An American Editor

October 28, 2015

The Business of Editing: A Second Fundamental Mistake That Editors Make

If you read your mortgage agreement, or the agreement you “accept” when you get a credit card, or the terms and conditions of any other contract you sign or agree to, you will note that all of the important terms are carefully, even if not intelligibly, defined. The bank, for example, wants no dispute over what default means.

Defining terms is a fundamental business practice. If you and the client do not define what is meant by copyediting, you may mean what editors generally define as a “light edit” and the client may mean an in-depth, detailed, developmental edit. You’ll quote your fee based on your definition and the client will expect its definition for the quoted price.

Let “error” rain (reign?): What constitutes “error”?

As part of our standard business practices, we need to include a definition of “error” in our discussion about whether we will accept a particular job. Just as failing to treat editing as a business is a fundamental error that editors make (see The Business of Editing: Fundamental Business Mistakes That Editors Make), so is failing to define “error” a fundamental mistake that editors make.

It is true that using “there” in place of “their” is an error, a “typo” if you will, that needs to be caught and corrected. And it is equally true that it is part of an editor’s (and proofreader’s) job to find and correct such errors. But if homophones formed the beginning and end of the definition of error, there would be little need for professional editors; computers can be “taught” to flag homophones (and homonyms) and, presumably, just about any educated person could correct the erroneous ones.

A fundamental mistake

There are at least four reasons why failing to define “error” is a fundamental mistake. First, in the absence of the definition, the editor sets no boundaries on her work. Second, clients are quick to note that an editor failed to catch an “error,” which does not boost an editor’s reputation, without either client or editor having first agreed on what makes something an error. Third, in the absence of a definition, it is difficult to set an appropriate fee — and get the client to agree to that fee — because the editor thinks oranges while the client thinks apples. Fourth, is the question of responsibility — who is responsible? —  and its companion, compensation — who pays?

An example

Not so long ago I copyedited a poorly written book. The client did not want to pay for the level of editing that the book truly needed, plus saddled the project with a very tight deadline. As a practical matter, I do not do fact checking unless specifically hired and paid to do so; consequently, it is the responsibility of the author to, for example, correctly spell names, with my job limited to checking for consistency in spelling and querying any inconsistencies.

In this project, the author twice, in a 200+-page manuscript, referred to a well-known person in the book’s subject area. Both times the name was spelled the same. From my perspective, there was no error. Alas, the book was published to scathing reviews. One of the errors the reviewers noted was the misspelling of the well-known person’s name. The author blamed the publisher, which blamed my client, which blamed me. I was asked to defend myself for this and a few other specific “errors” that the reviewers noted.

My first step was to point my client to our original correspondence in which I defined what the level of editing the client asked for meant — that is, its parameters — and, addressing the name situation more directly, the definition of “error” that was incorporated into that correspondence. I pointed out that there is a difference between what is commonly known (i.e., broadly known to general populations) and what is specially know within a specific discipline (i.e., known to subject-matter experts). There is also a difference between being hired for subject-matter knowledge and expertise and being hired for language–grammar expertise. I had been hired for language–grammar expertise, not subject-matter expertise. My definition of “error” was limited to well-recognized errors of language and grammar, not to subject-matter errors; in my definition, the author is responsible for the accuracy of all subject-matter “facts,” including the correct spelling of names of recognized-within-the-discipline experts.

I also pointed out to my client that “language–grammar errors” does not mean arguable choices. As an example I usually point to the debate regarding using “since” to mean “because” (for a short discussion of the temporal–causal distinction, see Garner’s Modern American Usage, 2009, p. 748 “since,” but be sure to also read the discussion of “because” on p. 91, and compare it to Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2015, p. 98 “because”). My definition of error does not say that because a dictionary or a usage guide permits substitution of one word for another, the use of an alternate constitutes error. In other words, my replacing “since” (viewing it to be restricted to time-related uses/senses) with “because” (or other appropriate word) in non–time-related uses/senses (e.g., “Since 1975 it has been customary to classify…” but “Because it has been customary to classify…”) is not an error just because a dictionary or usage guide views the words as interchangeable. My change has to either make meaning less clear or be inarguably wrong; in all circumstances, it is not error for me to not have corrected a fact that would not be known as incorrect in the absence of subject-matter–specific knowledge.

(In this particular case, I also noted that the author had several opportunities to correct the misspelled name but had, instead, continued to approve the misspelled version. As a technical book, the author presents herself as the expert and thus has to accept responsibility for technical errors.)

The publisher was demanding that the packager pay the costs for correcting the errors, buying back and destroying the initial print run, and reprinting a corrected version. The packager was looking for me to shoulder those costs. (I also pointed out to my client that it had chosen the proofreader for the project — as well as deciding whether there would be proofreading — and that these “errors” were not deemed errors by its chosen proofreader.)

Without having defined “error” and the parameters of the level of editing the client requested before accepting the job, my client would have been able to assign the responsibility to me. In addition, the fee I had quoted the client would not have considered the value of my accepting such responsibility.

Value and fee

I know that many of you are asking, “What value?” In the usual case, there is little to no value under discussion because it is rare for a client to expect an editor to accept financial responsibility for editorial decisions; this was that rare case in which my client expected me to accept financial and nonfinancial responsibility for its client’s dissatisfaction. In the more usual case, the client asks the editor to reedit at the editor’s expense, to “fix these errors.” Without having defined what constitutes an error and what the requested level of editing includes and excludes beforehand, the editor is at the client’s mercy — and what may have been a profitable project can suddenly become highly unprofitable.

The questions

The questions are really these: In the absence of defining “error” and the parameters of the work to be done, am I implicitly promising the client an error-free job as defined after-the-fact by the client? Do I owe the client any compensation for not providing an error-free — as defined after-the-fact by the client — document? If I do owe the client any compensation, how is that compensation calculated?

The answers to these questions are for another day.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays:

October 26, 2015

Thinking Fiction: Editors, What Hat Do You Wear?

by Carolyn Haley

This essay springs from a recent evaluation I did of my marketing and proposal materials. I noticed that my website, public profiles, and bio blurbs had become stale and mismatching, and my pitch letters varied widely. Going forward I want to make my presence and approach more consistent across all business channels — especially since I claim consistency as an editorial asset.

The tricky part is, I wear multiple hats and serve fiction, nonfiction, and corporate clients. I need to pin the right words on the right hats to best communicate with my clientele.

This led to careful examination of words I take for granted, such as editor. I’d never looked up the definition before, so I turned to my trusty Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (online edition) and found this entry: “a person whose job is to edit something.” As I scrolled down, it expanded to “someone who edits, especially as an occupation.”

Hmmm. That’s so unhelpful, I almost laughed. Then I checked American Heritage Dictionary, whose online version offers the equivalent: “one who edits, especially as an occupation.”

Double-hmmm. I sensed a trend, and confirmed it by checking the online versions of three other esteemed dictionaries:

Cambridge [American English]: “a person who corrects and make [sic] changes to texts or films before they are printed or shown, or a person who is in charge of a newspaper, magazine, etc., and is responsible for all of its reports”

Oxford [U.S. English]: “1. A person who is in charge of and determines the final content of a text, particularly a newspaper or magazine; 2. a person who works for a publishing company, commissioning or preparing material for publication”

Macmillan: “1. someone whose job is to be in charge of a newspaper or magazine…[or] a particular section of a newspaper, magazine, or news organization…2. someone whose job is to edit books, documents, or movies…2.a. someone who produces a book by choosing, arranging, and explaining things that other people have written…2.b. someone whose job is to produce books for a publisher by finding writers and working with them”

From this sampling I deduced that most people don’t share the same definition of editor. That’s quite the paradox, given that an editor’s job is to improve the clarity and consistency of other people’s work!

Isn’t it?

Well, that depends on what kind of editor you are.

An editor is an editor is an editor…

Some editorial jobs are mainly business positions, such as editor-in-chief of a newspaper or managing editor of a publishing imprint. Other editorial jobs involve handling the content of manuscripts prior to publication. I belong to that cadre; specifically, the self-employed subset, with fiction my primary realm.

So I looked up specific titles that fiction editors use to describe themselves: copy editor, line editor, developmental editor. None of these were listed in the dictionaries and general publishing-vocabulary websites I checked. Of the few editing titles that did appear, most were associated with periodicals (e.g., night editor, sports editor, fashion editor).

When I focused on book-publishing websites, however, familiar titles emerged: acquisitions editor, production editor, project editor, content editor, developmental editor, substantive editor, line editor, and copy editor. Still, none shared the same definition; and in the real world, some titles are used interchangeably, such as copy/line editor, line/substantive editor, substantive/developmental editor, developmental/content editor.

Compounding the confusion, editor is used in multiple industries: publishing, journalism, film, computer technology. On top of that, professional editorial organizations in publishing name themselves ambiguously. For example, the American Copy Editors Society’s website claims membership is open to “editors from all backgrounds and skill levels,” but what in their name would move a developmental editor to consider joining?

The Editorial Freelancers Association is named clearly — “any full- or part-time freelancer may join” — but it excludes the staff editors freelancers often work with, even though when filling out the form to join, they must choose from check boxes covering their experience, which may include salaried positions. Does their membership expire if they go back to an in-house job?

The Editors’ Association of Canada, meanwhile, welcomes all (“salaried and freelance, work with individuals and organizations in the corporate, technical, government, not-for-profit, academic and publishing sectors across the country and around the world in English and French”), though their name invites the assumption it’s for Canadians only.

Based on the above, I no longer wonder why people don’t understand our profession, or why editorial pay rates differ wildly, or why writers seeking editorial help struggle to connect with us.

Labeling one’s hats

In the absence of universal editorial definitions and job titles, it’s up to editors and publishers to communicate who we are and what we do. For me, as an independent contractor, the first step is simple and obvious: When contacted by publishers to edit manuscripts, I must ask exactly what they mean so our expectations are mutually understood. The second step takes more initiative: When presenting my services to the world in general (via website, public profiles, bio blurbs) and potential clients (via proposals to independent authors), I must provide precise definitions of each task.

I’ve been working on that for a while, and have settled on boilerplate service definitions to submit to prospective clients and post on my websites. The definitions show editing as a three-stage process — macro, middle, micro — with my preferred labels for each task. But because these tasks build on each other in complexity and cost, and my indie clients are often concerned with simplicity and inexpensiveness, I stack them in micro-to-macro order in my presentations:

Copyediting (Polishing)

A nuts-and-bolts exercise done when the work is complete and ready for submission or production. Copyediting involves minimal touching of text by the editor, and focuses on clarity, consistency, and comprehension while preserving author voice. It includes checking spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation, also light fact checking and sometimes formatting. Queries may flag the author’s pet words or patterns, or phrasing that creates unintentional effects or reader distraction. The editor generally performs the edit in one round then returns the manuscript to the author, who accepts/rejects the changes and moves on.

Substantive/line editing (Refining)

Line-by-line attention to language and flow of a manuscript that is essentially complete but still in process. Substantive editing includes the basic t-crossing and i-dotting of copyediting but expands to embrace content, analyzing and revising text at the sentence and paragraph levels while still preserving author voice. Queries may address narrative arc, viewpoint, pacing, theme, genre conventions, scene logistics, and character development. No editorial rewriting is done beyond minor cutting or consolidating, transition smoothing, or paragraph resequencing for clarity. The editor generally performs the edit in one round and returns the manuscript to the author, who either accepts/rejects the changes and moves on, or further revises based on the editorial feedback. Follow-up revision checking or copyediting are separate transactions.

Developmental editing (Building)

The roll-up-your-sleeves-and-dig-in process that embraces a work’s overall concept, flow, and structure early in the writing (or midway if it’s stuck). Developmental editing is the most hands-on work by the editor, and the most interactive collaboration between editor and author; it takes the most time, costs the most money, and has the most profound impact on an author’s work. Developmental editing generally requires at least two rounds of backing and forthing, with the author expected to rewrite sections, sometimes even recast the whole work. Subsequent refinement and polish editing are separate transactions, usually done by different people.

For very-low-budget folks, I also offer a nonediting manuscript evaluation in lieu of developmental editing. This gives authors some professional guidance in revising their work without a heavy outlay, and gives me a nice analytical project without heavy labor. Usually I get the improved manuscript back months later for a substantive or copy edit. Clients who skip the evaluation usually choose substantive editing.

Moving forward

Once these definitions were sorted out, several good things happened. I not only improved the balance between my fees and services (formerly charging too much for copyediting, not enough for substantive editing, and all over the map for developmental editing), which makes me more competitive, but also gave prospects better information to work with. The combination eliminated time-wasting inquiries for them and fruitless pitches for me; thus, my landing rate for new projects doubled for half the investment of time. And these new projects have been free of the mismatched expectations that can befoul a job. So far, all have come to happy conclusions.

It’s funny how the most basic editorial resource — the dictionary — with its inconsistency of editorial definitions helped resolve my personal business inconsistencies. Can that simple exercise work on a broader scale? In this new era of publishing, editors come toward authors from a bewildering variety of directions, using different vocabularies and offering different expectations. Would standardizing our job titles and services change the perception of editing as a profession? Could this lay the groundwork for the much-discussed idea of creating a U.S. certification program? Is it possible to label our hats uniformly, or is the profession too broad to ever share a common definition in the public eye?

For now, we’re all mavericks. Leading me to wonder: What editorial hat(s) do you wear?

Carolyn Haley lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books.

October 21, 2015

The Business of Editing: Fundamental Business Mistakes That Editors Make

Editors are often connoisseurs of language first and of business last. People become editors for many reasons; few become editors because they have evaluated editing as a business and decided that they can make their fortune as an editor. People become freelance editors for a variety of reasons, often including as a reason the desire to be their own boss — but without fully understanding what it means to run a business.

Ask your colleagues to show you their business plan — the one they used to decide to setup Gonzo’s Editorial Services and storm the editorial barricades. Both of us will be surprised if they have one to show you.

This is not anything unusual in the business world. Many, if not most, small businesses are established without a business plan and without fully understanding what is involved in running and maintaining a business. But editors seem to be especially neglectful of acquiring the skills to run a business successfully before starting the business — they often look for courses on editing, but not on business, and most editing programs offer little by way of business skill development. And in the United States, there is no national organization that offers a comprehensive editorial business skill-building course.

When I started as an editor (in January it will be 32 years ago), I had a leg up on nearly all my competition when it came to business skills — I had already been involved in and had run several successful small businesses. Having those business skills, combined with the editorial skills I had developed working for a publisher in-house, I was able to rapidly grow my editing business.

Not having those basic business skills is a fundamental mistake that editors make. Perhaps an even more fundamental mistake is the refusal to recognize that they are running a business and need to learn and develop basic business skills. Too many times have I been told by colleagues that they are editorial artisans, not tradespersons or businesspersons. Such thinking limits an editor to earning a basic living (maybe; too many do not even earn at that level) but not much more.

If editors were more businesslike, the first thing they would do is evaluate whether editing was the business for them. Knowing how to do something, even knowing how to do it well, is usually not enough to ensure success. You can be the world’s greatest editor yet have no clients and no income or too few clients or too little income, all because you haven’t the necessary business skills to succeed. Perhaps, then, being a freelance editor is not the correct business for you.

What I often hear is that “I am satisfied with what I earn” or “I am satisfied with the number of clients (projects) I have.” But delve a bit deeper and what one discovers is that the person has come to terms with their situation; they have become satisfied out of necessity, not from choice.

A sure sign of weak business skills is charging a fee that is not enough to raise the editor above the poverty line (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: Why $10 Can’t Make It). When a colleague tells me that they do not need more, it is sometimes because they have supplemental income, such as a pension or a significant other who is paying the bills. But in that case, they are not treating editing as a business; it is more of a hobby — a business needs to stand or fall financially on its own. When they tell me that their clients cannot afford more, I wonder why they aren’t seeking clients who can pay more. I also wonder how they know their clients cannot afford more. For most of us, our clients are from all over the country and world — we do not know them except via impersonal contact. At what point have we crossed that line that divides our interests from our client’s interests to say that our clients are always honest and are more important than ourselves? As far as I know, editing is not a path to sainthood.

Not objectively evaluating what we need to charge is a fundamental business mistake editors make. When you buy groceries, the prices you pay are not arrived at via crystal ball gazing or tossing dice in the air and seeing how they land. A lot of calculation goes into determining the price to charge for a container of yogurt. The grocery wants to charge enough to be sure that it can meet its expenses and open its doors tomorrow, but not so much that you will shop elsewhere. There is also a psychology to pricing: charge too little and clients do not respect you or your skills; charge too much and clients will go elsewhere.

Why do editors think editing is any different a business than, say, a grocery? Probably because editors do not view editing as a business and do not think we have a product to sell. Consider how you set your rate (see, e.g., On the Basics: Dealing with the Perennial Question of Setting Rates for Our Work). Many editors will say they looked at what other editors were charging for similar services. (How do they know the other editors’ services are similar? All that we really know is that they are doing “copyediting,” not how they define “copyediting” nor how good they are at copyediting.) Or they checked out some “national rate chart” (needless to say, without checking out how valid that rate chart is; see, e.g., Business of Editing: The Quest for Rate Charts). And when they found that their colleagues were charging $20 an hour, they charged $20 an hour — even though to meet their expenses they need $30 an hour (see Business of Editing: What to Charge).

It is not that editors do not survive at these rates; they do. But one needs to look at how “well” they are surviving at such rates. In some cases, they are able to survive because someone else in the household is bringing in sufficient money to make up the difference. Or because they are retired and have a supplemental income. What happens to the editor when that other income is lost? It is a question not posed and not answered.

What editors miss is that they are a business and they need to evaluate what they are doing as a business, which means as if they had no other income source. How successful are they if they cannot stand on their own?

Once we begin to view our editorial services as a business, we can apply all of the business fundamentals to our service — not just fees, but also invoicing, marketing, defining our services, deciding which projects we will accept and which we will reject, and determining what constitutes our business day and week, and more. When we get a handle on these things, we will see that our path has changed — for the better.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays:

October 19, 2015

Lyonizing Word: Secrets of the Ribbon

by Jack Lyon

From the beginning, Microsoft Word used a standard menu interface that looked like this:

Word's Original Menu Interface

Word’s Original Menu Interface

Click a menu item, and you’d get a list of more items:

Original Menu Interface Submenus

Original Menu Interface Submenus

Keep clicking, and eventually you’d activate the feature you wanted to use. All of this was straightforward. Then came Microsoft Word 2007, with its “Ribbon” interface:

The Ribbon Interface

The Ribbon Interface

According to Microsoft, the idea was to bring Word’s “most popular commands to the forefront” rather than burying them under a series of menus. For users, this took considerable getting used to, but, mostly, it worked. Unfortunately (and a little ironically), a few of the Ribbon’s features are still less than obvious, which prevents some users from understanding the full power of the features available to them.

Feature 1: Split Buttons

Most of the buttons on the Ribbon interface are just that—buttons. For example, here’s what the NoteStripper button looks like in my Microsoft Word add-in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014:

Notestripper Split Button

Notestripper Split Button

If you click that button, either on the pencil-sharpener icon or on the little arrow underneath it, here’s what you’ll get:

The Notestripper Menu

The Notestripper Menu

But now consider the button for FileCleaner, also included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014. At first glance, it looks like the same kind of button used for NoteStripper, with a graphic icon at the top and a tiny arrow at the bottom:

The FileCleaner Button

The FileCleaner Button

Click the arrow, and here’s what you’ll get:

The FileCleaner Menu

The FileCleaner Menu

What many people don’t realize, however, is that the FileCleaner button is a split button. If you hover your cursor over a split button you’ll see a horizontal line splitting the button in two:

Seeing the Split

Seeing the Split

The bottom half, with the arrow, works just as before. But the top part is a different matter. If you click it, you’ll get full access to all of FileCleaner’s batch cleanup options:

FileCleaner Dialog

FileCleaner Dialog

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that these options exist, which means that they’re missing much of the program’s power. This isn’t my fault, by the way; it’s a result of the way Microsoft designed the Ribbon (although possibly I should use two FileCleaner buttons, one for individual items and one for batch options). At any rate, now that you understand the problem, you can do a bit of exploring, looking for buttons that offer more than at first appears.

Feature 2: Dialog Box Launchers

At the bottom right of many of the groups on the Ribbon is a tiny box with an arrow:

The Tiny Arrow

The Tiny Arrow

Some users overlook these arrows completely, missing some of Word’s most useful features. Microsoft calls these arrows “Dialog Box Launchers,” and if you click one of them, you’ll see more options related to its particular group. Usually these options appear in a dialog box (hence the name) but sometimes in a task pane. For example, if you click the launcher in the “Paragraph” group, you’ll get the dialog box for paragraph formatting:

Launch of the Paragraph Dialog

Launch of the Paragraph Dialog

If you’re now saying “So that’s where that went,” I’m glad I could be of help. Again, it’s worth the effort to systematically explore all of the features that are hidden under these “launchers.”

Feature 3: Contextual Menus

Some of the items on the Ribbon are contextual — that is, they don’t appear until you’re actually working with something for which they’re needed. Tables provide a good example. If your document includes a table, and your cursor is actually in that table, you’ll see the following menu on the Ribbon:

Table Tools

Table Tools

Click it, and you’ll get this:

Table Contextual Menu

Table Contextual Menu

Wow, lots of options! But if you didn’t know about contextual menus, you might miss them. Other contextual menus appear if you’re working with any of the following:

  • Headers or footers
  • Text boxes
  • Graphics
  • Clip art
  • Equations
  • Shapes
  • SmartArt
  • WordArt

There are probably other items that use contextual menus, but those are the most obvious ones that come to mind. Remember, contextual menus show up only when they’re needed, so keep an eye out for them; you’ll be glad you did.

Now that you know some of the secrets of the Ribbon, would you say that Microsoft succeeded in using it to bring Word’s “most popular commands to the forefront”? Or does the Ribbon actually hide more features than it reveals? Perhaps more important, do you like the Ribbon, and if so, how do you use it to work more effectively? What do you think?

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 in a package with EditTools and PerfectIt and at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

October 14, 2015

A Question of Ethics: The Delayed Project Further Delayed

Over the years, one of the things that has concerned editors is the “problem” of overbooking that results in project schedules overlapping. In comments to my essay, A Question of Ethics: If the Editing Is Running Behind Schedule…, the following question scenario was posed:

Where it becomes more complex ethically is if the responsibility for the overrun is shared. For example, a client doesn’t send critical papers on time, so the editor takes another job to avoid being idle but misjudges their schedule. Part of the overrun is due to the editor taking too much work, but wouldn’t have happened at all if the client hadn’t delayed. As with you, I think ethically the editor owes some discount but working out how much is another issue. (Dave Higgins, October 5, 2015)

Missing from the scenario are several important pieces of information:

  • Did the editor advise the client that because of the anticipated delay in the client’s producing the required material, the editor was going to accept other work that might cause a schedule conflict?
  • Did the editor inquire as to how much of a delay the client anticipated?
  • When the editor contracted for the project, was the editor aware of the potential for delay? If yes, did the editor advise the client at that time that if there was a delay, the editor would take on other editing work rather than sit idle?
  • How well did the editor evaluate the new waiting-period project in terms of schedule and difficulty?
  • How much of a delay will result to the original client’s project?

There may be additional bits of information that would be useful in analyzing the scenario, but the outlined ones are sufficient for our purposes.

A good habit to have

I know I have said and written this so many times that you are probably tired of hearing/reading it, but here it comes again: I am a business. I run a professional business. I am not an editorial hobbyist. Remembering this is important. Using it as a guide to my conduct is also important.

When I speak with clients or potential clients, I make it clear that providing editorial services is my full-time occupation; that I am a professional, not amateur or hobbyist, editor; and that I am running a business. I repeat this often because it is the foundation for my responses to myriad situations that arise in my editorial business.

It is an important foundation for resolving the scenario presented. When I agree to take on a project and a schedule is mutually agreed upon, I emphasize to my client that should there be a delay in the client’s delivery of needed and requested information or material, the schedule will be extended appropriately. Furthermore, and this is the critical part for the scenario under discussion, if the anticipated delay is longer than a few days, I will move on to my next scheduled project whose deadline I need to meet and will return to the delaying client’s project as I can. I make it very clear that I have work scheduled to start immediately after I complete the current client’s project as originally scheduled — there is no “free” time available to accommodate client-side delays.

Advising clients that your editing schedule has little flexibility is a good habit to get into. First, it signals your expectation that just as the client will expect you to meet the agreed-upon deadline, so, too, will you expect the client to timely fulfill its agreed-to obligations. Second, it signals that your services are in demand, that you are a professional whose time is valuable both to you and to clients. Third, it provides you with the means to justify taking on additional work while waiting for the client to fulfill its obligations. Fourth, the client has had fair warning of the effects of client delay and thus you are not obligated — neither ethically nor from a customer relations point of view — to provide a discount on my services.

But what if I don’t have the habit?

If I were an editor who didn’t habitually advise clients that I cannot sit idly by waiting for material that may never appear, then I need to consider additional pieces of information.

What (and when) did the editor advise the client?

When an editor learns from a client that there will be a delay, the editor should try to ascertain the expected length of the delay. It matters whether we are talking a day or two or weeks. In the case of a short delay (and what constitutes a “short” delay we each need to define for ourselves), I am of the opinion that the editor should not take on another project; instead, the editor should give a reasonable deadline (another length of time that we each need to define for our own business) by which the editor must receive the material or the editor will start another project. In this case, the editor needs to also explicitly state to the client that schedules are likely to overlap and that the new project will take precedence over the delayed project. The editor needs to do this immediately upon learning of the delay; the editor should not wait in the hope that the delay will be minimal. If the editor does this, then I do not think any discount is owed the client for not meeting the client’s schedule.

Could delays have been anticipated when the editor agreed to the project?

Experienced editors know that some projects are ripe for schedule delays, especially multiauthor projects. If the potential for delay existed at the time of contracting, then it was the editor’s responsibility to advise the client at that point in time of what the editor will do when the delay is encountered. It is also the time to come to an agreement as to what will constitute a “lengthy” delay that would free the editor to move to another project and make that project the primary project.

Where the editor has tackled the problem at the time of contracting, I think no discount is owed to the client as a result of the editor having taken on another project. Unfortunately, many editors do not have sufficient experience or insight to see the potential for delay and address it upfront; they tackle the problem when it arises. In this case, the editor may owe the client a discount; whether the editor does or does not depends on additional information, such as what was discussed above under “What (and when) did the editor advise the client?”

The new project & the overlapping schedules

When the editor decides to take on the second project while waiting for the delayed materials to appear, how well the editor evaluated the new project is important, I think, in determining whether the editor owes the delay client a discount.

When I tell a delay client I have to move on to another project, I also tell the client when I will be able to return to their project. I also indicate whether I think I will be able to do any work at all on their project while I am working on the new project. The date I give is a semifirm date; that is, I tell the client I can return to their project on X date, give or take a day or two.

I also reexplain to the client what constitutes an editing workweek. I do this because I have found that delay clients — like all clients — assume that because I am a freelance editor I work 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year when I have work. (That’s really two assumptions, the second being that there are days or weeks when I do not have work. Unless educated otherwise, clients tend not to think of freelance editing as a “full-time real job” like their jobs.) I reinforce the editing workweek idea to nip in the bud the expectation that I will work extralong days and weekends so as not to disrupt the client’s schedule. I also want to reinforce the notion that those hours and days can be worked but for a premium price, not at the regular price.

I am able to give the semifirm date because after 31 years of evaluating manuscripts, I have a pretty good idea of how long a project will take. If I have made the commitment but miscalculated, I entertain giving the delay client a discount. The discount amount varies and is based on whether I think I can make up the miscalculated time.

The snowball effect

The problem with schedules is that failing to meet them usually has a snowball effect. If editing is not done on time, then authors don’t finish their review on time, which means typesetting is delayed, which means printing is delayed, and so on. The question then becomes: Who should bear responsibility?

I think a sense of professional ethics and responsibility resolves as follows:

  • When the client fails to deliver on time, the snowball effects, which affect the client and not the editor, are chargeable to the client — no editor’s discount is warranted.
  • When the editor takes on a wait-time project and has properly prepared and notified the delay client, the snowball effects are chargeable to the client — no editor’s discount is warranted.
  • When the editor hasn’t properly prepared and notified the client, the snowball effects are chargeable to the editor — a small editor’s discount is warranted.
  • When the editor has miscalculated the time needed to complete the wait-time project, the snowball effects are chargeable to the editor — a larger editor’s discount is warranted.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Some related An American Editor essays that may be of interest:

October 12, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Creating Your Own Proofreading Stamps for PDF Mark-up

by Louise Harnby

In September 2015, I wrote about the benefit of being able to mark up PDF proof pages with stamps – digital versions of the symbols you would draw by hand on a traditional paper proof, usually for a publisher client (after all, not every client understands the standard proof-correction language employed in the publishing industry). I also promised to show readers how they can create their own stamps for onscreen work. This is the focus of this month’s essay.

A caveat

I’m a UK-based proofreader so I’ll be referring to the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) BS 5261C:2005 “Marks for Copy Preparation and Proof Correction” throughout this essay (readers can buy a hard-copy list of these marks from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders). You may be used to seeing different symbols to indicate the same instructions. That’s because, depending on where you live, different standards may apply.

Compare, e.g., the Canadian Translation Bureau and BSI marks for a selection of instructions:

Comparison of Proofreader's Marks

Comparison of Proofreader’s Marks

What matters is not which proof-correction language you use, but what your client requires.

Recap of existing digital resources

If you want to use the BS 5261C:2005 proof-correction marks to annotate a PDF, visit “Roundup: PDF Proofreading Stamps (quick-access links)”. This provides the access links to a full set of downloadable PDF proofreading stamps in black, blue, and red, as well as the installation instructions.

US stamps files are available via the Copyediting-L site, under the Resources tab. Scroll down to “Diana Stirling’s (2008) editing marks for PDF documents (Zip documents)”.

Finally, search the Editing Tools section of Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base using the key words “PDF Editing Stamps”. This will bring up a number of other useful resources.

Why might I need to make my own stamps?

You might wish to create your own stamps for three reasons:

  1. The standard symbols required by your client might not be available for use on PDF. Use the resources in the above recap section in order to identify whether the mark-up language you want to work with is available digitally.
  2. The existing digital resources might include only the standard symbols developed by the original issuer (BSI, CMOS, CTB, etc.). However, I’ve sometimes found that I’m repeatedly making a particular amendment that isn’t covered by these standards. For instance, a nonnative-English-speaking author may use the word “is” when the author means “are” repeatedly in a file. Rather than annotating the PDF using the typewriter tool for the text, and using the “replace” symbol (slash mark) for each correction, it could be more efficient to create a new stamp that incorporates the text and slash mark. In the stamps files I provide, I’ve created several nonstandard symbols that I thought would be of benefit to users, including:
Author created nonstandard symbols

Author created nonstandard symbols

  1. For the sake of efficiency, you might wish to modify two existing standard digital marks. For example, I often need to change a hyphen to an en rule, and I have to stamp two symbols in the margin — the “en-rule” mark followed by the “replace” mark. I decided to create a single symbol that incorporates both of these marks (this symbol is now included in the digital stamps files that I make freely available on my blog).
Combining of two symbols into one

Combining of two symbols into one

When we modify standard stamps in this way, we save time — every second we save stamping only one symbol rather than two adds up to significant increases in productivity.

Creating your own stamps

There are two ways to go about creating your own customized stamps.

First method

You can using a snipping tool to copy a mark that you’ve drawn, typed, or found online. If I want to create a new stamp — for example, the “change is to are” instruction mentioned above — I can use my PDF editor’s comment-and-markup tools to type the word “are” and stamp a “replace” symbol after it. Then I simply click on my snipping tool, select “New,” and drag the cursor over the marks I’ve made. I then save this as a PNG, GIF, or JPEG file. The image is now available for upload into my PDF Editor’s stamps palette.

In Windows, the snipping tool looks like this:

Windows Snipping Tool

Windows Snipping Tool

Where your snipping tool is located will depend on which version of Windows you’re using. For Windows 8, click here; for Windows 7, click here.

The advantage of using a snipping tool is that it’s very efficient. I’ve pinned my onboard Windows snipping tool to the task bar at the bottom of my screen, so it’s always accessible. If you are using an operating system that doesn’t include a snipping tool, there are of alternatives available online.

There are disadvantages to using this method.

  • The definition of a snipped stamp is poor in comparison with a symbol drawn in a desktop publishing (DTP) or professional graphics program. The images usually look fuzzy, especially when enlarged.
  • It’s not possible to control the size of the snipped image, so the symbol may have to be resized every time it’s stamped in the margin, which wastes time.
  • Snipped stamps don’t have transparent backgrounds. This can be aesthetically unpleasing when you are stamping onto tinted pages. If you’ve created a stamp that needs to be placed in-text on a PDF, the lack of transparency will cause problems because you’ll be masking content that your client won’t want to be hidden.

Using the snipping tool to create stamps is recommended if you need a quick solution and you don’t think you’ll need to use the new symbol in future jobs. If you do think you’ll use your new symbol time and time again, it might be worth considering the second method.

Second method

You can use a DTP program such as Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, and QuarkXPress, or a graphics program like CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. I use MS Publisher because it’s included in my MS Office bundle. I’ve also found it quite easy to use — this is partly because it’s entry-level DTP software and partly because it’s an MS product so the functionality is quite similar to that of MS Word.

Once you’ve drawn your new symbol in your DTP program, you need to save the document as a PDF. This can usually be done very simply, using the “Save as” function. The image will then be ready for upload into your PDF editor’s stamps palette.

The disadvantage of using this method is that it requires greater investment in time in the short run. I’d only recommend it if you are creating a stamp that you think will be useful for many jobs to come.

The advantages of going down the DTP route are:

  • The finish of the stamp is more professional — the images are much sharper than the snipped versions.
  • You can draw multiple stamps in a single DTP document — just make sure that each image is drawn on a new page. Then you have to save one document as a PDF from which you’ll upload your new stamps.
  • You can control the size of the stamp. This may take some experimentation, but once you’ve drawn one proof-correction mark that you know produces a stamp that you can universally use on PDFs without having to resize, you can use this as a template for any future stamps you create.
  • You can control the transparency of the stamp. Users of my stamps files will know that some of my symbols don’t have fully transparent backgrounds. This is something I plan to rectify when I have time!

Using a DTP/graphics program is more time consuming but gives a more professional finish and is worth it if you think you’ll use the new symbol in multiple jobs.

Saving and installing your new stamps

If you have used the snipping tool to create a new GIF, JPEG, or PNG stamp, you can save it wherever you wish. I usually choose the Downloads folder. Then open your PDF editor and upload the stamp.

Installing snipped images to PDF-XChange

  • Open the PDF you wish to mark up
  • From Menu: Tools > Comment and Markup Tools > Show Stamps Palette
  • From Stamps Palette: Click on an existing Collection or create a new one (using the New button with a small green cross); select “From Image”
  • From a browser window: Locate your image from the folder in which you saved it, e.g., Downloads, and choose “Open”

Installing snipped images to Adobe Acrobat (v. 9)

  • Open the PDF you wish to mark up
  • Click on the stamp tool on the top ribbon
  • Select “Create Custom Stamp”
  • From browser window: Locate your image from the folder in which you saved it, e.g., Downloads. Note that in Acrobat you will need to choose the relevant file type in order for your symbol to show up. So if you saved your snipped image as a PNG, you’ll need to select this from the drop-down menu under file type; “Select”; “OK”
  • You can now name your stamp and assign it to a Category (you can use an existing Category or create a new one, e.g., Proofreading)

Installing snipped images to Adobe Reader (v. XI)

I haven’t found a way to import snipped stamps into Reader; the only option is to upload stamps that have been saved as a PDF, which isn’t possible with the Windows snipping tool at least. Given that PDF-XChange is still a very affordable editor, with outstanding functionality, I’d recommend trying it as an alternative to the free Adobe Reader and the rather more expensive Acrobat Professional.

Saving and installing DTP-created images

If you have used DTP software and saved your stamps in PDF format, you may need to save into a specific folder. The installation process is a little more complicated and will depend on the PDF editor you are using. If you are using PDF-XChange, Adobe Acrobat Professional, or Adobe Reader, carefully read the installation instructions I’ve provided on The Proofreader’s Parlour.

Related reading…

If you are new to PDF proofreading, you might find the following links of interest:

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

October 7, 2015

On the Basics: Turning Freelancing Lemons into Lemonade

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

It’s been said that adversity is good for us, and failure teaches us important lessons. I’m sure most of us would just as soon do without either one, but there are times when something bad can turn into something good.

I have a history of making lemonade out of lemons. When I was turned down for my high school’s literary magazine many years ago, I started my own. When I ended up in an “I quit/You’re fired” situation at a job I mostly enjoyed, it pushed me to do more freelancing and eventually freed me to relocate from St. Louis to D.C., where my career and collegial network really took off. When a toxic colleague bumped me from a speaking engagement, I wrote up the topic and have made money ever since from selling the result as a booklet. When I chaired a national conference for one of my professional associations and the board decided not to do another one for reasons that made no sense, I started my own conference for colleagues, which just had its 10th annual event and promises to keep bringing colleagues together as long as I have the energy to keep it going.

Freelancing in any niche or field is an ongoing challenge, and there are likely to be opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade for all of us. Those lemons can range from unfair treatment to unpleasant clients to our own failures — we’re human, and we’re probably all going to make a few mistakes, blow a deadline once or twice, encounter problem clients and painful projects, miss errors we should have caught in a project, or get stiffed on a payment. Here are some ideas for making your own version of lemonade from such lemons.

Losing a client or project

This is probably the most common “lemon” experience for any freelancer — writer, editor, proofreader, graphic artist, website designer, indexer; whoever. It can be devastating, both personally and financially. But look at it carefully: What can you learn? Where can it take you?

One flavor of lemonade in such a situation is having colleagues to fall back on. Describe what happened as objectively and rationally as you can, and ask for input about whether you really did screw up. Be prepared to be told that yes, it’s you, not them, and to learn from the experience. Even if you were in the wrong, you are likely to get sympathy and encouragement from your colleagues.

If you lost the client because of something you did do wrong, accept the responsibility and find ways to improve your skills or process so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Apologize to the client, try to offer something to make up for the problem (a discount, perhaps), and move on. Learn the appropriate style guide, improve your organizational systems, develop a checklist to refer to, refresh your basic skills — take a course, read a book; become better for the experience.

If you did nothing wrong but simply encountered an unpleasant client who turned out to be impossible to work with, or one who refused to raise your rate of pay, the lemonade is that you are free of a difficult client, or one who doesn’t pay very much. You now have the time and freedom to replace that one with a client who’s more pleasant and easier to work with, and who pays more. Make the most of that opportunity.

Sometimes we have to be pushed or even kicked into stretching ourselves to walk away from negative work experiences and find better ones, because even a low-paying or unpleasant client seems to be better — and more secure — than no client. You may find that you’ve been holding onto a client you didn’t really need because it was easier to do that than to make the effort to find a better client. Get your networking and cold-querying into gear, and see what you can find.

Losing a client also could push you into new directions. It might give you the impetus to try offering a different editorial service or skill — one that you’re better at or more comfortable with doing. Losing the income from that client also could motivate you to try being more independent of clients for a living. This might be the moment to try coming up with something you can sell on your own — a book or booklet, a webinar about something you’re good at, speeches, and workshops. You may have skills you never thought of profiting from; now is the time to explore the market for those skills. Create something and take control outside the traditional client–service provider relationship.

If the disruption is major, it might mean that it’s time to think about your career direction. Maybe editorial work is simply not for you. You might need to take a different fork in the road. The “lemon” might push you into looking at something other than editorial work to make money — crafts, for instance. Maybe that artsy, creative hobby could earn you a living.

Difficult clients

Sometimes a difficult — rude, uncommunicative, unpredictable — client can be fixed. Try to pin down what the problem is. Maybe you can do more to keep the client informed about the status of the project. Maybe the client’s personality or style is different enough from yours to seem worse than it really is. You might be able to educate the client about aspects of the project that are unclear, or ask a few questions that would clarify the process and reassure the client that you can handle it after all. Perhaps you could suggest a better, more straightforward process or a formal schedule of not only when the project is due but when you and the client will communicate about it.

Then again, some people are simply impossible to work with. Another flavor of lemonade in this situation is to walk away and remove yourself from that situation.

Low rates

We all want to be paid what we think we’re worth, but sometimes a project comes along that is below that amount at a time when we really need the work, or when the project is genuinely interesting. There are a couple of ways to make lemonade out of such a lemon.

With a writing assignment at a low per-word rate, for instance, you might be able to rethink it in terms of an hourly rate. That is, if you can do the research and actual writing fast enough and easily enough — that low per-word rate might actually look pretty good. A 1,000-word assignment at 15 cents/word is only $150, which isn’t much — but if you pull that piece together in three hours, you’re making a respectable $50/hour. If the story means something to you, gets you experience with a new topic, supports a cause you believe in, or otherwise seems important enough to write even at a low per-word rate, and you can justify it in terms of an hourly fee, there’s your lemonade.

For editing and proofreading work, you might not be able to get a higher fee from some clients, but you can work better, faster, and smarter so that fee works in your favor. Try to get paid by the page rather than by the hour, for instance, and use macros and other shortcuts to speed up the number of pages you can get through in an hour.

Take some time to look through the An American Editor essays. Many of them discuss rates and productivity, and could help you rethink either how you work or how you charge for your work.

Health issues

Getting sick or being injured — or caring for someone in such situations — can throw a huge monkey wrench into your freelance business. One area where this could have the greatest negative impact is in your ability to travel to do presentations or lead workshops. In this situation, technology is your lemonade. Figure out how to do presentations via Skype or webinar. Turn your presentation or workshop material into a book you can self- or copublish and sell. If your health is OK but you’re caring for someone who needs you to stay put, look for local sites where you can do programs and invite people from out of town, as well as nearby, to attend.

Isolation and loneliness

We’re constantly being told about how important it is to network and socialize, but many of us live alone and some of us live in rural areas where we might the be only editorial professional for miles. Again, technology can be your lemonade — but you also can be your own. If you don’t live near any other people to network with, look to the Internet for places to interact online, from e-mail discussion lists to Facebook and LinkedIn groups to forums of national professional organizations.

If you live in a town or city, there may be dozens of potential colleagues (and clients!) nearby whom you’ve never met. Set a few dollars aside so you can join a national organization that has a chapter in your area — or start a new chapter, or even a new organization, yourself. It’s easy nowadays to get the word out about such groups. Ask at your local writers’ center, bookstore, library, college, art gallery, or coffee shop about holding occasional get-togethers on the premises. Get the word out through social media and a standard press release to local media, and go from there. It doesn’t have to be anything especially structured or fancy; it just has to be an opportunity to get out of the house, meet colleagues, and expand your horizons. It might even turn into connections that lead to work.

Have you encountered any lemons in your freelance life that turned into lemonade? What did you do to sweeten the situation and turn it to your favor?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, author of the Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.

October 5, 2015

A Question of Ethics: If the Editing Is Running Behind Schedule…

The Background

A project I recently completed was originally scheduled to be done by August 31 — a 4-week schedule; it ended, instead, 3 weeks later. The price I quoted was based on the short schedule that the August 31 must-meet date represented. (For this particular project, a 4-week schedule was quite tight.)

The delay in completing the project was caused by delays in the client delivering the manuscript to me. The delays were such that it seemed as if nothing was going right with the project. For example, references were called out in the text using the author-date system, with all of the references appearing in a bibliography at the end of the manuscript, not in each chapter. Although I requested the references early in the process, I didn’t receive them until a few days before the absolute final extended due date. Consequently, the editor had no opportunity to check whether the bibliography actually contained all of the cites called out in the text or if there were references cited in the bibliography that were not called out in the text.

A fundamental part of editing is to check the references to make sure that all that are called out are cited in the bibliography/reference list and to identify any that are cited in the bibliography/reference list but not called out in the text. When the client insisted that I return the edited references on a particular date, I pointed out that to do so meant the editor could not check callouts against cites; all the editor could do was look for missing information in the cites, try to locate that missing information, and style the cites.

Because callout–cite checking is fundamental to editing, I required the client to explicitly direct us to not do the checking, which the client did. As the client noted, it was not our fault that there was no time left to do the job. I replied to the client, “It is not a problem from our end. We do the job you want as best we can within the limits you impose.”

The Questions

At least three questions arise out of these circumstances, each raising ethical issues:

  1. In the case where the client instructs you to not perform a service that is normally included because the client is late delivering the files, should the fee be reduced by the value of the service not provided?
  2. In the case where the client instructs you to not perform a service that is normally included because the you misjudged the time needed to edit the manuscript and so are now late in delivering the manuscript to the client, should the fee be reduced by the value of the service not provided at the client’s instruction?
  3. Does the answer to either of the previous questions depend on whether the editor is charging by the page, by the project, or by the hour?

The client delivers late

In the first scenario (client is late deliverer), I think the editor has no ethical duty to reduce the fee. The editor is willing to perform the service if given the necessary time to do so. That the client has schedule constraints that do not permit the editor to perform the service is outside the control of the editor. The decision for the editor to not cross-check the cites was made by the same party that was late in providing the material, which is outside the editor’s control.

However, the basis for the billing does affect the amount to be charged. If the editor is billing by the page or the project, the invoiced amount should be the same regardless of whether or not the cite cross-checking was performed. But if the editor is charging by the hour, the invoice should not include a sum for time that would have been spent doing the cross-checking but for the client stopping the cross-checking. It would be unethical for the editor to bill for time that was not actually spent because the basis of the hourly charge is that the editor gets paid for hours worked.

Some commentators would argue that the billing method is irrelevant because all billing methods are based on time; that when an editor sets a per-page rate or a project-fee rate, part of the editor’s calculation is based on an estimate of the time it is expected the work will require. This is one of the elements of creating a quote (see The Business of Editing: Keys to a Project Quote).

I agree that every price calculation method contains a time-expected-to-spend-editing component, but there is a significant difference between hourly-based and per-page– and project-fee–based projects. With per-page– and project-fee–based projects, the expectation of the amount the editor is to be paid is set based on a factor other than time; that is, it does not matter whether the editor completes the project in 20 hours but took 50 hours nor does it matter what the editor’s or client’s time expectation was — the fee is not time dependent, it changes only if there is a change in some other factor other than time (e.g., if the page count changes). In contrast, with an hourly-based fee the amount to be paid rises and falls based solely on the number of hours the editor spends editing; that is, unlike with per-page and project-based fees, the final hourly-based fee is not calculable until the project is complete.

The editor miscalculated the time needed

In the case of the second scenario (the editor is taking longer than expected to edit), I think the client is entitled to a reduction in the fee, even though it is the client who instructs the editor to not perform the service. In this instance, the editor knows the schedule that binds the client and that must be met. It is the editor who is late as a result of matters that are within the editor’s control. It is the editor who miscalculated and now jeopardizes the client’s schedule.

The reason for the fee reduction is that the agreed-upon price included the service that is now not to be performed and the reason it is not to be performed is because of the editor’s miscalculation, not because of anything the client has done. It is, in my view, unethical for an editor to be paid for work not performed at the fault of the editor. If there were no reduction in fee, the editor would be rewarded for not adhering to the bargain the editor’s made.

Here, also, the manner of calculating the fee affects the reduction. If the editor is charging by the hour, then no specific fee reduction is required because the client will not be billed for work not performed (i.e., hours spent editing). Only when the billing is per-page or project-fee based does there need to be a reduction in the set fee. How much of a reduction depends on the value of the service and whether the client will need to secure the service elsewhere. This is a matter of negotiation. But it is the to the editor’s advantage to initiate the reduction rather than wait for the client to raise the question or, perhaps more troublesome for the editor, for the client to not say anything but decide not to use the editor in the future.

A Question of Ethics

It is not unusual for an editor to ask on a forum whether a fee should be reduced or partially refunded. I do not consider the sense of ethics that governs my business to be a question of group ethics or group decision making; rather, I see it as a sense of my personal moral code, a sense of what I view as right and wrong. What does it matter whether 99 out of 100 editors would not issue a refund if I think one is warranted? That I would even ask the question is, to me, an indication that I think the client is entitled to some refund.

Ethics is a matter of taking the moral high road, of trying to seek a fairness balance, a balance of right and wrong.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Blog at WordPress.com.

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