Issues for New Editors

The topic of the Editors Kingston meeting on Tuesday, October 19 was “Issues for New Editors.” Five new people attended the event, all of whom were either new or aspiring editors. The event was split into three general topics: different types of editing, how to get freelance work, and pricing and contracts. The speakers’ bios appear at the end of this post.

Different Types of Editing

The first speaker was Kristina Stanley, CEO of Fictionary. Kristina explained that the different types of editing are blurred, so it is not always easy to determine the type of editing required for each project. This is particularly true when the client is not sure what type of editing their manuscript requires.

Kristina explained that there are four “levels” of editing:

  1. High-level editing: a high-level edit requires the editor to determine whether the book flows and makes sense to the reader.
  2. Line editing: this level of editing is at the paragraph level. This involves editing for flow and moving paragraphs and sentences around.
  3. Copy editing: this involves editing for grammar and punctuation.
  4. Proofreading: this is the final check before the manuscript is complete. It involves checking for formatting errors and typos.

Kristina recommended that editors try to focus on the type of editing that they have been hired to do. However, they can highlight consistent errors that are being made at a different level; for example, an editor carrying out a line edit can highlight consistent copy editing errors or rules in their feedback letter. Likewise, a copy editor can mention structural issues to the author without focusing on them.

As many new authors do not know what type of editing their manuscript needs, there is some responsibility on the part of the editor to let the author know what it requires. The best way to determine this is to request a sample of the writing – bearing in mind that an author may send their best chapter as a sample, so it may not accurately reflect the work that is required!

To encourage more fiction writers to return for editing services, Kristina recommends hosting webinars through Eventbrite or StreamYard. Webinars are a great way of demonstrating your skills and the value you can bring to a project, talking directly with your clients, and getting your name out there.

How to Get Freelance Work

The second speaker was Stephanie Stone, editor and co-coordinator of Editors Kingston. Stephanie suggested that one good way to get work is to go where your clients are. This may mean joining a writers’ group to network with people who are currently writing and perhaps looking for an editor. You could also attend conferences for writers (e.g., conferences for fiction writers).

Stephanie also recommended investing in professional development. One way of doing this is by joining Editors Canada; it provides legitimacy in the eyes of potential employees or clients, immediate access to the National Job Board, and access to a local branch or twig. You can also attend other twigs’ meetings or seminars. Furthermore, after registering, you are able to create a profile in the Editors Canada Online Directory so people can search for you and see your skills and areas of expertise.

Other ways to invest in professional development include taking courses, reading books, visiting websites (e.g., ACES, the American Copy Editors Society; Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, CIEP, in the UK), joining social media groups, and posting information online to get your name out there. This can also be achieved by telling friends, family, and people in your professional network that you are looking for editing work. Volunteering can also be helpful, or even working for free to build up experience for your résumé. Creating a strong CV is also really important; a skills-based CV will highlight what you have to offer than one that itemizes your work history.

Creating a website can be a useful way to get your name out there while demonstrating your portfolio. However, a website is not always necessary. LinkedIn can provide you with a platform to demonstrate your experience, and you can even include testimonials from clients. Ensure that you follow up with clients for referrals and testimonials.

PubLaunch is a freelance marketing website where freelancers can find work. The platform takes a cut of the earnings, but you get to set your own rates.

Pricing and Contracts

The final speaker was Elizabeth d’Anjou.


Elizabeth explained that there is no one standard rate that a freelance editor has to charge; professional editors are able to set their own rates. Higher rates may depend on the type of work or client you are working with and how good a businessperson you are.

Being a freelance editor is like running your own business, so you can charge as much as clients are willing to pay. The median rate for copy editing in Canada is $25–$65 an hour. Rates are not necessarily going up, but they are not coming down, either. It is also important to consider non-billable hours: the hours that are not spent copy editing but carrying out other work-related tasks. A full-time editing job will consist of around 25 hours of actual editing, with a 2:1 ratio of working to doing other business-related activities. In addition, when thinking about quotes, it is important to factor in overhead costs, such as computer, Wi-Fi, webinars, books, etc. For a rough estimate of your annual salary, you can take your hourly rate and multiply it by 1,000.

In order to determine an appropriate quote for a job, it is important to find out as much as possible about the job. If the quote is too high, it will put the client off. If the quote is too low, it can also put a client off as it may seem as though you are not serious or qualified enough. Do not be afraid to ask the client for their budget, especially when the client has worked with an editor before.

When preparing an estimate, do not underestimate how long a project will take. Remember that a project will take multiple passes. Depending on the type of project, consider that tables, reference lists, etc. can take longer to edit. New editors may not get it right the first time, but they will get better with experience. Elizabeth also recommended building in three hours of face-to-face time with the client for consultation: one each at the start, in the middle, and towards the end.

Asking for a sample of the manuscript can help provide an estimate. A sample will help you determine the type of editing and the amount of work required. An estimate can be per word or per page; a page is 250 words, on average.


A contract between an editor and a client does not replace a good relationship. A contract makes sure that everyone understands each other and what is expected from a project, so it is clear what editing means. A contract should include clear descriptions of what the project is, clear timelines, and an outline of the process; this helps to determine how long the project will take. Editors Canada has developed a sample contract that can be adapted by freelance editors.

Other useful resources for contracts are

  • The book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining Your Relationship with an Editing Client by Karin Cather and Dick Margulis.
  • The Queen’s University legal team, which provides free legal service and can review contracts.

It is not, however, necessary to have a contract. Ensuring that any phone conversations are written up in an email afterwards will help to develop a mutual understanding between the editor and the client, and sometimes this correspondence can replace a contract.

About Kristina Stanley

Combining her degree in computer mathematics with her success as a bestselling, award-winning author and fiction editor, Kristina is the creator and CEO of Fictionary. She is the founder of the Fictionary StoryCoach certification program and teaches editors worldwide how to perform a structural edit on long-form fiction. She is the story-editing adviser to the Alliance of Independent Authors and was on the Board of Directors of the Story Studio Writing Society. Her dream is to combine people and technology to help writers and editors turn words into great stories.

About Stephanie Stone

Stephanie began copy editing in the early 1980s with a textbook publisher in Toronto, then moved to a trade publisher to work as a production editor – not just copy editing but also laying out and proofreading the typeset pages, sometimes indexing, and working closely with the editors, authors, designers, typesetters, and printers. She learned on the job but gained most of her editing skills by taking courses through the Freelance Editors Association of Canada, the forerunner of Editors Canada.

In 1987, she moved to Kingston to work as a technical writer and trainer with a local software consulting company; she also copy edited the work of the other technical writers and developed in-house style guides. In 2001, she started her own company, which had a few years of ups and downs but finally landed on its feet with three anchor clients. Some of that success was due to a referral from a member of Editors Kingston. She now retains one client and is one of the coordinators of Editors Kingston.

About Elizabeth d’Anjou

Elizabeth has been an editor for 30 years, most of them as a freelancer with a diverse client base. Typical editing projects in recent years have included research grant applications, educational materials for non-profits, and specialty books by entrepreneurs. She also teaches courses in grammar and copy editing in the Ryerson University Publishing program and is in demand as a workshop presenter on various aspects of editing. She lives in Picton and is a former coordinator of Editors Kingston.

Coming Up

Tuesday, November 16, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Authors Talk Editing” with Kingston author Ying Lee. Ying is enjoying considerable success with the four books in her young adult mystery series, The Agency. Come and listen to her speak about her books and her experience of being edited.

December – We hope to have an in-person social. Date and details to be announced.

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