I've had some odd experiences over the past couple years when editing for people, and I sort of file those under the "huh" category and move along, not knowing whether I'll hear from them again or not, for whatever reason on my end or theirs.
I receive editing requests on a regular basis (that's the goal, after all), and I've learned to not get excited about them until I research a bit more. I've had dozens of instances of "I FOUND YOUR SITE AND I LOVE IT AND I HAVE A BOOK THAT NEEDS EDITED CAN YOU HELP ME I'VE ATTACHED MY FIRST THREE CHAPTERS FOR YOU TO EVALUATE!"
My standard response? I reply with some questions, such as:
- What is the genre and length of your novel?
- What is your expected publishing date and how long do you anticipate the edits to take?
- Have you been in contact with other editors for evaluations?
- Has anyone other than you read through your manuscript for beta purposes?
- How did you find me and have you read through my terms and pricing?
I don't think these are unreasonable questions. They're pretty basic, in fact. And yet, I'm never surprised when 90% of those people don't reply. My guess is that there are people out there who submit a different set of chapters to a variety of editors for a free eval, with the intent to work the system and eventually get all their chapters edited for free. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but a realist with human nature when strangers deal with each other for business purposes.
Still, there are the 10% who are serious about needing an editor; some have become friends, some are merely friendly business acquaintances who contact me when they need me, and others simply puzzle me.
One author I worked with contracted me for a novel that had been subject to what I call "backward publishing"—when the book gets released for sale in the hopes that it will generate enough income to get it edited later. When the author approached me, it was stated that there would be "a second book, probably following within a month, because I just need to get this done." That was fine by me. The author was pleasant, the writing was decent, and of course I was happy to have the work lined up back in the earlier days. I did the first book, sent it back, the author was pleased, and I asked to be notified when it was updated on Amazon so I could promo it. The author replied two weeks later, saying things had gotten really busy with regular life (they own a family business) and that the book would be uploaded when there was time. I never received a notification that the book was updated. I've looked on Amazon a few times and have never seen my name or ERE listed with editing credits, though there are many other acknowledgements listed in the front matter of the "look inside" feature. In reading the first chapter, it seems as if my edits are there (mostly because I remembered there were a lot of punctuation issues in the original and now they're gone) but the lack of any follow-through bothers me. As you may have guessed, there was no second book and no reference to the fact that the time had been booked for it. By then, I was busy enough that I didn't press the issue, but it was a curious event nonetheless. A lot of hours go into what I do, and having my name or the business name in the list of credits is how I can prove I've done the work I claim to have done. And if an author isn't happy with my work, or found someone more affordable, I will never know it (or why) if there's no followup. [Side note for this particular author: just before publishing this post, I did notice there is a second book now published in the series I worked on, and an editor was thanked—though not by name (what??)—which makes me wonder if there was something I did wrong or if a friend offered to edit for free. I need to know these things. Curiosity kills me.]
Thankfully, most people aren't like that, and I've only had one hostile person who would not take advice (and who I ended up declining to work with when all was said and done). I hear from some authors more frequently than others, because everyone writes at a different pace, some penning four books in the time it takes another to write one. I've met some interesting people in the process, whether they ended up working with me or someone else, and I have to admit that I enjoy being surprised by the high-quality creativity some people have bubbling in their brains.
And I still get a thrill when someone comes back as a repeat client, because ultimately, that speaks volumes over a pleasant email "thank you" any day.