Need help with a book?

Book editing and development

After an impressive number of requests (well, a couple) I’ve decided to get a little more businesslike about book editing and consulting.

It’s something I’ve done informally over the years, when people asked for advice about something interesting. Mostly it’s been just that, advice, and happily passed on if folk thought it might be useful. But there is a lot more one could do – Helping develop a proposal, and an MS. Focussing a project. Finding the right style. Editing the draft work.

I’m talking non-fiction, always. My experience after four decades covers writing a variety of books – with a trio of prize listings or awards to persuade me I know what I’m doing. You can look at them on this site. I’ve also commissioned books, edited writing at every length, designed and taught a Master’s in non-fiction writing, and been, at times, a busy critic. (To keep count, you’d need a personal archiving obsession even stronger than mine, but I reckon I must have written 500 book reviews.)

So if you’ve a project in mind I can help with, I’m happy to quote for a written report and critique, (and a Skype chat), or an actual edit if you’ve already invested effort in a whole MS.

I’m open-minded about discipline. My focus has usually been science, but in my days as features editor on the Higher Ed Supplement I covered all the disciplines, and enjoyed it. I think almost everything is interesting if you take a close look.

In the past I’ve had conversations with people who wanted to think about whether an academic book might appeal to a wider audience (usually, the answer’s “no”, but one can sometimes change that with a shift in focus or framing), and with writers with a project – often research-based – that they want to turn into a trade book but aren’t quite sure how to work up into a proposal. I’m also happy to work with people who just want to make an academic book as readable as possible, because that’s always worthwhile in any discipline. Clarity is all!

What else? Well, my guess is I can be more help to you with developmental or structural editing, but if in time you want a line-edit as well, that’s fine. Most people I’ve dealt with are looking for a publisher. I still think that’s the best way to go, but self-publishing continues to gain traction. That’s good, because it means there are lots of folk out there offering other, related services if you need a package of help – I’m not offering copy-editing, for instance.

I am working on a tariff. It’ll depend on the project so I’m not posting it here (yet). Tell me where you’ve got to and I’ll be happy to quote. If you want a ballpark, the rates quoted here (for fiction) seem reasonable to me, but you’ll see they give themselves a fair bit of latitude.

Oh, and if you want general advice, there’s at least one good book to start with, Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato’s Thinking Like Your Editor – a little old now, and US-focussed, but still good, and only a tenner.

And while I’m recommending books (a habit around here) if you want to get a sense of how the publishing business works these days, John B Thompson’s Merchants of Culture is the best place to begin. It’s also a nice example of an academic book that others can read with profit.

Finally, experience suggests the earlier in the project we talk, the more useful to you. Just email me: jonturney (at)


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