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

Monday, January 31, 2011

How Come You're Not Getting the Rates You Want as an Editorial Pro?

At some point in your career as a self-employed editorial professional, you're going to compare your fees with those of your colleagues. And some of you are going to wonder why you earn so much less than they do. It just might be your clientele.

Unfortunately, the arena that may most interest some freelance editors but that consistently pays low rates and even angles for lower rates is academic publishing. University presses historically have had little funding and thus very small budgets, which means they pay very low rates to freelancers. If academic book and journal manuscripts are your focus, then, you're going to earn very little. As the saying goes, you can't get blood from a turnip.

There is no shame in pulling in low fees if you do it for love of the material you edit. But if money is a problem, you'll have to decide which is more important to you: working on materials that you love—but earning very little because that's what that kind of work pays—or being able to command higher fees, even if the topics that you edit aren't perhaps your first love. If you decide that you want to go where the money is, you can do either of two things:

  • Look for arenas that pay more and that don't require you to earn additional degrees or certifications, such as business-to-business materials, web-site copy, public-relations materials, books and articles published outside academia.
  • Do some research to find a potentially interesting and higher-paying niche that requires more training ... and then invest time and money in getting that training, additional degree(s), or certification.

It's like the situation my husband, a cabinetmaker, faces: He'd love to not have to travel much and work on cabinetry only for nearby folks, but if he did, he'd go out of business for lack of funds. Most of the local folks are members of the middle class and can't and won't pay much at all for his services. So he travels a bit more to go out to Long Island's Hamptons, home to many extremely wealthy people who want all sorts of unheard-of things done with cabinetry and will pay whatever they have to to get those things. He's chosen his market, and it's not the penny-pinching middle class.

Have you put thought into finding a higher-paying clientele?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sending Holiday Greeting Cards to Clients Gets Results

Most years, I send out "Happy New Year" greeting cards by snail mail to every single one of my clients, even those I haven't edited a project for in several months. At the end of 2010, this amounted to 57 cards, enough to give my writing hand cramps. And I tucked 3 of my business cards into each envelope. In each card, I wished the recipient a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011; thanked him or her for working with me in the past; and expressed the hope that we would have a chance to work together in 2011.

This marketing practice—one of many I engage in—always pays off.

Already this month, several clients I haven't heard from in a while, mostly international researcher-authors who need ESL (English as a second language) editing of their medical-journal manuscripts, have e-mailed me after getting a greeting card and asked me to edit a manuscript for them. One physician-researcher from China, whose surgical techniques and research appear to be impeccable, though her English definitely is not, e-mailed me yesterday:

Hi, Katharine.

Yesterday, I received your best wishes—a happy new year card. I am excited very much! I have received two gifts from you, a cup* and the card. The three [business] cards of you have been sended to my friends. I inform them to e-mail you if they have papers to edit. If I have paper to edit I will e-mail you too. You are my best partner. I am successful with your help in the past time. I also appreciate you very much.

Of course I e-mailed her right back:

What a delightful message! Thank you so much for giving my business cards to your friends. You have given me a great gift by recommending my editing to them.

I couldn't have wished for a better response to mailing out the cards than from that one author. From her alone, I got my business cards passed along in person to three other researcher-authors and I got three enthusiastic recommendations. Imagine how many potential clients could end up with my contact information if all 57 greeting-card recipients did the same: 171! Even if only some of them do so, that's wonderful.

*Another of my marketing practices is to send a KOK Edit coffee/tea mug to a new client.

After I conducted an ESL edit of the author's last research article, the journal she submitted it to accepted it for publication. That was the first time any of her research articles had been published in a U.S. medical journal, which was a prestigious accomplishment for her.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resources for Writing and Editing Grant Proposals

I was recently privileged to edit sections of a physician-researcher's proposal for a grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund an experiment whose findings would benefit very ill children. Because this was my first foray into the world of grant proposals, I needed help from colleagues to get up to speed. I asked for links to information resources, and wow, were they helpful! I'm sharing these resources with you here so that maybe you'll be able to spend less time hunting for resources and more time working on grant proposals.


Courses and Online Resources
    • "Grant Writing," Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center

    Most of the resources listed here were recommended to me by members of the private Editing-Writing e-mail list of the American Medical Writers Association, the private e-mail list of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and the public Copyediting-L e-mail list. A few of them are courtesy of this blog post from medical writer and editor Stacey C. Tobin.

    A Mentee's Tale

    I'm so proud of self-employed proofreader and copyeditor Cassie Armstrong, one of my mentees! She's such a go-getter. Read her story here, at the blog of my colleague Shakirah Dawud. You can find Cassie on Twitter as @cassiemon.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    How to Charge: By the Project, by the Hour, or by the Word or Page?

    One of the many business decisions that self-employed copyeditors have to make is how to charge, and that may be more important than what they charge.

    As a copyeditor, you can charge by the hour, by the word or page, or by the project, and there are good reasons for each of these methods. The density of the material you're editing, whether it is indeed ready for copyediting and should have first undergone more developmental editing, the speed at which you edit, limitations on the client's budget, and the type of material you edit can affect how much you effectively earn on each project, especially when you charge a project fee or per-word or per-page fee. Consider what four experienced copyeditors have to say about the various fee structures.

    Editor Audrey Dorsch often quotes project fees to her clients:

    Hourly rates tend to scare people who don't really understand that they are contracting with a business, not hiring an employee. If they see an hourly rate, they compare it to hourly rates they know of in various areas and may or may not like it. With a project fee, they evaluate whether the project is worth that much to them. They don't think about what the editor is making per hour (nor should they—it's none of their business).

    Project fees, then, don't change: You quote a project fee before beginning work on the project, and that's the fee that you will bill the client for when you've finished the project. But editor Elaine Kehoe sometimes prefers to quote hourly rates, where the total amount that she will bill is not known until she is finished with the project:

    [Audrey has] a valid point, but I remain unconvinced that a project fee is always better than an hourly rate. As a case in point, I'm now working on a huge textbook, for which I'm charging my usual hourly rate. But problems have been rampant with the project since the beginning, some of them developmental in nature. In short, the book should really not yet have been sent for copyediting, and I'm ending up cleaning up a lot of things that should've already been set, such as adding a new section to all chapters and making certain global changes. Development and marketing went over the sample chapter I edited and returned it to me to have the newly approved changes made. I've spent a lot of time on the phone with and e-mailing the production editor. The schedule is being revised. If I had done this at a project rate, I'd be losing money. With my hourly rate, I'm assured of getting paid for all the work I do.

    In answer to Elaine's point about potentially losing money with a project rate, editor Amy J. Schneider says:

    That's when you call the client and say that the project is now beyond the scope of what you originally agreed to, and you negotiate a new fee.

    Editor Laurie Rendon, who edits journal articles, book chapters, and other academic materials, always charges by the 250-word page:

    I charge a page rate, and I find it all comes out in the wash. I almost always make close to the same dollar amount per hour (except for small jobs, which always take longer per page). I charge a page rate because in my experience most things I edit end up taking the same amount of time per unit. If it isn't a problem with English, then it's a problem with repetition or omission, or a computer glitch, or something else.

    I hope that these editors' wise words have given you the tools to decide how you'll charge your clients.

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Adversary or Client? Competitor or Colleague?

    I've noticed a troubling divide among self-employed editorial professionals in how they approach finding work with new clients and responding to requests to share knowledge with other editorial pros.

    Those on the sad side of this divide won't reach out actively, through e-mails, phone calls, or tweets, to potential new clients, fearing that clients encountered this way are likely to be unsavory fly-by-nights who are trying to get work done for little to no pay. Instead, they complain on profession-related e-mail lists that they don't have enough work and ask where there are web sites that will dole out projects to them. I suppose that they also find the prospect of marketing their services and hunting down clients a bit overwhelming, so they want someone or something to feed them projects. I wonder how they can afford to remain self-employed.

    Those on the sad side are also parsimonious with their colleagues. They won't give advice, in person or on e-mail lists, much less on LinkedIn, when asked for it, fearing that their colleagues are merely competitors and will use their advice to steal their clients. They're astounded that anyone would freely share advice, believing that the only way to be a productive editorial pro is to not "waste" time communicating with other pros.

    I'm not saying to ignore your common sense and instincts when dealing with potential clients and with colleagues. And I'm not advocating giving away all of your trade secrets. I'm talking about having a little trust.

    It comes down to worldview. Do we view humans as most often decent? Or do we view them as creatures to be wary of because they're more likely than not to do us harm? I hold the former view, and I'm most often rewarded for it. I've found that whenever I begin any interaction from a stance of wariness, without having any signals to base that wariness on, I have a poor experience. This holds true for me with both potential clients and newly met colleagues, however I've first come into contact with them.

    Which side of the divide are you on, and why?

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Why You're Not Getting New Clients Through Social Media

    I know that some of you, seeing the title of this post, are rolling your eyes and thinking something like this: Good grief! There she goes again, yammering on about social media. But this post is for exactly you, to give you an idea or two about why I yammer on.

    If you've only dipped a big toe into the pool of social media and are wondering why new clients haven't responded by showering you with project offers, this post from the blog Writing Thoughts explains why. What it says does not apply to writers alone; it's on target for editors and other editorial pros too.

    If you think Twitter is only for self-centered people telling the world about what they ate for lunch or bought at the shopping mall, this blog post by effervescent Marian Schembari explains why it's for much more than that.

    Lesson: Social-media platforms are just like profession-related associations and e-mail discussion lists—you have to build relationships. If you expect clients and projects to fall into your lap without your having built relationships, you'll be disappointed . . . and poor.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    How to Start Off Right with Authors

    For an author, being edited can feel intrusive. But you, as the editor, can take some preventive actions early on to build a trust-filled author–editor relationship. For 27 years now, I've worked both through publishers and directly with authors, and these practices have always worked for me. I list them here in no particular order:

    • Find something—anything legitimate—to praise in the manuscript. This could be a particularly wonderful sentence, a vivid depiction of a scene, or a piece of humor that the author handled well. This lets the author know that the editor is on his or her side.

    • Make sure that all queries are worded respectfully. Don't grovel or explain things to death, but don't write the equivalent of "Good grief! How can you not have seen that ridiculous dangling modifier?!"

    • Don't use editing jargon that the author may not be familiar with. Explain any terms, such as callout or extract or folio, that you'd normally use among other editors without explanation.

    • Include a cover note to the author when you return the edited manuscript to the publisher, explaining any overall issues. (If you are working directly with the author, then of course this cover note goes directly to the author.) Also describe the level of editing you did at the publisher's request; describe style manual use briefly.

    • Request that when it's time for the author to review edits, the publisher send the author a copy of the style sheet that you created, so that the author can have documentation of why you made the style choices you did. (Again, if you're working directly with the author, this document goes to the author. Take some time to explain the purpose of style sheets and how they work.)

    • Repeat the mantra "It's not my book. It's not my book. It's not my book." It's the author's book, so you have to get into the author's head so that your edits reflect not your voice but the author's. Do not trample the author's voice.

    • Follow the Copyeditor’s Golden Rule: Edit others as you would want to be edited.

    • Double-check unique spellings and unfamiliar terms, such as invented words used in fantasy fiction or terms of art in scholarly manuscripts, with the author or publisher.

    • Be clear in your queries. Word them in such a way to get your questions answered. In other words, don't query by writing, "author: Unclear. Please fix."

    • At the beginning of the manuscript—but after you've finished editing—insert a query that's really a note thanking the author for the privilege of reading his or her work. This is not fawning; it is showing respect.

    • If you communicate directly with the author, do not respond in kind to any temper tantrums. Let the author have his or her say, and then respond calmly, truthfully, and respectfully.

    Have you found additional practices that enhance your relationships with authors? Please share them in the comments. You can learn more about working with authors here.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Updating the Details

    Because it's the start of a new year, it's a good idea for self-employed editorial professionals to update their online details.

    Make a list of all of the places online where you have a profession-related profile. For each one, check that your contact information, including these items, is current:

    • Your snail-mail address

    • Your phone and fax numbers

    • Your e-mail address

    • Your web site address

    • Any résumés that you have uploaded

    It's easy to forget this chore, so I have an annual calendar entry that reminds me to update all such information about myself online, plus copyright dates for web sites that I own. That calendar entry lists all the places online where I must do updates: the member directory of the Editorial Freelancers Association, the directory of freelancers maintained by the e-mail list Copyediting-L, my ad on the web site of the Council of Science Editors, the freelancer directory of the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, the freelancer directory of the American Medical Writers Association, this blog, my business web site, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.

    Here is a helpful article on how to update your profile on several social-media platforms. Not described there is how to back up your LinkedIn profile: just click the PDF icon on the upper right side of your profile.

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