Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs How long does an edit take?

Turnaround time varies according to the length and complexity of your manuscript as well as the length, complexity, and volume of manuscripts ahead of yours. We try to keep turnaround time to eight weeks or fewer, but we give your manuscript the time and attention it deserves. We notify you when your manuscript arrives and give you an estimated return date at that time. If anything delays us, we keep you informed. We always have backlog, though, so please be prepared to be patient.

Can I get faster turnaround time?

We can sometimes rush jobs through by working nights and/or weekends, but we must charge extra for that service. The fee is 50% more than the standard fee, plus extra if you want us to overnight or otherwise rush shipping, as well. If you want a rush job, call 770-024-0528 to ask about our availability. Please don't rush us unless you absolutely have to meet a deadline, because it's important to think, "Which do I want, a great job that always reflects well on me, or do I want a fast job that may not be all it could be?"

Don't laugh! I can do a great job or a fast job, but I cannot do both. If speed is more important to you than accuracy, by all means let me know, and I will speed your job through. I much prefer, though, to do a slow, careful, excellent job for you, so that your manuscript not only reflects well on both of us but also meets with success.

What's the difference between an editor and a book doctor?

While an editor can work for either the author or the publisher, a book doctor always works for the author. An editor and a book doctor both line edit the manuscript to correct errors in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and noncompliance with Chicago style, but a book doctor goes a step further. A book doctor also examines the concept of the manuscript and makes suggestions for improvement that are more sweeping than merely correcting technical flaws.

When my clients order hard copy editing or hybrid editing, they also get book doctoring services. I give the manuscript a complete examination, evaluate the concept, meticulously line edit the manuscript, and write a thorough evaluation with recommendations for improvement. The evaluation addresses every element, based on whether the manuscript is fiction or nonfiction. Those elements may include organization, characterization, plot, pacing, dialogue, creative writing, marketability, and many other details. The written evaluation also explains each suggestion for improvement, so authors learn a great deal in the process.

What is line editing?

Line editing refers to repairing each flaw in grammar, punctuation, and syntax (such as incorrect word choice or misused idioms), as well as bringing the manuscript into compliance with Chicago Style (for books), or AP Style (for magazines). It's the last step necessary before submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher or before getting a book laid out for printing.

All our editing services cover line editing, but only our hard-copy and hybrid editing also include concept editing, which gives you an evaluation of the entire concept and all the elements.

What is concept editing or evaluation?

Concept editing has been called many things, including deep editing, big-picture editing, substantial editing, developmental editing, concept editing, and conceptual editing. With Zebra Communications, all these names point to the same thing. They all refer to editing that goes a step beyond the repair of technical errors. It corrects those errors, of course, but it also addresses the manuscript as a whole. For fiction, our concept editing evaluates and makes suggestions for improvement, when necessary, to the following elements: conflict and suspense, scenes and structure, action, viewpoints, beginning, middle, end, setting, characters, dialogue, plot, pace/flow, voice and style, grammar, punctuation, syntax, creative writing, format, fact checking, and marketability, and the report includes a section called Other that covers anything else that needs to be addressed. For nonfiction, our concept editing evaluates and makes suggestions for improvement, when necessary, to the following elements: organization, beginning, middle, end, pace/flow, grammar, punctuation, syntax, creative writing, format, fact checking, and marketability, and the report includes a section called Other that covers anything else that needs to be addressed.

Our hard-copy editing and hybrid editing include concept editing and a complete evaluation; however, when you order only electronic editing, we fix technical errors but do not provide concept editing and evaluation. You may, however, get a separate comments file if we find anything only the author can address.

What's the biggest mistake you find in manuscripts you edit?

The type of error I see the most, even from the most educated authors, seems to be whether a word should be one word, two words, or hyphenated, and a spell checker won't always spot those flaws. As long as it is a word, the spell checker won't know when something should be one word or two. Examples: Should it be everyday, meaning ordinary, or every day, meaning each day? Should it be tailor-made (with the hyphen) or tailormade (one word with no hyphen)? Also most spell checkers won't repair British usage that is not standard in American books (amongst instead of among, for example). I also see politically insensitive gaffs, such as the use of lady to mean woman.

Please do not make the mistake of adding unedited pages after the edit is complete. Why would I mention such a thing? The acknowledgments, foreword, and back cover of self-published books typically are the most visible, yet they often are riddled with errors. The most misspelled words in those pages are often the most important: the titles, Acknowledgments and Foreword (I see forward more times than I care to count). Don't let embarrassing and costly errors happen to you or your book!

At what point should I have my manuscript edited?

When you have finished at least the second draft (never the first), and when you sense that you have done all you can do to improve the manuscript, it's time to have an editor look at it with an objective eye. Do not design the book before the manuscript is edited; always get it edited first, designed later.

Can I meet you in person? Do you provide personal consultations?

Naturally if you want to hand-deliver your manuscript and chat for five minutes, I'll gladly give you an appointment; however, I cannot spend much time face to face, because I always have editing to perform and deadlines to meet.

If you have a list of questions and want to chat in depth, I offer personal consultations by phone or in person for $75 an hour, with a minimum of $75. Call me to set up a personal consultation. 770-924-0528.

Can you help me find an agent or a publisher?

In brief, no. Although I know several agents and publishers and often come in contact with agents and publishers at conferences and business meetings where I speak, I have no influence over them, except to make your manuscript the best it can be, so it will reflect well on you. If you plan to find an agent or a publisher, we help by evaluating, editing, and polishing your work so that it stands heads and shoulders above the competition. We point out everything that would make your manuscript more marketable and more appealing to a publisher, but we cannot help you find a publisher or agent.

Can you edit a book that is already designed?

Yes and no. We cannot edit a hard-copy printout of a book that is already designed; we would have no room to work. We can at times edit electronically if a book is designed in Microsoft Word, but there's always a good chance that our edits will disturb the layout and design. For everyone's sake, have the manuscript edited before the book is designed.

Can you edit a PDF file?

The best way for us to edit a PDF file is for it to be printed and for us to use hard-copy editing.

Other editors charge less. Why should I pay you more?

If you check the market, you will find that our prices are about in the middle of the price range. You can find editors who charge more and some who charge less. I doubt you will find a more thorough editor at any price, though, and I doubt you will find anyone who charges my midrange prices while also having as many years of experience as I have.

If money is a deterrent for you and you find an editor who charges less--and if you feel comfortable that the person is qualified and a good match for you--then I encourage you to use that person. In the end, I want success for you; I won't give you a pushy sales pitch. I would not want to be pressured, so I don't pressure you.

How important is standard manuscript format if I plan to self-publish?

Standard manuscript format is important only if you want us to edit your printed copy or if you plan to submit to an agent or publisher. If you want us to edit electronically, the manuscript can be single-spaced, if you wish, but double spacing does make the manuscript easier to read.

Should I choose electronic, hybrid, or hard-copy editing?

The answer depends on your needs and goals. Check out the detailed information on all three forms of editing on this web site. Click here to learn more about hard-copy editing, click here to learn about electronic editing, and click here to learn about hybrid editing, which combines all the best features of both hard-copy and electronic editing.Most people choose hybrid editing, because it combines the advantages of the other two types. It saves you time and gives you a full evaluation of the concept and elements of the manuscript.

In the end, though, only you can decide which type of editing works best for you.

Should I self-publish or look for a traditional publisher?

Only you can decide which method is right for you. Before you decide, know the facts. To get a full overview of self-publishing compared to selling your book to a traditional publisher, read Report #110, Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, to learn the pros and cons of both methods.

The chances of getting a self-published book into bookstores are small, so be prepared to be your own salesperson, publicity agent, and order-fulfillment center.

The self-published books with the best sales records are those published by speakers and consultants who write nonfiction books and sell them at events and through their web sites.

The self-published books with the worst sales records are novels, so unless you have a large following of readers because you have a hugely successful web site, blog, or other platform, I do not recommend self-publishing fiction.

If you decide to self-publish, our editing services are vital to your success. Do not think you will save money or time by skipping the editing step. Do not spend time and money publishing a book that turns out to be filled with embarrassing or costly errors. Be sure to build into your schedule and your budget enough time and money for a professional editing job.

Should I use an agent or not?

Generally speaking, if you write novels, you will probably need an agent. If you write nonfiction, you're more likely to find publishers willing to take unagented material, but agents can open more and bigger doors for you. If you prefer for someone else to represent your work, present it to publishers, negotiate the sale and negotiate the contract, you may find that an agent is worth the fee.

Do I have to get my manuscript copyrighted?

Don't register the copyright too early! The copyright law of 1976 ensures that you automatically own all rights to any intellectual property you create. Traditional publishers usually register the copyright for you. If you plan to self-publish, do not register the copyright until after the book is in its final form. Go to this link on the U.S. Copyright Office's web site to read all the information you need on how and when to register a copyright.

If you are concerned that someone will steal your work before it gets published, don't worry; you own all rights and have the same legal recourse, should such a thing happen. It doesn't happen among professionals, however. Certainly I couldn't stay in business all these years if I stole material from others.

Will you sign a nondisclosure agreement?

A nondisclosure agreement puts in writing a promise that I won't reveal the information in a manuscript before it is published. Although I don't supply nondisclosure forms, I will gladly sign any nondisclosure agreement you supply. My business ethics would not allow me to discuss your unpublished material with others, anyway, but if having a formal agreement gives you peace of mind, I will gladly comply.

Sometimes you say "I" in your literature, and sometimes you say "we." Do you have more than one editor on staff?

I, Bobbie Christmas, am the owner of Zebra Communications and its main editor. I do have other editors, too, especially those who specialize in specific genres. Click here for even more questions and answers.

Make your reservation now to work with Bobbie Christmas!

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