Editing Anthologies

Editing an Anthology is part organisation, part knowing the market and part cat wrangling. As the editor for an anthology you do more than just Developmental, Structural or Copy editing, but you may end up doing some of this as well.

The anthology editor is responsible for the overall book, from theme selection to ordering of stories. Get any of the steps wrong and the impact of the book will be lessened. Get it right and readers will be talking about the collection for years to come.

So what does an anthology editor actually do?

Initially, the editor will determine the theme of the anthology. It could be broadly grouped stories around any topic or it might be a more narrowly focused topic such as a particular colour. The end goal of the anthology will also need to be decided at this point. Do you want to scare the readers? Promote a cause? Celebrate an occasion? Why are you creating this anthology?

From there, decisions will need to be made between the publisher and the editor as to the length of the final product, the number of contributors, the length of individual stories, the balance of writers (Established? Emerging? Genre?) and the guidelines for submission.

Once all these decisions have been made, the anthology editor needs to start reaching out for writers to submit stories. This could be through open calls, invitation to guest writers, magazine/internet advertisements, writer group talks or blogs, really, the list is endless.

When the word gets out about an open call anthology, stories will appear in the slush pile. These will need to be read to see if they fit with the editors vision for the book. Some the editor can see immediately that a story won’t work for the book; the writing may be weak, the theme not followed or the story not grabbing the attention of the editor. Other stories will need to be read through a few times and thought about. Often these will go in a maybe pile. While other stories instantly grab your attention and keep it (these tend to be rare, but they do occur).

As the fate of each story is decided, letters of acceptance or rejection are sent to the writers. Acceptance are celebrated. Rejections are commiserated because no matter how bad the writing, most editors do not enjoy saying no to a story, particularly one we’ve considered at length.

Eventually all the spots are filled and work begins on editing the stories. This work is the same as for any story; developmental editing to make sure the tale works; structural editing to make sure the story is told in the most impactful manner possible and copy editing to ensure the best possible word choices are made. The anthology editor may do this work by themself or they may have other editors who work on some or all of the stories, depending upon budget, time and publishing factors.

Next comes the task of ordering the stories. This is where an anthology will sink or swim. Getting the mix of stories right is essential. I like to think of it as baking the anthology, getting the balance of stories flavours to achieve the desired end result. This task is part science, part art, part luck, part experience. You need to make sure each story either complements or contrasts with the stories either side of it, but you don’t want stories that are too simpatico. You need a clear change of voice, change of character, change of style to ensure each writer is showcased to their best.

At this stage, it is often easiest to print all stories off (or at least a sample of each story) and play with arrangement to ensure the impact of the stories is maximised. The first story in the anthology is critical to setting the tone of the entire book, with the last story being vital to the emotional resonance in the reader. Most readers assume the first story reflects the level of writing in the book. If they don’t connect with that first story, they most likely won’t bother reading any further into the book.

The last story should reflect exactly what you wanted to achieve with the anthology. Do you want your reader too scared to leave the room? Happy and excited? Hugging their loved ones? Regardless of your end goal, this story is the last chance to affect the reader; therefore, the anthology editor will spend a significant amount of time considering which story will take this position.

Once all this has happened, the book is ready to go to the formatter. This is normally the end of the editors tasks until it comes time to market the book, but if the editor is self-publishing the anthology they may also be involved in formatting, cover art, distribution and uploading of files.

Overall, the anthology editor sets the tone of the book, ensures the flavour is perfect and then sends the book off into the expectant hands of the reading public.

Coaching and Mentoring

A writing coach helps you focus, provides perspective, encouragement and guides you through difficult patches. Regardless of whether you are an organic writer (sounds nicer than pantser) or an architectural writer (plotter), we can help you reach your goals.

A writing coach and mentor can help you:
• Achieve or clarify your writing goals.
• Improve your grammar, spelling, punctuation skills.
• Develop plots that are engaging, realistic and enthralling.
• Develop characters with real struggles the reader will empathise with.
• Identify your writing style, voice and best-fit genre.
• Get organised and stay organised.

We are able to help you:
• Identify, define and prioritise your writing goals.
• Focus on your objectives.
• Overcome the challenges impacting your writing life.
• Reach daily or weekly writing goals.

Sometimes you just need an objective person to listen and empathise with your situation. Sometimes you need someone to kick your butt and tell you to sit and write. Your writing coach and mentor is that someone.

Coaching Packages

This package gives you an accountability buddy, a sounding board and a cheer squad. We help you:
• Organise your project.
• Determine the most appropriate writing schedule.
• Select goals, both short and long term.
• With research.
• Outlining, plotting and structuring.

At the beginning, we chat and set daily/weekly or monthly writing goals. These may be word counts, research tasks, structure or other relevant goals.

As you achieve each goal, you can shoot me an email to let me know you’ve done your tasks if you wish. Each week you get an hour of editing and critiquing of the work you’ve sent me. If you select to send any.

At any point during the week you can email me problems you’re having and every Friday I offer advice, suggestions, congratulations, commiserations or encouragement as you need either by email, Skype or other communication method that works for both of us.

This package costs $100.00 Australian per month, (minimum commitment is 2 months) Included in this package is:

• Weekly critiquing of your work addressing style, consistency, characters, plotting or you can nominate a particular weakness you would like help with.
• Feedback on your work.
• Assistance, encouragement and accountability with meeting your goals and targets.
• An outside sounding board who will give you an honest opinion.

Editorial Services

Here at Matthews Editorial Services we offer a full range of editorial services for writers regardless of where in your writing career you are.

We offer:
• Proofreading.
• Line Editing.
• Structural Editing.
• Developmental Editing.
• Coaching and Mentoring.
• Fact checking.
• Editing for series continuity.

We work with both fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction Specialities:
• Romance.
• Action Adventure.
• Horror.
• Science fiction.
• Fantasy.
• Mystery.
• Family drama.
• Historical fiction.
Non-Fiction Specialities:
• Textbooks and learner resources.
• Memoirs.
• Biographies and auto-biographies.
• Business reports, policies and procedures.
• Journals.

We do not accept
• Erotica.
• Steampunk.
• Religious.
• Poetry.

Sorry but we just don’t have the expertise in these fields to effectively offer advice or services.

Non-Fiction Editing

Non-Fiction Editing

Non-Fiction editing examines:
• Facts and fact checking.
• Readability.
• Continuity.
• Spelling.
• Grammar.
• Jargon or Industry specific language terms.
• Syntax.
• Word selection.
• Sentence flow.
• Research.
• Copyright permissions.

As non-fiction editing is a more involved process, we charge a flat rate of $60.00 per hour.

Non-Fiction works we specialise in includes:
• Textbooks – secondary and tertiary
• Learner resources – vocational education.
• Business reports, policies and procedures.
• Corporate manuals and newsletters.
• Journals, biographies and auto-biographies.
• Website auditing.
• Material auditing

We also offer a non-fiction writing services. Please contact us with details of your project for a written quote.

Fiction Editing – Services and Costs

Manuscript Appraisal and Assessment.

In an appraisal, we read the manuscript and assess what is working and what isn’t. We focus on:
• Readability.
• Character development and interaction.
• Plotting and identifying plot holes.
• Showing versus telling.
• Information dumps and excessive exposition.
• Continuity issues.
• Basic spelling and grammar.
• General awkwardness and areas lacking polish.

We do not edit these areas. We identify the problem, explain why it is a problem and offer suggestions for fixes but it is up to the writer to examine and consider our suggestions and advice and determine a path forward.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is a detailed, comprehensive examination of the manuscript looking at:
• Pacing.
• Plot development.
• Character development.
• Consistency of timeline, character and plot.
• Fact checking.
• Logic issues.
• Story structure.
• Dialogue.

With developmental editing, I am looking at those ‘things’ that pull the reader out of the story or make the reader doubt the story.

Line Editing or Copy Editing

This is a comprehensive edit addressing:
• Syntax.
• Word selection.
• Sentence flow.
• Consistency.
• Style.
• Spelling.
• Grammar.
• Punctuation.
• Hyphens.
• Consistency of spelling and tense.


This stage of the process checking that all edits have been completed and that the manuscript is ready for printing. Proofreading is sometimes combined with line editing.

Multiple Services or Multiple Books

Writers who are working on a series and who would like to ensure consistency across the series by booking my services for the entire series will receive a 25% discount on the total.

To ensure an accurate quote for editing, the first 2,000 words or first chapter will be edited and returned as a free service. That way, I can see the amount of work that needs to be done, and you can see if you like my editing style.

Spelling and Punctuation in a Global World

Wouldn’t it be lovely if every English speaking country had the same spelling, punctuation and grammar? If regional or local differences didn’t matter. But they do, so what as a writer should you do?

My first piece of advice is consistency. Pick and stick because consistency is going to annoy fewer readers than switching regularly. But how to do select?

My suggestion is to use your native version of English as the standard, but be able to use other versions if you have characters of other nationalities. As an Australian reader, it annoys me to read a book set in Australia, with Australian characters but the book is written using American spelling and word choice. Admittedly, that is just me, but many other readers I’ve spoken with feel the same way. I know the American market is significantly larger and you want to break into the larger market but if you are using Australian characters, locations and scenarios, stick with Australian spelling.

The reverse is essential as well. If your story is set in America, England, Canada or other English speaking country, ensure you follow the local conventions for spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you’re not sure, it is easy enough to find the established rules.

Working with a variety of American authors recently horde/hoard has been an interesting experience for me. In Australia, each has specific meanings. But the American authors I’ve been working with have been using either word interchangeably.

Horde/hoard – horde = marauding band, gang or group of People/savages (or teenage boys looking for a snack) while hoard means to collect, store and hide objects (possibly the snacks the teenagers are looking for).

After discussions with the authors, most have elected to adapt to the variation above (because of the different meanings) but three of the authors decided to stick with hoard as meaning a group or gang of people in addition to a stockpile of belongings. As an editor, I always leave the final decision to the author after arguing my point but this example is a perfect reason why I believe the publishing would benefit from a Global version of English. After all, there isn’t much difference between:

The rampaging hoard found the hoard of biscuits and the rampaging horde found the hoard of biscuits,

But to me as a reader, I would automatically did not finish (DNF) a book which used the first example.

Can you suggest other examples? Post below if you like.

Cultural Appropriation OR Diversity and Inclusion: Can We Have Both

As an editor and writer, I have been following the argument over cultural appropriation with interest. I’ve also been watching the calls for cultural diversity in books closely. At the moment, I can’t see how any writer is able to walk this line between appropriation and representation with any kind of success.

On the one hand, you have people telling writers we can’t/shouldn’t write about cultures unless they are a part of that culture or know that culture very, very well because we are hindering writers from that culture getting published and telling their own stories. Fair call and I support it. I prefer to read about characters who are completely true to the ‘reality’ that character would have faced in the real world when I’m reading about a ‘real world’ situation.

On the other hand, writers get slammed by critics for not having culturally diverse characters in their novels. Again, fair call. Books with only one cultural perspective can be limiting and less than engaging. But why would the writer create culturally diverse characters if they are going to get accused of cultural appropriation?

I understand that culture and identity is an important and emotive topic. But having diversity in characters is just as important and emotive. But how is the modern writer suppose to balance both?

As a topic, this juggle requires serious consideration and discussions. How does any writer create a character who is different from their own experience? Does this mean I should only create characters who are female? Have a chronic illness? Are mothers? Should settings stay only in the time period since I was born in 1970? Or should I focus on creating entirely new worlds, new problems rather than explore the issues and problems that interest me?

The biggest benefit I can see to fiction (other than relaxation) is the ability of the reader to see into the inner world of the characters and hopefully gain insight into what makes those characters real. This can then be transferred to a wider context of society. This takes dedication, research, communication. A writer creating a character outside of their own culture needs to be willing to use all available options for getting that character correct. But does it really mean the writer cannot create diverse characters? Or more importantly, how do we create culturally diverse stories and characters that are honest, appropriate and real? As a profession, writers and creators need to be having this discussion but at the moment, rhetoric from one side of the fence or the other is almost all I can find.

At the moment, it seems like writers are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

Or is that just me?

Editing Types

Knowing the different types of editing that your manuscript may need will help you determine the best editor for the task.

Developmental editing

Developmental editing is where the problems that will pull the reader away from the story are identified and the editor should offer suggestions as to how to fix the problem. Always remember, these are suggestions only. Personally, I prefer to ask questions of the author which show what the problem is and why it’s a problem and then let the author fix it anyway they want to.

Developmental editing should focus on:
•   Pacing.
•   Plot development.
•   Character development.
•   Consistency of timeline, character and plot.
•   Fact checking (as in is something logical and possible)
•   Logic issues.
•   Story structure.

Developmental editing can be done during and after writing.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is the process of looking at:
•   Syntax.
•   Word selection.
•   Sentence flow.
•   Consistency.
•   Style of writing

The purpose of copy editing, which also known as line editing, is to make each sentence the best it can possibly be. Line editing should happen after you are happy with story and are looking to make every sentence count.


This is what most people think of as editing, but in all honesty, proofreading is the last step in the editing process. It is about finding the mistakes in:
•   Spelling.
•   Grammar.
•   Punctuation.
•   Hyphens.
•   Consistency of spelling and tense.

Proofreading must be the very last step in the process.

By knowing the different levels of editorial work, you can select an editor who specialises in that particular area.

I tend to specialise in Developmental Editing. I love to find the inconsistencies in a story and to locate where I was pulled out of a story.
Other editors prefer to polish the prose until it shines, while others are happy to look only for the mistakes in grammar, spelling etc.

The Easiest Way to Save Money When Using an Editor

The simplest way to make editing cheaper is to give yourself time between typing The End and starting to edit. Remember, the more work you’ve done, the tighter the story, the less the editor will cost. Particularly with the developmental editing.

My advice is to give yourself a minimum of a month, preferably more. In the perfect world, you should write your next story, before editing the first one. By moving straight into the story of Book 2, you give yourself a break from the events in
Book 1. This break from Book 1 means you can really see the problems, issues and plot holes when you come back to do the edit.

Perfect world work flow would look something like this:
•   Write Book 1
•   Write Book 2
•   First Edit / Rewrites Book 1
•   Write Book 3
•  First / Rewrites Edit Book 2
•  Write Book 4
•   Final Edit Book 1

Follow the pattern until complete.

Admittedly this process is a long one; not suitable for writers in a hurry to get something into the world. It can take over 12 months to get to the final edit in book 1 (assuming the writer works relatively fast).

The benefits of working in this way include:
•   Building a habit of completing books.
•  Developing a work flow system that is sustainable.
•   Develops work habits that will help you if you decide to pursue traditional publishing.
•   Gives you distance from each book so you can more easily ‘see’ the issues and problems.
•   Conversely, the distance lets you see what is great about the story.
•   Motivates you to continue developing as a writer because you can see your progress.
•   You spend less on professional editing because more of the issues have been identified and rectified.

The downsides of working with this pattern include:
•   Takes a lot more time to publish a book.
•  Takes a lot of discipline to set the book aside while you write another.
•   Takes a lot of discipline to come back to the book.

Using a truncated or modified version of this system, where you are working simultaneously editing a book while writing another can speed up the process, but the results may not be as great as you’d like.

As a professional editor, the biggest advice I can give a writer is to take the time necessary. Don’t send your work out to an editor as soon as you finish it. By taking the time and doing the first couple of edits yourself, you will save yourself money because the professional edit will be quicker and smoother as you’ve already found and fixed most of the problems.

Recent Interview.

I recently did an interview with a high school student who was looking for information on becoming an editor. As some of the questions she asked were interesting, I compiled them for others who may be interested in a career as an editor.

Why did you choose to become an editor?

I decided to become an editor after I was offered a job and found I was very good at it and couldn’t wait to get to work each day.I had always loved reading, writing, working with words and correcting mistakes and I found editing uses all of those skills.. You could say I fell into editing and that’s the way it is for a lot of editors. We start out in another field and end up fixing the mistakes others make in their documents.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

The favourite part of my job is when I hand the manuscript back to the writer, knowing it is a stronger better book. It is exciting when I start working with a new manuscript because you don’t know anything about the story. But the best part is definitely getting the story into top shape and sending it out into the world.

Do you work on only one project at a time? Or more than one?

I work on multiple projects at a time. I prefer to work across multiple manuscripts or projects because it is more interesting and tends to be easier. If I’m having trouble (or not in the mood, waiting to hear back from an author) with one project/manuscript I can move to another.

What does an editor do?

There are four main levels of editing – Acquisitions, Content, Line and proofreading. I’ll explain from the last task to the first task.

Proofreading where you are looking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Proofreading is the very last time a book will get looked at before it gets sent to the printers so the reader is often reading the ‘proofs’ or ‘galley’s’.

Line editing is next step. Line editors are looking for spelling, grammar, punctuation and continuity errors and mistakes. They work with the document in a still raw state, normally in Microsoft word format. A line editor will mark the mistake or make a query and send it back to the author for the author to decide what to do about the mistake or for the writer to decide if it was a mistake in the first place. Sometimes, it is simply clumsy phrasing or a deliberate decision.

A content editor is the next. Content editors read the story looking for areas where:
• The characters don’t make sense, act out of character for no reason or just are acting/reacting in an unbelievable manner.
• The story is boring, uninteresting and not working.
• The sentences don’t read well.
• Mistakes, errors or confusion. One recent one I caught was a character who in one scene had a son and a daughter but in a scene at the end of the book had two sons, no daughters.
• Anything occurs that might confuse or pull a reader out of the story.

The content editor may also suggest new story arcs or directions, new ways of presenting mysteries or different ideas that the author might like to explore. If I’m working as a content editor and I think something will strengthen a story I mention it to the writer. If I think the story is weak in an area I tell the author and explain why I think it is weak. Everything I say is a suggestion that the writer can use in any way they would like to. Some suggestions they accept, some they reject and some we work with until both of us are happy. If I’m working on a non-fiction piece I will fact check to make sure everything is accurate and not going to cause any problems with the legal department.

Acquisitions editor is the final or first task. An acquisitions editor reads the manuscript and decides which if it fits the publishing company. An acquisitions editor can also suggest stories, ideas and titles they would like to see if necessary. An acquisitions editor spends a lot of time trying to convince other members of the publishing team that the book they love is the best book for the company to publish.

What other things does an editor do?

As I run my own freelance editing business, I also spend time working with marketing, communications, and business management. I spend a lot of time talking with or emailing authors about how to make their books better.
I spend a lot of time reading so I can understand the publishing world, what books are selling and what ideas are not. This is an important part of the business because I need to be able to tell the authors I’m working with if the idea and themes in their book are too similar to another book, have been done in a similar manner by someone else, or are just not selling at the moment and I’ve got to be able to tell if a story just plain doesn’t work. All of this relies on me reading a lot of books each year.

How hard is editing?

Is editing hard? Editing is physically not difficult. But editing is mentally draining because you are constantly having to think ‘is this the best it can be?’ and ‘what would make this better?’ or ‘will a reader believe that happened?’ and a million other questions. Plus all the time your mind is comparing the manuscript to everything else you’ve read to see if anything jumps out as being very similar. So by the end of the day, you are very tired, but often very excited as well.

How long does it take to edit a manuscript?

The amount of time taken to edit a manuscript is difficult to judge. First stage is quick because it’s a read through to get the overall story. Second stage takes a lot longer because this is where you are pulling the story apart and making it stronger and better. Once the manuscript goes back to the author, they will look through it and make some changes, then the story comes back for a third pass. This third pass can go back and forth between the writer and I until both of us are happy with the story. One book I’ve been working with took a month, another a year. It all depends on how strong the writing is to start with.

What is your main role as an editor?

My main role is to make sure the story is so amazing that the reader can’t put the book down and the writer is so amazed at what they’ve accomplished that they go write another book. Editing, particularly content editing, is one of the most invisible jobs in the world. A good content editor should be invisible. The reader shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between what I suggest and what the writer suggested. The writer should know the book is better/stronger/exactly what they wanted, because of the help from the editor.

What are career options like for an editor?

Career options as an editor depend very much on your ability to run your own business. There are fewer and fewer publishing companies offering full time in house employment as an editor and within the next ten years or so I can see freelancing and contracting being the only way to work within the editing field. But the freelancing and contracting field is expanding all the time. If you’re interested in editing study English at an advanced level (if that’s available to you) and read as much as possible in as many genres as you can.

What did you study at university?

Here in Australia we have a Bachelor of Arts Professional Writing and Publishing which covers editing, publishing project management as well as writing in a variety of genres. Other countries have differing options. The best advice I can give you is to explore and see what options exist for you.

I think that just about covers everything, but if I haven’t or you have more questions, feel free to ask more and I’ll answer as best I can.