Book Editing


My goal is to help you achieve yours: telling the story or making the argument you’re dying to share, in the voice that reflects you, to the audience you want to reach.

I specialize in working with independent authors doing science, narrative nonfiction, and object biography.

Emerging fiction and memoir writers also welcome—I will work within your budget!

Free sample edit, up to 5 pages.

Qualifications

I have a particular expertise in the life sciences, from a PhD in cell and microbiology and several years writing about neuroscience. 

As a writer, I’ve received honors from the National Press Foundation, Houston Methodist Medical Center, and The Hastings Center.

I’ve aced editing courses from the Poynter Institute, the Editorial Freelancers Association, and UCLA.

For more details, see my resume.

Testimonial

Amber's editing style is constructive, insightful, and friendly. Starting with our initial conversation, she nailed down what I wanted to accomplish with my writing and which parts I felt needed extra attention. Her line-level and structural edits not only identified what wasn't working, but made concrete suggestions on what I might do to make it better. She also provided a detailed editorial letter that gave a useful high-level overview of what she felt was strong, and what could be improved. The best part was never feeling like I was being left to solve a problem completely on my own.

Erin Zimmerman, freelance science writer & author of Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science, coming 2023 from Melville House

Types of Editing

I do developmental editing of book proposals and manuscripts. That means:

  • I focus on the content and structure of the manuscript.
  • I look at issues like pacing, flow, and style.
  • If you’re presenting an argument, I make sure the logic makes sense and moves from one point to the next in a way the reader can follow.
  • If you’re telling a narrative tale, I ensure that setting, plot, and character work together, each at the right level of detail for the story you’re telling.

The “return” of a developmental edit is the editorial letter, in which I lay out issues I’ve identified and suggest possible solutions. I’m very aware that this is your book, and no one knows it better than you. You may have better solutions than the ones I’ve proposed, or you may feel certain suggestions aren’t right for you; that’s fine.

Testimonial                                                                                                  

Amber is a masterful developmental editor. I was blown away by the deep thought she put into closely reading my manuscript chapter; she asked smart questions, offered specific structural solutions, and crystallized the work's themes. Amber excels at both big-picture thinking (what is this story really about, and how can you best convey that?) and identifying the detailed edits needed to make the writing sing. Plus, she gives her feedback in a friendly, encouraging way and makes it clear that she believes the writer knows their material best. I wholeheartedly recommend her to anyone seeking a thoughtful, thorough edit of their book manuscript.                                                                 

Roberta Kwok, freelance science writer

In addition, I do line editing (also called substantive editing), often in combination with a developmental edit:

  • I go through the manuscript at the paragraph, sentence, and word level, pointing out places where any issues arise, and suggesting alternatives or solutions.
  • I identify places where voice or tone are inconsistent or don’t fit your goals, and suggest changes.
  • I identify areas where your meaning isn’t clear, and suggesting alternatives.
  • I seek places where very long sentences would work better as two or more short sentences.
  • I look for wordiness or repetitive sections, and suggest trims.
  • I suggest where a better structure or word might make your point more effectively.
  • I identify cliches where you could make the point better in your own creative words.

Overall, line editing is meant to polish your prose while maintaining your voice. In this case, the “return” is a marked-up manuscript, with comments and changes, tracked so you can accept or reject them.

For either edit type, I aim to:

  • Flag what you’ve done well, so you can keep it up.
  • Identify problems or opportunities for improvement.
  • Suggest solutions to any issues.

These edits are different from copy editing, proofreading, or fact-checking. I’m not out to catch every typo or dangling modifier, or to double-check the spelling of every name or place. That said, I do tend to notice misspellings and grammar issues, and I will certainly flag them as I go along.

Testimonial

Amber Dance did a development edit of my partially completed narrative non-fiction science/history/travel manuscript. She was absolutely brilliant, a total professional. Her recommendations for how to change my book’s structure and to reshape it for an international audience, including a new title, really sparked a massive shift for me, and I began to see how it might actually be possible to get my book to an audience beyond New Zealand. Her kind and confident tone made it very easy for me to take her editorial suggestions on board without feeling defensive — and many of those suggestions were absolutely spot on. She provided a helpful checklist of things to consider changing, a detailed concept for a new structure that was really easy to follow, a marked-up version of my manuscript with comments, and a set of suggestions for next steps forward.

Having a completely fresh, international perspective was so helpful for me in terms of considering what to aim for with my book in terms of publishing. I’m now preparing to query agents and attempt to get an international book deal, something I don’t think I would have had the confidence to try without Amber’s feedback and suggestions.

Kate Evans, freelance journalist

My Process

If you’re ready for some fresh eyes on your work, reach out and let’s talk about your project. I want to hear about your goals and any concerns you have. We can start with a free, 5-page edit to make sure we “get” each other and will work well together.

I charge on a per-project basis. Payments are in two or more installments. My contracts include up to one free hour of consultation after the edits are returned, with further discussions billed at an hourly rate.

© Amber Dance 2016