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A Question


TalonRider

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I had an interesting email today from one of my authors. Here's part of the email he sent to me:

Chatting with a man who had read the posted chapters today who asked if 'my editor' was interested in work. Here is pertinent copy from his mail to me

Bill another serious question. I am writing main stream books. Does your editor edit those and if so does he charge or how much. My books are currently around 340-404 pgs. But 8 1/2 x 11 not the 6x9 they should be. They almost double when i Figured out how to format them. I need an editor in a bad way. I have a guy to do a pay to read site since publishers are so difficult to find.

With all of the authors I've worked with over the few years I've been doing this, I've only worked with one who has published anything and that author has a few eBooks online. Back in July I worked on one of CPL's books.

I have never charged anyone for the editing I've done. I guess my question is, if I decide to do this, what should I charge? I also figure this would be good experience as one of my regular authors has plan's to become a published author sometime in the future.

Jan

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I know an honest to goodness, real live free lance editor who does editing as a second career, after giving up full time editing after some 10 years. Do you want me to ask what might be a reasonable 'wage' for an 'amateur' editor? (You can't really be an amateur if you're paid for your work.)

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I do it for fun, but admit to being very selective, and only chosing authors whose work I enjoy. It would be awful editing something you didn't like, I think. Maybe, if you were a professional, you couldn't be so choosey.

But if you're being paid, wouldn't you have to find everything that's wrong, and be right in all your analysis? That's kind of daunting. I left my omniscience at the door when I came in.

C

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I know an honest to goodness, real live free lance editor who does editing as a second career, after giving up full time editing after some 10 years. Do you want me to ask what might be a reasonable 'wage' for an 'amateur' editor? (You can't really be an amateur if you're paid for your work.)
I've seen quotes of $200 to $500 for a non-fiction manuscript of average size depending on the editor. I think fiction would tend to run a little higher but I could be wrong.

Thanks Trab. Those figures could be added to what Wibby has stated. And I agree, if I started receiving pay for something I like doing, I couldn't consider myself an amateur.

I do it for fun, but admit to being very selective, and only chosing authors whose work I enjoy. It would be awful editing something you didn't like, I think. Maybe, if you were a professional, you couldn't be so choosey.

But if you're being paid, wouldn't you have to find everything that's wrong, and be right in all your analysis? That's kind of daunting. I left my omniscience at the door when I came in.

C

I'm with you Cole. I've been doing it for the fun of it and mainly work authors that I enjoy. I like to know what I'm getting into before I agree to work with someone new. I recently finished 14 chapters, some posted and some new, for my newest author. Even now there are some issues that arise that I don't do anything with and I probably should.

Jan

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Excellent point. I leave some things alone, too, and if you're being paid, you'd feeel you had to address them.

Too, if you'd taken on the job, what if the client absolutely refused some of your corrections of his more egregious errors, some that you felt he just had to make if the story were going to be anything meaningful at all? He refuses, keeps the story the way it is, the error or problem intact, and expects you to keep doing your best for him. When I edit for someone now, and he insists on not correcting something that simply has to be corrected, I can politely back away. If I'd taken his money, that would be difficult.

C

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Part of an Answer:

First and foremost, if you're going to edit and charge for it, please know your stuff: English grammar and mechanics, story components, and stylistic concerns. You won't retain customers or a job working for some company, if you don't. I've seen really well edited manuscripts online, including a few that are edited by the authors. But I have seen stories that were "edited," yet still had far too many simple errors that should've been obvious. Those editors would not have lasted beyond a first paycheck, if that. I'm afraid that's true, even if it discourages some people.

Second, be aware that when an author submits a manuscript, it will be edited in-house or farmed out. The publisher likely won't give it to you as a third-party editor. That's between the publisher and author, in contract, but typically, editing is done in-house.

Another Part of an Answer:

If the client is paying you to edit his or her work, and insists on not making a change you suggest, that is the author's prerogative, and you may either accept that, or if you feel morally/ethically outraged (and don't mind bein' po') you may quit editing for that person. If, however, you goof and miss something, yes, you have to eat the cost. That's how it works.

That's why you have contracts. That's also why you have an approval form showing the client read over the proofs and approved the work, which must be signed prior to release.

In a paid environment, you bet your sweet butt, I'd have clients sign off on that, because on rare occasions, a client will try to weasel out of it. The ones who try that, I generally would cease working for them, after it's done.

All authors must approve the final work and pay, before it's released or published. That's universal. That protects you and them, to make sure the work you do for them is of good quality and you are compensated for your work... and so a client cannot claim something was other than what he or she accepted, and has recourse if there were mistakes. -- The customer is always right, even if every textbook you have says he's wrong. (If it's dangerously wrong, you can choose to terminate the working relationship.)

I'd want to check on going rates in a particular area, but the rate will be at least $65/hr. (rough estimate) now. -- Actually, it's charged by word count and hours:minutes.

However, do not see those dollar signs and think you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams of avarice. You won't. Software, hardware, storage media, office supplies, and time and money will all eat that up.

Editors are typically not fabulously wealthy, as that might lead you to believe. Most of us are middle class or so. It is feast or famine.

-----

I didn't do novel/book editing/publishing, and don't have publishing house contacts, but I worked in a small family business doing most phases of proofing, editing, design, layout, typesetting, and graphics. Online, I've edited very many short stories and at least three novel-length stories.

Like anyone who's been in the business, I'm opinionated. I am generally easy to get along with and gentle in editing. (I have strengths and weaknesses, like any editor.) I have told customers to take a hike before. I've also eaten a few mistakes. (Not fun, either one.)

While figuring out myself as a gay guy still coming out, and while editing online, I've gotten weirded out a few times or blown up a few times. I've also found when I was wrong. In one case, I was all too right. (Ugh.)

-----

Online or in person, it is up to you to decide how much to charge for what and when. If it is pro and intended for pro publication, that's one thing. If it's amateur, like most things on the web, that's another. There are industry practices and rules of thumb.

It's up to you to make the rules for what you'd do, as an editor online or in person.

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I don't charge for my editing, mainly because it is a hobby, not a source of income. I like it that way; I can pick and choose my authors, and my greatest satisfaction would come with helping a young author to become as good as Domluka or better.

I've edited several published (or soon to be published) novels--as the closer, so to speak. It takes me from 6 to 15 minutes a page to do the editing, based on edits of two novels from the same author--the second one after another editor had worked on it. I think that's a reasonable range of time.

So, doing this roughly 400-page novel, for me, would take anywhere from 40 to 100 hours--and that is for solid manuscripts that are in their fifth or sixth drafts. At $65 an hour, the charge would be daunting for a new author. It just takes time to check quotations and references, to check on consistency of punctuation, to correct punctuation, and finally to make comments on the story itself. Don't underestimate what the editing job may entail.

I don't know the quality of the manuscript here--maybe it is cleaner than what I've seen by the authors I work with--but a thorough job may take as many as 6 minutes a page. This may help you figure how much time you need to devote to this manuscript.

[Microsoft Word calculates the amount of time one spends editing a manuscript, by the way.]

vwl

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Thanks Blue and vwl. If I was to take on something like this, I would first need to take some courses and get reference books to refresh myself and help what I do know now. It has be a number of years since I was in school. And all this could take the fun out of a something that I have fun doing.

Jan

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The thing I see is; would the editing be the only source of income for the editor?

If so then the number of hours at the going rate would have to minimally be the potential equivalent to a paid position in the work force.

So if I should expect somewhere between the minimum poverty level (Australian dollars) of around $20,000 per annum to somewhere near a comfortable middle income of $45,000 p.a., and if it takes a 100 hours to do a 400 page manuscript, then you would be seeking somewhere in the vicinity of two and half weeks wage, based on a 40 hour week. This equates to something between $950 to $2200 for editing that manuscript.

This translates to between $10 to $22 per hour, approximately.

(Again note the dollars are Australian. (Divide by 0.8 for an approx. US $, but without cultural adjustments).

Of course there are other considerations such as costs and whether there is a "hobby factor" involved in the work.

Any editor worth his salt is probably well an truly worth $50 an hour minimum, for a book that has the potential to earn its author hundreds of thousands of dollars, without going anywhere the top seller scenario of millions. But then there are other publishing costs involve as well.

It must be taken into consideration that when starting out, it is most unlikely that there will be a full 40 hours per week editing available. This is where an agent would be needed to get the editor known and accessed, but then the agent fees have to be added into the figures.

All of these factors, plus, old fashioned appreciation and the fact that an editor should in my opinion be regarded as a contributing artist, are why I insist that my editor be given credit on my stories. Though I do hope that he doesn't ask me for payment based on even the smaller of the above amounts. :hiya:

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Guys, please realize, the online editing I do for Codey's World, AwesomeDude, or independent authors, I don't charge for. These are non-profit projects. I do this stuff online for fun, and out of love for the work and to give back to the community, in part, for embracing me. (Yes, I'm a dreamer.)

If I were to work on a large project, such as a book for publication, would I want to be paid? Yes; however, I might do it at a discount. Like I said above, I decide how much to charge or not charge.

The $65/hr. figure I quoted is an estimate of current rates. -- When I was doing it professionally, in the 1990's, the going rate for independent editors, typesetters, and graphic designers, doing this as a career was around $30 to $35 dollars an hour. However, at the same time, graphic designers working for newspapers or print shops worked for considerably less than that, not much above minimum wage, and barely supported themselves and their kids.

Take note of what Des said. If you're going to edit as a full-time career or as a part-timer, then it is a business, and you have to be able to support yourself. Keep in mind that you can only edit so much at a time, and payments are spread out over time in larger lump sums. In other words, it's feast or famine.

Don't take my word for it. Go online, go to the library, call local print shops, service bureaus, and other publishers, and find out what their rates are and what they pay their editors.

What will you find? You'll find it can vary widely. You'll find that the numbers will be from minimum wage up through those $35 and $65 per hour and higher.

-----

One correction on what others have said:

Typically, an editor's name won't be credited on the manuscript. It may occasionally appear in the book credits on the copyright/bibliographical publishing information page. The author may sometimes thank the editor in acknowledgements. But typically, "a good editor's work is never seen."

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