The rationale behind charging for sample edits.

The rationale behind charging for sample edits.

A sample edit is an indicator of many things; the professionalism and ability of the editor is only one factor. The sample indicates the level of the work to be undertaken and it allows the editor to asses pricing but did you realise it also shows the editor the level of respect they hold for the skills of the editor?

These did not develop overnight and it is not something that just everyone can do. In the last fourteen months, I have lost count of the number of sample edits I have completed. Some of them took me a whole morning and others took me the best part of a day, depending on the amount of work that needed to be done.

But why should authors pay for what they can get for nothing?

The reason to pay for samples is two-fold.

First. Refusal to pay for sample edits signal, at least in part, an expectation that editors are automatically obligated to give up their time, and should be grateful for every scrap of attention an author puts their way. Given that this is an attitude that many of us in the creative industries have to explain when companies and individuals want to pay us in ‘exposure’ and think that the satisfaction of completing the work should be its own reward, it saddens me when we have to deal with this from other creatives. The willingness of an author to pay for a sample edit is a clear indication that they acknowledge that your time is as valuable as the skills they want to employ. It says ‘I understand there is a person at the other end of this email who is working hard to make a living, and they deserve to be paid fairly for the work they put in‘. It tells the editor a great deal about the author: remember they are assessing the author every bit as much as the author is evaluating them. Simply put, it’s a matter showing respect between author and editor.

Second. Many service industries charge a call out fee to cover the time it takes them to assess the work in question, and a sample edit is no different. You would not expect a plumber, cleaner, gardener or electrician to come to your home or to give up a morning of their time for nothing. In my view, creative services are no different. The sample fee implies the level of commitment of that potential client. Even web developers charge a consultation fee, This is not to say that editors should not offer free samples if they so wish, only that you should not be put off when editors do charge for their sample edits. By ignoring the editors who don’t offer free samples you could be depriving yourself of an opportunity. What you have found is not a ‘greedy editor‘, but a confident and skilled professional who knows the value of both their skills and their time.

More about choosing an editor.

Choosing an editor is not easy. The good ones have fees that could choke a horse. However, they are GOOD editors, so the fees they charge are worth it. If you can afford those fees. Unfortunately, many Indie authors just can’t break out that kind of cash.

Enter the rip off artists. They come in many levels of incompetence from authors who just want to make some side cash but don’t really know how to edit, to outright thieves who will take your money and give you nothing in return. Unfortunately, the latter kind thrives on the internet. We have all heard the stories of writers victimised by people calling themselves editors but didn’t even fix spelling mistakes, much less formatting, style, or continuity issues. As an editor myself, I am always learning and improving my craft this kind of thing makes me so angry – not least because it taints all freelance editors with the same reputation – but rest easy.  This post is not an estate agent type post telling you to only trust me and ignore all those other editors.  Finding the right editor for you is important.

So here are some guidelines for how to find the honest ones, pick an one, and dealing with them. Feel free to pipe up in the comments with any other suggestions I might have missed.

  • Go with someone you know or who is recommended. If you can’t do that, the following steps can help.
  • Do your research: collect reviews and referrals. How do they respond to complaints?
  • Ask for a sample edit from the first chapter of your book, before any money changes hands. A new editor should be willing to do this to get your business, and most honest editors offer this as standard.
  • Have someone you already trust and knows what they are doing, read the sample and let you know if they are good.
  • Try to find one who will take a deposit up front and charges balance when the job is complete. If they demand the whole balance up front, steer clear.  That said, I do expect full payment up front for small jobs (less than 10 pages =2500 words), but 50% of that is refundable if the client is not happy with my work
  • Generally, I would advise you to avoid those who demand the full amount upfront.  If their work is genuinely substandard –this is not the same as being unhappy about harsh feedback- do not pay the balance and demand your deposit back. New writers should be aware that it often takes several rounds of editing before your work is publishable.  
  • No editor can wave a magic wand and suddenly turn an unstructured first draft into a literary marvel in one go, and no reputable editor will claim to be able to.  It depends entirely on the submitted work.
  • Not all editors offer the same services or deal with the same type of text.  You need to find out which genre they will work with and what levels they offer.  I offer all four levels and am pretty much happy to edit whatever crosses my desk.  Others may only deal with certain genres, or offer higher level editing. An honest editor will use your work to assess the level you are writing at and determine what the work needs.  They will advise you what needs to be done, and if they are not able to offer the full scope of work required, you may find they will point you in the direction of someone who can.
  • If you have ever dealt with an editor who has given you less than the quality of work promised for your money, you still have rights.  A freelancer is subject to the same consumer laws as everyone else.
  • You want to engage with someone who will cut deep and pick up the typos and mistakes. Remember, a good editor is on your side.  A reader is not. The editor wants you to be able to publish your best work possible. You are not looking for ‘nice’. If they go too easy on you or appear to be in a rush to get to print, it can still count as bad editing. The reader will not be nice or give you the benefit of the doubt as it’s your first book.  They will, at best, put your book down and never read your work again.  At worst, they will leave a scathing review from wherever they bought it, and they will still never read your work again.  
  • A good editor will not point you at a publisher or insist that their services rely on you going with a particular press.  If they do, they are probably taking a back-hander.  I’m afraid you will have to do your homework for that too.
To clarify my processes… (and what makes my service great for you.)

To clarify my processes… (and what makes my service great for you.)

There are two main features to my service that I feel makes me the place to go for your editing needs. Forget about price.  You don’t want cheap and cheerful.  You want an editor who cares as much about the standard of your work as you do. You want someone who doesn’t vanish as soon as they have a copy of your work and a healthy deposit.  Before you ask, yes; I do charge a deposit but once you have read the rest of this post you will understand why. The other reason behind this post is to explain why I think my service is great.  Aside from my administrative experience, and my own writing and love of literature, you might be asking yourself what makes me different.  For the most part its this: I have noted on the writers’ boards that a recurring bug-bear with some editors appears to be the difficulty in contacting their editors for updates once the work is underway. I might not be a member of Sfep yet (I’m saving up) but I intend to start as I mean to go on; with honesty and integrity.  I am immensely grateful to my friends and fellow OU Alumni who have assisted me with some great marketing advice etc. along the way, and I ask them to please bear with me while I continue to get myself properly set-up. I might have to pick your brains a bit more (but I promise to put everything back the way I found it…).

Lets get on with it then. Why my service? First and foremost it’s trust and close behind that comes accessibility.  Documents I am working on are processed as a copy of the original document, saved under a distinctive filename, from a shared folder in Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive (the preference is theirs) and the author retains viewing access to the file I am editing while I am working on it.  I have decided on this method for a very specific reason: to avoid any changes being made by someone other than me while it is undergoing the editing process, but enabling the client to check on the progress as it goes. I understand this is an emotional time and your work means a great deal. You don’t want to wait around wondering what is happening to your work. I also understand the need for trust on both sides of the service agreement. To build trust between client and service provider, especially, with a new service, you must display a certain degree of trust. I am aware of what I leave myself open to by operating this way but I need to show my clients that I trust them to behave honestly, or why should you trust me?  The Service Agreement is a promise. Honouring those terms and providing what I have promised is what will earn me my reputation in a competitive industry.  I also need to cover myself in the hopefully very rare event that my trust is misplaced (hence the deposit).  Showing you that work is underway by allowing you the ability to check-up my progress without having to chase me for it, and show you that work is on schedule is very important to me.  Once editing is complete the sharing permission, will change to ‘can edit’, and you will be able to respond to suggestions and queries I have left for them, ready for the subsequent stage (if any), without having to volley attachments back and forth.

If you have not been on the main site in a couple of days, you might not have noticed that I have now added a calendar to the ‘Contact Me’ page so current potential customers can see my availability and book a time to speak to me that suits them. As it says, in black and white,  I am more than happy to conduct online meetings so I have made sure that both Skype and Hangouts are fully functional and that I am contactable. This means you can book an appointment in a free slot, that is convenient to you, and discuss your needs face to face. While my service is based on the written word, and my near obsession over clear and accountable paper trails (once an admin, always an admin) when dealing with people, there is no substitute for eye contact. Written communication lacks tone and inflection, you risk giving or taking offence through carelessly worded letters and emails and that can mean the difference between a client using you again and going somewhere else. I want to be the service people go to because I am contactable and reliable and to be the service people recommend to friends and colleagues. To do this I must deliver what I promise and I hope to start that with you…