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In Defense of Indie Editor Rates

independent editor rates

A hotly debated topic among members of the Indie Author Group, independent or “indie” editor rates are often a challenging topic many writers struggle to understand. Since self-published authors do not receive some of the benefits of traditional publishing, such as receiving an advance for their novel, many have tighter budgets and must stretch every dollar.

It is important to address a few points on indie editor rates that, while controversial, provide some much needed perspective from the other side of the debate.


The Author Argument Against Indie Editor Rates

Some of the most common complaints surrounding indie editor rates is they are too high. Many complain about editors charging per word, Another common response may be that they feel a friend can do the edits for significantly less or free. Still others have been burned by an editor in the past who charged for high quality edits but did not deliver.

Depending on their particular experience, receiving a quote outside of their budget can lead the author to balk at the numbers and reject the quote outright. From here, the cycle of discussion often continues where authors share their project quote experience with other authors who detail their war stories, and other writers with good experiences for their budget are often drown out in the flurry of debate.

An Indie Editor’s Justification for Rates

While authors may receive a quote and instantly think, “No, this is much too high for what I want,” it is important to consider the circumstances in which the quote was crafted. Before you turn down the editors quote outright, consider some of the following reasons why they provided the quote they did.

Communication Confusion – While there are certainly shifty characters posing as high quality editors out in the industry, a project quote which offends an author may be due to a communication problem between the editor and the author. Did the author provide a clear summary of their budget and expectations? Was the editor clear about the services they can provide and a range they operate within for similar projects? In either of these circumstances, the communication breakdown is the fault of both parties and negotiation should be an option each considers.

Editor Experience – If, as an author, the project quote you received seems impossibly high, considering the person you are hiring. Do they have the credentials to back up the rate? Have you read testimonials from other writers or received the editor’s name as a referral? Their quote could very well be within range of what they regularly charge for the type of service you are requesting.

Market Rate – While you may not be familiar with your editor’s background at first, you may be surprised they could provide quotes at market rate. Many editors base their quotes on what the Editorial Freelancers Assocation (EFA) recommends. This may be because it is easier than choosing an arbitrary number for rates or because the rates allow them to price competitively. Whatever the case, as an indie author, it is important to take this into consideration when you review your project quote.

Project Sample Edits – Finally, the sample the author provided the editor in order to determine the working relationship may also be part of the reason the quote is higher. Did the editor find more problems with the manuscript than the author anticipated? Did the author send a sample which needed a particularly higher amount of work than the rest of the manuscript and feels the quote does not reflect the rest of the work?

A common cliché service providers use is “you get what you paid for.” This may not always apply to editing projects, but is certainly worth considering.

The Dentist Parable

A man commits a crime and is sentenced to jail. He will be there a number of years and, eventually, develops a toothache. No longer able to ignore it, he talks to a correctional officer about his options, and the officer says, “Well, you can either deal with the pain or have the jail’s dentist tooth pulled for $10.” Since he has no other options because of his circumstances and budget, he opts to have the tooth pulled. He is relieved when the pain disappears, but now he has a large gap in his teeth which is noticeable and bothers him whenever he runs his tongue along the space.

Years later, his sentence is reduced and the man is able to leave jail on good behavior. He plans to find a job, but the gap in his tooth is bothering him. It’s unsightly and collects food particles easily, so he must maintain it regularly in order to avoid gum disease. He goes to a high quality dentist a friend recommended to find out his options. His family is able to put him on insurance temporarily to fix the tooth, but there will still be out of pocket costs to him. While the dentist is higher cost, he provides numerous options to fix his tooth. The man chooses a surgical option within his budget and comes away from the painless surgery with a full set of shiny white teeth.

The dentist parable gives us a lesson about the different levels of service providers that exist and the quality of work they provide. While it is unlikely you will face similar circumstances, it is important to keep in mind professional editors charge the rates they do for a reason.

Unhappy With Your Project Quote? Steps Budget Constrained Authors Can Take

If you are still not able to accept the editor’s quote or compromise with the editor regarding your project, consider the following tips to improving your manuscript on your own and have a better experience the next time you submit for a project quote.

  • Self edit –  Before you hire an editor, take charge and look over your manuscript for errors. Buy a cheap copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White to familiarize yourself with the foundational elements of good writing. Self editing will save you time and money later when you search for an editor to look over your manuscript.
  • Set a budget – If communication with your editor led to a quote you did not expect, it is important to come up with a budget that is reasonable. If you decide to hire a student or a friend, you will pay less, but to hire a professional, you should still expect to spend up to $500 if your manuscript has already been reviewed and revised but needs a final polish.
  • Research your candidates – Still looking to hire a professional to edit your manuscript? Do your homework. Look at their editor website and ask other authors for recommendations. Referrals are a great way to find out information an editor’s marketing materials may not reveal.
  • Communicate your expectations and budget clearly – Finally, when you do contact an editor, bring whatever you can to the table to make the process smooth. You will do yourself a disservice if something like your expected budget and services you are interested in are not communicated. Give your editor some transparency and they will respond in kind.

Hiring a professional independent editor may feel like a daunting task, but if you are serious about putting out a book your readers will love, you should consider the service as a whole you receive above the cost. The higher budgeted project rate is likely to lead you to better service, an amicable relationship with a professional who understands your needs, and a polished manuscript you will be proud displays your byline.

St. Louis-based manuscript editor Megan Harris has worked with a number of authors at a small press and in independent projects to improve and polish their books prior to publishing. To discuss your project and submit a sample of your manuscript for review, contact Megan today.

[photo credit – kconnors]