Working With A Freelance Editor
If you are interested in creating information products, you
will very likely deal with editors throughout your career.
You may need someone to edit a book, review a special
report, or tighten up a magazine article. Even if you are a
brilliant writer, it always helps to have someone else look
at the work with fresh eyes.
Most of these editors will be people you hire on a freelance
or project basis. To get the most out of such a relationship,
it helps to be clear about what you need and what you can
To start, you should know what kind of editing you are
looking for. There are many different levels and varieties
of editing. Probably the three you will encounter the most
are substantive editing, copyediting and proofreading.
Sometimes called developmental editing, substantive editing
looks at both the content and structure of a manuscript as a
cohesive whole. Does the story or argument flow logically?
Are there obvious gaps in a certain area? Too much
information someplace else? Substantive editing can involve
re-ordering large chunks of text, removing text, adding
text, and even rewriting.
Probably the most misused of all the terms, copyediting is
often used as a catchall phrase for any and all kinds of
editing. Strictly speaking, however, copyediting checks for
errors in grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation and other
mechanics of style, internal consistency, cross-referencing,
labeling and so on.
Proofreading is the final review of a fully formatted and
typeset manuscript. It is meant only to catch small errors
such as the odd spelling mistake or hyphenation snafu that
might have been missed at the copyediting stage, or that
appeared during the layout process.
The above definitions are fairly standard but there are
variations. Not every editor defines editing terms in the
same way. It is therefore crucial that you discuss in detail
the exact nature of the services your editor will provide.
You will also want to clearly discuss the fee arrangement.
Some editors charge by the page or word, while others charge
by the hour. Still others charge a flat project fee. One
method of charging is not necessarily better than other.
Just be sure you know what you will get for your money. If
you are being charged by the hour, ask the editor to provide
an estimate up front of how long the project will take so
there are no surprises when the final invoice arrives.
The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to have a written
contract signed before any work begins. A contract will
typically include a
— detailed description of the services to be provided
— statement of the fees and payment schedule, and
— timeline for the work to be completed, including any
Depending on the scope and nature of the project, your
contract may also include a number of other considerations.
An important clause to include, especially on a book
project, is one that deals with copyright. You want to make
sure that, as the author, you retain all rights to the
material no matter how much editing or rewriting the editor
may do on your behalf.
Many editors will supply a contract, but be prepared to
create one yourself if they do not.
Here are a few final tips for working with an editor:
— Some editors specialize either by format, by topic, or
both. For example, an editor might be a specialist in audio
scripts or might focus solely on medical books. You may want
to look for an editor with particular expertise in your
subject matter, especially if you are writing about a highly
— Be open-minded towards an editor’s suggestions and
changes. It can be hard on the ego to see your painstakingly
crafted manuscript go under the editor’s knife. But keep in
mind that if an editor is making alterations, it’s because
he or she thinks it will improve your work. And in the end,
a good product makes you look good too.
— Establish and maintain clear lines of communication. Know
what your expectations are and convey them. Ask the editor
to keep you in the loop as the work progresses.
© 2004 Juiced Consulting. Juiced Consulting helps business owners package what they
know into information products – such as books, audiotapes and teleclasses – that they can sell to generate new
business revenue. For a free newsletter and other resources, visit www.juicedconsulting.com.