An American Editor

August 30, 2011

Is This the Wave of the Editorial Future?

Yesterday, Teleread (a blog about ebooks that I highly recommend), printed an e-mail received from Susan Glinert. I do not know Susan, but her tale is worth noting. Her e-mail can be read at Teleread in Fed Up and Going Backwards. The essence of Susan’s story is this:

Susan worked as a compositor for a large publisher for 12 years. She was laid off. Since being laid off, she has found a few freelance jobs, but mostly she has been without work. One layout job she got was for an Azerbaijan publisher for the princely sum of 50¢ per page, rather than the $16 per page she used to get. Because of problems with the manuscript, she estimates that she actually earned 10¢ an hour.

Because she has not been having much luck snagging freelance composition jobs, she has decided to offer copyediting and layout services in exchange for a small percentage of the sales income of the book, hoping that this will not only provide work but also a living wage.

Seeing Susan’s story made me wonder: Is this one wave of the editorial future? The idea of editors sharing in the risks and rewards of an author’s work has been floated many times, but has yet to gain any traction. What do you think of Susan’s approach? Are you prepared to barter your professional services for a percentage of sales income that may or may not materialize?

Does the barter arrangement affect your thinking on solo versus group freelancing? (For discussion about solo versus non-solo, see my original article, One Is the Loneliest Number; Ruth Thaler-Carter’s response, Working Alone — Or Not?; and my response to Ruth, Is the Editorial Freelancer’s Future a Solo Future?)

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