Riess Editorial Consulting
Are you looking to hire an editor? I bring to the table more than 20 years of professional experience in the publishing industry. I worked for nine years as an editor at Publishers Weekly, followed by four years as an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. In 2013 I struck out on my own as a full-time freelance editor, and have been doing this ever since.
I’ve edited a wide variety of books—some for first-time authors, and others for writers as experienced as N. T. Wright and Ian Morgan Cron. Sometimes authors hire me themselves, and sometimes their publishers hire me on their behalf.
“I trust Jana Riess because she hears the music in language. She not only knows how to make a manuscript conform to the rules of grammar, she knows how to make it sing.”
— Ian Morgan Cron, co-author of The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (InterVarsity Press, 2016)
Every project is unique, and it’s important to find an editor who is right for your needs. To help you reach your goals, I’ve created three different levels of service.
Three Tiers of Service
1. Full Manuscript Edit: $90/hour (new clients)
This is the most common service I perform for authors. I conduct a full edit of your entire manuscript, including more than one draft if we agree that is necessary. A full edit gets “in the weeds,” where I point out specific elements that are going well but may also rephrase, rearrange, or delete material that is not quite working. In addition to the in-text corrections and the micro-editing comments and queries you’ll find in the margins of your manuscript, I will also provide macro-level comments via email as I return the edited chapters to you.
Note that a full manuscript edit (also called a “substantive edit”) is different from a copy edit.* A full or substantive edit often includes some copy editing, but its scope is broader and deeper. For nonfiction, it includes issues like: does the book’s organization make sense? Do the chapters and sections flow logically from one to the next? Is the tone persuasive and the research sound? Is the author communicating well with the book’s target audience? For fiction and memoir, a substantive edit addresses scene creation, pacing, effective dialogue, character consistency, and plot.
Authors generally budget between $2500 and $4000 for this service, depending on the length of the manuscript. If your book is over 100,000 words and/or needs multiple rounds of edits, expect it to cost more.
Note: It is possible to write a “ceiling” into the contract in which I do as much work as possible up to a certain specified budget. This is particularly helpful for academic clients who are using grant money, but other authors may also find it useful. Just know that while I will work as quickly as I can, I may not be able to edit all the way to the end of your manuscript.
* Word to the wise: If you only need someone to fine-tune your grammar and prose, you can hire a copy editor much less expensively than a substantive or developmental editor. I’d suggest posting your job for hire at ACES or the EFA. Both are excellent organizations.
2. Manuscript Evaluation: $90/hour (new clients)
Sometimes, authors prefer a big-picture view rather than a full edit. In this case you may want a manuscript evaluation, which is a professional critique in the form of a detailed report about your book. With a manuscript evaluation, I identify what is and is not working, including many of the issues mentioned above, but I don’t actually help you fix the problems as I would in a full edit. Here is a great description of the difference between a full edit and a manuscript evaluation; see which level is right for you.
Manuscript evaluations typically fall in the $1500 to $2500 range for a critique of a full-length work, though longer books may cost more.
3. The First 100 Pages: $1600 flat fee
Sometimes, authors only need help with the pivotal first few chapters of a book. This service provides one round of edits for the first 100 pages of your manuscript (double-spaced, 12-point font, and one-inch margins, which is generally about 25,000 words, including footnotes or endnotes). In addition to the edits I will provide a brief report about the sample’s strengths and weaknesses, areas to develop, and ways to improve your writing.
Some authors may wish to use their $1600 flat fee for a book proposal and sample chapters. If that’s your situation, I can help with editing your materials so they stand out (in a good way) to busy publishers and agents, giving advice not only about your writing but also about marketability and audience.
If you would like to hire me as an editor, please contact me at least two months before you would need me to get started. I’m usually booked about eight weeks ahead of time, especially in the summer. To contact me, fill out the form below with your request and contact information.
Our first step is to schedule a Zoom consultation to discuss the parameters of your project, its developmental history, and your goals for publishing it. These initial consultations generally last between half an hour and an hour, and are at no cost to you. If we decide to work together, we will then both sign a contract and get the project on my schedule.
Clients for a full edit or a manuscript evaluation pay a $500 initial deposit before I begin work, and then in increments of $1000 as we go along. Clients who wish only to have a full edit of the first 100 pages pay $800 in advance and $800 to receive the final report.
Yes, I do edit dissertations (primarily in religion, history, and social science). And yes, we can discuss a discount for graduate students. (I can only afford to do a few of these charity projects a year, though, so please get on the docket early!) To get started, I will need to contact your dissertation advisor to get formal permission for you to hire an editor. This is true even if you are paying for my services and not your university. Ideally, the initial consultation will include all three of us, so your advisor can let me know the expectations you are facing in your department and what would be most helpful. The advisor will be cc’d on every document we exchange.
Ghostwriting, curriculum writing, study guides, and other projects:
I have done a variety of other projects, from writing curriculum for the Episcopal Church to penning study guides and reading group guides for publishers and authors. Contact me to discuss your particular needs.
“The hard work of refining and whittling away fills me with such joy, but a huge part of that was Jana. So much of any major writing effort is solo. Working with Jana was the first time I felt I had a teammate. I am honored and incredibly grateful she accepted the charge to help bring my book to the world.”
— Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois and author of Our Fair Share (Fortress/Broadleaf, 2021)
“Jana’s work was not only fast and thorough; she edits with the eye of an academic and an editor, which blesses her with a keen eye for argument and for narrative alike.”
— Matthew Bowman, author of Christian: The Politics of a Word in America, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the year (Harvard University Press, 2018)
“Jana Riess is the Sacagawea of memoir. My editor, coach, hand-holder, and friend, Jana guided me through the rocky, terrifying terrain of telling my story.”
— Reba Riley, author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing,
(Simon & Schuster, 2015)
“Working with Jana Riess is a joy. She’s smart, insightful, honest, detail-oriented, and consistently full of good cheer. She is well aware of the dynamics of the 21st-century publishing world, but is also able to glide effortlessly across the centuries in terms of biblical, historical and theological concepts. She lets you know when something is done particularly well…and if there’s a problem, she suggests a fix—or works with the writer until it is resolved. I hope to work with her again, and recommend her without reservation.”
— Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter (Forward Movement, 2014)
“I was privileged to work with a wonderful editor, Jana Riess, whose skill enabled reducing a manuscript of 130,000 words down to 90,000 without losing the family stories it needed to get its message across . . . . I am very grateful to her.”
— Vern Bengtson, author of Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations (Oxford, 2013)
“A fine scholar of American religion in her own right, Jana’s patience, encouragement, and keen eye for detail made this a much better book. I hope we get to work together again.”
— John Fea, author of Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction (WJK; finalist for the 2012 George Washington Book Prize)
“Jana is an author’s dream as an editor. She is an articulate, careful reader who understands a manuscript’s limitations and potential. She brings considerable expertise, both in publishing and in content, to bear on her editing work. I highly recommend her services.”
— Samuel M. Brown, author of In Heaven As It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford; Winner of the Mormon History Association Award for Best First Book, 2012)
“Jana Riess … shepherded me through the exciting and unfamiliar process of book-birthing with grace, good humor, excellent editing and shaping of this manuscript, and timely availability for my questions. It has been a serendipitous gift to have the opportunity to learn from her.”
— Elise Erikson Barrett, author of What Was Lost: A Christian Journey through Miscarriage (WJK; winner, Christianity Today Best Book of 2011, Christian Living category)
“Jana Riess was exactly what I needed as a first-time author, because she saw clearly what was needed, and was willing to say what others couldn’t. She was both encouraging in a coach role and truthful as a skilled macro-editor, and used both those attributes to help me better communicate the message in my heart.
I would highly recommend Jana to any author wanting to raise their game, and get honest, experienced input. She will say what has to be said, to get the results where God will be blessed.”
— John Bishop, author of Dangerous Church (Zondervan)
“I was always envious (and a little skeptical) of authors who claimed that, after years of knocking at the doors of publishing powers-that-be, they finally connected with an agent or editor who was a perfect match. I was certain that such happy endings must be incredibly rare in a profession so rife with unfulfilled expectations. But now I am one of those writers gushing about how I found just the right partner for my publishing journey. Jana possesses a keen editorial eye, loads of common sense, and an approach to faith that manages to be at once smart and funny, earnest and irreverent, serious and amiable. She has been not just a fabulous editor, but also a mentor and kindred spirit. Jana worked with me for a year to refine my book proposal, patiently waiting as I learned to let go of things that I saw as necessary but she knew were not.”
— Ellen Painter Dollar, author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (WJK)
“Jana’s wise and informed guidance has me a better writer and, on more than one occasion, she has rescued my work from the mire of mediocrity. She is a wonderful editor. I recommend her with enthusiasm and without reservation.”
— Ben Daniel, author of Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration (WJK; Winner of 2011 Book of the Year by ForeWord Reviews)