Managing expectations when hiring a copyeditor or copywriter

Great Expectations, Miss Haversham

You’ve written the book. It’s taken blood, sweat and tears but you know if it’s going to be a success you need to send your book to an editor.

Or you’ve built your business, but you know that to make the right impression you need professional help with the writing.

Unless you’ve done this before it can be a minefield of unknowns. You don’t know if you’re approaching the right person, leaving enough time, understanding the process or have enough money set aside for what you need.

Let’s face it, it can be a bloody nightmare.

But if you manage your expectations when hiring a copyeditor, proofreader or copywriter it can be fairly straightforward.

Lists are good, so let’s break it down into four categories:

Treatment

Timescale

Price

Accuracy

Now let’s look at them in more detail

first aid kit

Editorial Treatment

Treatment means what do you need? What treatment does your project require?

quill pen

If you’re an author you might need:

substantial or developmental editing (the big picture edit)

copyediting or line editing (the nitty gritty stuff)

proofreading (when you’re just about finished and you need someone to make one last check for typos etc.)

Each of these will probably need a different editor. You can find editors who specialise in each area via professional directories such as the CIEP directory in the UK, or the ACES (American Copy Editors Society) directory in the US.

 glass ball icon

Don’t expect one editor to do it all. Some editors do work on all levels of editing, but some specialise in just one. Each different area is a distinct part of the editing process and, let’s be honest, you have to pay for each one separately.

You might not need developmental editing, but you’re likely to need a copy edit and a proofread.

Expect to work with a professional who knows what they are doing. If you find an editor via a professional directory, such as the CIEP, you can be pretty sure that the editor has proven their credentials (experience, education, and professionalism). This means you don’t need to go through and query everything they do. This is their job – trust them.

business briefcase

If you’re a business you might need:

copywriting (someone to write your stuff for you)

substantial or developmental editing (the big picture edit, to make sure you’ve included everything)

copyediting or line editing (the nitty gritty stuff, even a professional writer needs copyediting)

proofreading (when you’re just about finished and you need someone to make one last check for typos etc.)

You might need a writer to help you get your stuff together, and to get your ideas out there. Once it’s written you’ll still benefit from a copyeditor and proofreader.

glass ball icon

Don’t expect your copywriter or copyeditor to be a mind reader. Try to give them as much information as you can, this will make the whole experience easier for both of you.

Again expect to work with a professional who knows what they are doing.

 time, clocks, stopwatch

Timescale

Timescale means how long you set aside on your calendar for the work to be done. How much time do you have? Have you set aside enough time for your editor or writer to get the work done properly? Do you need a ‘quick and dirty’ treatment, where you will sacrifice quality, or are you willing to plan ahead and leave enough time for a good job?

quill pen

If you’re an author you will need:

To plan ahead and not wait until your book’s finished before you approach your editors. Many editors are booked up months, if not years, in advance for book work.

To research what treatment you need and how long it’s likely to take. If in doubt talk to an editor.

To talk to editors and see how booked up their schedule is, what they need from you and talk about how they will work on your book.

To finish your book in plenty of time and make sure you’re ready to send your completely finished manuscript to your editor when your slot comes up. An editor will book you into their schedule and if you fail to deliver they may not be able to fit you in straight away – you may lose your timeslot and your booking fee.

glass ball icon

Don’t expect to bag an editor within a short time of your enquiry. Many editors are booked up in advance, sometimes months (or even years) in advance.

Expect to talk to your preferred editor in advance, arrange to get yourself booked in and make sure you have a completed project ready for your editor on the date allocated. If you get behind schedule tell your editor as soon as possible, and you may need to rearrange your allocation.

 business briefcase

If you’re a business you will need:

To plan ahead and not wait until the last minute to book your copywriter or before you approach your editors.

To research what treatment you need (copywriting, copyediting or proofreading) and how long it’s likely to take.

To talk to writers and editors and see how booked up their schedule is.

 glass ball icon

Don’t expect someone to drop what they’re doing to accommodate your needs. Copywriters and copyeditors are professionals who need to have their schedules organised well in advance. If you’re a business on a retainer (where you pay for a certain number of work hours each month in advance) you may have more flexibility, but otherwise you will have to wait your turn and be patient.

Expect to talk to your preferred writer or editor in advance, arrange to get yourself booked in and make sure you have a completed project (or information for your copywriter or content writer) ready on the date allocated. If you get behind schedule tell your writer or editor as soon as possible, and you may need to rearrange your allocated slot.

 

 money, banknotes

Price

Price means knowing how much you’ll need to allocate in your budget for each type of treatment. Writing and editing are accomplished skills, and won’t be cheap. Writers and editors are professionals, often with years of training and experience behind them. Just like any other professional they need to earn a decent living. Their rate will reflect this.

quill pen

If you’re an author you might need:

To research prices, see what you can afford, and budget accordingly. The CIEP have a suggested minimum rates page to help you (remember, this is the starting point of what you can expect to pay – advanced professionals will likely charge a higher rate)

To wait until you can afford the level of editor you want. You could perhaps compromise and hire someone less experienced or qualified, or have them carry out a triage edit (a less detailed edit concentrating on only a few aspects of the writing).

glass ball icon

Don’t expect an editor to give you a discount because you’re a ‘small publisher’, an author or have limited funds. Sometimes a discretionary discount might be given, but that’ll be up to the editor who’ll have strict criteria for discounts. Don’t expect to have a first-class job done for a third-class price.

Expect to get what you pay for. Also expect to do a little research to find the best editor who fits your pricing criteria and needs. You might not be able to afford me, but you might be able to afford an editor who is just breaking into the field. Expect to compromise if budgets are limited, and don’t forget that what’s expensive to one author is reasonable to another.

 business briefcase

If you’re a business you might need:

To research prices, see what you can afford and budget accordingly. The CIEP have a suggested minimum rates page to help you (remember, this is the starting point of what you can expect to pay – advanced professionals will likely charge a higher rate)

To understand freelance rates. Freelance rates often seem higher than employee wages, but you pay a flat fee and don’t have to figure in tax, holiday pay, sick pay, pensions and all those other employee perks. Even the most expensive freelance rates compare favourably to employee wages.

To wait until you can afford the level of writer or editor you want, or perhaps compromise and hire someone less experienced or qualified.

 glass ball icon

Don’t expect a writer or editor to give you a discount because you’re a ‘small business’, a sole trader or have limited funds. Sometimes a discretionary discount may be given, but that’ll be up to the professional who’ll have strict criteria. Don’t expect to have a first-class job done for a third-class price.

Expect to get what you pay for. Also expect to do a little research to find the best professional who fits your pricing criteria. You might feel that I’m too expensive, and you might only be able to afford someone who’s just breaking into the field, however expect to compromise if your budget’s limited. What’s expensive to one business is reasonable to another.

 darts-155726_1280

Accuracy

Accuracy means the amount of typos and errors left in your manuscript at the end of the editing cycle or the accuracy of the writing carried out by a copywriter or content writer.

 quill pen

If you’re an author you might need:

To know when to stop fiddling. Every time you make just one, tiny, change to your manuscript it can have a domino effect on the whole document. Don’t send your editor any extra text once the manuscript has been delivered. We don’t tend to work in a linear fashion from beginning to end of your document (and extra text means extra charges).

To understand that two pairs of eyes are better than one. That’s why it’s best to hire both a copy editor and a proofreader. A proofreader will pick up the small errors left by an editor (no edit or proofread will be 100% accurate – ever. The accepted industry rate is around 90-95% accuracy on well-written text). Fresh eyes are less used to the content and more likely to give that final polish.

To realise you get what you pay for. An editor expected to work at break-neck speed on an error-riddled text is more likely to leave a higher percentage of errors than one who has the time to go through the document properly.

 glass ball icon

Don’t expect 100% accurate copy. Lisa Poisso has a very readable article on error rates, go and read it when you’ve finished this post. Many ‘errors’ are style choices. A document with multiple problems at the start is less likely to be as error free as you’d hope.

Expect to trust your editor. I can’t stress this enough. We are trained. We know what we’re doing. If you don’t have any solid style preferences, let your editor get on with their job and don’t query every single change. It will make both your jobs less stressful and time consuming.

 business briefcase

If you’re a business you might need:

To know when to stop fiddling. Every time you make just one, tiny, change to your writing or your writer’s brief it can have a domino effect on the whole project.

To brief your writer and editor appropriately. To get anywhere near accurate copy, you’ll need to let your writer know exactly what you need, what resources to use (if you can) and to back up any claims with factual documentation. Your writer can’t claim that you’re the ‘World’s Number One Flying Pig Trainer’ unless you give them proof that you are. Make sure you give your editor your editorial style guide or style sheet, and any other preferences.

To understand that two pairs of eyes are better than one, and even a professional writer will need editing. That’s why it’s best to hire both a copy editor and a proofreader for your project. A proofreader will pick up the small errors left by an editor (no edit or proofread will be 100% accurate – ever. The accepted industry rate is around 90-95% accuracy on well-written text). Fresh eyes are less used to the content and more likely to give that final polish.

To realise you get what you pay for. A writer, or editor, expected to work at break-neck speed is more likely to leave a higher percentage of errors than one who has the time to go through the document properly.

 glass ball icon

Don’t expect perfect accuracy from your writer the first time unless you give them a perfect brief. As a business owner you are also responsible for checking accuracy and making sure that copy conforms to standard. And don’t expect 100% accurate copy back from your copy editor. Lisa Poisso, as noted above, has a very readable article on error rates, go and read it when you’ve finished this post. Many ‘errors’ are style choices. A document that has multiple problems at the start is less likely to be as error free as you’d hope.

Expect to trust your writer and editor. Again, I can’t stress this enough. We are trained. We know what we’re doing. If you don’t have any solid style preferences, let them get on with their job. It will make both your jobs less stressful and time consuming.

So how do you manage your expectations?

Some expectations are realistic, while some are far from it. When you start a project, if you bear in mind what we’ve talked about, your expectations should run in line with those of your writer or editor (and remember we have expectations of clients too!).

So, to recap:

first aid kit

Treatment

Expect to work with professionals who know what they’re doing so you shouldn’t need to query every change they make. But don’t expect them to be mind readers either.

Don’t expect a ‘one person does all’ scenario.

 time, clocks, stopwatch

Timescale

Expect to talk to your writer or editor in plenty of time, and book well in advance. Also remember to let them know as soon as possible if you can’t meet the date allocated.

Don’t expect a writer or editor to drop everything to accommodate you unless you’ve paid a retainer.

 money, banknotes

Price

Expect to get what you pay for – different levels of editing and writing cost different amounts. Also expect to compromise on quality, scope or timescale if your budget is limited.

Don’t expect discounts.

darts-155726_1280

Accuracy

Expect to trust your writer or editor and don’t query every change. Acknowledge that your writer can’t make claims without having proof to back them up.

Don’t expect 100% accuracy, and understand that some ‘errors’ are style choices and a document that starts off with multiple problems is less likely to be error free,

Realistic expectations, on both sides, are the key to a healthy working relationship with your copywriter, copyeditor or proofreader.

If you’re looking to hire a copywriter or copy editor in the near future, contact me about your requirements. Let’s talk!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: