Content Editing by Susan Bischoff

Thanks for your interest in me as an editor for your project. The world of editing can be confusing. Everyone’s a little bit different. I want you to feel clear and confident about your direction and your decisions, so I’m going to provide you with All The Information.

If, after reading through the details of what types of edits I offer, what kind of help that entails, rates, etc., you find that you’re interested in hiring me, please send me an email or submit the contact form below so that we can discuss your project.

I am primarily a Romance person. As of this writing (May 2019) I have one RITA award winning novel (Kait Nolan’s SECOND CHANCE SUMMER, 2018), and one RITA award finalist (Tawna Fenske’s SERGEANT SEXYPANTS, 2019) to my editing credit. So proud of those amazing women and the work they do. I love all manner of Romance, and like to really focus in on helping you develop the emotional elements, and live up the high expectations of the genre. To keep my skills sharp for the broad range of what now falls under the Romance umbrella, I read widely within the genre, as well as outside of it, and also study popular movies and television. While Romance is my specialty, I can also read your manuscripts in fantasy, science fiction, thriller, horror, etc.

I read all maturity levels of work and have no issues with adult language, sexually explicit content, or graphic violence, though I may raise questions about the suitability of the content with regard to its intended audience.

I always try to appreciate an author’s unique voice and style. I take characterization into consideration, especially when reading dialogue, and avoid correcting grammar when errors suit the character’s style. If I make suggestions as to style, they often come from the standpoint of easing or clarifying the reading experience for the intended audience. It is up to the author whether or not to carry out any advice given.

I offer services for final drafts; rough, in progress manuscripts; critique of first chapters; and even developmental help on your outlines and synopses. These are outlined below.

When your manuscript is returned, you can expect many of my reactions, questions, suggestions, and corrections typed in-line with your text. (I do not use “Track Changes.”)

Also included in my service is one round of follow up questions about the critique. This is a time, after you’ve read my editorial notes, when you can ask me for clarification on any issues pointed out in the critique.

Fire Wee Content and Polish Edit ($10/1000 words)

  • This is for a final draft, a story that you consider basically “ready for publication” (or submission).
  • An intense read-through of your story, assessing and commenting on strengths and weaknesses. I’m looking at things like pacing, story arcs, character arcs, genre expectations.
  • I look for inconsistencies and other issues in action, character, pacing, voice, logic, and point of view.
  • Stylistically, I may make suggestions about ease of readability and point out confusing language, jargon, or other things I feel need clarification or cleaning up. I may point out sections I feel could be condensed and streamlined to improve pacing or better serve today’s commercial fiction market.
  • When I’m reading, I often “check in” as a reader at different points in the story to let you know things like, “This is where I was really hooked,” or “At this point, I’m feeling impatient for the story to get started.”
  • Whenever possible, when I raise an issue, I try to offer a solution, or even a lesson. However, sometimes I can only point out where something “doesn’t work for me.”
  • I am willing to consider any genre, with the understanding that I’m not fully versed in the conventions of all genres. We can discuss this in greater detail when we discuss your particular project.
  • I am willing to read fan fiction. I commend any fan fiction author who is so interested in putting out quality work, or who wants to learn and improve through constructive feedback. This should be with an understanding of my familiarity with your fandom, and that I do not provide fact-checking or canon-checking services.
  • I read completed works of any length, though I have the most experience, and feel best suited to, longer works such as novellas and novels.
  • There will be places in the story, particularly in longer works and often at the ends of chapters, where I stop and process, on the page, how I’m reacting to the story as reader and/or editor. When I’ve finished, I’ll go back to the top of the manuscript to record my concluding thoughts and reactions to the work as a whole, and my opinion as to its current fitness for publication or submission. I will also include whatever suggestions I have for approaching a rewrite, if necessary.

Fire Wee Developmental Edit ($7/1000 words)

  • This is for rough drafts which are more “work in progress.”
  • I like completed drafts where I can see the whole story you have planned, but this can also be for those occasions when you can’t figure out how the story ends. Perhaps where you’ve made notes about your ideas for the end.
  • Like Content and Polish, and I will do a thorough read of your manuscript, stopping periodically to give you my reactions as reader and an editor. I’ll make suggestions as I go. When I’ve finished, I’ll go back to the beginning and give you my thoughts and concerns about the piece as a whole, including answers to any specific questions you’ve raised and suggestions for improvement.
  • Different from the Content and Polish Edit, I will spend less time on your use of language. In the Developmental Edit, I’m really focusing more on the substance of the text, rather than the text itself. I won’t spend time on the quality and clarity of prose which will probably be changed later. If I make comments on the quality or clarity of prose or dialogue, those comments will be broader and less specific than they would be on a Content and Polish Edit.

Fire Wee  First Chapters Critique ($10/1000 words, $50 minimum)

  • Do you need to know if your early chapters hook the reader? Or why they don’t?
  • This is for finished works, final drafts, and even already published work (indie, with access to make changes).
  • I do suggest that you have the whole novel finished, so that you’re fairly certain this is the beginning you’re sticking with, and that you’re not getting caught up in the cycle of “never finishing because you’re always polishing the beginning.” But this can also be for first chapters you’re submitting to an agent or editor while the rest of the manuscript is in progress.
  • The length you send, whether it’s one chapter, the first three, or the length of the sample content is up to you.
  • I will read this carefully and give you my reactions as a reader. Was I hooked? At what point was I hooked? What I hope or think might happen next, based on what I’ve read. Whether I would continue reading.
  • If I wasn’t hooked, I will tell you why, and make specific suggestions.
  • I’ll talk pacing and clarity. I might talk about too many characters, or too much history before action, with specific suggestions for changes.

Fire Wee  Outlines/Synopses ($5/1000 words, $50 minimum)

  • As a writer, you know that an idea can be fleshed out in many different ways. Therefore, it’s impossible for me to look at something as sketchy and broad strokes as an outline or synopsis and be able to say, with certainty, “Yes, this will work.” There’s too much still left to be decided by the execution. With that understanding…
  • What I can offer on your outline or synopsis is often general thoughts, guidance, and questions. Perhaps lots of questions. When you answer those questions for yourself, your plan for, and understanding of, your story should grow richer and deeper.
  • I’m looking for basic elements of structure, the pacing of where those elements seem to fall, and how they act on the story. Do you have first plot point or doorway into the story? It is clear why the character chooses to move forward? Do you have a point in the middle which changes the context of the story in some way? In Romance, do you have a Black Moment which causes a break down in the relationship? Are you clear about your story problem or story goal? Does the climax resolve that? Is your character the primary agent for the resolution, or merely a bystander?
  • I’m going to look for elements of character arc, the character journey, and how your external stories and internal stories work on each other.
  • In Romance, I’m going to look at the progression of your relationship, how the plot you’ve laid out builds the relationship, breaks it up, and puts it back together again, and how your elements of characterization contribute to the love story.
Fire Wee What I Do Not Do
  • I do not draft rewrites. While I will make suggestions to replace a word or phrase here and there, I do not rewrite sections of manuscript.
  • I do not walk an author through the revision process. I do not read rewritten sections of the work after the critique. The exception to this is when an author and I both agree to enter into a second contract for a completed revision.
  • I do not copy edit or check facts. If something strikes me as questionable, I will certainly raise the question in the critique, but it is up to the author to research the answer. For example, if a phrase used by a character in the past feels too modern to me, I will point it out. It is up to the author to research the origin of the phrase and discover that it didn’t exist until 50 years after her story is set.
  • I do not line edit or proofread. Okay, I do, but only because I can’t help myself. You will probably find grammar and usage suggestions in your critique, but it’s not what I’m hiring on for or within the scope of the edit.
  • I do not argue points with authors. I make suggestions based on my own reactions. If something wasn’t clear to me, you now have to opportunity to clarify it for the next reader. Or to choose not to.
  • I do not make demands, merely suggestions. It is for the author to decide if and how to act on my advice.
  • I critique the work; I don’t judge authors. Everyone–everyone–makes mistakes, loses sight of what they meant to do, thinks they put things on the page that were oh-so-clear in their heads. It’s part of being a human writer, and there is never a need to embarrassed, or to feel like you need to offer up excuses when you get critical feedback. I’m here to point out things you missed, because a novel is a huge, complex, living thing, and because you know too much and are not objective. Everything I do, I do with that understanding, and with the utmost respect for what you were brave enough to share with me and the world.

Fire Wee Why You Might Need Me

  • Your friends are too nice
    • Sometimes friends make the worse beta readers. If your main source of feedback is people who like you, who are too nice, or too worried about offending you to be critical of your work, you may find my work helpful. I AM nice, I swear! But I know that sometimes the kindest thing is to help someone move forward by giving frank and honest feedback.
  • Your friends don’t understand what you do
    • Similar to the previous situation, if you write romance and your friends all read sci-fi, maybe they just don’t get it. Or maybe they’re just not writers, and they do things like correct the grammar in the dialogue of your characters who are supposed to have bad grammar. (Doesn’t that drive you nuts?)
  • You feel like there’s something wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it.
    • I live to point out what’s wrong! Okay, that sounded bad. But it’s my job. And I’m good it.
  • You know your manuscript is flawed, but you can’t figure out what to do about it.
    • Most people don’t like being told they have a lot of work to do, and not getting any helpful directions on how to do it. I know I don’t. As much as I can, I try to pair criticism with suggestion.
  • You’re ready to take your writing to a new level.
    • I believe three important keys to developing writing talent are reading a lot, writing a lot, and getting helpful feedback. I love to teach, and try to include explanations of my reactions as a reader, as well as sharing lessons from my study of the craft.

I want to help you make your book the best it can be, but more than that, I want to help make you a better writer with every manuscript you finish.

Fire Wee What I Charge
  • I use a word count based rate rather than an hourly rate because I think it’s fair and more comfortable to both editor and client to know the money stuff up front.
  • Depending on the service, I charge $X per 1,000 words of text, rounded up to the nearest thousand. If your file is 77,368 words, for a Content and Polish Edit, we would contract for the reading of a 78,000 word novel for a total of $780.00.
    • Content and Polish of final draft: $10/1000 words
    • Developmental Edit of rough draft: $7/1000 words
    • First Chapters Critique: $10/1000 words ($50 minimum)
    • Outline/Synopsis development: $5/1000 words ($50 minimum)
  • In most cases, an anthology will be considered separate stories and contracted accordingly separately.
  • A $50 deposit is required when the contract is signed to hold your place in the schedule. This is non-refundable, except in a case in which I am forced to terminate the contract before it starts due to some emergency of a personal nature.

Fire Wee Available Discounts

  • For everyone:
    • Book your edit in advance! While I always try to accommodate my authors, knowing what work I have coming in helps me manage my calendar to do my best work. I hope setting dates with me will help you achieve your publishing goals.
      • Book your edit 1 month in advance: take 5% off your total fee
        (ex. on a 50,000 novel, save $25)
      • Book your edit in advance by 8 weeks or more: take 10% off your total fee
        (ex. on a 100,000 novel, save $100)
  • For my returning clients:
    • You know the power of word of mouth. There’s nothing like having the kind of fan who will put your books right in their friends’ hands. If you send your buddies my way, make sure they know to drop your name in their query, in the box that reads: How did you hear about me? I’ll take 10% off their fee, since they’re the friend of an important client, and you’ll receive 10% off your next edit, booked within the next six months.
  • All bookings are subject to available time on my calendar.
  • I reserve the right to refuse work I don’t feel is a good fit.
  • Discounts may be combined, up to 20% off.
  • My minimum fee per contract is always $50, regardless of discounts.
Fire Wee How It Works
  1. You read through all this information. If you’re interested in hiring me, you fill out the form below, or send an email to susanbischoff (at) gmail (dot) com with a subject line that reads “Editing for [TITLE]” or something like that in the subject line. Tell me about your project, its length, intended genre, intended audience (YA? Adult?), what it’s about, and when you expect to have a draft ready for critique, and what service you’re interested in. Include any questions you have for me about the services I provide.
    1. *Please provide this information via email (as opposed to Facebook Messenger or other means), or use the contact form below, so that I know where to look when I need to refer back to old correspondence. Thank you.*
  2. We might go through a few rounds of questions and answers, and will eventually come to an agreement on a date when I will begin your project.
  3. I will create a contract, sign it, and send it to you via an electronic document signing service. Electronic signing is a quick and easy process, and free to you.
  4. I will send you an invoice via PayPal for your $50 deposit which you will pay within 24 hours of signing the contract.
  5. As the date for your edit approaches, you will email me your manuscript file, single-spaced, in a Microsoft Word compatible format, by the effective date stated on the contract.
  6. I will reply when I am in receipt of your manuscript, and send another invoice for the balance of your fee. It must be paid on or before the starting date stated on the contract so that I can begin work and return your manuscript on time.
  7. I will email a new file to you, usually within 15 business days. This file will contain my critique, my editorial comments, corrections, and suggestions in-line with your original text.
  8. You may ask me one round of follow-up questions to clarify anything that came up in the critique. These must be submitted by email within 5 business days of the date on which the critique was sent. (This helps keep me fresher on what’s being discussed.) This is intended mainly as an opportunity for clarification, and I will spend 1/2 – 1 hour answering these questions.
  9. Editing the revision is not covered under my contract. If you would like to have me read the revision, we can discuss a second contract for that purpose at the same rate. I may refuse this contract due to my schedule or feeling toward the project.

The answer to “how long does it take?” is really “up to a month.” In many cases, however, turn-around will be sooner. For most works, I allow myself a period of 15 business days to complete my critique. Please use this as a rule of thumb in setting your production schedule and release dates. (Remember to leave time for revisions and proofreading, too!)

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Whew, that was a lot. But it’s a big decision. I get that. Need more? Check out what my clients have to say on our Testimonials page.

If you have questions for me, or if you’re just information-gathering at this time, feel free to skip down to the Questions section of the contact form below.

I look forward to meeting you and reading your stories.

Susan Bischoff
Content Editor, The Forge, Book Finishing
Author, The Story Toolkit


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