Email me your questions.

I help make your thoughts clear to everyone.

These are some of the Questions I’ve been asked.

Did you just make all these questions up, yourself?

No. Real people have actually asked me these things. Some are clients, others were just curious.




  • Aren’t editors just for novelists?

No. Everyone who wants to be sure what they have written is presented well can use an editor.

  • Who are some of your clients?

My clients are writers of fiction and non-fiction. Screenwriters and playwrights use my services and so do business people who want to be sure their letters create the proper impact and carry the right messages. I edit theses/dissertations for graduate students and work with business and casual bloggers. Public relations professionals are among my clients as are newspaper and magazine publishers.

  • What does an editor do?

An editor checks a written piece for consistency, tense, flow, factual accuracy, grammar, and style without detracting from the writer’s voice.

  • I’ve heard about copy editors and proofreaders. What’s the difference?

A proofreader gives a final check for mistakes in spelling, punctuation, spacing, and words your friends and spellchecker missed. A copy editor takes it a step further and corrects grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and problems with syntax, ensures nouns, pronouns and verbs agree, formats the document for its intended use, refers to specified style guides for any questions, and many details most writers don’t notice. Substantive editors are sometimes called heavy editors and provide a detailed edit that goes beyond copy editing to polish sentences, reword or rewrite to improve clarity and flow and point out repetitious, clumsy wording, an overuse of passive voice or weak language. They also notice inconsistencies. Substantive editors check facts rearrange sentences or paragraphs and address problems, as well as suggest options for ways to correct them.

  • How exactly do YOU edit?

I focus on the story and the language at every level. From the overall message, theme or plot to the structure of each sentence, I keep the reader in mind and try to anticipate what might be confusing or problematic. I check facts and dates, track characters and events for consistency and I do the most thorough read I can, coming away with an in-depth understanding of the work. If I find an error in a novel’s chronology or an incorrect date in a nonfiction book, I point this out to the writer. If a dissertation’s references don’t appear thorough or don’t feel right, I research to be sure they are accurate. I may suggest switching sentences, paragraphs or even chapters. I read the first few dozen pages marking only the most obvious items – serial commas, typos, backward quotation marks. If I see a consistent problem, I bring this to the author’s attention to give the option of making corrections before I go deeper, which will save money unless we’ve agreed on a per-page or per-project rate. I start my style sheets on page one, keeping track of the author’s existing style for thoughts, words, dialogue,  and noting what seems intentional and what seems unintentional. Once I’m familiar with the author’s style and voice, which often happens quickly, I begin suggesting changes I believe are consistent with the author’s intent and most publishers’ expectations. I may ask many questions or I may not communicate with the writer until the project has been completed. When I reach the end of the manuscript, I go back and read the entire manuscript again, to be sure my suggested changes make sense and strengthen the story. As I read the second time, if my visual image is jarred by a description, I’ll backtrack to discover what tripped my radar.

  • How many times do you read what you are working on?

I read every article, story, blog or manuscript at least twice before I send it back for review. It’s not uncommon for me to read a writer’s copy up to four times.

  • How does your editing process work?

As soon as we agree to work on a project, I pencil in time on my calendar. The day I receive your deposit, that time becomes concrete. I will acknowledge your payment and give you my best estimate for time to complete the project, based on prior editing commitments.

When you email me your manuscript, whether fiction or non-fiction, I will make corrections and comments using track changes, so you can accept or reject any changes made. If I see something of concern, I will contact you to clarify my concerns.  I will call to discuss any business-related writing, as this tends to be time-sensitive. I will email fiction writers, and continue editing, in the interest of time. If we need to discuss something over the phone, I will set up a time when I am not in edit mode.

After I complete the edit, I will return it to you for your review and welcome any questions you might have.

  • I thought you would need a paper copy of my novel. How do you edit electronically?

I use Microsoft Word Track Changes and will explain how that works prior to editing, if you need help understanding it. Track Changes is also one of my monthly topics for subscribers to my free Writing Tips email campaign and can be requested at any time. If you have trouble with Track Changes, I will customize a method that works better for you.

  • What happens after I review your edited work?

You have the option to accept all suggested changes. You may discuss any changes with me so I can help you understand why I suggested them. Track Change allows you to accept all changes, no changes or accept them one at the time.  If you have not already begun proposing your book to publishers and agents, and you need help with this, I can help. We can discuss my cost for this service at that time. If, after your review, you want me to conduct a sanity check to be sure your changes did not include errors (they usually do), I will do that for you at no charge unless I find mistakes in more than 10% of the document.

  • Will you tell me if I have a good idea for a book?

No. I will show you how you can make your manuscript stronger, adhering to agreed-upon style guide recommendations. Agents, publishers and the book-buying consumers determine whether ideas in books are good or marketable.

  • Do I have to sign a contract?

If you pay a retainer, I consider that our agreement for work. We can, of course, sign a work-for-hire agreement if you choose, but it’s not necessary.

  • Why should I hire you, when there are other editors who will work for less?

Because you deserve the best and because I am passionate about writing and editing. Ask other writers who have used me if they are happy with my work and if they feel they received their money’s worth. I will be happy to put you in contact with clients willing to discuss our relationship.

  • How are you qualified?

I have been writing professional correspondence, reports, grants, press releases, case studies and speeches since 1989. I began editing professionally in 2008 and have earned national recognition for both my writing and my editing. I have worked with self-published authors as well as those who are represented by agents and have been published by well-known houses. My ghostwriting has represented major universities, nonprofits, healthcare and technology-based companies. I have experience editing for niche news publications, annual magazines, fiction writers, how-to authors, memoirists, doctorate students and many writers who don’t fit into traditional categories.

  • Wouldn’t I be better off working with someone with a masters or doctorate in writing and editing?

That is a question I’m not qualified to answer. Each person brings his or her own level of expertise and skill to work and only you, the client, can determine which is best for you and for your desired outcomes.  I recommend you contact some of the people I have worked with and find out why they continue to request my services. If you are still uncertain, check with some of the editors who have advanced degrees and see how you feel after discussing your project’s budget with them.

  • What’s a style sheet?

A style sheet is a list of rules and spelling conventions for your editor to use. This is especially useful for Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers who often create new worlds inhabited with strangely-named characters with unique spellings. A style sheet often states which style guide should be consulted for mechanical and grammatical issues that are not specifically addressed in the style sheet.

  • Which style guide do you recommend? Which is your favorite style?

I recommend the guide your publisher prefers or the one you are most comfortable with, which depends on your writing. If you sign up for my free monthly Writer’s Tips, you will receive my Free Guide to Style immediately. I have extensive experience with AP Stylebook, APA Style, Chicago Manual of Style and CMOS Scientific Style and Format. Each style has its place and purpose. AP is ideal for journalism and some online applications; APA is preferred for term papers and dissertations; Chicago Manual is often preferred for fiction and some non-fiction and CMOS Scientific is a superb guide for science-fiction.

  • Since you edited my book, why don’t you write my book proposal for me, too?

I’d be happy to! This will, of course, involve additional fees.

  • How do you prepare for an editing project?

Once I accept an assignment, I gather the appropriate style guides, sheets and other reference materials and set up my files so I can start working on the project as soon as the files arrive. Once I have the files, I stock up on tea and chocolate and turn on my music and start working.

  • What do people mean when they say they need “fresh eyes” on something?

This means they want someone who has not yet read what they have written to review it, hoping to catch mistakes. Some people call this a second set of eyes.

  • What advice can you give someone who wants to write well but cannot afford an editor?

Don’t rely on your computer’s software to catch all your mistakes. Read your project out loud. Not in a whisper, not quietly, but as if you were reading it to an audience. Your ears will catch mistakes your eyes overlook. When you think it’s ready, ask someone else to read it aloud to you.

  • How soon can I expect you to edit my project?

Provided I can begin working on your project immediately, you can expect it quickly, depending on the depth of the edits required and how long the project is. I will always tell you if my time is already committed to another project, so you know what to expect.

If no prior commitments await, you can expect:

Sanity Check for Press Releases – 1 to 2 hours after I acknowledge your email

Sanity Check for Case Studies – within 3 hours of acknowledging your email

Review of up to six pieces of Marketing Materials – within 24 hours of acknowledgement of email

Edit Articles under 1,000 words with minor research – 1 to 2 days

Sanity Check of Articles under 1,000 words – 6 to 8 hours

Edit Articles up to 5,000 words with minor research – 3 to 5 days

Sanity Check of Articles up to 5,000 words – 1 to 2 days

Edit full Book projects – 4 to 9 months

  • What do you do after you finish an editing project?

It’s not so much that I celebrate completing a project, but I  need to clear my head before I begin a new project. This means I’ll probably change music styles and crank up the volume for a solo dance recital or I may take my camera out for a walk. I do something physical between mental workouts but I tend to keep busy because your projects and deadlines are important to me. I move on to the next project on my calendar. This may be another editing project or it might be a writing project for a client. If I don’t have any contracted work for hire, I’ll work on creating my writing tips for subscribers or I might work on one of my personal writing projects.

  • Will your editing service improve my chance of publishing my book?

A professional edit will ensure it’s not rejected for common mistakes. An edit alone will do little to affect your chances of publication. Once edited, how you choose to use my editorial advice may increase your level of success but it does not guarantee publication with traditional publishers. A thorough edit will help eliminate nearly all errors, but publishers reject manuscripts for many reasons. Even if you intend to publish your book yourself, a professionally edited manuscript will provide a greater sense of pride. Some self-published authors have been signed by the bigger publishers because the book has not only been well-written, but it’s been edited professionally.

  • Are you listed on

Not at my last check! Preditors (sic) and Editors is a nonprofit site devoted to warning writers about dishonesty in the publishing industry.

Email me your questions.


  • I’m a small business owner with an even smaller budget, so how can I afford to hire a professional editor or a writer?

Hiring a professional editorial service shows commitment to excellence, but even if your budget isn’t ready for that, you can still benefit from my knowledge and experience. Sign up for my free Writing Tips and each month you’ll receive good advice. You can also request past topics or request answers to questions that will help you write for yourself.

  • If I stop using you, will you refund my initial payment?

Not usually. If you have paid the full project cost in advance of sending your files and for some reason, you decide to terminate the project before I begin, I will return a portion of the fee, reserving a 7% administrative fee .

  • May I pay you in installments?

Most work requires a retainer up front, then depending on the nature of the project, work is paid in full when services are rendered. If pre-negotiated, an installment payment schedule may be arranged for large projects. I will invoice for on-going projects.

  • Can we barter for your payment?


  • Do you accept gifts in lieu of payment?

I appreciate gifts, especially outrageously exotic chocolate, but this does not exempt anyone from paying me for my services, on time, as agreed. If you can arrange for an obscene amount of excellent wines or some 24-year-old Scotch and a truckload of seriously exceptional dark chocolate, we might be able to arrange a barter.

  • If I pay you extra, will you expedite my project?

That wouldn’t be fair to my other clients or to you. All my work is done on the first-come, first-served basis. I can work fast. I can work cheap. I can do a great job. However, I can only do two at the same time. If you are on deadline and I have other projects pending, I urge you to communicate with your publisher, adviser or agent about an extension.

  • How am I supposed to pay you?

Cash and gold coins are nice, but I also accept certified checks or money orders. Most people like to use PayPal.

  • Do you offer a money-back guarantee that your work will be free from any errors?

As an imperfect human striving for perfection, I can only guarantee I will give you the very best I have to offer, which, according to one client means, “the best proofer’s eyes I have ever seen.”

  • If you charge by the hour, how do I know what you are doing?

I never compromise the quality of my service for the sake of time. Depending on your needs, I will edit by the hour, by the project or by the page. I use an online program to track how much time I spend on all my projects and all but one person who has used my services has expressed satisfaction. Hey! Even I can’t please everybody.


Email me your questions.


on a stick

My main focus is editing, but I’m also a writer. Here are some of the questions people have asked over the years.

  • Will you help me write my book?

I will be happy to discuss how I can work as your ghostwriter.

  • Does a ghostwriter write ghost stories?

A ghostwriter is similar to a journalist who interviews subjects to write their stories or to write articles about them. A ghostwriter spends many hours with a book’s author, the person or company who has hired the writer, and gets to know the story concept intimately. Ghostwriters may or may not travel and research deeply to be able to tell the author’s story satisfactorily. Generally, a ghostwriter does not receive credit or a byline for writing, and is paid well for this sacrifice. Many high-profile personalities hire ghost writers because they don’t have the time to write, but they can talk while working, traveling or between projects. They tell their stories to the ghost writers who then turn these sessions into books.

  • Why can’t I write the book myself?

You need not hire a ghostwriter, but you may choose to, depending on how you wish to use your time and whether or not you enjoy writing.

  • My story is so compelling. If you write it for me, you will never have to work again. Why not let me pay after the money starts rolling in?

I’m a professional writer, not a gambler, regardless of your story’s potential. I’ll help however I can, within reason, but I simply don’t work that way.

  • If I offer to split all future proceeds with you 50/50, do I still need to pay you to write my book for me?

Only if you want to hire me to write or edit your book, today. You are free to write your book yourself and then we can discuss editing. I do not buy chocolate, today, on tomorrow’s tasty promises.

  • Will you mentor me while I write my book? I really can’t afford to hire anyone right now.

I’m flattered, but that’s not how it works. Sure, I mentor my writers while they are my clients. Over time, most have become my friends and we continue our relationship on a different level. There are other options if you need help and are willing to put in some effort. Perhaps we should discuss this further.

  • What happens after I review something you have written for me?

If you hired me to write a blog page, news article, press release, speech, toast, or any of the dozens of other possible projects you may need, you have options after I submit it to you for review. I want you to be satisfied with the project so we will have communicated in great detail about your plans for the project so that your vision become my understanding before I started. You may choose to accept the project as it is and pay the invoice or you may request changes, which may or may not incur additional fees that we’ll discuss at that time. You may also decide to kill the project, but you must pay for my services, as agreed.

  • If I hire you to write something for me and decide I don’t want to publish it, how do I stop work on the project?

Contact me and tell me you want to kill the project. Provided I have not submitted it to you for review, my kill fee is 30% of the total price. If I have not begun the work, I may opt to waive this fee. If work has begun, we will discuss my costs at that time, based on the actual work accomplished.

  • It’s deadline day! What is the best way to tell you about a change I need you to make in something you are writing for me?

Call me. 321-549-8156. When I’m writing, I don’t check email as regularly as you might need.

  • If your Internet goes down, will you still be able to get me my work on time?

I seldom lose bandwidth, but if I do, I can visit a local wifi hotspot to send files. I can also access my files and make copies to a portable drive that I can then send to you. It’s never been a problem, but I’m good at finding ways around unusual situations, so please don’t worry about this one.

  • If I lose my Internet connection, can you still deliver on time?

I can send files through several cloud based options that you can pick up when your connection returns or at a public location as long as you have access to your laptop or can insert a flash drive. If you are local, I can meet you and deliver your files on a drive or I can mail you the drive with your files. The key is that we must communicate through phone calls when either of us has a problem with Internet.

  • How do you prepare for a writing project?

If I need to research or interview, I do that first, then I gather the appropriate style guides, sheets and other reference materials I expect to need for the project and set up my files so the project is given proper attention. I stock up on teas and chocolates as well as nutritious, easy-to-eat lunches so I can keep my mind sharp for the work at hand. After the necessary phone calls, I turn on my favorite music and start writing.

  • Will you tell me how to land a freelance writing job?

There are many ways. I landed my first serious freelance gig when I was a member of a local writers’ critique group. Another member knew of a publication that was looking for writers and I followed up his lead. You can look for writer’s groups in your area or professional blogging sites online, as well as national publications that are hiring. As with any other job search, you will need to learn all you can about each company’s needs before you charge off to offer your writing services. As with so many other jobs, landing a freelance writing job requires networking and research that only you can perform. Good luck!

  • I see some of the books that make it big and are made into movies. They’re awful! Then I have to ask myself, what is my story missing? 

It could be missing many things that an editor could help pinpoint for you or it might not be missing anything at all. The real estate mantra is: location, location, location and the writer’s mantra may be timing, timing, timing! Most of  the best-selling authors you know have been rejected many times. Some have despaired they would stop writing and get a “real” job just before someone saw promise in a manuscript. The right story needs to land on the right desk at the right time.

  • How can I get a gig writing full time?

Just as musicians who want to get to Carnegie Hall must “Practice, practice, practice!” writers must hone their skills. Edit, revise, rewrite. Be sure you know as much as you can about writing. If your grammar and mechanical skills are weak, study. Read as much as you can. Read about writing, editing, publishing, business. Read for fun. Read how-to books and the back of cereal boxes. Always read and always write. Check online for writing jobs just as you would any other job. Create a writer’s resume and submit it. Write samples to show off. Find startups that will publish your work. It won’t pay the bills regularly, but once you start amassing clips, you will have published work to share. Writing for fun is fun, but writing for your career is true work. You’ll have to manage your time and expense just as you would for any other business. Above all else, be sure you have an entrepreneurial spirit!

  • Do I have to sign a contract to work with you?

Only if you want to. When we decide to work together I will write up a short work agreement that outlines my services, rates and deadline. Once you reply that you agree to the terms by email, I begin work on your project. Contracts scare some people and offer comfort to others.

  • I’ve been a non-paid contributor for a monthly column for several years, but would like to be paid. Can you guide me or maybe be an agent for me in getting connected to a paper, service, or some kind of magazine?  

Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m an editor, not an agent. You can start by asking the current publisher to pay you. Since you have been an unpaid contributor, most likely you won’t be paid much.  When you ask the publisher to begin paying for your work, start by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to contribute for as long as you have, then state that you’ve decided you feel your time is worth compensation. Instead of asking how much the publisher is willing to pay –  state what you will charge. Be reasonable. Research going rates for similar work. Be prepared to be rejected and have future work turned down by this publisher, because if you have been contributing work for free, your work may be appreciated more elsewhere.

Don’t stop there, but pursue other outlets as well, because you can make so much more money working for multiple publications. The trick is you have to approach each one individually and offer your services on a one time or columnist basis. This is going to require some work on your part, to find out which kind the particular publications accept.  Some will accept syndicated work and others want only original material for their publications and it’s up to you to discover the answers. Be sure you become familiar with what the publisher currently prints and what the needs are.

Here is a starting point. Freelance Rates Database

Also, buy a copy or go to the library to review a copy of Writer’s Market – you can’t check it out of the library but you can use Writer’s Market Online . You will have to buy a subscription, but can pay for a month at the time. It truly is a great resource, and it’s updated annually. You want to use the most current information available and this book will eliminate 80% of your research time.

Email me your questions.


Dragonfly point


  • What is your favorite music?

When I’m exercising, it’s got to be techno, rave or house music. If I’m cleaning my office, I want rock and roll or dub step, but when I am writing or editing, I need classical or smooth jazz instrumentals. I research to today’s pop hits, garden to the sounds of nature and dance to almost anything loud.

  • Do you need anything special when you write or edit?

I need music, tea and chocolate. I need fewer distractions for this than if I were watching TV or engaging social media. I can work in the daytime, nighttime and in all kinds of weather as long as my computer has power. The Internet is helpful, but I usually have all the reference materials I need in books. When I’m working on one of my personal creative projects (novels or short stories) I wear one of my mother’s scarves as a signal to my brain that this is time set aside for myself.

  • Let’s meet over lunch so we can discuss my project. Dutch?

Everybody has to eat, but midday is my brain’s prime time. I will be happy to talk with you on the phone or via Skype. Besides, the time I’d spend driving to meet you could be better used editing. If you still want to meet and would like to pay $75 for a service call, upfront, I will deduct that from your final bill if we decide to work together.

  • Do you accept referrals?

Absolutely! Some of my best work has come from referrals.

  • I love your work! How can I submit a testimonial for you?

You can Tweet it and #MaryBrotherton or link to my page.

Give me an endorsement on LinkedIn with a link to my page.

Email me!

Post it on Facebook.

  • Do you ever miss a deadline?

Rarely. I usually finish assignments ahead of time.

  • What is your favorite business quote?

It may not be my favorite, but it’s a good one to keep in mind:

I offer three kinds of service: Cheap, Fast and Awesome. You may choose any two, but understand that Awesome work done Cheaply will not be completed Fast.  Awesome work completed Fast will not come Cheap. If I work Fast and Cheap, I cannot produce Awesome results.


Email your questions to me


Email me today and ask for my Free Writing Tips.





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