FAQ

How does the process work?

In a nutshell: you send us a Word file containing your manuscript, we edit it and send it back. (Scroll down for details about payment)

Need more detail? We use Track Changes. If there’s something to say, we’ll write you a letter, either at the beginning of the edited manuscript or the end. If you’re getting a proofread, don’t expect a letter. If you’re like 90% of the clients around here, you’ll be working with Susan, who is a very chatty editor. Her comments often take the place of an overall letter, and they often create a story of their own. Be warned: she likes to make fun, especially of herself. Sometimes of the character (especially if they are TSTL). Rarely of the client until we know each other better.

What if I want more than one edit on a single manuscript?

For a second or third revision, I charge half the original amount. That means by the time we’ve gone over your manuscript three times, you’ll have paid double your original editing amount. Any more revisions than that are free — but I have yet to have a client who hasn’t done the hard work necessary to make their book publishable after I’ve worked on it three times. And yes, even if you’re paying half, you get the same amount of time allotted to your manuscript. I don’t skimp on quality, only the price.

Will you send me a written contract, or do we work under an implied contract?

Generally, we work under an implied contract that looks like this: You send manuscript. I send invoice (so you have it for taxes), you pay it, and then I give 100% or more. Then I send the marked-up manuscript back and stand on the sidelines and cheer your success. And remain on call to answer questions.

However, I do have a formal contract if that’s how you roll. It does not have legal language and all that crazy stuff; it’s as straight-forward as I can make it (Okay, I copied it from a colleague I love to refer my clients to). If you’re more comfortable signing a legal document, that’s fine by me. There are certain circumstances where I am also more comfortable doing that.

What are your busy and slow seasons?

Good question! February, March, and June seem to be my slowest months. I’m not certain why, but if you want to have the best chance of sending me a manuscript that I can start that day, those are the best times to reach me.

In terms of busy, May, August, September, and October seem to be the months in which everyone wants me. My theory is that you’re all trying to finish up so I can edit while you’re on vacation, but that’s just a theory.

I also like to go away, usually in August, so be sure to check on my own travel plans if you’re looking to have a project edited in the late summer like that.

How far do you usually book out — or, how much lead time do I need to give you?

Often, as much as four to six weeks. I began telling my authors to send me their project when ready, and in almost two years, no one’s had to wait more than 3 weeks. So far. I’ve probably just jinxed myself by typing this, though, so be sure to ask what the timeline looks like when you send my your manuscript.

If you want only a proofread and aren’t willing to wait, I will be able to contact one of my subcontractors for you. It won’t be me, but you’ll know you’re getting someone I approve of and may even use to proofread my own fiction. That, right there, is trust. But why would I let someone else touch your work if I won’t let them touch mine?

How does your calendar work?

I used to use a paper calendar, so I had to pick up a pen, uncap it… Oh, you meant more generally.

Yes, I used to assign every client a start date, and I’d mark it on my calendar and hold my clients to it. What happened was a couple of things: clients would rush their projects in order to hit a target date, and feel free to explain how that means you’re producing the best book possible. Or clients would wait until the last minute to say, “Nope, need more time!” — if they didn’t disappear entirely. Of course, a third option under that method was that things would run smoothly, but smooth sailing isn’t a reason for change, so let’s focus on the problems.

And the problems were twofold. First, as I said, authors weren’t handing over the best book possible. That’s not fair to them. Or I’d be left with no work — and therefore no income — for the week. I’d wind up scrambling to redo my calendar, see who was ready… it wasn’t good. It produced a lot of anxiety.

So when I healed from my accident, I made the change to Send When Ready. And like I said before, it’s worked beautifully. So far, no one’s had to wait more than three weeks for me. (Again, am I jinxing myself?)

Huh? What’s this about an eye injury? Don’t editors need to, you know, see?

Yeah… West of Mars almost became Cyclops Editing: I do more with one eye than what everyone else does with two.

The short version is that a bicycling accident almost stole my right eye. The outcome, as of the moment I’m typing this, is that in addition to a perfectly fine left eye, I do have a right eye, it does have vision, and for some reason related to the fact I mangled my retina — the part of the eye that lets you see — when I correct my vision for distance, my close vision gets worse. So I generally work with a contact in my good eye, and then when I’m done working, I spend the rest of the day swearing at myself for forgetting to put my contact in my bad eye.

What does this mean for you and my work as an editor? Absolutely nothing. I use a twenty-four inch screen, and I blow the font up real nice and big. I did this before the accident, by the way. The better to see all those pretty commas. And besides, I don’t work with my close-vision-distorting contact in, so… my close vision isn’t distorted. Much.

What sort of file do you accept for editing?

Word documents only, please. This is so we can utilize Track Changes, which is the greatest invention since Scharffen Berger chocolate.

Can I send you a .pdf for you to edit?

Sorry, no. Word documents only please.

Can I send you a Publisher file for you to edit?

Sorry, no. Word documents only please.

Can I send you a Powerpoint file for you to edit?

Sorry, no. Word documents only please.

Can I send you an .epub for you to edit?

Sorry, no. Word documents only please.

Can I send you a .mobi file (Kindle) for you to edit?

Sorry, no. Word documents only please.

Can I send you a…

Unless you’re going to offer me chocolate, the answer is probably Sorry, no. Word documents only please. This includes if the offer is for a pink elephant. I’m not sure what I’d do with a pink elephant, to be honest. And I’d have to jack my rates so I could feed it, and you guys don’t want that.

How do I pay?

Oh, you were going to ask how do I send you money?

West of Mars accepts PayPal. Sometimes, we’ll take a bank draft or money order. Even more rarely, we’ll take a personal check. We’d better know you really well to take a personal check. It all has to be in hand before we start working on your manuscript, though.

With PayPal, you can use PayPal Credit (formerly Bill Me Later).

At some point, I intend to switch over to Intuit Payments, so be on the lookout for that.

PLEASE DON’T JUST SEND MONEY TO SUSAN. WAIT FOR THE INVOICE, AND MAKE SURE YOU SEND PAYMENT TO THE ADDRESS ON THE INVOICE. If you send money to Susan’s personal account rather than the business, it will be returned and you will be responsible for any fees PayPal incurs.

Can I have a refund?

Sorry, no. Once work has begun, we can’t offer refunds; you’re paying for our time as well as our output — and generally, other people want the same time we’re devoting to you. If you have a problem, contact us immediately and we’ll work to resolve it. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to make you happy. Not because we won’t do what’s needed but because you’ll have sat and stewed and may not come at the problem in the right frame of mind.

What is Susan’s favorite or best level of editing: content, line, or proofreading?

Yes.

That’s a weird answer, but the simple truth is that I wouldn’t offer a service I wasn’t passionate about. Or didn’t have passionate subcontractors for.

So from Susan’s point of view, since she’s the owner and head editor around here, it goes like this: every level of work is Susan’s best and favorite. That’s not to say that after four proofreads in a row, she’s not itching to get into something meatier. And vice versa, too. But on a regular day, if you catch her in the grocery store or the Hoity Toity Health Club, Susan will be inclined to tell you that she loves it all. It’s useless to try to do a content edit on a manuscript that only needs a proofread. But when she can roll up her elbows and play in the muck of a struggling manuscript, it’s heaven. When she can sit and whiz through the proof of a really good story that’s almost ready to be published, she’s in heaven.

Everything in moderation, you know?

Now, some clients may think that an editor can only excel in one area. Obviously, I disagree. The key to being a really good editor (dare I say great?) is the ability to give 100% to each manuscript, on its terms, not mine. And that, for me, is the thrill and the challenge.

Will you post a review of the book for me once it’s published?

Sorry, no. I view it as a conflict of interest to review a book I’ve worked on professionally. After all, I have a stake in your book, even if it’s only emotional.

If you’ve done a content or line edit, can you suggest a good proofreader?

I’d love to! I have a few in-house subcontractors I use and would be glad to refer you to. You’ll have to pay our usual proofreading rate, but we’ll give you a discount since you’re still working with West of Mars. Best of all, my subcontractors all have my personal style sheet and won’t change okay back to OK, which my clients know I hate.