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Writers: Beware the "Editors"

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message 1: by Tony (new)

Tony (mdfalco) Good piece. As both an aspiring writer and a professional editor, some of this rang very true.


message 2: by Longhare (new)

Longhare Content | 43 comments Nice piece, Molly.

I want to note that there is a difference between a scam artist who would take money for an edit, then do nothing more than run spell check, and a newbie editor who is willing to work almost pro bono. The newbie is looking for practice and experience.

It's possible to strike it rich and find a very talented editor in this crowded field, but a writer is far more likely to get what he or she pays for. Editing is a highly skilled profession that requires training and experience. Agreeing to let someone edit your book for little or no money may be helpful (to both parties), but it must be understood that this is not the same as hiring an editor who is already a master of their profession. Even a talented newbie is missing large chunks of essential knowledge.

This is a tough field to enter right now, because publishers are trimming staff and outsourcing much of their editorial to formerly in-house editors. How does one get trained without trainers? I don't see anything wrong with newbies recruiting manuscripts to gain experience with. I do feel strongly that inexperienced editors need to be upfront about the level of expertise they are able to provide. The writer is then not led to believe that they would not get any further benefit from a full-priced edit.


message 3: by Lin (new)

Lin | 75 comments Mod
I would echo Longhare's words. For writers starting out, who don't have a high budget, and editors starting out, who are building up experience and a reputation, the partnership can be ideal, but you do need to be very careful. Comparing sample edits would be a good way to get an idea of each editor's abilities.


message 4: by Lin (new)

Lin | 75 comments Mod
I would echo Longhare's words. For writers starting out, who don't have a high budget, and editors starting out, who are building up experience and a reputation, the partnership can be ideal, but you do need to be very careful. Comparing sample edits would be a good way to get an idea of each editor's abilities.


message 5: by J.M. (last edited Feb 03, 2015 01:08PM) (new)

J.M. Rankin (jmrankin) | 64 comments Really good piece, Molly. I've been working as a fully qualified editor/proofreader for over six years with both authors and publishers, and in that time have been surprised by the number of "editors" out there who promise a super fast turnaround for next to no cost (I think the worst one I saw once was a full "in-depth" manuscript edit within four days for about $50!).

I always offer my resume and references, as well as a free sample to help the author make a decision on whether they wish to hire me or not. It can be tough in this industry, especially when writers are lured by the cheaper offers which of course are usually too good to be true. I've blogged many times on my site about how writers should go about hiring an editor, and the things they can do themselves before hiring one to ensure that they get a lot more than just a spell check.

Unfortunately these "editors" will always be able to prey on the unsuspecting writer who is just starting out and perhaps doesn't completely understand the way the editing process works, so doesn't question a cheap deal or fast turnaround time.


message 6: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Kennedy | 61 comments Not to be an editor or anything, but the first line of your last paragraph? The word is "prey" not pray!


message 7: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Kennedy | 61 comments But seriously, folks, one of the things that truly astonishes me is that many writers are under the impression that charging a living wage for your work constitutes a "scam". The people who are scamming are those who don't know what they're doing or what editing really consists of and take hard-earned money for doing so. I have 25 years in the publishing industry as an editor and have also authored more than 30 books. No, I don't do free samples, either. I charge a nominal fee of 25.00 to get to know me and if a writer decides to hire me, that fee is deducted from the total job. Good editors are serious about what they do, good writers should be also.


Creative Collaborations (creativecollabs) | 29 comments I'm not using editing to support myself, but I don't have a job right now, but that's just because I'm a student! I've decided that charging $2/page is a reasonable amount, and it's not a scam. I'll do a free sample only because I know a lot of writers don't want to spend money on a bad editing job. And it's hard for me to get jobs because I don't have any experience, so it's a cycle of no money! Haha. So if anyone wants to give me experience, please contact me!!


message 9: by Longhare (new)

Longhare Content | 43 comments Teresa wrote: "I charge a nominal fee of 25.00 to get to know me and if a writer decides to hire me, that fee is deducted from the total job. ..."

That's a good way to go. Doing a sample is an investment of your time. I just paid $100 to get my car checked out. It's headed for the wrecking yard, poor baby, but that's what it gets for falling apart on me. The point is, two mechanics spent considerable time under my car, getting dripped on by hot oil and risking their lives test driving it. The inspection charge would have gone away if I had had the work done, but I didn't expect them to do the inspection for free if I walked away. I don't charge yet for a sample, in part because the sample is also useful to me--I wouldn't want to take on a client without first seeing what I was getting into. But that may change.


Creative Collaborations (creativecollabs) | 29 comments Longhare wrote: "I wouldn't want to take on a client without first seeing what I was getting into."

I think that's a very good idea! You definitely don't want to get in over you head!


message 11: by Longhare (last edited Feb 02, 2015 12:13PM) (new)

Longhare Content | 43 comments Cecily wrote: "I'll do a free sample only because I know a lot of writers don't want to spend money on a bad editing job. And it's hard for me to get jobs because I don't have any experience..."

I always urge clients to get at least three samples from their best candidates. For a writer on a tight budget, spending $75-$100 or more just on samples can be unrealistic, or at least very painful. Free samples are common--I do it--and it is a big help to many authors, so don't worry about coming off as a scammer.

Self-publishing messes up the lines between levels of editing. What you are offering, and where many editors have traditionally started, is proofreading, though in practice you will end up doing something closer to copyediting. In a publishing house, the manuscript gets smacked around some before it ever gets to the copyeditor, who spends real time with the manuscript (not just a read through for spelling errors) before passing it on to the production department. What the proofreader sees is a nearly finished product.

Self-publishers don't expect all that and usually can't afford it. That means you will see manuscripts with more and bigger problems than just mechanical errors. But that's okay. As long as you are upfront with the author about the extent of what you can reasonably offer, you may be a great fit. In the meantime, start doing your research. There's nothing like practice, but there are tons of good resources to help you learn the field.


message 12: by Longhare (last edited Feb 02, 2015 12:28PM) (new)

Longhare Content | 43 comments Cecily wrote: "Longhare wrote: "I wouldn't want to take on a client without first seeing what I was getting into."

I think that's a very good idea! You definitely don't want to get in over you head!"


Cecily, for example, a writer may tell you they have a 250 page manuscript. You give him an estimate of $2 X 250 pages. The standard page is 12 pt New Times Roman or Courier, double spaced. But your writer may send you 250 pages of single spaced type in a small font with narrow margins. I also request pages from the middle of the book--the beginning has often been worked over to a greater extent than later parts of the book, so it is potentially a truer representation of the whole.

Not that authors are a devious bunch. I haven't found that at all. But they will want to make a good impression, naturally, and they often don't know what the standard page is. And a writer with solid writing skills is simply going to be easier to copyedit than a writer who struggles with grammar and punctuation, no matter how talented they are.


message 13: by Krystal (new)

Krystal (krystallee6363) I myself am just starting out in the profession so my rates are pretty low, despite the fact that I believe I offer a high quality of work. That being said, I am always honest about my qualifications, abilities and shortcomings and stress that my rates are low for the basic reason that I am not (yet) considered a professional in the field. For new authors, who themselves need someone to take a chance on them, this can be the most appealing option. I have no objection with promoting the fact that professionals are so for a reason, and will always provide an exceptionally high standard of work, but it does bother me that amateurs in the field are rarely extended the same curtesy. Yes, we have little or no experience, but that doesn't mean we are not providing value for money. Despite the fact that we are working for far less, most of us will still offer free samples as this is the best way to demonstrate we still have a fair idea of the task at hand. I see so many articles and discussions by "professionals" commenting on how editors who charge very little are terrible at it, and/or just trying to scam money off the naive, and it makes me question their own transitions from amateur to professional. Did they believe in themselves so little also? It bothers me that so many think the only way to get ahead in this profession is to put others down.


message 14: by Lin (new)

Lin | 75 comments Mod
Krystal: you make good points. I think there's an understanding among the professional editors that it's a tough job for which many have undergone extensive training and gained experience, and it's hard to see people coming in and thinking they can do the same job for far cheaper. The training I've done has covered the publishing business as a whole, not just the spelling/grammar bit, and the more editing I do the more I continue to learn.
To have people with no experience claiming to do the same job for less money can be disheartening, as I'm sure you understand, and there's the concern that the price charged is impractical considering the amount of time the job should actually take.
Having said that, yes I do believe there's a place for those starting out to gain experience, as long as they are honest about the fact they are doing so. But please make sure you fully understand what an editor is expected to do, and make sure you are not only confident but accurate in your own abilities (it's frighteningly easy to overestimate how well you can do). And best of luck!


message 15: by Longhare (new)

Longhare Content | 43 comments Krystal wrote: "I see so many articles and discussions by "professionals" commenting on how editors who charge very little are terrible at it..."

This is a new thing for editors, who used to be employees rather than freelancers, but it has always been an issue for mechanics, repairmen, horse shoers--anybody who has to learn their profession from the ground up and gain experience by practicing on real people's stuff. In these fields, there are classes, apprenticeships, guilds--people who teach newbies the trade and give them some idea what to do and what to charge. A lucky editor in training works in-house with a grouchy senior editor bringing them up and chewing newbie butt when something isn't done right. It is humbling. Getting good takes a long time, and there is a safety net for catching your errors. These opportunities have always been scarce; at the moment, they are practically non-existent.

For editors who are used to being paid a modest but comfortable living for their work, it is both alarming and frustrating competing in the same marketplace against people don't charge a living wage for apparently the same job.

I think there is a place for anyone who does a competent job for a reasonable charge. If you spend 16 hours cleaning up spelling, punctuation, grammar, you deserve more than $100--which is far below minimum wage. If you can do the job well enough to charge for it, charge the market rate (there's a chart on the efa.org website). There are plenty of nitpicky beta readers willing to read for free--if you are offering more than a beta read, ask to be appropriately compensated for it.

The sticky part: Is it cost-effective for a self-publishing author to shell out $500 for a proofread? For many authors, this is the most they can budget for an editorial pass. They usually need much more than a proofread. If you can gain additional skills and provide something above and beyond spelling, grammar, punctuation without adding hours, it will add value to your service and make you a better candidate.

The stickier part: Adding value DOES add hours, and it can easily get out of control. You may end up delivering something closer to a copyedit or even a development edit for the price of a proofread (or worse, a beta read). In which case, you are drastically underpricing your services and driving the going rate down for all editors.

Editors who charge the full market rate gasp and clutch at our hearts when we see people offering to do our job for $3-6 an hour. Realistically, it is unlikely that an author with a $100 budget can be talked into spending $1,200. The worrisome part is the idea that anyone would believe that $1,200 is twelve times too much, that a 15-year old babysitter deserves a higher hourly wage than an editor.

Editor and author forums are full of complaints about editors (in-house and freelance) who were either overly aggressive or off-base in their markup--typically "rookie mistakes." Sometimes authors complain that they were hit with a big fat bill for a manuscript that seemed to have barely been touched--potentially, the old spellcheck scam. There are, of course, expensive editors who are terrible and cheap editors who are wonderful. But the claim that there are a lot of unqualified or underqualified people in the field is legit--as in any field. Don't take it personally. Just take your job seriously, be professional, charge what you are worth, and serve your clients well.


message 16: by Harrison (new)

Harrison Demchick | 19 comments The problem with providing free samples, or even samples for a nominal charge, is that the majority of writers out there seeking an editor, in particular a developmental editor, really don't have the context or expertise to compare samples. It's not as beneficial as people like to believe it is.

That doesn't mean that providing samples is a bad approach, in particular for inexperienced editors. But once you have a legitimate resume under your belt, it no longer makes a lot of sense. More than fifty published novels by more than forty authors means a lot more than five edited pages ever could.

(That said, I do offer contact information for past clients, and also samples of past editorial letters and reports with client names and titles redacted. Providing these takes little time and provides a far clearer understanding of what I do than a free sample could.)


Harrison Demchick
Developmental Editor, The Writer's Ally
http://thewritersally.com


message 17: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Kennedy | 61 comments I've done that also, provided samples of past work to give people an idea of what to expect from their editor. It's a good alternative to the free sample route.
Teresa Kennedy
http://villagegreenpressLLC.com


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