Cultural Accuracy Editorial Services
Ensure your manuscript isn’t offensive, inaccurate, or perpetuating harmful stereotypes
#1 New York Times
Cultural Accuracy Editing (also known as Sensitivity, Authenticity, Diversity, or Targeted Expert Reading) involves vetting a manuscript for issues of (mis)representation, biases, stereotypes, and a range of other factors that may be deemed harmful or antagonistic to a person or population group.
Learn more about cultural accuracy editing in this article by KAA Senior Editor Hannah Gómez, featured in Publishers Weekly’s Book Publishing Almanac 2022.
Many publishers now seek these critical analyses for manuscripts in an effort to release books that are culturally accurate. This field of work arose in response to events and grassroots movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter as the public demands fair and accurate representation, justice, and equity for readers from diverse backgrounds and better ethics in the publishing industry.
In the past decade, a number of titles have been retracted, condemned, or even dropped entirely due to insensitive or harmful content.
Our Cultural Accuracy Editorial Services allow your manuscript to be reviewed and vetted by a professional editor who specializes in recognizing potential cultural accuracy issues.
The feedback you will receive is not to censor or condemn your book, but to empower you to make the best decisions in the service of your readers.
It was an absolute pleasure getting to work with Kevin Anderson and his team. We reached out to them for an authenticity read and the reader we were paired with was thorough, highly attentive, and had an excellent grasp of the subject matter at hand. We’re extremely grateful to the KAA team for their professionalism and resourcefulness, and highly recommend their services.
“I’m so happy that I moved forward with a Cultural Accuracy Reading at KAA, so my book could be more inclusive and resonate with a wide range of readers. They spent time making sure they found the best reader who could address my concerns and personal blindspots. My reader shared clear comments and provided great alternative words and phrases to explore using instead. I also loved the helpful resources and links to articles to provide me with more context and education. I not only have a better book because of a CAR, but I also feel like a better human. I have been recommending this service to my friends and clients because I truly believe all authors should have a Cultural Accuracy Reading before sharing their work with the world.”
The Cultural Accuracy
Identify specific categories of sensitivities (see list below) on which you would like to focus—or select “general cultural accuracy editing.” You may also choose whether to have a single reader or several review your manuscript. Each cultural accuracy editor will be an expert on reviewing for the specific topic and personally identify with the chosen category.
The chosen editor(s) will review the entire manuscript and give feedback on any potential issues, affirm and elucidate strengths, and provide editorial suggestions on how to amend the manuscript.
One of our Senior Editors will review the feedback from a publisher’s viewpoint and provide additional insight.
Disclaimer: While our cultural accuracy editors are well trained and highly qualified, and utilizing our service gives authors confidence and comfort in knowing they made every possible effort to ensure their manuscript is not insensitive, there is no way to safeguard against all potential cultural accuracy issues, and we cannot make any guarantees or warranties herein.
Interested in working with us as a Cultural Accuracy Editor?
Please send a detailed cover letter and bio to email@example.com with the subject line “Cultural Accuracy Editor.”
CAES Process and Fees
Yes, “sensitivity reading,” as well as “targeted expert reading,” “authenticity reading,” and “cultural accuracy editing” all describe the same service–analyzing a manuscript to ensure it is not perpetuating bias, harm, or stereotypes. We chose the term “cultural accuracy editing” at KAA to emphasize how extensive and professional our work is and to underscore our philosophy that this isn’t just about feelings, it’s about representing the world as it is.
Cultural accuracy editors are, in many ways, signing up to be triggered, retraumatized, or hurt on purpose. It can be draining–yet immensely gratifying–work. They also do not have final say over your manuscript, so while they offer their expertise and suggestions, it is still your choice whether or not to incorporate them into your work. In some notable incidents, some authors and publishers used cultural accuracy editors’ names to imply endorsement or to avoid responsibility for harm caused, and that negative experience led many editors to stop engaging in this work. KAA serves as the go-between for the client and the cultural accuracy editor so that both parties feel supported and safe. More often than not, editors are willing to share some identifying information (e.g. first name or initials, general biographical information), and their names often appear in the acknowledgments in books they’ve worked on because clients were so pleased with their work!
Cultural accuracy editors are professionals taking time and drawing on years of academic, professional, and/or lived experience. They should be compensated the same way any other consultant would be paid. The $250 you are accustomed to seeing has been misquoted as a recommended flat rate when it was only ever meant as a floor for shorter works. Our fees are based on industry standards for other types of editing. A few hundred dollars for a novel-length work simply does not adequately cover the hours of work required (while all manuscripts and editors are unique, you could assume roughly 25 hours of work for a 50,000-word manuscript–at $250, that’s a paltry $10 an hour for highly skilled work!) and years of experience qualifying the editor for the work, nor KAA’s administration and quality control.
If your book has already been acquired by a publisher, they should be paying. We are happy to help you make your case.
What if I’m not ready to have someone read the entire manuscript (or can’t afford it) but just want to talk out some ideas or concerns?
That’s a great approach! We can set you up with an editor who will do a phone or Zoom call with you. Our Senior Editor will also sit in on the meeting.
Is this only relevant for fiction? I write nonfiction.
No, your nonfiction manuscript can benefit from this service as well. Language choices, accurate histories, cultural appropriation, and other such issues are not fiction-specific.
I only need an editor to look at one particular side character/side plot. Can I submit just those pages of my book for a lower fee?
In a word, no. While some exceptions can be made for certain formats or subjects (e.g. one short story in a collection; textbooks that require different experts for different chapters; or revisions of work we’ve already looked at), we almost always require a full manuscript and full fee. This is partly because an extended narrative is not comprehensible if someone is only given random pages from all over the manuscript and partly because authors typically underestimate how much a side character appears or influences a story overall.
Do you only review text manuscripts?
No, we can review illustrations, cover art, video game stills, and other visual materials. We also have editors who specialize in audiobook performance assessment. We can do live consults if you’d like guidance on projects that aren’t yet or never will be books, such as IP development, game world building, museum exhibits, curricula, or toys.
General Cultural Accuracy Editing Questions
No. Censorship has a legal definition and is not applicable to private enterprises or platforms. If a government imprisons you for saying something, that is censorship. If a publisher declines to distribute your book, they have made a business decision. Cultural accuracy editors are not censors because they do not have the power to keep your work from being published, nor do they have the final say over your manuscript. Like any other consultant, they are merely making suggestions, while you actually control your work.
These words are the counterpart to “dominant” social groups. In western Anglophone society, “marginalized” typically applies to people who are nonwhite, people who are not heterosexual, people who are not cisgender, people who are disabled, immigrants/migrants/refugees, and/or people who are not Christian.
Cultural accuracy editors will note when they encounter statements that are not factual (and explain them or provide evidence), but for heavily researched or technical documents like textbooks or white papers, you should not consider this a substitute for journalistic fact checking.
Nobody speaks for everybody, but a person from a particular culture or group probably knows more about that culture than an outsider. And cultural accuracy editors have made it their job to know their subject not just as an individual but as a scholar, critic, teacher, or analyst, so they are not just speaking from personal experience.
If someone is offended by my book, that's their problem. They're too sensitive.
There’s a difference between being offended and being harmed. Marginalized groups are so called because they have routinely been disenfranchised, oppressed, discriminated against, and/or misrepresented for generations. That is real harm. “Offended” describes something more particular to a single person’s individual sensibilities, comfort, and history. Our work aims to reduce institutional harm on groups by helping authors identify and rework ingrained stereotypes, oppressive language, and unconscious bias they may not even be aware of. It is an act of social responsibility and good faith to seek input on your book. There is really no difference between engaging a cultural accuracy reader or engaging a doctor, police detective, paleontologist, or art historian to look over your manuscript. It’s all about getting feedback and guidance on specific subjects from subject experts. And by the way–we have readers with expertise in other “hot button” subjects, not just oppression and marginalization. Take a look at our website for a list!
But there’s a difference between a bigoted character and a bigoted author. I should be allowed to write about CHARACTERS who are offensive.
You are allowed. Cultural accuracy editors are professional readers, not random people off the street. They are highly qualified to analyze and assess literature, and part of their job is to help authors differentiate between unconscious bias and complex, nuanced literary content.
Talking about race is the real racism. I don’t see color (or gender or disability or ____).
No, it’s not. You’re confusing racism with prejudice. Racism is a system, not an attitude. Claiming not to “see” race or other differences may be meant as a gesture of goodwill, but it serves to erase or disregard very real experiences of discrimination and suggests you don’t believe that people experience the world differently, but of course we all do!