Creative Editing

What is creative editing?

In the old days, “editing” meant checking for correctness, usually in terms of grammar and spelling. But in our case, it’s a little different. When we first began editing documents for clients, we felt it difficult to restrain our more creative impulses. So we would edit it, like usual, but we wanted to suggest punchier words, better sentence structures, and more muscular argumentative hooks. So we did–and our clients have loved it.

Creative editing is our process of reviewing documents. We comb through your writing, but rather than simply correct errors, we will annotate and provide suggestions for improving the whole work at the sentence, paragraph, and whole-text levels.

Can you give some examples?

Sure. Our first and more recent samples (1 and 2) are from a tax prep document; the owner has been kind enough to allow us to share. Our second and larger example is from text that became On Your Mark, the first book Kevin co-authored. (FYI: the reason that came to pass is that Cathy Fyock first asked Kevin to do creative editing, and once she saw the results, she invited him to co-author the whole work.)

How much does this service cost?

We charge thirty bucks an hour. You should find that that’s competitive with typical editing services–except that, in our case, the creative part is included. We’ll mark it up and think it through. The only thing we can’t do is write in the changes for you.

Oh, and don’t worry about us get carried away while on the clock; we always quote a time ceiling, which is the maximum number of hours for which we can bill you. We’ll provide that time ceiling before we do a single billable hour of work.


What’s the difference between creative editing and re-writing?

With creative editing, all of our creative input is given as annotations; we won’t change the original text. When we re-write, we take fuller creative liberty and actually re-write the text in place for you.

If you can make annotations, why not make changes at the same time?

The first reason is a technicality: if we only mark up and annotate the text, the text itself is still 100% yours. If, on the other hand, we make direct changes, we would be commingling in the ownership of the text. We don’t want to go down that road; what’s yours should remain yours, and ours ours.

The second reason is that we don’t want to make changes you can’t track and undo. With annotations, you have full control over what actually changes because you’re changing it yourself; on the other hand, if you allow us to re-write, you’re going to get back a completely different document, and there’s no way we could take time to document every little change for reference.

Which brings us to the third reason, which is that texts can change a lot if you let us re-write. Clients have been tremendously pleased with the results, but re-writing is a different animal from editing. It requires more attention.

What do you charge for re-writing?

It’s a bump up from editing–this time, forty bucks an hour. Same as before, we’ll quote you a time ceiling (often at our own peril, since it’s easier to get carried away with re-writes). We do require that you sign a document indicating your consent to allow us to re-write at our discretion. (The same document will also specify that that you have 100% of intellectual ownership of the delivered document.)


Save the biggest for last?

You got it. Ghostwriting is our most involved service. Especially if the project is bigger, ghostwriting is the kind of work that consumes huge chunks of our time and attention. It’s a reason for us to schedule a retreat, to take on fewer clients for a little while, and maybe even change our operating hours.

Who hires a ghostwriter?

In short, the kind of person who really needs one. That’s someone who doesn’t have anything written, who needs something written, who can’t do write it themselves, and who can invest a bit more money in the project.

Specific examples include busy professionals of most stripes, celebrities and public figures, and really, anyone who finds themselves sorely lacking in writing skill or time.

How does a ghostwriting arrangement work?

A ghostwriter writes something in your name. This bears emphasis: whatever a ghostwriter writes for you is your intellectual property. Ghostwriters are paid not only for their creativity, but for their anonymity; you get to claim full credit. It’s yours! Do whatever you want with it!

How about the process? It varies somewhat by project, of course, but it always starts with a discussion of your vision: the subject, structure, audience, purpose, and tone of the work.

After that, we’ll collect whatever materials you have for the project. If appropriate, we’ll discuss other content-creating projects, such as recorded interviews, to give the ghostwriter(s) material to work with. Then we actually get to work on the project in question.

For ghostwriting, we prefer a two-stage contract. The first stage is a “trial period,” and if you like the sample we provide, then the full-scale project begins in earnest.

How much does ghostwriting cost?

It varies pretty widely, depending upon the type of project and its size. For smaller projects, we use the same $40/hour rate and our labor estimate to put together a quote. For larger projects, we assume a lower rate per hour but a longer period of work time. As with anything, we’re happy to sit down and talk with you about your vision.

What are the deliverables?

The first deliverable products are any spin-off projects we’ve done to produce content for the bigger project. If we recorded interviews, wrote smaller articles, or anything of the like, those come first. (These are usually treated as independent projects.)

The second deliverables are usually our “test chunks” of the main ghostwriting contract, where you get to sample our work before you commit to, for instance, a whole book of our writing.

The third deliverables are whatever you wanted in the first place: a white paper, an essay, and yes, even the final manuscript of a book.

It’s worth noting again that, in all three cases, the delivered materials are your intellectual property.