I could virtually feel the incensed outrage of the author who last asked me this question, after I referred them to my editing page. They were not the first to feel this way, and won’t be the last either. I know they didn’t mean to come across as rude, and they didn’t mean to insult me. I can’t blame them for that honest reaction. For a struggling newbie author, even my fees (very low compared to those recommended by “professional” editors’ associations) seem exorbitant. In fact, right now, I’m not sure I could afford to employ someone who charges that for editing my own novels. Yet good-quality editing can make or break a book.
I just wish I had the time and patience to explain exactly what it means to do a decent editing job. I tried to do that on my page, but maybe I need to make those descriptions clearer, because mere lists of tasks are not enough. I can tell you now that the least time I need to edit a hundred-thousand-word book is about six working days, with two passes. And that is when the manuscript is near-perfect, and the mistakes contained within it are no more than about 250. Two hundred and fifty comments in a hundred thousand words. That is one for every page and a half. That is quick. Even then, I lose sleep worrying that I may have missed something, because there is no better measure of my work than the book I help produce. Add to that total a few hours spent revising any changes, or another three-day re-reading. How many hours? About 75. My fee is topped at $600. Do the maths. I work for $8 per hour – the best case scenario.
But I’m not writing this to complain. I choose to do this, and it isn’t even because I desperately need the cash. Yes, of course I enjoy the extra security it gives me, even when it is hard-earned. I actually feel an enormous sense of satisfaction when I see a well-polished final product, something I can proudly point at and say “Yes, I worked on that.” There is even more satisfaction in seeing an author progress over the years, and knowing that I had a small input in that progress. I watch what they say in interviews, and read their back-cover blurbs, and when I spot a correctly used phrase (one they used to misuse) I smile and give myself a tiny pat on the back.
There is no glory in editing, but it is a feel-good profession. I should know.
Why have I told you all this? Simple. I took the day off.
And in doing so, I tripped over this article, and its second chapter. If you wonder – 1) whether you need an editor; and 2) whether you’re getting a good deal, read it. If you value your editor, read it. If you know an editor friend, read it. If you worry about finding an editor (because the ranks of the good ones who still take on individual clients are shrinking), read it. It might help answer a few questions.
Message to my authors: don’t, for one minute, think I’ll give you any less love because I can do maths. (Hint: I did that little calculation the day I made my editing page public.) I have no favorites. I love you all the same, whether I spent six days or six months working on one of your books. Editing is far more than a job to me.