Substantive Editing

how we’ll work

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Your manuscript should be in draft form (structured and fleshed in) at this stage, so I will take and evaluate your manuscript as a whole. Before and after my analysis, we will “meet” on my conference line (accessible by phone or computer) for project launch and debrief calls.

(If you still need help with creating the basic structure and content, developmental editing is a better fit.)

As your substantive editor, I will evaluate your manuscript’s structural components on three levels: entire manuscript, chapters, and section headings and subheadings (scenes if memoir).

All substantive edits include audio files of our calls, in-manuscript comments (comment bubbles), a detailed editing report with style guide (including grammar, punctuation, and usage quick-reference sheet), and custom video tutorials.

general nonfiction

I will offer you detailed feedback on the following:

  • Your Ideal Reader—Is the identity of your ideal reader obvious, and does your manuscript meet them where they are and solve a real problem or educate them in a way that’s appropriate for that group?

  • Your Goals and Brand—How does your manuscript move you closer toward your goals and build your brand? Are there opportunities to strengthen your message and accomplish even more?

  • Perspective and Authority—We’ll look at your unique selling and value propositions and emphasize what sets you apart and makes you the right person to write this book right now.

  • Theme and Thesis, Structure of Argument, Supporting Evidence, and Overall Persuasiveness—This is the true architecture part of the project. If you don’t have a solid foundation, load-bearing walls, hallways, and clearly defined, functional spaces, readers will leave and never come back. Non sequiturs and other logical fallacies and a lack of reliable and properly cited sources undermines your authority and will not pass inspection. I pay particular attention to these things.

  • Tone and Voice—Are you striking the right tone, a tone your ideal reader will welcome (not preachy, know-it-all, flippant, or bored)? And how does your voice stand out from others who are talking to your readers too?

  • Language Use—I’ll watch for intentional versus unintentional communication: jargon and unconscious bias for example. I’ll make recommendations for words and theme characteristics that will keep your writing focused and precise. (My substantive edits are a combination of developmental and line editing.)

  • Engagement and Readability—Will the manuscript engage your intended reader? And, do you communicate in a way that connects with people of all communication styles? I’ll evaluate its basic structure and how images, charts, call outs, and other visual elements enhance or detract from the message and identify ways to improve its visual appeal and memorability.

  • Length—Is the length of the manuscript appropriate for its genre and your goals? And will it meet the needs and expectations of your ideal audience? (Pro tip: Shorter is often better. Readers are busy; respect their time and attention. They will reward you by reading and recommending your book.)

  • Marketing, Book Promotion, and Affinity Groups—I look for opportunities to capture a wider audience and elevate your reputation and raise brand awareness. I am a long-term strategic partner. When my clients succeed, I succeed. And there’s nothing better than celebrating with my clients their ROI.

  • Risk Management—I’ll put my risk management background to use when looking for potential for claims of defamation, plagiarism, breach of confidence, copyright and/or trademark infringement; financial, reputational, and other types of brand risk. I may refer you to the author-specific advice my attorney has written about and to him for a consultation.)

  • Who wins in the end? What’s the takeaway? And is the message and delivery powerful enough to stay with the reader for years to come? And how likely are they to use your book as a resource, look to you as an expert, and recommend you and your book to others?

For more, I invite you to read this article I wrote for members of the Nonfiction Authors Association: Write Authoritative and Compelling Nonfiction by Thinking Like a Developmental Editor

Timeline: 4-6 weeks


Creative nonfiction (CNF) writers and memoirists adhere to a strict set of standards. Memoir may be written in a creative nonfiction or fiction style but must never “fictionalize” events for effect.

I will offer you detailed feedback on the following:

  • Point of view (POV) and perspective

  • Rhythm and pacing

  • Consistencies and inconsistencies (in plot, style, voice, personal descriptions, POV, etc.)

  • Plot and tension (including plot points, their order, and whether the tension is tight or slack)

  • “Info dumping” and telling vs. showing

  • Story arch, uniqueness, and overall appeal

  • Character/personal development

  • Diction and dialog

  • Genre and affinity groups (where your manuscript fits in the market and how you can expand your reach)

  • Length

  • Risk management (Memoirists are at risk for several types of legal claims. I may refer you to the author-specific advice my attorney has written about and to him for a consultation.)

  • General sentence structure, style, usage, and voice

For more information, I invite you to read this post I wrote: Chapter by Chapter Story Builder for Memoir

Timeline: 1-2 months

investment & Payment Options

$5,000 general nonfiction (up to 60,000 words)

$6,000 memoir (up to 70,000 words)

  • bank transfer

  • credit card

  • check

I offer flexible payment options and invoice through QuickBooks.


Contracting & Retainer Fee: If after your free consultation we decide to work together, I will send you a contract/agreement and an invoice for your nonrefundable retainer fee (typically 25% of total investment).

Project Scheduling: Upon payment, I will reserve time on my calendar for your project per the terms of our agreement.

Follow-up Payments: The timing of these is based on the length of the project and will be outlined in our contract/agreement.

Calendar Reservations and Appointments: Project time on my calendar and consulting appointments are scheduled on a first come, first served basis.

Late Arrivals/No Shows: For prearranged calls, I will wait on the line for ten (10) minutes then log off and turn my attention to other clients’ work. Unless you notify me by email at least 24 hours in advance, the time will be billed against your project.

Topics & Genres

  • personal development/self-help

  • business, entrepreneurship, and leadership

  • travel and culture

  • health and wellness

  • law, ethics, equality, and social justice

  • plant-based nutrition and evidence-based medicine

  • transformative, survivor, and entrepreneurial memoir