Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A FreeLance Editor? by Diana Flegal

What exactly does a Freelance Editor offer an Author? Diana explains in today’s blog.

Diana previously shared this information in Christian Fiction Online Magazine, http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/ and thought she would re post it here for the Blog reader.

One of the many changes we have seen take place in the publishing industry since the economic downturn has been the need for authors to provide 'camera ready' manuscripts. The editorial burden of tightening up a manuscript used to fall on the publishing house. In the past, an editor would have been assigned to the writer, even providing such personalized service as to travel to the authors local and stay for extended periods of time to do a 're write' before going to press. With the recent layoffs and downsizing, publishers no longer offer this once routine service. Many authors are now finding the necessity of hiring an editor to help them prepare their manuscript for submission. I thought it might be good to elaborate a little on the types of services that are available to authors, and what costs you might expect to pay for such services. Keep in mind that rates vary considerably depending on the nature of the work, the time frame of the assignment, the degree of special expertise required, and other factors. The industry standard for a manuscript page, however, is a firm 250 words.

Terms and definitions:

Freelance Editor: Freelance practice varies greatly. Some require clients to sign written contracts while others may perform work based on verbal agreements, perhaps enforceable through the very nature of the work. Some freelancers may provide written estimates of work and request deposits from clients. They help getting words and information ready for publication, offering temporary help, occasional assistance, or long-term commitment. A freelance editor can help you with planning, outlining / organizing, enriching, ghostwriting / collaborating.

Copy Editor: the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy (but not content) of a manuscript. This work is done before the work of proofreading.

Proofreading: consists of reviewing any text, either hard copy on paper or electronic copy on a computer and checking for typos and formatting errors. This may be done either against an original document or "blind" (without checking against any other source). Many modern proofreaders are also required to take on some light copy-editing duties, such as checking for grammar and consistency issues.

Ghost Writer: A professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written material.

Permissions Editor

When an author submits a manuscript to the publisher, that manuscript may contain material from outside sources. Photographs, text quotes, cartoons, full article reprints, charts, line drawings, graphs, maps, screen shots of websites or software--all sorts of things--may have been found during the course of research and may be added to the manuscript by the author. Someone must (1) evaluate whether permission is required for each of those "found items" to be printed in the book and, where permissions are required, someone must (2) obtain written permission before each item can be reprinted.

September 2008 the Editorial Freelancers Association posted these fees on their site as a rough guideline for common editorial rates. (EFA is a national not-for-profit —501(c)6— organization, headquartered in New York City, run almost entirely by volunteers.)

Copyediting, basic 5–10 ms pgs/hr $25–40/hr –
Copyediting, heavy 2–5 ms pgs/hr $35–50/hr
Substantive | line editing 1–6 ms pgs/hr $40–65/hr
Developmental editing 1–5 pgs/hr $50–80/hr
Proofreading 5–10 ms pgs/hr $25–35/hr Researching NA $25-50/hr
Writing 1–3 ms pgs/hr $50–100/hr $1–$2/wd

NOTE ms = manuscript, prn = printed, pg = page, hr = hour, wd = word

I found another individual editor willing to offer the following rates:
Word Rate$0.008 per word (0.8 cents per word) Transcription Rate$80 per hour of dictation/interview Ghostwriting Rate$40 per hour

Your particular agent should be able to provide a list of editors they respect and feel will offer you a quality service. I recommend you interview each editor, asking what their fees are, a realistic estimate of when they can complete the project and what their fees are. Be sure to choose an editor not only based on expertise but also on whether you feel that you can work well with them.

I hope you found this helpful. Here is hoping you have a glorious Spring Day in your part of the country and around the globe.

From my heart to yours,


Shmologna said...

Informative. Many of these terms confused me until I read this post. Thank you!

Timothy Fish said...

“One of the many changes we have seen take place in the publishing industry since the economic downturn has been the need for authors to provide 'camera ready' manuscripts.”

I realize this is an exaggeration, but when I see statements like this, I can’t help but think that this is part of the reason POD now exceeds traditional publishing in book production. Perhaps I’m a little old fashioned, but I was raised with this idea that success comes from hard work. But the trend seems to be that publishers are pushing more and more work to the author while not increasing the author’s share of the profits. If the authors are already providing camera ready manuscripts, what’s next? Will the publishers try to make money by licensing their imprints and ISBNs to authors? Will they become nothing more than a bunch of acquisitions editors who read through the slush pile and put a seal of approval on the books they like while the author does all the work? Can a publishing company hope to continue to make money when it doesn’t produce a product?

Terry Burns said...

I'm sorry Timothy, but I think you miss the point. It is a matter of competition. If you are sending in a mss that needs a lot of work and they are seeing a ton of mss that are well edited and ready to go, it doesn't take a genius to see what they are going to go with. Editors at the major publishers DO significantly improve manuscripts, but they want to work on the story, not fixing grammar and formatting and all of the things they are not having to address from others. And don't be fooled by POD exceeding traditional in book production. The reason for that is the number of people producing them, don't lose sight of the fact that the majority of all POD books sell 100 copies or less. The significant sales are still primarily coming from the major publishers that have the ability to get books into stores and who have a sales force to get them out.

Timothy Fish said...


As I said, I realize that camera ready is an exaggeration and I’ll be the first to say that most of the self-published stuff out there is terrible. And yeah, I realize that in a choice between a good manuscript that needs some work and a good manuscript that they could practically send to the printer untouched they will choose the second. And I can understand their desire to focus only on the story—that’s what we all want to do. From an author’s perspective, there’s little we can do, but from a business perspective, I believe publishers are playing with fire.

If I were a freelance editor and I edited the next Twilight and got it to the ‘camera ready’ point, you can be sure that I would be posting that my website. But as sales increased and I watched the author getting rich, the agent getting rich and the publisher just raking it in, I would be looking at my bank account and wondering why I couldn’t get my piece of that pie. The publisher isn’t paying me and if I lived off of a percentage from the author’s cut I would have to be very selective, making sure that every project is profitable or I would want a bigger cut. Rather than simply editing the work and passing it on to a publisher, I might as well edit the work and pass it on to a printer. If I’m selective enough, I could afford to pay the author an advance, rather than taking money from the author. In short, the freelance editor will become the publisher. Which goes back to my point, publishers can’t keep pushing more work on people for less money and expect to survive.

Terry Burns said...

If you say so - what I think is that freelance editing is a job - they quote a price which they are paid even if the book doesn't sell. And certainly a freelance editor could choose to become a publisher, that's where a lot of the large number of small presses come from. I got in trouble once making this statement at a conference by not acknowledging that major presses DO improve the quality of the books they decide to publish before they publish them, but I've already mentioned that.

Having said that IF manuscripts are equal, then the difference between self-publishing, small publishing, mid-list, the big houses, all of the levels of publishing, is distribution and sales. It ranges all the way from the bottom where the author has to do it all to the big guys who for the right title will do a lot of advertising and promotion and get behind the book. There are an infinite number of levels in between. However, I am surely pleased to find out that I'm getting rich, my creditors will be happy to hear that. Any insight on when that is going to happen?

Timothy Fish said...

"Any insight on when that is going to happen?"

Terry, I'll tell you what. I've got a manuscript sitting in a closet that really isn't that good. I'll pay a freelance editor a couple thousand to turn it into something really spectacular. Then you get me a multi-million dollar book deal and I'll be happy to give you your cut.

Terry Burns said...

I'd be more than happy to take it

Terry Burns said...

The money, that is . . . the manuscript? Well, I'd have to look.

pat jeanne davis said...

My experience with getting freelance editorial help is a positive one. I found an editor who works with aspiring fiction writers. She provided a line by line edit with suggestions for ways to improve my first 3 chapters. I set about to implement the correction and suggestions throughout the entire manuscript. I learned more from this edit than from the feedback I received from contests I'd entered. Thanks for the post, Diane.

Caroline said...

Sad to say, I wasted my money on two different "editors." They did practically nothing for me except take my money.

BUT the third one I used was wonderful!! She went over & above our contract & more than worth the money I spent.

Look around, check out their work & then profit from an editor who knows how to do what you need. It's well worth it!

Thanks, Diana, for the post.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Diana: This is so helpul. I've found much encouragement from the editors I've hired to help me polish my work. I also learned where I was making mistakes, so their input was valuable, and worth the prices paid.

Makes me think... I may want to take a few courses and try my hand at editing. Any websites you'd recommend?


Anonymous said...

I have a wonderful editor named Barbara Warren. She edits and coaches for a very fair price. She is wonderful to work with and has become a dear friend in the process. I'm a nurse by trade. After my four-year old son, Jonathan passed away, I felt the need to write a book about him to deal with the grief. To be honest,I wasn't exactly sure where to begin. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I wasn't a huge fan of English or Grammar during my school days. Barbara was very patient with my work in progress, but she taught me a lot, and for that I'm grateful.

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