“I tend to leave out the parts that people skip.” – Elmore Leonard


Manuscript development, or what’s called a developmental edit. I look at content, style, structure and suggest improvements where appropriate without going over the manuscript word for word.

Editorial analysis: Not a developmental or line edit, but a close reading of the manuscript, with suggestions for how it can be improved. This includes character and/or theme development, structural reorganization. A client will receive a document of anywhere from three to twenty pages describing the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, and suggestions on how to rework it.

Line editing: The most comprehensive edit, comprising a developmental edit and a line-by-line editing of the manuscript. Typically, this involves reading for structure, use of language, correcting spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, checking factual accuracy, eliminating redundancy or adding or deleting material for clarity.

Proof reading: Checking a manuscript or galley for typographical errors or stylistic gaffes.

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?” – George Orwell


“I was extremely fortunate to find Nicola Smith for my first book and am doubling down with her on my second. As all writers know having an international publisher buy the rights to books is no sure thing. Her efforts helped secured that for me. Her expertise, gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) prodding was immeasurably helpful. Under her purview, the manuscript went from bloated to svelte and occasionally clunky to elegant. A great communicator and disciplinarian in the best possible sense. I’d highly recommend her services to those of us who need help with our manuscripts…and that means all of us!” – Steven Kussin is a doctor, TV commentator and author of Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now (Rowman & Littlefield)

“Nicola Smith edits with a passion for language, an affection for the telling detail and a ruthless scalpel for clunky phrases and repetition. Her keen eye and hard work improved my book.” — Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Brian Donovan, author of Hard Driving: The American Odyssey of NASCAR’s First Black Driver

“Nicola’s editing expertise helped me define both my books. My first book opened number 7 on the Boston Globe Best Sellers List. But more importantly, her skills as a writer and editor forced me to fine-tune my own writing skills. I can honestly say, after 5 years of working with Nicola, I am a much better writer today.” — Richard Farrell, What’s Left of Us, to be published in 2009 by Kensington Press, co-writer, A Criminal and An Irishman, Steerforth Press, duPont-Columbia Award in Journalism winner

“Nicola Smith, my editor at Steerforth, requested more where more was needed, cut out the superfluous, and fine-tuned and massaged the manuscript into the finished product. She was tough, tougher than me, and a hell of a lot smarter.” — Edward J. MacKenzie, Jr., Street Soldier

Street Soldier by Eddie Mackenzie, Phyllis Karas and Ross Musto. 2003. Steerforth Press. Non-fiction memoir.

Triple Identity by Haggai Carmon. Novel. Steerforth Press. 2005.

No End to the Journey by Shankar Subramaniam. Novel. Steerforth Press. 2005.

A Criminal and an Irishman by Pat Nee and Richard Farrell. Non-fiction. Steerforth Press. 2006.

The Red Syndrome by Haggai Carmon. Novel. Steerforth Press. 2006.

Hard Driving: The American Odyssey of America’s First Black NASCAR Driver by Brian Donovan. Steerforth Press. 2008.

Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now: Gaining the Upper Hand in Your Medical Care by Steven Z. Kussin, M.D. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2012.

“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” – Flannery O’Connor


1) How does it work?
Usually I read through a proposal or manuscript at least twice, make extensive notes, and send suggestions to the client. If the client agrees with the substance of the remarks, and wants to work with me, we discuss where to go from there.

If the writer wants a line edit, I then go through the manuscript word by word to make suggestions, corrects, changes, etc. I return it to the writer, who makes the changes, and then sends the material back to me.

2) Do you edit work on hard copy or electronically?
I edit electronically. Most editors and publishers use the Track Changes feature of Microsoft Word for a developmental or line edit. This allows a writer and editor to communicate back and forth electronically without having to print out and mail hard copy. You can insert comments or delete material using the Track Changes feature. I’ve also done proofreading jobs using Adobe Acrobat.

3) How long does it take?
It varies. Proof-reading takes anywhere from one day to seven days, depending on the length of the manuscript. A manuscript analysis takes a week or less. A developmental edit could take one to two weeks. A line edit depends on the length of the manuscript and can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, or longer. It’s not unusual to go through a manuscript two to three times before arriving at a polished, final draft. Typically, writer and editor go back and forth on changes throughout. It’s a collaborative process.

4) Payment.
I charge a flat rate of $50 an hour. If the job involves a longer manuscript with extensive editing, (100 pages and up) I require a $200 deposit to begin work that is then deducted from the final bill.

If it is a short job, I bill at the completion of the job: payment is expected within 30 days of receipt of the bill. Payments on a longer project are to be made bi-monthly. I provide rough estimates of cost, but these are estimates, not final figures.

5) Contract.
The client and I sign a contract agreeing on the estimated price, and time lineline. As part of the job, I do a sample five-page edit at no charge so you get a feel for my style, and how the process works.


$50 an hour. $200 deposit required on works more than 100 pages in length.

Proofreading rates: $25 an hour.

Sample edit of five pages of material done at no charge.

Upon receipt and reading of manuscript, I will provide estimated date of completion, and estimated fee. If I go over the estimate by $100 subsequent rate open to negotiation.