I’ve written before about how to find the right freelance editor for you, and some of the things worth considering so you can get a good fit. It can also be helpful to know why an editor might be a bad fit.
I turn down projects regularly for lots of reasons, and I’m going to dive into some of those today. Maybe it’ll help you make a decision if you’re looking to find the right freelance editor to work with.
You want cheap
If my editing fees don’t align with your budget, odds are, we won’t be a good fit. If you want a “cheap” edit, that isn’t me.
Every freelance editor’s circumstances are different – some of us are the breadwinners, editing as our main job. Others work part-time and have a partner’s income to fall back on. Some have children to support, others don’t. Some live in expensive parts of the world, others have a relatively cheap cost of living.
It can be tricky to know whether you can afford a freelance editor or not. Many don’t publish rates on their websites. I don’t, because every project is different, and every author is different. I also reassess my rates regularly in line with inflation, the cost of living, and industry standards, so nothing is ever completely fixed.
If you expect your edit to cost a few hundred pounds, or even less, then I’m not the right editor. As of writing this post, I’ve been editing for five years. I’m professionally trained and qualified, with big five publishers on my client list. I’ve worked on almost two hundred books, and I have bestsellers in my portfolio. This is my career, so I don’t work for peanuts!
I have a more in-depth post about why editing can be so expensive, and what working as a freelancer involves financially. There’s more food for thought over there, if you’re curious.
It boils down to this: editing is a time-consuming and mentally draining professional skill. We have to charge appropriately, depending on our experience, circumstances, and needs.
I completely understand the flip-side. Writers can struggle to see a return on their writing and have living costs as well. It’s completely fine if, financially, we aren’t a good fit. Someone out there will be.
You’re writing in a genre I’m not familiar with
I work on a pretty wide range of genres when it comes to fiction. My main interests are fantasy/sci-fi, horror, crime and thrillers, romance, contemporary fiction, and young adult books. I also take on historical fiction but it depends on the time period.
Things I’m not a good fit for include:
- Picture books
- Religious fiction
- Very hard sci-fi with lots of technical/science detail
- Political or legal thrillers
- Erotica (I’m not against sex scenes in general, though)
You want the editing done immediately
I always advise people to get in touch with a freelance editor early. Most of us book several months in advance. If you want your editing done now, or next week – or even within the next month – you might be disappointed to find that the editor of your choice is booked up.
As of writing this in June 2022, I’m fully booked until mid-September. It also depends on the service, because from mid-September until November, I’m only booking edits and proofreads. For manuscript assessments, one of my most popular services, I don’t have any free slots until late November – about six months away!
Some editors like myself balance booking in author clients with regular work for publishers. For instance, I keep space in my calendar for publishers I work with regularly, so I tend to have less spots for authors and book them further out.
If you want someone who is available within a few weeks, I’m definitely not the right freelance editor. But I’m always happy to recommend other editors I know.
You’re against the idea of a freelance editor who is also an author
I’ve always felt that being an author myself allows me to empathise with my clients in a way that an editor who doesn’t have writing experience can’t. Skills I’ve learnt in my writing life have carried over into my editing career (such as my experiences with querying and submitting), allowing me to help my clients even more. I feel more connected to my clients because I share in their struggles – I’ve been in their shoes. And I keep a healthy separation by never taking on a project that sounds too similar to something I’m writing myself.
If you’re concerned about having a freelance editor who is also an author, I’m not the person for you.
Your work doesn’t align with my beliefs or morals
This has been a hard lesson for me! Now, this isn’t to say that I never take on works by people with a different viewpoint. That would be foolish. I’m actually talking about more extreme viewpoints here. Writers naturally pour pieces of themselves into their work (I do it, too!). But with some topics, people can just stand on complete opposite sides.
If your work expresses things like racism, homophobia, misogyny, animal or child abuse, or other controversial subjects I disagree with, I’ll probably decline your project. We all have different stances on topics, but if we disagree on the fundamental core of what your book is about or trying to say, we aren’t a good fit.
You want someone to hand-hold you through the full publishing process
I often get people asking me if I can write their query letter and email agents on their behalf, or guide them through self-publishing and uploading to Kindle. If that’s you, you probably want a publishing consultant, or someone who offers those types of services.
My editorial style is to help the writer make their manuscript and material as strong as possible, so it has the best chance of either getting picked up by an agent, or being received and reviewed positively by readers. I give advice on the agent-hunting process, and critique query letters and submission materials, but I’m of the opinion that the author has to do a lot of the legwork regardless of publication route.
My view is this: If you’re an author, you have to be prepared to learn and put in the work on your publishing journey. Sure, you can get help, but if you want someone to perform every single step for you, I’m not that person.
You want your freelance editor to refer you to agents
Perhaps because I have an agent myself and write a lot about submission, some people email me asking if I can make referrals to agents or publishers when I’ve worked on their book.
I don’t tend to do this. First, it’s a conflict of interest – I try to keep my work with my agent away from my client work as much as possible. Second, I have agreements with some clients and publishers I work with, where I’ve agreed that I won’t make referrals.
If this is something that’s important to you, you may want to work with a freelance editor or a literary consultancy that’s able to offer referrals for promising work.
You expect your edit to be flawless
Repeat after me: An edit is not perfect and editors cannot guarantee perfection!
I’m a member of an organisation called The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. That means I strive to provide high-quality services at all times. But even the Institute will acknowledge that editing doesn’t guarantee perfection! Just look at their copyediting FAQ, under “Will a copyeditor make my text perfect?” Here is part of their answer:
No professional copyeditor should promise to make your text perfect. This is partly because no matter how well trained, experienced and diligent they are, they are still human (and that’s a good thing!). It’s also because perfection is a subjective concept. While some errors are indisputable, others are not.CIEP copyediting FAQ
Even for proofreading, the CIEP give the exact same answer to this question.
I couldn’t have put it better myself. Your final published work may still contain a couple of lingering errors. If you skipped steps (such as having a very heavy copy/line edit, and not hiring a proofreader after), there may be more. How many published books have you read that still contain a typo or small mistake? That book went through multiple rounds of editorial help, and was seen by many eagle-eyed people. But we are all human and mistakes can still slip through.
If you expect your editor to be absolutely perfect, then I’m not the right freelance editor for you, and you may have a hard time finding someone who can promise perfection and deliver.
You want regular phone calls, updates, and check-ins about your project
When I’m doing an edit or an assessment, I like to warn my clients that I usually work silently. I’m happy to answer questions or concerns, don’t get me wrong! But there are boundaries. If you want to phone your editor every day, or expect emails summing up progress and providing a rundown every week, that isn’t my style.
And it is largely a matter of preference! I know some editors love sending summaries and check-ins. For me, it feels too much like micromanaging. I get on with the job and deliver the edit, answering brief questions along the way if needed. Having someone check in every few days, or ask for frequent calls for updates, would cause too much anxiety and stress when I’m already busy, which would only lead to disruption with the actual work.
Those are the main reasons I’m probably not the right freelance editor for you. Just because we aren’t a good fit doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who will tick all your boxes! Keep looking, and check out my post on how to choose the right freelance editor for you for more information.
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