Books, Uncategorized

From an Editor: On Conduct and Money…

I’ll just say it: it is always a crap shoot unless everyone involved is flexible.

But to start us off, for those not aware, this ended up being a follow up from last week’s post. Therefore, for those of you who’ve already heard of my newest potential client (the one who inspired my last post), I’ll be continuing my story from there.

The past week has been troubling to say the least.

First, I had family members try and reject the book for me based on content they “didn’t think I would be comfortable with”; guys, I can turn down my own work if necessary, thanks. The bigger issue here is that you’ll find that a good amount of editors are less concerned about content – we just want people who will work well with us, take our criticism, and will pay us our due. Again, this doesn’t mean some editors won’t cringe at having the next 50 Shades cross our desk, but for me the content wasn’t the issue, the quality of the work was (since it was published!).

I’m getting off my soap box now, I promise!

Once I got word through the phonetree – again the 4 person communication relay team is not how I enjoy doing business – to my author, I eventually got a single block paragraph note. For those keeping track, this is the second impression that does not bode well for this relationship.

The positives:

  • He was polite in a minimalist, succinct manner (I mean he did say thank you for my time).
  • He gave me information about his book including his intended style, word count, and page length, as well as a basic description of the kind of service he was looking for.

The negatives:

  • This is an introductory business letter and all I received was a block of text rather than a letter introducing me to who the writer is (in either description or in style).
  • Very little concern over who I am or my expertise (which would be critical to hiring me and a point I take pride in).
  • From what I could gather of his style (a repetitive block of text, as it were), he’s looking for a quote (monetary) for the most basic editorial review which won’t be enough to make his book work.
  • But I can only assume this because I was not sent any kind of preview pages – again from what I’ve seen, this isn’t promising.

Lets take each of these negatives at a time:

First, if you write to someone you want to hire to work with you (especially if you are a writer), you must show that you are worth the time by making sure they know that you have taken your time in asking for their help (because even if you are paying them, it is their help you are paying for!).

As a writer, you are your own company so you are supposed to be professional enough to write a multiple paragraph letter (this includes a stand alone salutation, an introduction to you and your work, what you are looking for, and finally signed by you – at least the first time around) seeking said help. You are your brand so don’t make a mockery out of either of us by sending an underwritten email – again, especially if you are looking to hire me to edit a couple hundred pages of your work.

Secondly, even if you have heard of your editor’s work, you really should want to know more about the person than what they are going to charge you. You are handing over something that – more likely than not – you have put your heart and soul into. You don’t want that person to not know what they are doing – a fact which you won’t know unless you actually find out their credentials! The  easiest way to go about this? Ask them about it!

Thirdly, yes, it is possible to get a quote and a time frame based on page numbers, but it doesn’t necessarily work well for either party. As an editor, there is a basic fee you can charge either by hour or by page based on the service being sought out. The problem is, if I as an editor don’t know what your style is or what your pages look like, my hour of work estimation will likely be inaccurate meaning you’ll have to pay more than originally planned, or if charged by page, I might get screwed over if your writing is denser than anticipated. Also, I won’t know how much editing – despite a writers assurance of needing a simple, light hand – I will actually need to do until I get started which can also effect my time and cost estimation.

Which leads us to point four: I need to see sample pages. Here’s the thing, I am not going to steal your story. I’m not going to read a page of your book and say: that’s awesome but I could write it better; let me do that. I just want to gauge what I’m going to be expected to do and what my return should be.

In my first job, I edited an entire (already published) book as an audition piece without compensation, not only to get the job but to better understand the kind of writer I would be working with in both personality and style. While I will not be going to those extremes again without getting some compensation for my work, it is necessary for me to read an author’s creative work to get a handle on what we are both expecting and what can actually be done with those expectations. This first read through can also help me gauge the time needed to read your entire work so I’ll be able to give you a better return date.

Basically, especially in cases where you aren’t meeting (or really talking at all), this means I need some introductory pages.

For those interested in the numbers: cost by the page spans from $3-$7.50 depending on the depth of editorial work; cost by the hour spans from $20-$100 depending on experience, type of work, and personal negotiations.

Again, we work hard and so do you, make a good impression and work with us, or no one is going to get anything done!

  • Taylor Gallagher
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