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. 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 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, but I am prepared to edit a short sample of your work at my usual rate (minimum fee not applicable). If you then decide to proceed with me, I would refund or take into account the cost of the initial trial edit.
A publisher has told me my work requires a 'brutal edit' - what does he mean? They mean it needs to be heavily revised. This may make it more marketable - the publisher will have a target audience in mind and for them it's usually all about profit. Some authors might be happy to go along with it. Personally, I would never consider editing work to the point where it became more my work than that of the original author.
We each have our own unique style of writing that should always be preserved. 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. It can destroy the book's soul!
Take on board what they say but don't let them recreate your work as written by them. If I truthfully feel it needs a 'brutal edit', I would give you a summary of why and simply advise you to consider a rewrite.