An American Editor

October 27, 2014

The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part II)

Filed under: Business of Editing,Financial Matters — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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In Part I, we discussed the first three preparation steps: (1) know your required effective hourly rate (EHR); (2) know your churn rate; and (3) establish your workweek parameters. In this essay (Part II), we discuss steps 4 to 9: (4) determining what constitutes a page; (5) calculating the project’s size; (6) knowing the schedule the client expects; (7) determining how many editing days you will have; (8) calculating the churn rate that will be required to meet the schedule; and (9) determining what difference editing on weekends and/or holidays will make. Finally, in Part III, we complete the calculations and put together our negotiation package.

Step 4: Have a Set Method for Determining What Constitutes a Page

What constitutes a page is debatable. Some people use the 250 words equals 1 manuscript page formula, others count characters without including spaces, using anywhere from 1,600 to 1,800 characters to equal 1 page, others use characters including spaces. And I’m sure there are other methods in use. Contrary to what some people — and clients — claim (usually about the 250-word formula), there is no established, required, must-follow formula. In addition, each of us can defend the method we have chosen. What is important is that you have established a method and that you consistently apply it. It must not only count text, it must also account for “uncountable” items, such as equations done in MathType or figures that are given to you as graphic files. Whatever method you use, you must be able to articulate it and defend it and — most importantly — use it consistently, not occasionally.

Step 5: Determine the Size of the Project Yourself

When clients approach me, they often send me their estimate of the project’s size. As I indicated in Step 4, I have an established method for calculating a page and I apply it to the project. I never accept the client’s estimate as a basis for setting a price. Every time I give a price for a project, I include my page count and a statement describing how I calculate a page. Important: You need to be both consistent and honest. Usually, the estimates my clients give me are too low, my page count is higher. But occasionally the client’s estimate is higher than my page count. When that occurs, I do not submit my price based on the client’s estimate; I submit it based on my count and point out that my count is less than their count. Client trust is very important when negotiating a fee. It is, in my view, foolish to jeopardize that trust by using my page calculation method when it benefits me but the client’s estimate when it benefits me. I always invite my clients to apply my formula and verify the page count. Under no circumstance do I vary from my established method of calculating a page. If a client insists on a different method, I decline the project. I know what my method represents and I know how it fits into my overall evaluation of a project. I cannot say the same for any other method.

Step 6: Know the Client’s Schedule

The last bit of information needed is the client’s schedule — when must the project be completed by? I also want to know if sample chapters are needed and their due date. Clients often send me a batch schedule, such as Chapters 1–10 by September 30, Chapters 11–20 by October 8, and so on. I always thank them for the schedule and tell them that I cannot agree to meet any such schedule. The best I can do is agree to submit weekly batches. It may be that I will end up meeting their schedule, but I cannot know until I edit a chapter how difficult the chapter is nor how much time it will require. All I will agree to is an end date. Editors need to manage client expectations. Editors should not agree to be pushed into unreasonable schedules and certainly not without adequate compensation.

The Calculation

With the information in steps 1 through 6 in hand, I am ready to begin (a) determining the price I will ask and (b) assembling the data to justify the price.

Step 7: The Calculation: How Many Editing Workdays?

I usually start with a calendar in hand so I can count the number of editing workdays available to complete the project. Remember that I have an established my workweek (step 3), and my workdays are only Monday to Friday. If the client contacts me on October 9, 2014, and wants the project completed by October 21, I check the calendar and discover that October 11, 12, 18, and 19 are weekend dates and October 13 is a holiday; the workdays are — at most — October 10, October 14–17, and October 20 and possibly 21; that is a maximum of 7 editing workdays but more likely 6. That calculation assumes that the client will deliver the files on the day I am contacted. The day I receive files is a bookkeeping day for the project, not an editing day, so if, in our example, the client contacts me on October 9 but won’t deliver until October 10, then the first editing day will be October 14. Knowing how many workdays you have to edit the manuscript is important in setting your price as well as for defending your price.

Step 8: The Calculation: What Will Be the Required Churn Rate?

If I have determined that the project consists of 721 manuscript pages and that at maximum I will have 7 editing workdays to complete the project, then I can determine that I need to edit 103 pages per 5-hour workday or approximately 21 pages per hour. If I am to provide a high-quality edit, that number is high. If the client has told me that in its estimation the manuscript needs a medium or heavy edit, those numbers are nigh impossible. If I only have the more realistic 6 editing workdays, the numbers are approximately 121 pages per day or 24 pages an hour, an even more improbable editing rate.

Step 9: The Calculation: What Difference Do Weekend and Holiday Days Make?

Adding in the weekend days to our example adds 4 editing days and adding in the holiday adds a fifth editing day. Adding 5 days changes the calculation to approximately 60 pages a day or 12 pages an hour for a 12-day schedule and approximately 66 pages a day or approximately 13 pages an hour for an 11-day schedule, both much more reasonable. In Part III, we’ll complete the calculations and put together our negotiation package.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part I)
The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part III)


  1. […] The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part II) The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part III) […]


    Pingback by The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part I) | An American Editor — October 27, 2014 @ 4:37 am | Reply

  2. If you (you = not just Rich, but all of our readers) add in weekends and holidays, do you increase the fee? That is, do you charge more for those days than for normal weekdays? I haven’t been doing so, because I usually only use weekends and holidays if I’m catching up on something I committed to and need that time to keep my commitment, or just feel like getting ahead of a deadline. We rarely have plans for holidays, so I often treat them as workdays if that will help me stay on schedule, although I don’t necessary say that to clients.


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — October 27, 2014 @ 9:06 am | Reply

  3. I charge a rush fee if weekend, evening, or holidays are necessary to meet the deadline. I haven’t had occasion to do this for years, though, because I generally work for institutional clients whose weekends, evenings, and holidays are not considered workdays. I might work these times for myself, though, to time-shift so I can do something I need or want to do during the work week, if I want to get ahead of the schedule, or if I’ve gotten behind and need to catch up. As Ruth said, clients don’t need to know this.

    As for clients in other time zones, that usually works well for me, as I’m not at all a morning person. So if they’re not starting their workday until 10 or 11 am and finishing at 6 or 7 pm, I can be available those hours, no problem. I use my cell number for work, so I sometimes field calls in odd places. But that’s my choice; some people wouldn’t dream of giving clients their cell numbers!


    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — October 27, 2014 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  4. […] effective hourly rate (EHR); (2) know your churn rate; and (3) establish your workweek parameters. Part II took us further along the preparation path, getting us through six additional steps: (4) […]


    Pingback by The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part III) | An American Editor — October 29, 2014 @ 4:01 am | Reply

  5. […] The Business of Editing: Fee Negotiations (Part II) […]


    Pingback by So, How Much Am I Worth? | An American Editor — April 29, 2015 @ 4:00 am | Reply

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