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editing ratesI received an email from a long-time member of Triangle Writers this week. He’s interested in charging for editing work and has not done so before. I include his question and my response below.

What I did not include is that this situation poses an interesting situation: Doing paid writing-related work for friends (or family of friends). Many times they expect a ‘friend discount,’ which is up to you. Generally, I offer writing event discounts for family and friends, and I have provided free resume writing for a handful of friends.

If you’re interested in more information about getting paid for writing and editing, check out earlier posts about how to start charging for writing, speaking fees, and setting your rates as a writer.

Here is the email:

I had a quick business question for you. A friend of mine has asked me to edit his mother’s book. It’s not that long – about 20K words or so – and I was just wondering what you charge for something like that, because I haven’t a clue. I sent off a message to him asking for more details like if he needs the book laid out in a template for printing or eBook conversion and such.

Any help you can provide would be appreciated. This is all new to me. ūüôā


My response:

Yay for getting paid for writing-related work!

Editing rates, like many intangible things, vary. Generally I charge $0.01-$0.02/word for editing. Variables that affect the rate:

  • Line editing only?
  • Responsible for re-writes?
  • Phone/in-person conference?
  • The state the manuscript is in.

If you are simply editing for stray grammar, I wouldn’t charge as much. If your friend’s mother is looking for in-depth review, plot holes, your guidance for restructuring, then charge more. Should you be the one she expects to re-write sections that aren’t working, you will need to clarify that upfront. Also, you may just be looking at how much time you will spend editing – but she may have questions, want to review notes, clarify your comments, and expect you to be available. You may want to include a separate fee, or include in whatever rate you quote for editing, a phone/Skype/in-person conference. 30-60 minutes are good windows.

It’s good you are asking questions about how she intends to publish her work. She may need help formatting for eReaders and you could include an additional fee for that part of the project.

Before moving forward there are two things you need to do in addition to thinking about the above:

  • Request a copy of the manuscript before you quote a fee. Yes, 20,000 words is “not that long” – but even a few thousand words of poorly written fiction could be more of a headache and time-suck than 100,000 words of polished copy.
  • Draft a proposal including what you will provide, time involved, and your fees, plus potential fees should the time exceed your estimate. You can either request a signed copy or simply have her respond via email with confirmation that she accepts the terms. (Also, I’m a proponent of getting paid upfront; especially for teeny projects like this.) The proposal is important for several reasons: It clearly lays out everyone’s expectations, memorializes the project terms should you ever go to small claims, and provides evidence that you are conducting your writing/editing services as part of a business.¬†Should you do more work like this you will have good records for tax purposes.

If you’re planning on branching out into more paid editing work, ask for a testimonial at the end of the project if you think it’s appropriate. Let me know if you are open to more work like this. I’ve passed along a few referrals the past few months and can add you to my list!