Episode # 12 – Effective Editing with Harry Dewulf

In Editing by Simon Whistler10 Comments

Harry Dewulf cover

In this episode I talk to editor Harry Dewulf about the different types of editing available to indie authors. The episode should clarify what is meant by the huge number of terms out there referring to the different types of editing.

In addition to that we chat about the editing process, what authors can expect, and what authors should ask the editor they are think about hiring.

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Harry has edited and mentioned ‘Worthy of Trust and Confidence by JA Ballarotto

Harry’s Website

Harry’s Blog

Email Harry: harry@densewords.com


Damon Courtney – Harry’s first indie author client.

Darren Wearmouth (his book / our interview with him)

Chicago Manual of Style – Great guide for those interested in learning self-editing.

KBoards yellow pages – A great place to find editors.

Show notes:

Editing Terms

Harry says that editing terms are often blurred but essentially he views it as broken into two elements: high level and low level.

Low Level Edit – Proof/copy/line editing. Reading of the text and active correction of the text.

High Level Edit (Harry’s area) – Developmental/content/substantial/literary editing. Deals with the plot, characters and the development of the story.

The Process (do bear in mind that the process your editor goes through might be different).

– Harry gets the manuscript (a draft by author) – he then transfers it to his Kindle and highlights something each time he sees an issue. This then goes to his computer and he can expand on his quick notes.

– He also creates another document which deals with general issues with the book – anything that is a ‘repeat issue’ and general discussion over the book e.g. character development.

– Manuscript with the notes and the general document go back to the author. (Harry also sends a guide out to his authors with some general editing advice).

– After the author has read and written notes on these, Harry gets them on the phone to talk about it all.

– Author gets on with the next draft. Writes this.

– Sent back to the editor for a second readthough – mostly to check the issues have been solved (not something offered by all editors).

– This is the end of the work for Harry, if additional reads are wanted then there will probably be a charge ($75 in Harry’s case).

– Now the author should send the work to beta readers and take and implement feedback.

– Sent to copyeditor.

– Ready to go!

What’s different for self-published authors?

Harry says in the past big publishing houses were able to pay an editor to work through a manuscript over and over again until it was perfect. This isn’t really possible in the indie world as it’s just unaffordable. Putting a book to market is essential and doing dozens of revisions is unnecessary in today’s world.

Mass feedback from reviews is very helpful. Writers can see this and use the feedback to make themselves better writers.

Series Editing

Finding the right editor can be hard – “each author should try 3 or 4 high level editors”. Make sure that you are a good match with your editor. You should be able to become friends with your editor. If you are not having a great experience with your editor, don’t feel you have to stay with them throughout the series.

Working on a Further Book with your Editor

Editing becomes a different process as an author grows. The first book is more about sorting out basic issues, the second book will often have the editor dealing with more advanced issues.

A high level editor working with you on a second book might help with plot development. This wont happen with an editor on the first book as the editor will probably ask to see a completed first draft.

What to ask your editor:

– What do you do for me for $X? – Ask them to lay out their editing process.

– Can I get a sample edit? – It should always be free and around 500-1000 words. Send them something from the middle of the book.

– Can I talk with you on the phone? Will we chat over issues? How much time do I have to talk to you?

– How many read throughs are including in the price?


If you pay more you can expect more in terms of work done by the editor. Make sure you check what’s being done the editor (ask the above questions).

Getting a quote is the only way to really know for sure how much it is going to cost. Quotes are free, so you should shop around to find an editor who you would like to work with and who does the editing at the right price.

Harry says for him a 120,000 word book could be anything from $800 to $2500, with the high end being a manuscript that require a lot of work.

Self Editing

A major part of editing is a second pair of eyes, so if you choose to self edit make sure you still get this – use beta readers.

You can teach yourself to self-edit. Practice by writing something quickly, have a friend look over it and seal what they think about it away, then attempt to edit it yourself. Work on this until you start seeing the external feedback aligning with your own.

Style manuals are valuable, Harry recommends the Chicago Manual of Style.

The important thing to bear in mind is that while you can edit your own work, you might find your time is better spent writing. Also, an editor is going to do far more editing than you so is likely to have greater expertise.


“[Editing] is not about how good I can make the book, it’s about how good the author can make it”


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Simon WhistlerEpisode # 12 – Effective Editing with Harry Dewulf
  • Ceinwen Langley

    What a fantastic episode. Super helpful as someone up to the second draft getting ready to shop for editors. Thanks so much to both of you!

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Ceinwen, I’m so glad it was helpful. Good luck with the shopping :).

  • SimonRSP

    I had an email from someone who was having some difficulty with the commenting system, so I will post this for them:

    “Be very careful with editors. What is often mistaken for actual plot/charater
    mistakes is nothing more than the editor’s “critical voice” trying to take over. If
    youre just starting out I would definitely stick with beta readers as there are a
    LOT of scam editors out there who will seem legit. No, not all, but many.

    The other thing is this. You know your story and characters better than any editor
    or reviewer. I have had instances where I changed a plot element to appease the 2%
    of my readers only to piss off the remaining 98%.

    Tread carefully.” – Pete

    • I don’t know if beta readers are necessarily better. But it is VERY difficult to find a good and reputable editor who knows how to work with writers. Some are frustrated writers themselves and some are overzealous and send you a lot of things to change that won’t improve your story (or in some cases, make your story worse) just so that they can make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. You can’t have editors like that. Also some editors are nothing more than people who enjoy reading and maybe have a degree in English. I’m sorry to say, but that’s insufficient. That’s what betas are essentially. You need somebody whose mastery of craft is such that they can explain what you aren’t doing well with eloquence.

      It is important for each author to know their vision for the story. As you gain more experience, you start to understand what you aren’t doing well and what you need help with. You must be humble and confident enough to communicate with your editor what you need. Yes, your editor is sort of like a “teacher” in a way, but remember you’re the one forking over the money. If they give you garbage feedback, fire them.

      If you don’t want to get scammed, ask around. Get sample edits. (BTW – any editor who balks at giving sample edits should be avoided. Why should you commit to giving somebody hundreds of dollars–in some cases thousands!–without checking the quality of their work?) Read their blog posts (if any), see what people say. Download their clients’ sample excerpts from Amazon and read a few. (Or just buy the whole book and read it. See if the story’s any good — even if it’s not your cuppa, you can tell if the structure and arc are done properly, characters are developed well, etc.)

      Also there are a lot of shady copy editors whose grasp of word usage, grammar and punctuation is…atrocious to put it kindly. Avoid them, although this may be difficult if you yourself aren’t very good at grammar.

      • SimonRSP

        Thanks Nadia, great comment. Couldn’t agree more. As you say, you are paying hundreds/thousands of dollars for something so it needs to be right. Get references, get a sample edit, check their previous work! Fantastic 🙂

  • fleur hols

    I can’t thank you enough! Wonderful, precise and clear questions and answers.
    Exactly what I wanted to know about editing!
    Looking forward to your next interview.

    • SimonRSP

      My pleasure Fleur, thank you for listening :).

  • Pingback: Episode # 14 - Networking and Real World Events with Colin Taber | Rocking Self Publishing()

  • Jason Riou

    I have been burning through your podcasts chronologically, Simon. Up to ep. 24. You draw great insight and info from your guests, but this one is my favourite so far.

    I started investigating freelance editors about six weeks ago and I’m so glad I discovered your podcast when I did.

    Keep rocking out the quality interviews

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Jason, I hope you continue to enjoy the interviews, we’re nearly up to 100 now 😀