Great Editors for SFF Novelists

In my last post, I talked about how I started with a broad list of developmental editors, how I narrowed down the list, and how I ended up with a difficult decision among 5 really fantastic editors. In this post, I list those 5 editors and talk about why you might want to hire them for your own novel. But first… what is developmental editing?

Editing a Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel

There are lots of terms out there for editing: developmental, structural, substantive, story, content, copy, line, and maybe some others I don’t remember. But in general, most editors agree there are three levels of editing:

Developmental, Structural, Substantive, Story, or Content Editing

Sometimes editors will break this task up into two. They’ll send an editorial letter or give an overview of opportunities for improvement. And then they’ll do a close read, leaving comments line by line. Regardless of whether they break this up, the list below mentions some things this type of editor helps you with.

  • Worldbuilding issues
  • Setting
  • Theme
  • Plot: overly complex, too unlikely, too illogical, etc.
  • Tangled subplots
  • Problems with beginning, middle, end
  • Pacing
  • Character arcs
  • Redundant scenes or unnecessary plot lines
  • Description: too much, not enough, too confusing


Copy Editing

Copy editors improve your sentences by checking your grammar, usage, diction. This is a step many authors with inflated egos think they don’t need. Every writer needs a copy editor. How do I know? I was a professional copy editor for years, and even editors make mistakes in their writing. You need another pair of eyes to tidy up behind you. Plus, a good copy editor will help tighten up your writing, help avoid awkward sentences, and help you say exactly what you mean.



When you saw through wood, you get sawdust. A proofreader goes back through with the sandpaper to smooth down those edges and sweep up all the sawdust you and your previous editors created.

The most nebulous term in my experience was “line editing.” If an editor offers line editing services, you should pay particular attention to how they define this term, because what you think it means and what they offer may be miles apart.


Science Fiction and Fantasy Story Editors

In no particular order, here are my top 5 out of the 22 I considered. Remember: Always get a contract! Before you hire an editor, you should also vet them by asking for samples and getting references.

It’s not about whether they’re the best editor—it’s about whether they’re the best editor for you and your story. My novel is not your novel, and keep in mind I haven’t worked with any of these editors yet. Your mileage may vary with the below editors.


Kathleen Dale, Taledancer

Primary Genres: Urban fantasy, steampunk fantasy, space opera, and urban fantasy romance.
Sample: First 3,000 words, plus synopsis/summary.
Cost: $800 for story editing.
Structure: Half due before editing begins, half due at completion of final round.
Turnaround: First round of a 100,000 novel in about a month or less.
Rounds: As many as it takes to get the novel in great shape, all included in the price.
Post-Editing: Works in Google Drive, where you can chat in real-time. Will communicate closely until all rounds are done.
Response Time: Usually less than a day.
Availability: My first inquiry was on June 25, and at that time she still had fall openings. I recommend inquiring 3 months in advance.
Strengths: Based on the sample she did for me, I can say she is an excellent story editor, because she really looks at the big picture. She said: “Each major character in the novel also needs to have a problem, a learning, a resolution. That means the bad guys, too, if the novel is to have depth and strength.” I’m confident she’d be great at plot, pacing, and structural editing.
Other Notes: She has a fantastic editing FAQ on her site you’d do well to read even if you’re not sure she’s the editor for you. Kathleen is now affiliated with a business partner on, where they offer not only editing but also cover art. You can, of course, buy them separately. Additionally, you should ask her about her new subscription service idea! It’s a great value and seems like it would be very helpful especially to newer authors like me.


Annetta Ribken, Word Webber

Primary Genres: “I have an overwhelming fondness for fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal. That’s where I do the bulk of my work.”
Sample: First two and last two chapters, plus plot summary.
Cost: By quote. For 140,000 with heavy cutting and structural work needed, mine was $1,550.
Structure: Half due before editing begins, half due at completion of final round. Paypal only.
Turnaround: First round in about 3 weeks, subsequent rounds are faster.
Rounds: As many as it takes to get the novel in great shape, all included in the price.
Post-Editing: She works in a content management system (CMS) where you can chat in real-time. Will communicate closely until all rounds are done. Will also use Skype.
Response Time: Lightning fast! She often responded to me in under 2 hours. (Keep in mind, I’m on Eastern Time.)
Availability: My first inquiry was on June 24, and at that time August was booked, but she had September openings. I recommend inquiring at least 3 months in advance.
Strengths: She immediately grasped my novel’s lack of focus, saying: “Every book within a series should have a story goal which is resolved by the end of the book. This has to fit in with the overall SERIES GOAL, which is referenced but is resolved by the end of the series.”
Other Notes: I chose Annetta as my editor because she really nailed my weaknesses. She has great references and a mile-long list of successful indie books she’s edited.


Stephen Parolini, Novel Doctor

Primary Genres: Science fiction and fantasy, women’s fiction, literary fiction, YA, dystopian.
Sample: He treats current clients as his top priority, so he’ll do a short sample.
Cost: A 90,000 word novel starts at $1,500.
Structure: Half due 30 days before the start date, and the balance upon delivery of the editorial notes.
Turnaround: Usually 3 weeks, but probably 4 weeks for a 140,000 word novel.
Rounds: “I welcome a continuing conversation as the author works on revisions.”
Post-Editing: Email, Skype, phone. No extra charge.
Response Time: More than a day, sometimes 2 to 4 days during his busy season.
Availability: My first inquiry was on June 24, and at that time he was booked through October 15. I recommend inquiring at least 4 months in advance.
Strengths: Definitely an amazing line editor. He’s able to smooth things out without detracting from your own author voice.
Other Notes: His story editing option is called The Red Pen of Life and Death, so you know he has a sense of humor! Unfortunately, as noted on his website, he’s cutting down on editing slots in order to focus on his own writing, so contact him well in advance. He’s endorsed by The Creative Penn.


Susan Helene Gottfried, West of Mars

Primary Genres: “I read as widely as possible, so I edit as widely as possible. It keeps me on my toes and challenged; boredom is the death of an editor; it ushers in sloppiness.”
Sample: 1,200 words, but you can pay her for a longer one at a reduced rate.
Cost: Was $0.011/word, but contact her for rates.
Structure: In full before editing begins, using Paypal.
Turnaround: 3 weeks. 2 weeks for proofreading.
Post-Editing: “I’ve done Facetime with some clients, edited snippets for others, e-mailed with more…. It’s all what you need.”
Response Time: Usually less than a day, oftentimes within a few hours! (Keep in mind, I’m on Eastern Time.)
Availability: More open this fall than usual, but I’d still recommend contacting her 3 months in advance if possible.
Strengths: Great at asking you questions and telling you what she needs as a reader to make it work: “Why does he suspect this? Show me what she’s doing.” I think she’d be a great line editor.
Other Notes: In addition to developmental editing, she also does line and proofreading. Susan has a strong understanding of the indie business, based on my conversations with her. She’ll edit short stories as well.


Mallory Braus, Freelance Editor

Primary Genres: “I look at characters first. Engaging, 3-D characters are what draw me into any story… Unique, fresh stories and fascinating worlds are extra intriguing.”
Sample: 15 pages.
Cost: Her website features a starting rate of $0.013/word. “These are adapted depending on how much work the manuscript seems to need/special timeline requests/and whether we customize the project into a package.”
Structure: Half on contract, half within 48 hours of returned edits, using check or Paypal.
Turnaround: 4 to 6 weeks for manuscripts over 100,000 words.
Rounds: “Authors can elect to have a second read after revisions and/or a follow up phone call for an additional fee.”
Post-Editing: $100/hour if Skype. “I’m always available, post edits, to answer questions via email. I never want an author to feel like they’re alone through the revision process.”
Response Time: Usually under a day. She’s on Pacific Time.
Availability: My first inquiry was on June 26, and at that time her earliest opening was September 15. I recommend inquiring at least 3 months in advance.
Strengths: Characters, definitely characters. She’s great at pinpointing how to strengthen them and work on their dialogue.
Other Notes: As an editor for Carina Press, she’s very familiar with the romance genre, but her experience if fairly broad. From my conversation with her, I can also say she’s not just an editor, but is also a great career coach who could really help newer authors succeed. She also offers workshops at conferences.

Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to vet your editor by requesting a sample, references, and a good contract.

Cover for The Last of the Ageless

How did you find your editor? Leave a comment below or find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+, the perfect place for fans of science fiction and fantasy to hang out.

Did you enjoy this article? The best way to show me your appreciation is by buying my book. Thanks for stopping by!


Articles not linked in the blog post above. 





One response to “Great Editors for SFF Novelists”

  1. Susan at West of Mars Avatar

    Thanks for the shout-out, Traci! I appreciate it and hope you’ll keep me in mind for any proof or line work you have, personally. (I give loyalty discounts, too)

    Just one thing… my turnaround time. I strive for one business week, unless it’s a long or difficult edit. Then I shoot for two. Sounds like a production line, but really, it’s how I stay focused. When my attention starts to wander, bad things tend to happen! (fortunately, not for the client.)