5 Truths Most Editors Won’t Tell You (But I Will)

You should know these five truths when working with an editor.

1. Lowball rates often equals low-quality service. If a freelance editor is quoting you an unbelievable rate (such as a penny a word), it’s often because they perform quick, single passes over your manuscript, sometimes using only editing software. Be sure you ask how many passes your editor will take and if they practice actual eyes-on-the-page editing. Don’t settle for less than two full rounds of copyediting.

2. The company you pay to edit your work may hire inexperienced freelancers to perform the work but charge you exorbitant fees. Many “editing mills” and self-publishing houses hire freelancers willing to work for lower-than-average prices. Ask who will be editing your work and try to work directly with this person, setting the fee for services directly with the editor. Avoiding the middleman and working one-on-one with a professional freelance writer or editor will help ensure that you’re getting high-quality services at a reasonable rate.

3. Service fees can vary greatly among editors. Many professional freelance editors set their rates according to the current industry standard. A good site to check current rates is the Editorial Freelancers Association website: http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php. The EFA’s rate chart helps you negotiate a fair rate for you and your editor. Many professional freelance writers and editors are happy to work with you on rates or set up a payment schedule. Don’t hesitate to have your editor explain how he or she has determined your service costs. If you have multiple projects planned or have worked with the editor before, you may be able to negotiate a lower, multiproject rate.

4. Having a written contract protects both the author and the editor. Many editors will have a contract. If one is not provided before an initial payment or deposit, ask that the editor create one. The contract should be tailored for your project specifications and contain a payment schedule, arbitration section, and cancellation clause. Short-term editing or small projects may not necessitate a contract, but always require one for long-term or large-scale projects such as a full-length book edit.

5. You, the author, have final say-so. A good professional editor or writer wants his or her client to be satisfied and return for future collaborations. Don’t tolerate an editor who does not show respect toward your ideas, opinions, or writing voice. Working on a large-scale project is a collaboration, even at the level of basic copyediting. The partnership between you and your editor should be mutually respectful and supportive. Try to choose an editor who is enthusiastic about your writing project and shows a genuine interest. Remember, the editor works for you, but, ultimately, you both work for your reader.