Monthly Archives: December 2016

Working with an editor 2: How do I negotiate with an editor or proofreader and book my project in? #amwriting

Working with an editor 2: How do I negotiate with an editor or proofreader and book my project in? #amwriting

This article follows on from Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?, where I explained what an editor needs from a prospective client in order to give them a price and turnaround quotation. Now we’re going to look at where you go from there – what will the editor/proofreader send you, is it OK to ask for a sample edit, and how to proceed with negotiating and then – hopefully – booking an editor.

What does a quote from an editor include?

Your editor will usually quote you a price and a turnaround time. I work in a price per 1,000 words (different people do different things: I like my clients to know up front how much they’re going to pay) and will tell the prospect how much time I’ll take to do their work and when I can slot it into my schedule. So I might say something like “I can take on this project for £7.50 per 1,000 words, I’ll need 2 weeks to do the work and I would be able to start it on 1 May”.

Be assured that a good editor will have thought very carefully about the pricing before they send it to you. I try to be as fair as I can to myself and the author, basing my price on the amount of work that the edit will involve. This is why most editors and proofreaders will offer a “from” price on their website if they have a price at all, as that’s a guide to the least it will cost (for something involving a very minimal amount of editing). Some editors offer discounts for students or self-publishers, so make sure you’ve explained if you’re one of those categories.

How to negotiate with an editor

In my opinion, the negotiations should be about dates and turnaround times, and about what you want your editor to do, not about price. I don’t offer a high price so that I can be beaten down to my “real” price, and I don’t know anyone who does.

The price an editor offers you reflects …

  1. Their experience and training
  2. Their knowledge of your subject area or genre
  3. Their knowledge of English grammar, sentence structure
  4. Their ability to help you to express yourself in the best way possible, while retaining your unique voice and writing style
  5. Their knowledge of standard style sheets
  6. Their ability to match the style sheets of publishers, journals, etc.

But within the negotiation, it’s fine to, for example, ask for a sample edit, or ask if the work can be done in a shorter time period (this may involve an urgent fee but your editor will explain that).

Regarding time slots, it comes as a surprise to some people to discover that their editor / proofreader has other clients on the go. We have to keep booking in clients and rebooking regulars in order to have a constant stream of work and, basically, a continuous income. So if your editor really can’t start working with you until the week after next, there will be a good reason for that and they may not be able to move that commitment. However, do give them a chance and ask, just in case.

Is it OK to ask for a sample edit?

Some people are nervous about asking for a sample edit but most editors are happy to provide one. We usually limit it to about 1,000 words, which should show up any major issues that are going to come up in the job as a whole. I use Tracked Changes in word or marked-up PDF as appropriate, and I also send back a skeleton style sheet detailing the decisions I’ve made so far, so you can see how I work.

It’s a good idea to send your sample text from the middle of the work in question. You will typically have gone over and over the start of your manuscript, but not paid so much attention to later sections. A section from the middle will offer a truer representation of the level of editing needed.

Asking for quotations from more than one editor

It’s of course fine to do this, and good practice, as I would do when engaging a plumber. There are some other elements of good practice here, though:

  • It’s polite to let an editor know you have asked other people for quotes and may need time to make your decision
  • It’s not polite to play editors off against each other. Editing is quite a small world, and if you claim to Editor A that Editor B has offered a very low price, well, they might just know each other and check … Be honest and fair as you expect others to be fair to you
  • Let the editors know when you are going to make your choice
  • Let the unsuccessful editors know the result, as well as the successful one

This last point is really important. If I’m negotiating with a client on a job, I’ll be holding open a slot for that job for the time frame we’ve been discussing. It’s only fair to let me know if you don’t want to book my services, so I can accept another job in its place.

Choosing an editor or proofreader is a whole topic in itself. You need to feel comfortable with them and they need to work in your subject area or genre. You might think I’m great, but however lovely I am, I’m just not going to be able to edit your horror novel! It’s fine to look at references (a good editor will have references or testimonials on their website) and to discuss how they would approach your book. It needs to be a good fit from both sides. If I don’t think I’m a good fit for you, I will usually be able to recommend on someone who will be more useful, but an editor’s ability to do this does rely on the networks they’re in.

Booking in your editing or proofreading project

So, you’ve chosen your editor, you’ve told the ones you don’t want to use that you have no need of their services. Now you’ve got a slot and a price that you’ve accepted. These are the next stages:

  1. Signing a contract or accepting terms and conditions in writing – I ask people to do the latter, but will create a formal contract if one or other of us thinks it’s necessary. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions carefully and ask about any you’re not sure of.
  2. Maybe paying a deposit in advance if your editor requires it.
  3. Submitting your work.

Now, most editors and proofreaders understand that the date you think you’re going to have your work completed isn’t always the date you’ll have it completed. Even if you think you’re ready, something might come up. If you’re using the booking to force yourself to finish the job (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that in principle!) then something might come up.

The golden rule for me is: it’s fine if you get delayed, as long as you let me know.

If you’ve booked to send your work to your editor next Monday and it’s Friday and you’ve not finished, then let them know. Preferably let them know before that, so they can book another job into the space. Let them know when you think you’ll be ready, and update them. As I mentioned above, most editors have more than one job going on at the same time, so it should be possible for your editor to shuffle work around to leave your slot open in a week’s time, say. However, if you don’t let them know and don’t keep them informed, then suddenly expect them to edit 100,000 words for you with no notice and a month late, they simply might not have the time in their schedule to do that!

Don’t miss your slot: if you get delayed, let your editor know as soon as you can.

Negotiating and booking in with an editor or proofreader

This article has given you, the author or writer, some hints on negotiating with editors and getting your job booked in with them. Everyone works slightly differently, so I’ve tried to keep this as general as possible, and based it on my own practices.

If you’ve found this article useful, do please comment and share using the buttons below! Thank you!

Other useful articles on this website

Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?

Do I need editing or proofreading?

Working with Tracked Changes

What is a style sheet?

On completion of your edit, will my manuscript be ready for publication?



Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Copyediting, Ebooks, proofreading, Writing


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Small business chat update – Hannah Jones and Duncan Jones

Small business chat update – Hannah Jones and Duncan Jones

We’re out of season now but here’s a lovely update from Hannah Jones and Duncan Jones of the company Marine Discovery Penzance, who run wildlife spotting boat tours from the Cornish town in the very west of the UK which is one of my favourite places. I invited them to take part in this interview series last year after having been on one of their catamaran trips, and this was their first interview. When I asked them then what their plans were for the upcoming year, they replied, “The time has come now to either grow the business or streamline it. In our case growing further would mean having to buy
another vessel, and take on a skipper and more staff. Streamlining would mean trying to almost narrow our appeal – a business cannot be all things to all people and all budgets. We are still thinking about which way to go, but something will change because the summer we have just had was insanely busy and we don’t want to suffer burnout”. This is such a pivotal time in the life of a business (I covered the general options in a series of articles on the topic a year or so ago, although not with specific boat tours reference!) and I was interested to see how they’re doing this year. Read on to find out …

Hello again, Hannah and Duncan. I know from your Facebook page that you’ve had a great summer of wildlife spotting. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Broadly yes, though this year has been even more successful than last year in terms of customer numbers and turnover. We were running full boats from May right through to the end of October.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We kept the same staff as we had last year, and it looks as though they will both be with us next year. This is such a massive advantage, as it means we don’t have to look for new staff and train them during those early months of the season. They are both very different, but big assets to the company.

We now only operate the shortest trip (the 1 ½ hour Bay Discovery) between the start of the season and the end of June, which takes in the Easter holidays and the May half term break. Demand for this trip had been falling in recent years during the peak season, and we found it impossible to fit into the peak summer schedule. This did mean that there were certain families we “lost” to other companies which was a shame, but such was the demand for the longer trips, it didn’t matter financially, and hopefully they will come back when they want to do a longer trip (when their children are older maybe). We also streamlined our pricing structure, getting rid of the family discount but retaining the child’s concession. It hasn’t had even the slightest adverse effect on our visitor numbers.

We have also made the decision to convert our engine power to electric. We have bought a new electric outboard engine from Germany, who lead in this kind of technology. It is a costly investment but one which will pay off long term. As the technology improves we hope to power this eventually using solar energy, but for the moment it will run on batteries, alongside one remaining petrol outboard and the sail power of course. This will mean lower fuel costs, fewer emissions and a quieter experience, during those days when there is no wind and we have to use the motors. These motors also require much less servicing than petrol and diesel engines, and need no engine oil. There is zero risk of fuel spillage.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

What have I learned? That working smarter rather than harder (in terms of hours) is often the thing to do, though there is no substitute for hard graft and dedication of course. I’m glad we made the decision to streamline rather than grow.

Brexit – well it’s hard to know what it will bring isn’t it? Lots of people didn’t think it would happen, yet here we are. Hopefully it won’t mean our overseas visitor numbers will drop (with the weak pound I doubt it), and I really hope that it doesn’t mean the increasingly number of European residents in the UK will stop holidaying in Cornwall. We get lots of Central European people living and working in the UK visiting us, for example. We have made no secret of the fact that we are concerned about the effect Brexit will have on the marine environment, and people have overwhelmingly agreed with us.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Life is not a dress rehearsal – work hard but don’t forget to live as well.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

Are you generally pessimistic or optimistic about Britain’s future in this new world we find ourselves in?

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Making use of new technology and using the ongoing findings of our research to help us find the wildlife on our trips, which is what gives us one of the edges over the competition. This is alongside the experiment with the electric outboard engine. This should hopefully prove to customers that we are genuinely committed to being genuinely environmentally friendly rather than simply coating our marketing in greenwash.

Times are extremely uncertain – I have no idea what next year will bring. Very few people do.

I’m so glad they had such a good year and have worked out a way to build the business which works for them (when it came to full-capacity time for me, I built up my network of people to refer onto so I could say “no” while offering an alternative option, and streamlined what I offered and who I offered it to; different options are available). I love the idea of them offering even more environmentally friendly boat tours, as this is what attracted us to go out with their company in the first place, and I’m sure next summer will bring more development there. I suspect more people will be holidaying in the UK next year although who knows, really – I’d love to see a few answers from fellow business-owners to that Brexit question.

You can find Marine Discovery Penzance online at as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can email them or call on
07749 277110

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

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Posted by on December 3, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat


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