In the editor’s Slack group that I’m a member of, one of the office hours’ topics of discussion was pricing. As in, how an editor should be pricing the services they offer, whether or not they should offer discounts, how/when to raise prices, etc. But with that discussion, from the POV of an editor, also comes the discussion of this topic from the POV of an author.
If I were to do a poll, I’m pretty sure the number one complaint from indie authors in their publishing journey would be editor rates. Typically, if you’re going the traditional route, it's covered by the publisher. If you're publishing independently, the cost for this service falls to the author and some aren’t willing to pay the price.
Why is editing so expensive?
The straight up simple answer: quality and value. You’re paying someone who:
Editing is more than just enjoying reading the written word. You have to be able to provide guidance for an author in a way that’s more helpful than “This sentence doesn’t make sense” or “I didn’t like your heroine.” An editor will tell you why, how to fix it, and probably even show you in the form of examples or additional resources. Basically, you’re going to be schooled in a way that a non-professional person wouldn’t be able to do.
What is it Worth to YOU?
Ever since I’ve started this business, I’ve become a lot pickier in what I read for pleasure. Before, I would read a book if 1) I liked the cover and 2) I liked the book blurb. Simple, right? Didn’t take much to get my attention. Nowadays, I’ll read a book if 1) I like the cover, 2) I like the book blurb, and 3) if it has a 3-5 star review rating. Typically, those 1-2 star reviews are pretty consistent in their complaints about editing in some way. It’s never about a crappy cover or a jacked-up digital file. On the rare, I’ve seen one or two issues about missing pages. But for the most part, it’s editing issues: typos, grammar, punctuation, lack of character development, lack of plot development, two different stories being told, continuity issues, etc. I’ve been known to ditch an author after reading only one book with editing issues, especially if those 1-2 star reviews are consistent across their whole roster of books.
Let me ask you this: what is a 1-2 star review worth to you? What is loyal readership worth to you? What is an author collaboration worth to you? What is an Amazon Best Seller tag worth to you? What would an “auto-click author” title be worth to you? What is your reputation as a writer worth to you? What is your effort (the sweat equity, the time away from family and friends, late nights, early mornings, intravenous caffeine drips, laptop replacements, file crashes, self-imposed deadlines, etc.) as a writer worth to you? You wrote a goddamn book, for heavens’ sake! Hell, you may have even written several books. Not everyone can say that did that.
If you think you can’t afford editing services, you’re being a Negative Nelly and not thinking outside the box. Before handing off the miracle of imagination you created to your bestie, your parents, your significant other, or someone who will only charge you five bucks…I’m going to ask you to please step away from the keyboard, do three woosah’s, and try one of the following nine options:
1) Become a Budgetnista - Oh, didn’t you know? Budgetnista is the new fashionista. Have you ever saved for a car? College tuition? A down payment on a home? A vacation? Why not do the same thing for editing services? I get paid weekly from my corporate job and automatically take twenty percent off the top and put it in savings. The rest goes to bills and whatev. Open a separate savings account and throw a certain percentage (or dollar amount) of your paycheck into it. You can also use budgeting apps like Qapital, Mint, or Digit to help you find extra money to put away.
2) Payment Plan - Consider asking your editor if they’d be willing to break up your payments into two or three increments. If the amount is large enough, your editor may opt to do it anyway. Just be aware that this type of fee structure will require you to pay before each stage of the editing process commences.
3) In Lieu Of - Have you noticed lately that when couples get married, they’ll ask for donations to their favorite charity instead of wedding gifts? Or when someone dies, instead of flowers (and maybe tuna casseroles), the family will ask for donations to help with burial costs? The same can be done for editing services. Your friend wants to give you that Coach purse you’ve been eye-banging for your birthday? Nope. Just tell her to donate to your Editing Fund (that purse will be out of season in six months anyway). Your parents want to get you an Instant Pot for Christmas? Thanks, but no thanks, Mom'n'Dad. Just tell them to donate to your Editing Fund (besides, the microwave works just fine). Your honey proposes with a blinding 5 karat diamond? Erm. Take the diamond (you can always pawn it later—for the Editing Fund--if the marriage doesn’t last).
4) Gift Certificate - When Christmas rolls around and my niece wants to know what I want, I send her an email that says “You can get me a gift certificate to any of these sustainable-friendly places.” GC’s work in the service industry as well. Find out if the editor you want to work with offers gift certificates and then tell your family/friends/significant other to buy you one. Or two. Or eleventy-hundred…
Romance Society Editing offers gift certificates! Give the gift of professional eye-banging to the writer in your life. Gift certificates are available for purchase.
5) Sell Some Shit - I’m not talking about actual shit. Can we say “EW!”, boys and girls? I’m talking about shit in your house that you hardly ever use. Take a look in your closets. When is the last time you wore that fur coat? If you live in a place where it doesn’t snow, you don’t need it. Sell it. Take a look in your garage. Didn’t you accidentally clip that caddy’s nose with those golf clubs? Yeahhhh, you should probably sell’em. Take a look in your backyard. Who’s bright idea was it to jump on the Gnome Train? #WhattheWhat? Get those things outta there. Don’t go all Stella-Got-Her-Groove-Back and have a $1 sale on your front lawn, though. Check out places like Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Poshmark, or ThredUp to sell your items.
6) Shut Up and Drive - No Fast and Furious, Baby Driver, or Gone in 60 Seconds here, people! (can you tell I watch a lot of movies?) You can earn some extra dolla-dolla bills ya’ll by driving for Lyft or Uber. Additional bonus? Writing material! Driver Diaries. Steering Wheel Confessions. Chauffeur Shenanigans. BOOM! I just gave you three ideas for a book series. You’re welcome.
7) Channel Your Inner Transporter - You can be like the hubby-of-my-dreams Jason Statham and make deliveries for companies like Uber Eats, Door Dash, Postmates, Instacart, Grubhub, or Roadie. You won’t look as h-a-w-t as him while you drive (unless you can wear the hell out of a suit and own a sexy car), but just think about all those greenbacks you’ll earn for your Editing Fund.
8) Do the Hustle - And I don’t mean the dance move that so many people did back in the 70’s, so feel free to put those bell-bottom jeans in the To Sell stack. I’m talking about starting a side hustle. And if writing is your side hustle, then start another side hustle. Since you’re already writing, maybe find something that involves keeping that muscle heavily flexed. Wanna save that writing for your books? Duly noted. Maybe you can find some ideas from this list.
9) And Still You Raise - Set up a Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of both production and marketing. I was riffing off of Maya Angelou there, but you get the gist, right? As writers, we’re all about giveaways, so while you’re asking people to help you out, what better things to give away than autographed copies and other book-related merch?
What you have to remember is you get what you pay for. If you paid someone five dollars to fix your toilet, you may have issues later. If you paid $30 for a pair of Louboutins, chances are they’re fake. If you paid $10K for a Tesla….yeahhhh, it’s not a Tesla. Anything of quality--good quality--is going to cost you: cars, jewelry, clothes, vacations…and services. What’s good quality worth to you?
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