The Art of the Sympathetic Edit, Not a 'Rewrite'
Most writers are justifiably keen not to have their work transformed into something they barely recognise as their own. For that reason - as well as perhaps saving the expense of a proofreader - some writers attempt to edit their own work. It's a very difficult thing to do - being truly objective about your own work is almost impossible in my view. Indeed, you might even end up trashing perfectly good storylines out of frustration, while missing mistakes that jump off the page when read by an independent pair of eyes. But it is most important, I believe, to hold true to the author's style, character and personality in their writing through sympathetic editing and even the occasional grammatical compromise - sometimes beauty fades with too much polishing!
In my approach to the job, any copy-editing that is needed is done as sympathetically as possible. Using the 'track changes' proofing feature in Microsoft Word, you can quickly and clearly review my suggested edits and accept or decline them. I also make use of Word's Note feature to add comments or questions.
Your Questions Answered
Do I retain copyright? Yes you do. It remains entirely your work. I do not ask for any earnings from future sales or to be credited by you in any way. I will not redistribute your work or any part of it, in any form. I am usually happy to sign a confidentiality agreement if required. The one proviso is that you are not permitted to publish, submit to a publisher or agent, distribute or otherwise use my version of your work until you have settled full payment of my invoice.
How quickly can you complete the work? This will depend on my workload at the time, and the length and complexity of your project. Book editing is a large part but not the only work that I do, and a big reason that my word rate is relatively low is because I cannot provide a fast turnaround service. If you crave speed, please look to someone else. Accuracy is seldom achieved in a rush, however, so please schedule in advance and allow me the time to do the best possible job for you.
How are payments handled? Unless the client is already known to me, I usually require an advance equal to 50% of the fee for the work to be undertaken, but not necessarily of the whole work - you may prefer to send a few chapters at a time, in which case the advance would be the full amount based on the number of words in those chapters. The balance is payable within 14 days of the completion of the work.
What are your payment methods? Payments can be made by cheque (UK only), BACS (bank transfer) or via PayPal (including credit card without need of a PayPal account).
Do you offer to proofread some of my work for free as a trial run? No, sorry. However, if you contact me and I agree to give the first one or two chapters of your book the 'once over', I will then give you some feedback.
A publishing agent has told me my work requires a 'brutal edit' - what do they mean? They generally mean it's of interest but needs to be heavily revised. If it is simply badly written, their response (if any) will leave you in no doubt! They won't be interested. If, however, they show any kind of interest - such as telling you it would need a thorough edit - then it's likely they see something in your work they like. The edit they envisage may be to make it more marketable - the publisher will have a target audience in mind, or may have some kind of 'house style'.
We each have our own unique style of writing that should be preserved, and so you might not be happy to go along with it. While a story must be able to flow well, hold the reader's attention and be gramatically free of errors, an author's unique character should never be trampled on by heavy-handed editing. For the author it can destroy the book's soul!
Take on board what they say but be clear about their intentions. If it is the story they like (perhaps you've shown you have unique insights on a topic), and they simply want to take that and rewrite it, then decide whether you are willing to work with them on that basis or not, and what the extent of your input would be.