Thursday, October 5, 2017
"Sticker Shock" and the Cost of Edits
I recently joined a group called Ask A Book Editor, and have enjoyed the interactions and information exchange. Self-promotion is strictly forbidden, so it's simple Q&A with authors and other editors. Someone recently asked about free evaluations, cost per hour v. cost per word, and costs in general.
After participating in a lively discussion of "if you charge X, you're not charging enough," I thought I'd check out the Excel file that lists all the editors who are part of the site so I could explore some of these people and their pricing structure—just to see where I landed on the spectrum.
And . . . wow. I'm a cheap date.
I knew from talking with authors I've worked with that I charge about half of what many freelancers do. In fact, when I started working with Raymond Esposito, he said he'd paid exactly twice as much with another editing house before working with me—and I ended up re-editing the two books that other business had worked on. But what an eye-opener to see what some of these people rake in! My cost per word is, at best, half of that charged by others . . . but in the majority of situations I found that these people were charging three times what I do, sometimes with an hourly rate added on. One editor quoted rates "starting at .018 per word plus $45/hour," which sounded outlandish to me. And yet, these people are all working steadily.
Funny thing: there were those who were almost pricing snobs. Their opinion was that editors who charged x amount (actually, what I charge, though I was a little embarrassed to admit it to them) were either incompetent or trying to undercut the competition. I am neither. I like to think of myself as realistic with what the average indie author can afford and is willing to spend. I've given what I think is a reasonable estimate after a free evaluation, complete with discount, and have had people say, "Oh, I had no idea it would cost that much, to be honest."
What do I say to that? "Um, did you look at anyone's prices prior to contacting them directly?" comes to mind, even if it sounds incredibly snarky. Because if it were me, and I looked at someone's site to get their contact information, I would check out the pricing, calculate what my particular MS would cost, and then shop around to come up with three to five editors of varying rates for evaluation. The cheapest estimate is not always the lowest quality; nor does a higher rate guarantee better quality. In general terms, these things may hold truth, but the work itself needs to be considered.
In another online group, an author was looking for an editor, and many people in the group mentioned Reedsy. One author said it was "expensive but worth it" and when asked about cost, she mentioned about $2,000 for a typical-length novel. I can understand that for developmental editing, but for copy editing & proofreading (the type she was quoting), I can tell you that most indie authors can not afford that—nor will they pay it. They'll either go cheap and hope for the best, or they'll publish without professional edits and will continue to promote the stereotype of self-pubs putting out subpar work. This is why I offer more affordable pricing with options. I hate the idea that talented work is out there, unedited. In all other aspects of life, we manage to find the money and time for things that are important to us—and yet when it comes to editing a novel into which you've put your time, sweat, imagination, and future writing reputation, there's an attitude of "It's more than I want to pay, so it's okay to go without this step."
I can't compete with Reedsy, and thankfully I don't have to. The authors I've worked with are determined to put forth the best product they possibly can, and I help them to do so. Is a big name like Reedsy worth it? I don't know, since I'd have to compare their work side by side to my own. I do know the editors I've spoken with (who have been approached by Reedsy) say they prefer to work as freelancers because Reedsy doesn't pay well. One guy posted a status update last night, saying, "That time when you took a low-paying job with a big publishing house, hoping it would lead to bigger, better jobs . . . and six months later, I got another from them, at half the rate they paid last time. Never again. I much prefer working with the author directly."
It makes me wonder if, when all is said and done, their [Reedsy's] editors—and perhaps those employed by other large editing/publishing houses—aren't making a whole lot more than I am. Except in this case, the author is paying the difference.
Read that last sentence again. If we're making about the same, why not cut out the middleman—the one who isn't doing the work—and pay the freelancer directly? I may be biased, but it sure seems more cost-effective to me.
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