What I can do for you

What type of documents do I work on?

First up let me say that I do not work on children's books, YA or poetry. These are all specialised fields that I am not qualified to work on.

So, what do you have? While I specialise in fiction, specifically fantasy, some romance and speculative fiction, I will work on restaurant menus, websites, annual reports, club newsletters, newspaper or magazine articles or advertisements, resumes, blogs... the list is endless.

I have done Career Episode Reports for Engineers seeking qualification, memoirs, psychological thrillers, and uni assignments, just as a few examples.

What will I do with your document?

It all depends on what you want me to do - edit or proof-read.

Before we go any further, if you are brand new to writing I strongly suggest you investigate writing workshops, seminars, or local writers groups before spending money on editing. If this is not you, read on...

There are three kinds of editing I can do: Developmental, Copy, or Substantive (also known as Line).

If your manuscript has gone through several drafts, had loads of feedback both positive and negative, been revised, read by beta-readers and is ready to be published, then you want a copy edit and/or proofread (refer to Other Services below).

If you've written your first draft, revised it a time or two, had some feedback on it but have a niggling sensation as the back of your mind that it still doesn't quite work and you can't put your finger on exactly why, then you need a developmental edit.

This looks at the big picture issues, such as plot, story, characterisation, structure, tension, theme, genre and narrative style. Perhaps a couple of chapters need to be re-ordered to increase tension, or characters from different lands or worlds all seem to speak in the same way. This can be either in-depth, with suggested edits and comments within the document along with an editorial report, or a lighter assessment with just the editorial report.

Before I get started i will ask you a bunch of questions about the story so I have enough background information to base my editing on. Don't worry, the questions aren't hard and you might find when answering them a lightbulb goes off over your head and issues resolve themselves or at least become clearer to you.

For an in-depth edit I will do two passes on the first round. On the first pass I will read through your manuscript as if I had just picked it up in a bookstore, highlighting anything that I feel needs further investigation. On the second pass I will go through the manuscript in detail, making notes and suggestions within the document and writing up my editorial report.

Once that’s done I’ll send it all to you to read, digest, run screaming for the hills (hopefully not), and then make yourself a big cup of your favourite beverage and get back into the story, refreshed and encouraged.

On the second round I will only check the areas I had highlighted and any new material you may have added.

For a developmental edit I prefer to work on the full manuscript, but if you have a partial manuscript and want to know if you are on the right track, I will happily help you provided you also supply a summary of where you want the story to go.


Copy Editing involves going through the document line by line looking for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, consistent styles for headings, captions etc. A light copy edit will cover spell-checking, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

Substantive Editing involves getting into the nitty gritty of the manuscript or document. Is the hero travelling a thousand miles across the land in a day on horseback? (I feel sorry for the horse!) Does the heroine have blue eyes in chapter 1 and brown eyes in chapter 3? Do London Underground trains come to a screaming halt when a passenger pulls the emergency brake? (In case you are wondering, the answer is no.)

Then there is proof-reading (or proofreading without the hyphen depending on which dictionary you are using).

The last person to see the document before final printing is the proof-reader. They receive a "proof" copy of the document, in other words exactly as it's going to look when printed (including the fancy fonts), and check that all corrections have been made and that no other errors have slipped in during the typesetting process.

What I will NOT do with your document

I will not rewrite. I will not do your research for you. That is not my job. Be aware though that I do spot-check facts if the setting is contemporary.

How will I change your document?

I will be using Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" feature which will highlight the changes in red. You can accept or reject these changes as you wish.

During a structural edit I will highlight any queries with comment bubbles, unless something major crops up in which case I will contact you by email to discuss the issue.

Please be aware that any changes I suggest you may ignore at your wish. They are only suggestions.


My minimum charge for anything is £25.

Proof-reading: Based on word count. Email or call for a quote. As an example, to proof-read a 125000-word manuscript will cost £500.00

Editing: All editing work will be quoted based on word count and type of editing required. For example, a 250,000 word manuscript will cost £1,600 for a full structural edit (which includes basic copy edit). For a basic copy edit (spell check, punctuation, grammar and formatting) a 250,000 word manuscript will cost £1,400

Anything less than 3,000 words will be at the minimum charge of £25 for copy edits and £50 for structural edits.

Developmental Editing will be quoted on a time basis.

Payment: Payment can either be by direct deposit into the bank account nominated on my quote/invoice, or by PayPal (preferred method). Cheques will only be accepted by prior arrangement.

For small projects where my quote is less than £100 I request full payment up front.

For all other projects I request 50% deposit up front, 25% at the half-way mark and the balance on completion. 

How long will it take?

Editing and proof-reading are time-consuming tasks, especially if the subject matter is highly technical. Expect a one day to one week turnaround for small proof-reading or editing tasks (less than 10,000 words). For everything else I will advise a time-frame in my quote.

If you have an urgent job with a tight deadline please note this in your query email and I will take this into account with my quote.

How do we do business?


Please email me in the first instance. This will ensure we both have a written outline of the work and the quoted price, in case of any disputes. However if you have a rush job please contact me on my mobile during business hours. If I don't immediately answer please send a text message.

In your email (or text) please advise your name, phone number and address and what type of work you wish me to do. I will contact you to discuss the work and provide you with a written quote.

How do you get your documents to me?

By email. Please use Courier 12 or Times New Roman 12 point (the fancy fonts come later when the work is about to be published) and double-space the text. The file format should be in either .doc, .docx or .rtf format, preferably .rtf. I do not work on pdf files. 

If there are large files they can be compressed into a zip file. Please ensure you include everything that forms part of the document: graphics, tables, illustrations, glossaries, indices etc.

I prefer to work on soft copy but will consider small documents on hard copy. If you do send a hard copy please keep a copy for yourself because I will be marking corrections in red pen.


Amy Kuivalainen, author of the Firebird Fairytales trilogy:  Barb is an excellent structural editor who pulled my novel Cry of the Firebird up by its boot straps. Her insights made the story line tighter and challenged it to go deeper. I highly recommend her if you want to take your story line to the next level. 

Nathan Farrugia: I engaged Barbara's services to assess my manuscript and structurally edit some chapters. Barbara's eagle eye and uncompromising editorial work helped bring a level of polish and professionalism to the manuscript that only weeks later proved crucial in hooking a literary agent. Without Barbara, none of this would be possible.

Tropical Writers of Far North Queensland: Tropical Writers is a writing group in Cairns that has published several anthologies. Each year we employ Barbara to be our editor and in 2010 she not only edited all 42 stories and poems, but also did the layout for us. Because there are different skill levels in our group, some of the writing required only a copy edit (for punctuation and grammar), while others required a full structural edit. Barbara worked well with all of the authors and managed to turn even the most difficult manuscripts into a publishable state. We firmly believe that it is Barbara's editing knowledge and expertise that make our books so successful. Contact Diane Finlay on findpublishing@hotmail com to obtain copies of the anthologies.

Sally McDonald, Editor: I am an editor myself, so I trust my ability to produce a grammatically correct manuscript. However, there is more to editing than just getting the punctuation right and for that I hired Barbara. She picked up on the times I repeated phrases or used superfluous words. For example, in one sentence I wrote: "I saw that there was a backpack on the table" and by trimming that to, "I saw a backpack on the table" Barbara was able to keep me within the word count restriction. More importantly, Barbara understands the dynamics of structure and dialogue in writing. She pointed out that my 80 year old character would probably not utter the modern expression I had given him, and this insight made my story much more believable. I can't recommend Barbara highly enough - she is a master at picking up on things I completely missed!

Diane Andrews: I sent a short story to Barbara for editing, Dog One Man Zero. She did a fantastic job, so good in fact that it was accepted for publication immediately I submitted it. Now it is in a print anthology - "Heroes and Villains" from Canadian publisher All Rights Reserved.

Cloris de Matteis: I have found Barbara Holten by chance on the internet, and I say that it was a lucky day for me. She has proof read my two books for publication and she has done a marvellous job. I can recommend her highly as she is very thorough and nothing escapes her very professional eyes.

Lauren Budden: I am very happy with all the changes and I so appreciate the time and effort you put into it as well as the extra advice. I don't think I could have found someone better for the editing. I really feel that you got it and you felt it. "Oh my God! I'm a Lesbian!" - not yet published but sparkling on the slush pile

Books I have worked on