Get the same quality editing as Hunter S. Thompson in Hell’s Angels.
Hunter often said [Margaret] was the best editor he ever worked with and they were close friends—William McKeen, author of Outlaw Journalist
I have been an editor for decades. I get very absorbed in it. Each work is personal and receives my undivided attention. In my days at Random House I copyedited or was assistant editor on some New York Times best sellers; some were reviewed on the front cover of the Times Sunday book review section and/or won an award. Yet if I think we are a fit, my prices are reasonable.
Watch your book come into shape
I love to see a book come into shape--an idea emerge out of a paragraph where it wasn’t there before: where the paragraph was pretty drab. And suddenly it has a lot to say.
Whether you have barely started your book and need developmental editing or are a polished writer and need “final edits,” I can help. In my earliest years I learned some things about editing that stuck me. For instance, a painter writing on art history for Random House confided, “I don’t understand words.” But I noticed that if I asked what he meant - by a dense, confusing sentence - I was often rewarded with a fascinating idea buried under the words that sat on the page without communicating. In the Acknowledgments, he thanked me for “a prodigy of rewriting almost beyond belief.” However, it remained his book, his ideas.
This is an extreme case. For the most part, the author has a knack with language. Whenever I tackle a manuscript, I never lose sight of the fact—most importantly—that there’s a Voice waiting to be supported, to stand out. If it’s not your voice that speaks, the reader will probably lose interest; in any case, you will not have the same level of satisfaction and fulfillment. One of the main reasons to write is to go through the creative process, wrestle with material, sweat out the blank moments, and eventually proudly offer a completed book to an audience. I can help you do that—with the highest attention to ethics. Read on to find out about my editing services.
Below is a list of various levels of editing you can choose from.
- telephone consultation
- manuscript evaluation
- developmental editing—if your book is not yet finished
- partial or comprehensive editing
- copyediting and line editing or final edits
Once you contact me, for free I’ll look at a few chapters and give you a tailor-made assessment of how much editing I think the book needs and what the fee will be.
Developmental editing is the most extensive. In that, I work with you while you are writing. Do you need input on the concept and structure (nonfiction) or the plot, pacing, characterization (fiction)? If so, you want developmental editing.
Partial or Comprehensive editing is if your manuscript is already finished, yet needs to be looked over with an editor’s eye.
Copyediting, including line edits, is appropriate if your manuscript is finished and the writing is fairly polished. This is where I look at grammar, punctuation, inconsistencies, light line editing.
Below, an example illustrates how cutting dead words brings a scene alive:
I [must have]told Hunter this, which [then] drew forth his response: “Margaret, you talk the craziest of anyone I know.” A pause.[And] “I feel like I’m talking to a naked child.” But he didn’t say it dismissively.
Prices typically involve a flat project rate, so that you pay less than my $55 hourly rate. Each fee is customized on the basis of manuscript length and readiness for publication.
POST EDITING OPTION: After the editing is done, what happens next? What type of publication are you aiming for: traditional or self-publishing? I can help you see the options for each. I’ll offer you some free tips on indie publishing if that’s your route. If you want to search for an agent, I can give you some tips or you can choose to have me edit your Query Letter and Proposal.
Since updating this page a year ago, I've edited dozens of books for Self-Publishing School and received dozens of tiptop reviews. They are not below. But to give one example, LaRue Palmer, author of
Man Cave of Health: A Why-To Book About Men's Health: Through The Eyes of a Health Coach Who's Heard It All,
Great work all around. You have transformed me into a better writer, and for the first time, an AUTHOR! Thank you for giving me my start. I am forever in your debt.
Some Nonfiction and Fiction Project
Published to sensational reviews:
Freak Kingdom— Hachette Book Group
In this perceptive, dramatic book, Tim Denevi recounts the moment when Thompson found his calling. As the Kennedy assassination and the turmoil of the 60s paved the way for Richard Nixon, Thompson greeted him with two very powerful emotions: fear and loathing. In his fevered effort to take down what he saw as a rising dictator, Thompson made a kind of Faustian bargain, taking the drugs he needed to meet newspaper deadlines and pushing himself beyond his natural limits. For ten years, he cast aside his old ambitions, troubled his family, and likely hastened his own decline, along the way producing some of the best political writing in our history.
This remarkable biography reclaims Hunter Thompson for the enigmatic true believer he was: not a punchline or a cartoon character, but a fierce, colorful opponent of fascism in a country that suddenly seemed all too willing to accept it.
About his experience with Margaret on this book:
Margaret Harrell is a world-class editor whose attention to every aspect of my writing—from prose to context to character development to factual accuracy and thematic movement—was invaluable in the composition and completion of my most recent book, a biography on Hunter S. Thompson. Whether you’re working on nonfiction or a novel, she brings to your project a wealth of generosity and talent and insight that’s unparalleled. —Tim Denevi, Associate Professor, MFA, George Mason University
Read Salon's excerpt on the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago from Freak Kingdom
I’ve just finished editing my book with Margaret Harrell. She has been absolutely amazing. She has turned my waffle into short sharp punchy sentences that gets the message across clearer than I could have ever imagined AND reduced my word count by about 8,000 words. After one zoom call, she understood what I was wanting to achieve, gave me constructive feedback and allowed me the space to re-create areas of my book that weren’t working. I’m so happy with my end result. Margaret’s expertise and experience are clearly extensive and I’m so glad she was able to work on my book. Margaret . . . thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
A House of Smoke and Mirrors by Annie Berkley - a memoir
Thank you so much! I never could have pulled this story together without your help!
Few people can write such a book. It has to have been lived. To tell us the story, Annie had to reenter a sexually abusive childhood, the tragic abuse of a five-year-old, and turn it into vivid drama, an inspiration to all survivors. The result reads like a movie. But it's true, every word, every scene.
Fred Grover Jr., MD
Spiritual Genomics: A physician’s deep dive beyond modern medicine, discovering unique keys to optimizing DNA health, longevity, and happiness!
The subtitle says it all. Fred combines a wealth of material - a holistic and spiritual, experiential perspective matched with his medical training and years of teaching at the University of Colorado. Check out his website, where the slogan is "Experience the RevolutionaryMD Difference!" And the book website. Thanks to Fred for this generous Acknowledgment: "So much gratitude goes out to my editor, Margaret A. Harrell, who helped me maintain momentum and provided amazing editorial assistance throughout this long journey."
Awakening Gaia: The Lemurian Crystal Grid
Fred takes you on a journey of planetary shamanism as he taps into higher-dimensional insights and flows with magical synchronicities to place Lemurian crystals and sacred geometric forms around the world. His ultimate goal is to counter the darkness in our world by re-activating, re-connecting and radiating ancient healing energies and grids of the Incas, Mayas, Native Americans, Polynesians and more." What a joy to be part of the birth of these two books!
Denise Kane, Butterfly Reiki founder
The Violet Flame: A Game Changer
Margaret is timely and gets the material back faster than I can make a cup of tea. She is knowledegable and experienced with the ins and outs of book publishing and can easily read in between the lines. How does she do that??? And she has common sense and intuition to tune into her authors and lend a helping hand in a way they need most.
Testimonials, Reviews, Awards
Nonfiction Developmental Editing
Soul Body Fusion
Testimonial: # 1
My professional and loving editor, Margaret Harrell, was always there when I needed her. She made the solo job of a writer become a partnership.
—Jonette Crowley, Author of Soul Body Fusion: The Missing Piece for Healing and Beyond. Translated into Dutch, German, Romanian, Norwegian, Estonian, Polish, Danish, Swedish, and counting
Review: I was mesmerized and transformed with Ms. Crowley’s energy that permeated the pages . . .
Inspiration: It is not only what you produce in your life, but how your greater life produces a greater YOU . . . that in turn produces a greater world. —MARK, channeled by Jonette
Stupidparty: Math v. Myth
Testimonial # 2
A very special acknowledgment to my editor, Margaret Harrell, with an expertise and unique talent, no doubt burgeoning through her fascinating life experiences and working with truly notable writers, goes beyond the call of duty. Fate brought her to my assistance.
—Patrick Andendall, author of Stupidparty: Math v. Myth, the 2015 Award Winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award (Politics)
It is possibly the funnest book with an agenda ever published. —Breeni Books
A brilliant book, complete with clickable details to verify the author’s veracity. —Thom Hartmann, New York Times best-selling author of The Crash of 2016
Late Bulletin: Patrick has a THIRD political book just out of the editing stage and into design - to come out, in 2018. The second in the political trilogy was Who Is Jeb!!!: John Ellis “Jeb” Bush and his Horrendously Horrible Histories. These projects, like the first, involved “developmental editing”; in the process, Who is Jeb? doubled in size. Expect the newest book later in the year.
This Is Not for You
Testimonial # 3
I cannot thank you enough for working with me.
—Venus Soileau, author of This Is Not for You—a memoir
Samples of Copyedited Novels
The novels below were already finished when they came to me in manuscript. They could get straight to copyediting, which might range from character, plot, and language questions to excellence of writing, fact checking, consistencies, and the minutiae of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Whatever the degree of copyediting needed (heavy or light), a reader can tell whether the book went through that process.
Soul of the Sun
Thank you so much for this lovely voyage! . . . I learned so much . . .
Vesa M. Lumielle, author of Soul of the Sun—poetry and magical realism
Review: “After all, we live the illusion of reality” is the sentence that I would say sums the book up best. Reads very well, and poetry is magnificent.
Testimonial # 5
I’d like to thank two individuals who helped Essie’s House to life . . . Margaret Harrell—whose enthusiasm, insights and suggestions helped tighten the story and smooth the rough edges.
Rodeo of Doom
Testimonial # 6
You’ve been such a big help and I appreciate it so much.
Miguel Lasala included in his novel an “Editor’s Note” by me (he wrote), to add to the Hunter Thompson/Fear and Loathing-like flavor.
Review: [In] Rodeo of Doom . . . author Miguel Lasala reveals his craft by intricately weaving in fine details for his readers and keeps you anxiously anticipating what will happen next.
The End of Obscenity: The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill
Developmental editing–an Early Nonfiction Classic
The End of Obscenity: The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill by the Lawyer Who Defended Them is dear to my heart. Random House considered it an important book, and to edit it, I was “loaned out”—assigned to go to the law offices of the high-profile author, Charles (Cy) Rembar, every day for roughly a couple of months. There, I sat at a big table with Rembar, and morning to night (ordering in lunch and taking an evening break for dinner at a nearby Sixth Avenue restaurant), we organized his pile of chapters, which began as stand-alone texts, into a flowing book. It’s also because of Rembar, in part, that I wound up having a private conversation with his first cousin Norman Mailer in a Greenwich Village loft and pondered the prospect of editing Mailer’s introduction.
Read my blog on “The Time I Almost Edited Norman Mailer.”
Acknowledgments: Cy Rembar
To: Margaret Ann Harrell, a gifted book-tuner—a lass with a delicate ear
Rembar’s book deals not with the why of obscenity laws but with the how, and as a result often has a freshness that little recent writing on this subject can match. Rembar’s is still the best book on that kind of censorship.
I am also glad to help you navigate through the publication process.
I love helping you improve your craft.
What we have to be aware of is that the creation of serious literature—whatever the degree of collaboration between author and editor—is the result of enormously concentrated mental and aesthetic effort. If it is reduced to a series of narrative effects slapped on to paper or screen, if it comes to be seen simply as one among many interchangeable ways to ingest a story, it will soon begin to look like a very poor slice of the leisure industry indeed.—Alex Clark, The Guardian, “The Lost Art of Editing,” February 11, 2011