof marks, because copy editing is about looking for errors in spelling, grammar, or semantics. Proofing a document should keep an eye out for those errors, but is largely concerned with whether the document is ready to go to print. Is it clean, formatted well, and set properly on the page? Did any new errors get introduced after the final editing pass? Do slight changes need to be made from the organic placement on the page to fit traditional publishing rules (like whether a single word is left over on the next page, or if a sentence breaks in a way that gives it an unintended meaning)?

Editing marks will suggest changes: substituting, deleting, or transposing words; changing or adding punctuation; asking for clarification; requesting a return to a previous version.

The following list of marks is taken from figure 2.6 of the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style:


Click for the larger version.

Note that it includes the same marks as you’d find in an edit pass, but also has symbols for typesetting changes. Other editing marks include:

en En dash.
em Em (long) dash.
sp Spell it out.
awk. Awkward phrasing.
dang. mod. Dangling modifier.
mis. mod. Misplaced modifier.
>frag. Sentence fragment.
wc Questionable word choice.
ref. Faulty or ambiguous reference.
r-o Run-on sentence.
c-o Comma splice.
S-V agr Subject-verb agreement.

There was a time when elementary school students all across the nation were taught how to proof their own work in this way. I wasn’t exposed to them until high school, but my English Composition teacher made sure we knew. At that time, though, it was clear we were among the last to learn this skill as part of a public school curriculum. Given that we’ve dropped these marks from our standard education here in the US in the last few decades, these proof marks might seem to be an invention of early 20th century grammar school teacher. Brought in to codify white American middle-class English in the same way as Strunk’s Elements of Style

In fact, they were developed around the same time as the printing press. From A Census of Print Runs for Fifteenth-Century Books***:

According to the contract of 22 May 1499, Beroaldus provided the paper, the copy, proofreading and correction, and promised to promote the edition during his lectures on the text at Bologna University. This document was cited but not transcribed in Albano Sorbelli, Storia, della stampain Bologna (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1929), 61, citing the original in the “Archivio notarile di Bologna, atti del notaio Agostino Landi, 22 May 1499.”

Early editions are full of these marks – along with the frequent request by printers and proofreaders for an author to strike a particular word from their vocabulary… ever again.

See? Some things never change. Forgetting the use and meaning of these marks means forgetting 500 years of editing shorthand which served us from the dawn of the Information Age. I can’t be the one to let that go. Can you?

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll answer whatever I can.

* Yes, I can do those things.

** This is me, too. My car even has a cassette deck. But I don’t have a hipster beard. I had to draw the line somewhere.

*** by Eric Marshall White, Curator of Special Collections, Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, 2012.


Editing isn’t writing, or, how being an editor is like waiting for your chance to take a bow.

I’ve just finished putting together the contents of the first issue of Lakeside Circus. I am immensely proud of this publication, which represents a lifelong goal of mine. I am thrilled by the names we’ve lined up, and even more thrilled at the stories and poems they submitted. There’s still work to be done – and a lot of it, over the next two weeks – but for a moment I can sit back, admire the Table of Contents, and be content.

But editing is not about me.

Ultimately, when this issue is published, the people who’ll be (rightfully) getting the accolades will be the authors. That’s how it should be. Being “the editor” means being the person who puts together the anthology, selects the work, does the editing, arranges for a cover (whether by hiring the artist and working on the design, or being part of the team that approves the final version). When you’re a small press editor, you’re also sometimes the publisher, and that can mean doing the accounting, advertising, publicity, getting the project made into an ebook or designing the print version, overseeing contracts, doing the mailing… For me, that’s always been true. I do it all.

Editing is much less about being the star of the show and much more like being the stage manager. It’s office work and costuming and setting the lighting cues so that when your performers walk out into the public eye, they look and sound their best. You arrange the performances in the right order so that one plays into the next, and none take away from what came before or comes after. You read the anxious emails from authors who didn’t get something they should have, and you make sure they get it, or who aren’t sure this is their best work (so you assure them you love it, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have bought it). You make sure the theater is booked for the right day, the tickets are printed, you have enough volunteers to seat the patrons, and your curtain will rise on time.

And at the end, when the actors take their bow, you sometimes get a nod, a wave. You might even get moment to step out into the bright lights and blushingly accept some of the praise. Maybe.

Your authors will thank you for the chance to be in your production, and that’s right. You did give them an opportunity to shine. But they’re the ones who wrote the stories, who will get the best or harshest reviews, who’ll be lauded if they succeeded or singled out if they failed. The pressure on them isn’t like what you face as an editor. If a piece in your anthology falls flat, it’s the author who’ll be criticized, even though it was your job to keep that from happening.

A few weeks ago, Ellen Datlow posted about how terribly unprofessional it is to include your own work in something you’ve edited. Most people agreed. A few stood up and said, “Why would I edit an anthology if I wasn’t going to use it as a vehicle for my own writing?”

That sound you might have heard was me banging my head against my desk.

I edit because I want to see a certain kind of publication in the world. Editing gives me the power to create the book or magazine that’s missing from the library shelf. I write when I want the focus to be on me. They’re two different things. If you aren’t confident enough of your skill as a writer that you can’t see yourself selling that story to someone else, putting it in anthology you’re editing won’t make your writing any better or do that much to help your career. Most of us will see you used the work of others to promote your own. You bring down the value of their work by casting aspersions on the whole production. Like a director who also stars in the show… we’ll always wonder if it could have been better had you stayed behind the scenes instead of insisting on the spotlight.

I love getting to work as an editor. I am a writer. Those two things are different, too. Knowing that, I can pour all of my free time into editing (and I do) but still feel the ache and need to write. I can write and not miss editing, until I go looking for a book that doesn’t exist. Then it’s time to put out a casting call, arrange for a theater, hire a crew, and start all over again.

Be aware of the hard work and time it takes to edit an anthology, or oversee a magazine. I’ll appreciate that you noticed, in the same way that I’d expect to be recognized for finishing a big project at my dayjob. (In fact, it’s exactly the same as that.) But be impressed by the authors who made that time and effort worthwhile. I know that I am.

And when I share the next piece of my own writing that’s been published, you can shine the spotlight on me then. That’ll be my time to shine.