How Libby works depends upon the author and the book: every author and every project is unique. Many prospective clients have similar questions before work begins, though. Here are some of the most common and Libby's answers.
Q & A
Q. How long will it take?
A. I can't answer that until I have seen your ms. and know you well enough to have a sense of how fast you learn and work. Two recent books were started and finished within six months. In one case, the author and I had spent a year, off and on, working on the proposal; by the end of that process, each chapter had been outlined in some detail. In the other, the author had been thinking about the topic for years and had an outline, which I helped him re-organize, and some chapters already written. Typically, the more you have thought about and done before we start working together, the less time our work takes. If your manuscript is finished and needs only final editing, we could be finished in weeks, not months.
Q. What kind of editing will you do?
A. I do developmental editing (sometimes called substantive editing)-- see this link for a long, thorough definition. Briefly, the difference between developmental editing and other kinds is that a good developmental editor sees the book's potential as well as what's actually on the page. She listens to the author, works with him, and helps him rethink as well as rewrite the book if necessary. What I do specifically depends upon the author and the manuscript. There's a continuum, ranging from a book that's only an idea in the author's mind to a finished manuscript that needs tightening and polishing. (If that's all a book needs, the publisher's copy-editing department can probably do it. With a book proposal, though, an author -- or his agent -- may want me to do it.) Most authors I work with get help on focus/ organization, language, or content. Interestingly, although some authors I've worked with have needed help with two of these, I've never worked with anyone who needed help with all three. Sometimes, I do a little writing as I edit -- mainly to clarify ideas -- but when I'm editing, I don't usually add original material. Once an editor starts to write for the author, rather than rewrite, she is no longer editing -- she's ghostwriting. I do ghostwriting as well as editing, though because it takes more of my time, it usually costs the author significantly more money.
Q. Can you help me find a publisher?
A. That's where a good agent can help you. I can point you to excellent Web sites that supply contact and submission information for literary agents, but I am not an agent myself.
Q. What kinds of books do you do?
A. Most of the adult books I've done recently have been self-help or business books, but I've also worked on manuscripts in psychology, chemistry, financial services, and parenting. The children's books I have worked on as an editor include fiction and non-fiction; usually, this work is anonymous and contracted by the publisher, not the author.
Q. How much will it cost? Can you give me a ball park figure?
A. I have an hourly rate and (after an exploratory conversation, which is free) clients normally pay an initial deposit. For that, I read the ms., decide what it needs, and write a report and recommendations. Once the author has had a chance to think about what I've said, we discuss it. During this discussion, the author asks me questions, and we decide together upon next steps, a plan, and, sometimes, a schedule and budget for the project. How much a project costs depends upon how much time I spend on it, which in turn depends upon the ms., the author, and what I do.