It’s my focus and my specialty. Here’s a definition that I find fits: “Line editing checks whether or not the author has expressed themselves well. It improves the quality of the prose, removes unnecessary repetition, restructures sentences and paragraphs so that they flow more smoothly together, and checks the subtleties of word usage, and so on. A good line editor knows the difference between active and passive prose and can turn dull prose into something more engaging. A copy editor does not do this. They merely check the grammar on what is there, and writing that is grammatically sound can still be dull.”
I think of line editing as a second line of defense after a developmental edit — and after the substantive revisions you’ve made after a developmental edit. I commit to two complete read-through of a manuscript I accept for line editing, and that means that the work gets a heavy copy-edit for objective correctness as well. $55 per hour
I help authors shape the flow and structure of their stories, to maximize the commercial potential of their manuscripts, in accordance with the teachings of some of top story-craft gurus in the industry (Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, etc.), via lengthy editorial memos and extensive notes in the manuscript document. $65 per hour
I provide a big-picture assessment of your manuscript, in a bullet-pointed memo of a few pages, based on a close once-through read. I’ll praise strength but focus on perceived weaknesses and on the story’s commercial potential. Generally around $500 (I’ll provide a flat-fee estimate partway into the read)
I come into the picture after your work has received a developmental or story edit, or has been read by critique partners or beta readers and revised upon their recommendations. Or when you’re looking to reissue work that hasn’t been edited to your standards.
I edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure and flow, and consistency and conformity within the Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition (the accepted standard for the book-publishing industry). I also provide light/spot fact checking.
I prepare style sheets (lists of story-specific jargon, recurring words and proper nouns, with explanations) upon request only. $50 per hour ($55 with style sheet)
I give copy-edited manuscripts a careful line reading for stray typos, misplaced punctuation, and formatting errors. This is your last line of defense before you publish. $40 per hour
(My rates are slightly above average for manuscript copy and developmental editors, commensurate with my experience, testimonials and skill level, as reflected in the most recent Editorial Freelancers Association survey: http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php/)