KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf
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Monday, April 03, 2017

An Editor's View of Manuscript-Editing Services for Academic Authors

Photograph of an editor at work
Editor at work
From what I have observed over the years, editing services put their editors under pressure to cut corners and do lower-quality work to meet deadlines. And it stands to reason that publishers of academic journals who partner with editing services would exert the same kind of pressure. Authors who use these services may be unhappy with the outcome. Some authors may even be inexperienced enough that they do not realize that the editing could have been much better, and then they may be unhappy when publishers reject their manuscripts for poor-quality writing.

See a definition of the term editing services in the section "Editing Services" on this page:

Editing firms may employ a team of in-house editors, rely on a network of individual contractors or both. ... Such firms are able to handle editing in a wide range of topics and genres, depending on the skills of individual editors. The services provided by these editors may be varied and can include proofreading, copy editing, online editing, developmental editing, editing for search engine optimization (SEO), etc.

I do understand that some self-employed editors may have to work with editing services for a while to build up their experience, and that some editors prefer to work through services rather than on their own. But I cannot believe that the authors who obtain editing through editing services are getting top-quality work for the low fees they pay. Cheaper is not always better.

newsletter article about American Journal Experts (AJE), an academic editing service for authors that says it has a partnership with Cambridge University Press, talks about how editing services work. The article reads less like news than like a promo for the editing service.

Many of these services don't allow direct contact with authors, which makes it harder for editors to do good work: Authors are the ones who know what they're trying to say in their manuscript, so it works best when the editors working on the manuscripts can have conversations with the authors about problematic passages.

Take a look at this article in the journal Nature for more on how editing services work in the academic world: "The Manuscript-Editing Marketplace." The article talks about AJE, Edanz, Editage, and MacMillan Science Communication, the latter of which is owned by Nature's parent company. It compares how those companies work with how the online editorial marketplace Peerwith works.

I looked at this page today (April 3) of Peerwith's website and saw very low rates that some Peerwith editors charge their clients: US$400 for a 10,000-word manuscript on Asian studies, US$220 for a 4500-word manuscript on medical mycology, and US$300 for a 4700-word manuscript on molecular biology. On top of that, Peerwith charges editors a service fee of 10% to 20%. (Find the information on services fees by clicking the "Fees & Payments" button on this page.)

Peerwith's structure, like that of editing services, does not seem to be designed for editors to earn livable incomes. Editors who want to work through such an intermediary will have to work on a lot of manuscripts in a very short period to earn much money at all, which can mean they must do lower-quality editing. That's a losing proposition for editors and authors alike.

Full disclosure: I do not work with editing services. Instead, I work directly with physician-authors who are non-native English speakers. In 2016, I took part in a panel presentation at the annual meeting of the Council of Science Editors. For that session, I spoke about being a sole proprietor who works directly with authors, and AJE's quality manager spoke about self-employed editors who accept project assignments through AJE.


5 comments:

Ayla Myrick said...

Were you able to access their content without linking to your business or personal connections (e.g., Google+, Linkedin).
Lynda
Book Editing Associates
http://Editing-Writing.com

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Ayla, I accessed much of the content on the editing services' websites without having to log in via any of my social media accounts.

Anna Biunno said...

Oh, Katharine, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Our organization uses vendors to help with the editing workload. Based on the edited manuscripts that are submitted to us, I'm inclined to think that the vendors have no vetting process for recruiting academic editors whether they are contract or in-house. The work is substandard, and on some days I can't even get through the garbled sentence structures and content flow. This means that I have to edit the paper in a second round. So, you tell me, how did our organization save money by farming out the work? They paid a fee for vendor services plus my salary to edit one academic paper. Yes, quality is nonexistent, and it's rationalized as too many papers to publish and not enough bodies to perform quality work and final quality checks.

And you're right when you say that some ESL authors (not all) don't know that their papers are lacking a quality edit.

As an editor, I've always considered myself an arbiter of quality. We are the last bastion of quality before a paper is published. I know I'm shouting into the wind, but I will continue to educate and "enlighten" those who trivialize an editor's work.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Yes to everything you said, Anna. It's always better for budget and readability if an ESL author works with an individual editor—that is, an editor who does not work for an editing service—because the individual editor can take the time to get to know the author's writing style, writing voice, and writing difficulties.

Anna Biunno said...

Wholeheartedly agree with your response.

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