How I Became a Successful Freelance Editor – by Rickey Pittman

How I Became a Successful Freelance Editor – by Rickey Pittman

“The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.” 

? Michael Lee

I’ve been a paid, freelance editor now for over twenty years.  Editing has proved to be a substantial source of income—sometimes supplemental, sometimes providing JIT (just-in-time) money when my other avenues of income were slow or hindered by the weather, acts of God, or health. My editing focus has been with first-time authors.

New authors need an editor to get a novel or book in shape for publication. My editing services included not only searching for errors in spelling and punctuation, but also fact checking, identifying bad patterns, pointing out how their writing can be improved, and making suggestions on plot, dialogue, and narration. When I’m finished, the author is given homework on how to get their work ready for publication. I share the advice of the great Suzuki who said, “If a student does something wrong once, it is a mistake. If a student does it twice, it’s a habit.” Most writers have developed bad habits, which I can spot and show them how to correct in their rewrite.

I also show authors how to edit their own work—how to correctly search in Word for misspellings—and I suggest books and offer websites that are helpful tools.  If editing a novel, I discourage the use of Word’s grammar tool, as it doesn’t understand the nuances and exceptions in fiction. On a couple of occasions, the grammar tool, when used by an author, has undone many of the corrections and additions I’d previously made. My editing has been effective enough that I have had writers return to me for their other books as well.

Authors are responsible for their final submission to the publisher, unless I’m hired to proof their final book. I answer every email in twenty-four hours and communicate with phone if needed. I work chapter by chapter, sending feedback on each chapter, and sometimes using the tracking tool if the author knows how to use it. When the edit is finished, I will help with any specific questions or issues until the author’s book is published. Few editors offer this.

I promise a speedy edit, which isn’t available from many editors. Any full-length book usually requires three full days of editing on my part, but I’ll usually ask for a week.

I want my authors to succeed, so I strive to give them the attention and instruction they need to promote their book.

If you’d like a quote for your book, please request that here.


Rickey Pittman, Bard of the South, is a popular freelance book editor, an award-winning author, storyteller, and folksinger and the Grand Prize Winner of the 1998 Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition. Pittman presents his stories, music and programs at schools, libraries, organizations, museums, Civil War Reenactments, restaurants, banquets, and Celtic festivals throughout the South.

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