An American Editor

July 31, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part V)

By Richard Adin, Founder, An American Editor

In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I), I discussed the importance of collecting data; in Part II, I discussed Time Trackers’ Project Summary; in Part III, I discussed some of the key elements of the Create/Update Project dialog, and in Part IV, a project was created and data to evaluate how the new project was going were created. This final discussion (Part V) focuses on some of the other important features of Time Tracker.

Updating Information

Sometimes things change and we need to change the project information we originally entered. Time Tracker has two different types of information updating.

The first is updating the basic project information itself. To change the original project information, select the project name — not a subpart’s name — and click Update Project (#2), as in the image below.

Updating a project

Clicking Update Project opens the Create/Update Project form for the selected project (see below). Once that form is open, you can modify any of the data. For example, if the client contact information changes, you can replace the outdated information with the new information.

The Update Project form

If instead of updating the general project information, you want to modify already-recorded data (the project details), select the project line if the project has no subparts, or the subpart that you want to modify if the project has subparts, and click Update Details (#A below). Note: The selected project or subpart must have some already-recorded data or Update Details will not be accessible. For example, in the image below, contrast the subpart 01 Bumble Batch 1, which is selected, with the no-subpart project Visions in Freudian Therapy (green highlight). If Visions in Freudian Therapy was selected, Update Details would not be accessible because the project has no already-recorded data to modify.

Selecting the data to be modified

Clicking Update Details (#A above) opens the Update Record (below) where the data modifications are entered.

The Update Record form

The Update Record form shows all of the data entries that are part of the selected subpart (#B) (or project, if there are no subparts). The first entry line (“0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 pages”) was created when the subpart/project was created. That line should be left alone because modifying it will distort your data. The next two lines shown (#B) are the data from the two work sessions that were part of Batch 1 (see Part IV of this series). Because the second work session is selected for modification, the component parts of its data are shown in the modification area (#C).

You can either modify some or all of the data, or leave the information as is. To leave it as is, click Close. Otherwise, modify the data that need modification (see below) and click Update (#D) to make the modifications. In this example, two modifications are being made: the subpart name (“(Preliminary)” is added) and the page count (increased from 17 to 18, which changes the total page count for the batch from 22 to 23, and for the project from 53 to 54).

Modifying work session 2 data

Once Update (#D in above image) is clicked, the modifications are recorded and visible on the Project Summary (green highlight in image below).

  • Important: Compare the highlighted numbers for the Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) and Average Pages per Hour (APH) for the project, batch, Year-to-Date (YTD), and Lifetime shown here with the same numbers, before the modification, shown in the previous image of the Project Summary. It is worth noting the effect a one-page change, from 17 to 18 completed pages, has, especially on the EHR.

The modified data displayed on the Project Summary

Other Options: Removing/Reinstating Projects from/to the Project Summary

As time goes by, the number of projects will increase, which, if not removed from the Project Summary, will make it difficult to access current projects. Consequently, Time Tracker lets you remove completed projects from the Project Summary and save them. But removal from the Project Summary doesn’t mean the project dataset is lost.

Completed projects that have been removed from the Project Summary can be accessed using the History button (see image above).

To remove a completed project from the Project Summary, select the project, not a project subpart, to make the Remove From List button accessible. Then click Remove From List.

  • Caution: If a subpart is marked completed but there are still open subparts for the project, selecting the completed subpart and clicking Remove From List removes the entire project, not just the completed subpart. If that happens, go to the History and reinstate the project.

A removed project can be reinstated in the Project Summary via the History button. In addition, a completed project, once reinstated in the Project Summary, can be reopened via the Reopen button.

For more-detailed information about removing and reinstating projects, as well as reopening projects, see the Time Tracker Help file.

Other Options: Archives

Part IV of this essay series discussed Time Tracker’s autosave feature. However, there is another part of the autosave feature that was not discussed in Part IV: autosaving of the Time Tracker data.

Time Tracker’s Archive is a temporary backup of project data in the event that something happens while you are working on the project. (It is called “temporary” because only 10 datasets are saved; when the 11th save occurs, the oldest dataset is automatically deleted, leaving 10 available saved datasets. When a project is completed, the saved “temporary” datasets — up to 10 — remain available.

One other item to note: Unlike Word’s temporary files, these datasets do not use the .tmp extension. For more detailed information about Archive files, see the Time Tracker Help file. Should data become corrupted or lost from an unexpected event like a document crash, the Archive file can give you the data from the time of your last (up to 10) timing stop. Every time you stop Time Tracker, it creates an Archive file. The problem is that the archive is created only when you stop timing. Consequently, if you last stopped timing two hours ago and Word crashes, in addition to having lost some of your work, you will have lost the time calculation that occurred between the last stop and the crash.

The Archives, however, prevent a total loss of data and can tell you when the last stop occurred, so you can calculate how much time passed between the last stop and the crash event. To protect against total data loss, you can access up to the last 10 data saves; when the 11th save occurs, the oldest save is deleted.

For more-detailed information about the archiving feature, see the Time Tracker Help file.

A Final Word

Time Tracker is probably the most-valuable macro an editor can have and use. Truthfully, I wish I had it when I started my editing career 35 years ago. The data that Time Tracker tracks are the data I have tracked over those years, because for me, there was nothing more important than being sure I was making a profit.

I had a family to support, retirement to plan for, health insurance to buy, a mortgage to pay, children heading to college, insurances and taxes to pay, and the list goes on. It made no sense to work at something that couldn’t support me and my family, no matter how much I enjoyed my work and no matter how good I was at it. Family brings on more paramount concerns and obligations, making knowledge about how my business was doing essential.

Having been in other businesses before becoming an editor, I was aware that it is easy to be fooled into living paycheck to paycheck, just getting by, and not really earning a living wage. As the years passed and the editorial business changed (when I began, it was the publisher who directly hired you, not a low-priced, third-party, offshore company), the compensation battle became more difficult. As people lost jobs or couldn’t find work, more people offered editorial services (“I love to read and easily found spelling errors in XYZ book, so perhaps I should be an editor!”), so competition increased. All of this and more made keeping and interpreting data ever more important.

Properly used, Time Tracker will help you track how you are doing so you know whether you can continue as you are or need to find ways to become more productive and efficient so you can increase your Effective Hourly Rate (EHR). Time Tracker will help you prepare better bids based on past similar projects and determine whether current clients are desirable clients.

In addition, Time Tracker data, combined with knowing your required EHR (rEHR), will help you determine what to charge. For example, if your rEHR is $30 but your average EHR (i.e., over multiple projects — the YTD and Lifetime calculations) is $25, you know that you need to either increase your rate or find a way to be more efficient and productive so that the YTD and Lifetime EHRs exceed $30.

Finally, Time Tracker data can help you ascertain which method of setting a fee works best for you over multiple projects (see my AAE essay, “The Rule of Three”), as well as which types of projects (e.g., fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or romance, biography or medical, short or long documents) and services (e.g., copyediting, proofreading, developmental editing, indexing) generate the most work, income, and profit.

The complete and detailed Time Tracker Help file is available for download from wordsnSync.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync, and creator/owner of EditTools.


July 24, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part IV)

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:55 am

By Richard Adin, Founder, An American Editor

In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I), I discussed the importance of collecting data; in Part II, I discussed Time Trackers’ Project Summary; and in Part III, I discussed some of the key elements of the Create/Update Project dialog. Part IV discusses collecting the data.

First, Create a Project

The new “project” is Bumble, Harris & Crank’s Searching for the American Biographical Soul, clearly a fictitious project. The first step is to create a project that Time Tracker can time and track. As shown in Part III, a new project is created using the Create/Update Project dialog accessed by clicking the Create Project button on the Project Summary. The image below shows a completed new Create/Update Project dialog for this project.

Completed project form for the Bumble project

Note in the form above that the fee is a project fee and that the fee and number of pages information has been provided. To calculate the page count, and ultimately to set the fee, I used the EditTools Counter macro to generate the following report:

Page count for the Bumble project

Once you have completed the form, click Create (#22 above) to create the new project and add it to the Project Summary, as shown below.

The Bumble project appears on the Project Summary

However, before timing the project can begin, you need to create a subpart for the project because when completing the Create/Update Project form, the default N was changed to Y (#16 above). To create a subpart, click Add Subpart (#23 above). Clicking Add Subpart opens the form shown below; enter a name for the subpart and click OK.

Creating a subpart for the Bumble project

When you click OK, the subpart appears in the Project Summary, as shown below. Compare the image below with the Project Summary image earlier. Not only has the subpart been added to the Project Summary, but when the subpart is selected, as it is in the image below, Start (#24), which initiates timing, becomes available.

The Bumble project subpart is added to the Project Summary
& Start becomes available

Clicking Start (#24) will turn on the timer for the Bumble project. Equally as important as the timer, however, is the document save interval.

A Slight Detour: The Document Save Interval & What Document(s) to Save

The Document Save interval and which document(s) to save are key features of Time Tracker. Most users of Microsoft Word use Word’s autosave feature to save open Word documents at some specified interval. However, the documents aren’t really being saved. If Word crashes, Word will ask you if you want to open the autosaved document and then ask you to formally save the document. Longtime users of Word know, however, that the autosave option is far from a sure thing. Sometimes files are corrupted, often changes are lost, and Word saves the files as temporary files using a naming system different from what most users use.

Time Tracker does not use Word’s autosave feature. Instead, it actually saves your document, just as if you went to File > Save. With Time Tracker, you can choose whether to save just the Word document you are working on or all open Word documents. For example, if you have a chapter text file, a file of tables for the chapter, and a stylesheet all open at the same time, you can either choose to save all three open documents or just the one document you are working in when it is time to execute the save command. (Thus, if you are working in the stylesheet at the time and you have chosen to save just the document you are working in, only the stylesheet will be saved. In general, the best option is to save all open documents, not just the document you are working in.)

In addition, you can set the save interval. The intervals are in 30-minute segments beginning at 1 hour through 4 hours. (There is also a 5-minute test interval. It is not recommended that you use this interval except for testing because it will interrupt your work too frequently.) The suggested interval is 1.5 hours. When choosing an interval, consider how you work. Should Word crash, the amount of work you may lose depends on the interval chosen (and, of course, how well Word’s built-in autosave works). For example, if you choose an interval of 1.5 hours and the last time that interval was reached was 42 minutes ago, depending on how well Word’s autosave works, you can have lost up to 42 minutes of work.

To set the save interval and which document(s) to save, click Settings (#25 above), which opens the dialog shown here:

The Save Settings dialog

Whatever settings you choose remain the default settings until changed, so all future subparts for the Bumble project and any new, reopened, or restarted projects will use these settings.

For more detailed information, see the Time Tracker Help file.

Timing the Work Session

As noted earlier, to start timing a project, select the project (or, if the project has subparts, the appropriate subpart) as shown in the Project Summary image above, and click Start (#24 above). Clicking Start opens a message box (below) asking you to insert a bookmark at the point where you are going to start working. The reason is that many documents take more than a single work session to complete. Inserting the bookmark lets you mark where the current work session begins so when you quit for the day, you can calculate the necessary information for your dataset.

Marking a starting point for the current work session

If you do not need a bookmark, click No Bookmark to start Time Tracker; if one is needed, click Insert Bookmark to insert a bookmark and start Time Tracker. For more detailed information, see the Time Tracker Help file.

Once you make your choice and click the button, the Project Summary dialog will close and Time Tracker will start. The EditTools Ribbon will also change. What was just a red Off button now becomes a green Running button with a yellow Pause and a red Stop button alongside, as shown here:

Time Tracker on the EditTools Ribbon

These buttons control Time Tracker. To Pause Time Tracker while you get a cup of tea or check email, click the yellow Pause. The green Running button will become yellow Pause and the yellow Pause button will become green Running. When ready to start again, click green Running. When you are ready to end the current work session, click the red Stop button.

You will be asked how many pages were completed during the work session (see below) so your Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) and Average Pages per Hour (APH) for the work session can be calculated.

Pages completed during the work session

When you have entered the number and clicked OK, a message box (below) will appear summarizing the data that were entered for the work session.

Summary of the work session

If you need to modify the data entry — for example, change 5 pages to 6 pages — you can. How to modify the data will be discussed part V of this series and in detail in the Time Tracker Help file.

The Project Summary form displays the new data as shown below. Because this is the first work session for the Bumble project, the data displayed are just for this one session.

The work session 1 data

Restarting the Work Session

The Bumble project is a long project so it isn’t unexpected that multiple work sessions are required. Because of the project’s length, the client has asked that edited chapters be submitted in batches (the reason for creating subparts). My practice is to always include an invoice with a batch. For this project, I want the first batch to include at least chapters 1 through 4, and possibly chapter 5.

(Tip: Once a batch is complete, rename the subpart to reflect what is included in the batch. For example, if the first batch of Bumble includes chapters 1– 4, I will rename the subpart from “01 Bumble Batch 1” to “01 Bumble Batch 1: chs 1-4.” This helps me track both the project and the invoice.)

My batch 1 work is not yet complete, so I need to start a new work session. The procedure is the same:

  1. Click the red Off button on the EditTools Ribbon to open the Project Summary.
  2. Select the project or subpart in the Project Summary.
  3. Click Start.

(Reminder: If you want to change the save interval, you need to click Settings, make the change, and then click Start. Once timing starts, the only way to change the save interval is to click Stop and restart the work session.)

When it is time to end this work session, the procedure remains the same:

  1. Click Stop.
  2. Enter the number of pages edited.
  3. Review the data that will be entered and click OK.

If you open the Project Summary, you can verify that the data have been entered. Below is the Project Summary at the close of this second work session. Compare it to the Project Summary showing just the data for the first work session (see “The work session 1 data” above). The Project Summary displays the accumulated data for Batch 1. (For more detailed information, see the Time Tracker Help file.)

The work session 2 data

There is one anomaly, however, with the data displayed on the Project Summary: the YTD (year-to-date) and Lifetime EHR and APH numbers. If you look at the Project Summary images for the two work sessions, you will see that the data are the same even though additional data have been added. That’s because the Project Summary form has not closed. The information is recalculated automatically when the form is closed and reopened. There is no need to do that, however. Just click Refresh and the data will be recalculated, as shown below.

The recalculated YTD and Lifetime EHR and APH

A New Subpart & Work Session

The examples above are based on a single subpart. Consequently, the data for the subpart and the data for the project are identical. Now I will illustrate what happens when a second subpart is added to the project.

The procedures remain the same as outlined above. To create a second subpart to the Bumble project, select the main project line, not the Batch 1 subpart line; click Add Subpart; and give the subpart a name (for this example, it is named “02 Bumble Batch 2”).

When ready to begin the work session, select the project or subpart to be worked on and click Start. For this example, “02 Bumble Batch 2” is selected.

When the work session ends, click Stop in the EditTools Ribbon and state the number of pages edited during this session. Opening the Project Summary displays the following information (Refresh was clicked to update the YTD and Lifetime data in the image):

The work session 3 data

As was true for the first subpart, the second subpart line shows the data for all work done that is attributed to that subpart. In the image above, the second subpart (Batch 2) data show that the work session was 2 hours 23 minutes and for the first subpart (Batch 1), it was 1 hour 8 minutes total for the two work sessions that are part of Batch 1. Note, however, that the project line (green highlight) shows that 3 hours 31 minutes have been spent to date working on the Bumble project — the project line is the totals line, whereas the subpart lines are the component lines.

For me, the most important data are the EHR and APH, which are profit/loss indicators and difficulty indicators. For example, the EHR and APH for Batch 2 are significantly less than for Batch 1, which indicates that the material in Batch 2 was more difficult and more time-consuming. If the decline continues, I need to figure out why. At these levels, however, especially considering the total project numbers to date for the EHR and APH, I do not need to panic; an hourly rate of $90.42 (EHR) and a speed of 15 pages an hour (APH) is not worrisome, especially in comparison to the YTD and Lifetime numbers (and what I know about my required EHR [rEHR]).

The YTD numbers indicate how I am doing over all of the projects I have worked on this calendar year. The Lifetime numbers tell me how I am doing over all the years I have been tracking the information (the numbers in the image are identical because the only data available are for the current year. Next year at this time, the numbers will differ and Lifetime will show numbers-based data for 19 months.)


Part V will discuss some of the other features of Time Tracker, such as modifying the data.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync Ltd., and creator/owner of EditTools.

July 17, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part III)

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:25 am

By Richard Adin, Founder, An American Editor

In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I), I discussed the importance of collecting data. In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part II), I discussed Time Trackers’ Project Summary. Now it’s time to create a project’s data set so Time Tracker can collect data for you.

The Create/Update Project Dialog

To create a data set for a new project, click Create Project (see image below) in the Project Summary dialog. If, instead, you want to modify the data set for an existing project (e.g., you are charging a project fee for the project you are currently working on and want to modify the project fee and the number of pages entries because the client has sent you a new, additional chapter), first select the project in the list of projects (#1 in the image below) and then click Update Project (#2 in image below). Both Create Project and Update Project open the same form, but with a difference: Create Project opens an empty dialog whereas the Update Project opens the dialog filled with the selected project’s details.

Creating a dataset for a new project

As noted, clicking Create Project opens an empty Create/Update Project dialog (shown below) so initial details about a project can be entered. The only required data element is the project name (#3). Without that name, the project cannot be added to the list of projects (#1 in image above), which means Time Tracker cannot be used to track the time spent on that project. Although not required, if you do not provide the fee information (#17), the Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) cannot be calculated or tracked.

The only other possibly required information is whether the project will have subparts (#16). The default is no (N), which means you cannot add subparts to a listed project (unless, of course, once the project is created, you use Update Project). If you change the N to Y (#16) to indicate there are subparts, you will be able to add subparts as needed to an existing project.

The Create/Update Project dialog

Most of the items in the Create/Update Project dialog are self-explanatory; the importance of several may not be obvious and those are discussed here. (For a detailed look at all elements, visit the Time Tracker page to download the complete help document in PDF format.)

The first items whose importance may not be obvious are the Start Date (#13), Scheduled End Date (#14), and Actual End Date (#15). These dates are important because they can give you an indication of how to schedule future projects. For example, suppose the start date is April 1, 2019, and the scheduled end date is May 31, 2019. (Tip: If a client says the first documents for editing will be sent to you on March 22, enter March 22 as the start date. If the client doesn’t send the first documents until April 1, change the start date to April 1 by clicking Update Project [#2 in earlier image] and make a note in the Comments [#21] that the scheduled start date had been March 22. This will enable you to track the likelihood that future projects from the client will be provided as promised.)

The Scheduled End Date (#14) is important because it enables you to track how good your and your client’s time estimates are, which matters when scheduling future projects, especially when you combine the Scheduled End Date data with the Actual End Date (#15) data. The Actual End Date data will let you track how often you finish earlier or later than the scheduled end date. If, over the course of several projects, you discover that projects for Client X are almost always scheduled for 10 days longer than the projects actually take, that information might be the difference between agreeing to take on another project or rejecting that project offer. It also provides information about your efficiency.

From my perspective, the most-important information to provide is fee data (#17; see image below). I need and want to know whether I am making or losing money. Although I like to know that answer for the project I am currently working on (however, I adhere to the rule of three, which I discussed in my AAE essay, “The Rule of Three”), what I really want and need to know is my overall profit/loss status. This is important because my overall profit/loss status, along with my required EHR (rEHR), helps me decide whether to accept or reject a proffered project, whether the proffered fee is acceptable or unacceptable, and what fee I need to charge for a project.

Fee calculation data

There are four method choices for calculating a fee: per page (#A); per word (#B); per hour (#C); and per project (#D). Depending on which method is chosen, the information asked for in #E changes. The image above shows #E asking for the per-page rate because that rate is the default for #E. When you click per page (#A) in response to “How is your fee calculated,” #E will ask “Fee per page?” But if you choose one of the other methods, #E will change accordingly, as shown in the following images:

The per-word method

The per-word method (#B) asks for information about the rate per word and how many words, even though you are charging per word, will equal one manuscript page.

The per-hour method

If the per-hour method (#C) is chosen, #E asks the hourly rate being charged. Nothing more is needed because whatever hourly rate is being charged equals the EHR. It doesn’t change as long as you complete the project within the maximum number of hours for which the client will pay. For example, if your quote is that the project will take up to 100 hours at $25 per hour and the client agrees to pay for up to 100 hours, the EHR for every hour from 1 to 100 will be $25. What happens if the project takes more than 100 hours? Assume that you begin to exceed 100 hours and the client agrees to pay for up to 10 more hours (total of 110), but that hours 111 and beyond are at your expense. If you complete the project in 110 hours or less, then the EHR remains $25. But if the project takes 117 hours and the client is only paying for 110 hours, then the EHR changes (becomes lower) because the seven unpaid hours have to be accounted for. The best way to do this is to select the project in the Project Summary dialog, click Update Project, and then change the fee information from per hour at $25 per hour to per project with a project fee equal to $2,750 (110 × $25) and enter the page count for the project.

The project-fee method

Note that with the exception of the per-hour method, all of the other methods are based on a page. Ultimately, even an hourly rate is based on pages. It is true that it doesn’t matter whether a project is 500 pages or 800 pages if you are charging by the hour, except that it is the rare client who doesn’t want an estimate of the time it will take to do the project and/or a price quote for how much the project will cost.

To estimate the time — something you need to do for yourself, even if not for the client, so you can schedule the next project — it will take to complete the project, you have to know how many pages an hour you expect to be able to edit (Average Pages per Hour [APH]). To get to that number, you need to know what constitutes a page — is it 1,600 characters (with or without spaces) or 275 words or some other measure? Whatever the measure, you need to know what constitutes one page.

Even if you calculate using words — for example, you expect to be able to edit 2,500 words an hour on average — you can convert that to pages. (The easiest way to do these calculations is to use EditTools’ Counter macro.)

The bottom line is that when you are asked to estimate time or quote a price, no matter how you calculate your fee, you are doing so based on your expected APH and on the manuscript’s length. Again, even if you base your calculations on number of words, that method is easily convertible to pages.

After the project is complete, it is worth updating the project information by grading the project (#19 above and below). This information will eventually give you an idea about whether it is advantageous to keep accepting certain types of projects or to focus on particular types. It will also give you an indication of whether you should continue accepting work from a particular client. For example, if client X’s projects consistently are rated 5 or 6 and just meet your rEHR, while client Y’s projects consistently rate 2 or 3 and always exceed your rEHR and meet or approach your desired EHR (dEHR), wouldn’t it be better for you to try to replace the work you receive from X with more work from Y? The idea of being a freelancer is to maximize profit while enjoying the work.

Rating a project

The other item worth mentioning here is the Totals (#20 above and below) section. When you create a new project profile, the Totals area is blank. It remains blank until the Project Status is changed to Completed (#4 below). At that time, the Totals area will be populated with a summary of the data — Time, Pages, Amount Earned, EHR, and APH — for the project. Even if the project is no longer visible in the Project Summary dialog, the data are retained in the dataset.

The Totals data


In Part IV, we will complete a project profile and work with some of the other tools that are part of Time Tracker.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync, and creator/owner of EditTools.

July 10, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part II)

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:17 am

By Richard Adin, Founder, An American Editor

In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I), I discussed the importance of collecting data. Although freelancers make decisions every day that affect their current and future incomes, most do so without adequate data or, if they have adequate data, without analyzing that data.

One reason for the lack of proper analysis is that it isn’t easy to get a quick overview of collected data. A second problem is that the data aren’t kept in an easily accessible standardized format. A third problem is it is too easy to forget to track the data. This is where EditTools 9’s Time Tracker comes into play: Time Tracker automates some of the analysis process and helps keep the data in a standardized format, along with making it easy to track the data.

Time Tracker has a lot of features, far too many to discuss in depth in an essay on An American Editor (AAE). (The Time Tracker Help file is 55 pages long. You can download the complete Time Tracker Help file in PDF format using this link.) Consequently, what you will get here is simply an overview.

But before you begin . . .

Before you begin using Time Tracker and analyzing your data, you should calculate your required Effective Hourly Rate (rEHR). If you don’t, you will have data, but that won’t be as meaningful and useful as it could be because the rEHR is the baseline value for determining what you need to charge and what you need to earn each working hour. I’ll provide a fuller discussion of how to calculate your rEHR at some other time; here I just summarize the rEHR.

The rEHR has been discussed in previous AAE essays, beginning with my 2010 essay, “Thinking About Money: What Freelancers Need to Understand” and in many subsequent essays, including my 2017 essay, “Do You Know Your Business’ Health?” Basically, the rEHR is the net (i.e., after tax) amount you need to earn each hour of work to pay all of your bills (which include food, shelter, and utilities) at a breakeven point — that is, no loss and no profit — or where 100% of revenue in becomes 100% of revenue out with all taxes paid.

Here is a quick illustration to explain the different terms: Your GROSS income for your fiscal year represents every dollar you earned BEFORE you paid anything, including self-employment taxes, to anyone, including yourself. Your NET income is the amount that is left from your gross income AFTER you have paid the required self-employment taxes (e.g., Medicare and Social Security) and either paid or set aside money to pay your quarterly withholding. So, if your gross income is expected to be $50,000 and your tax withholdings and payments (i.e., self-employment taxes and quarterly payments) combined equal $12,500, your NET income is $37,500.

That net income, however, only represents your actual income after taxes; it is not your rEHR. Your rEHR is the total of all costs for you to live and do business that are paid out of NET income divided by the number of billable hours you work. That some of these expenses may later be a deduction when you calculate your tax return is irrelevant; you still have to pay the expense from NET income.

The rEHR is important to know because it is the baseline against which you need to measure your GROSS and NET incomes. If your rEHR equals $40,000, but your NET income equals $37,500, you are not earning enough to breakeven. Conversely, if your rEHR equals $30,000, but your NET income equals $37,500, you are earning a decent profit. Whether you are earning too little, just enough, or making a profit affects your EHR. (I realize that I am mixing hourly [rEHR] and yearly [gross and net income] numbers, but you have to expand the rEHR to a yearly equivalent so that it can be compared against gross and net income.)

As I said earlier, this will be discussed more fully in a future essay. Now, let’s turn to Time Tracker.

Accessing Time Tracker

You access Time Tracker via the EditTools Ribbon, as shown here:

The Time Tracker icon

Time Tracker acts, among other things, as a timer, document backer upper, and data driver. Each of these roles is controlled and accessed through the Ribbon, beginning with the Off “button.” Clicking the Off button brings up the main Time Tracker dialog — the Time Tracker Project Summary:

Time Tracker Project Summary

The Project Summary dialog is the main control “room” for Time Tracker. Here is where all your projects are listed, until they are completed and removed from the active projects window. A completed project can be removed from the active projects window and saved (just not visible on this Project Summary dialog) or removed and deleted (this is not advised unless you don’t need to keep any of its data). This is also where you access the dialog for new projects. When you start your workday, this is where you select which project to activate for your work session.

Also notice the displayed summaries of project data. In the below image, the boxed material labeled #1 contains the project name and the identifiers of any subparts. In the example, the project is the “Giant Peaches of McCandy Province.”

Note that the project, as of today, has two subparts. Subparts generally represent billing groups. A client with a large project that is expected to last several months, for example, may want edited material submitted in batches, and a subpart can represent each batch — a way to track what has been done and what has been earned. Subparts are created as needed. As with everything in the Project Summary, subpart data, including the subpart name, are editable.

A closer look

The boxed material labeled #2 contains changing pieces of financial project data. At a glance, you can see the number of pages you have edited, how much you have earned, your EHR for the individual project, the average number of pages you are editing per hour (APH), the project’s status, and how you are calculating the fee (project, per page, per word, per character, or hourly).

The arrows labeled #3 above show the correlation between the project/subpart (#1) and the data (#2). The top arrow links the project as a project to the cumulative data, while the bottom two arrows correlate each subpart with its own data. For the “Giant Peaches” project, to date a total of 9 hours and 36 minutes has been spent editing, amounting to a total of 127 pages for which $635 has been earned. The overall EHR for the Giant Peaches project is $66.15 and an average of 13.23 pages have been edited each hour. The project is still open and the client is being charged a project fee.

The next two data lines (aligned with the bottom two arrows) show the breakdown of the cumulative data. For example, “Chapters 1-5,” the first subpart, was 66 pages and took 5 hours and 31 minutes to complete. The subpart accounted for $330 of the total earnings to date. For that subpart, the EHR was $59.80 and the APH was 11.96. Although the status is marked as Open, if the client has been billed for that subpart, it could be marked as Completed. Changing a subpart’s status to Completed does not affect the status of any other subpart or of the project. However, marking the main project line (the Giant Peaches line in this example) as Complete would affect all of the subparts.

As the image above shows, you can readily see how you are doing on an individual project basis. But that is not enough information. Although you may be doing very well so far on this project, what you need to know is how well you are doing over all of your projects. For that quick overview, look to the bottom of the Project Summary (see image below), where you see your EHR and APH data for the year to date (YTD) and over all of the projects you have tracked over the years (Lifetime).

The cumulative EHR and APH data

As noted earlier, the Giant Peaches EHR is $66.15 and APH is 13.23. But Giant Peaches is only one project that has been worked on since January 1 (the YTD data is calculated on a calendar-year basis) and, eventually, only one of many projects over multiple years (Lifetime data include every project in the Time Tracker dataset; in this instance, the first Time Tracker project was this calendar year, so the YTD and Lifetime numbers are the same). As the image above illustrates, over all of the projects worked on to date (project status does not affect inclusion or exclusion from the cumulative data; the cumulative data reflect all projects in the dataset, whether open or completed, but does not include data from deleted projects), the YTD and Lifetime EHRs are $46.89 and APHs are 13.13.

The data summarized here should be compared to the rEHR to determine how well the business is doing. If compared to the “going rate” numbers that float around chat lists, which usually range between $15 and $30 per hour, the business is doing quite well. Alas, the “going rate” numbers are not really helpful, even though most of us do like to compare what we are “charging” to what our colleagues are “charging.”

One last thing before we end Part II

If you charge only by the hour and charge, for example, $25 an hour, your EHR will always equal $25, unless you account for those hours spent working on a project that you cannot charge to the client. There are several ways to do so using Time Tracker. One way is to always use a subpart. The first subpart would be for all billable hours; then, if you run into overtime at your expense, create a second subpart for those data and set the fee for that subpart at $0 per hour. A second method (and one I like better) is to change the fee for the project from per hour to per project and enter the total amount you can bill the client as the project fee. Then you can keep timing and, as the hours increase but the fee does not, the EHR will decline.


In Part III, we will create a new project using the Create/Update Project dialog, which is where we enter all of the “permanent” information about a project.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync, and creator/owner of EditTools.

July 5, 2019

Why Do You Edit?

By Daniel Heuman

When I present at editing conferences, I’ve started asking the audience one question: Why do you edit?

The answers I get back are amazing and diverse; for example:

  • I like helping people tell their stories.
  • I contribute to medical research and change lives.
  • It gives me a good work-life balance.
  • I make science happen.
  • I help people communicate.
  • I get paid to read books!

The one answer that I’ve never heard is “I like checking consistency of hyphenation.” Nobody has ever told me that their driving force, the reason that gets them out of bed in the morning, is “making sure abbreviations are defined when they are first used.” That’s why editors love PerfectIt. It makes the mechanical elements of editing faster and easier, so you can focus on what matters. And that’s why I’m excited to announce the details of PerfectIt 4, our first new edition for Windows users since 2015.

The Basics of PerfectIt

If you haven’t used PerfectIt, its core philosophy is that humans make the best editing decisions, and they always will. The role of software is to help people make those decisions faster. PerfectIt doesn’t know what’s right. Instead, it alerts you to points in the document that could be errors. It leaves every decision up to you.

Here are some of the errors that PerfectIt helps you find:

  • Inconsistent hyphenation (e.g., “email” in one place, but “e-mail” in another).
  • Abbreviations that haven’t been defined or have been used before they’re defined.
  • Capitalization inconsistency (e.g., “Government” or “government”).
  • Brackets and quotes left open.
  • Numbers in the middle of sentences (spelled out or in numerals).
  • Inconsistencies in list punctuation and capitalization.
  • Use of sentence case or title case in headings.
  • Different spellings of the same word (e.g., “adviser” or “advisor”).
  • Common typos that spellcheck won’t find (no more “line mangers” or “pubic consultations”).

You can also use PerfectIt to enforce house style rules. The program is customizable so you can build in your own preferences. That’s useful for both freelance and in-house editors. If you’re a freelancer, PerfectIt lets you build in a style sheet for each client so it’s easy to keep track of different preferences. For an in-house editor, PerfectIt helps you enforce your style manual. You can set up your team with PerfectIt and make sure everyone at your organization follows the style manual (at long last).

PerfectIt doesn’t do anything that you can’t do. You can find and correct every error described above manually. However, these errors are time-consuming to find and easy to miss — and checking them is not why you edit! Checking mechanical errors is necessary work, but every minute you can save on the mechanics is more time for substantive editing.

What’s New in PerfectIt 4

In PerfectIt 4, we concentrated on one thing: increasing that time saving. We did that in two ways: improving PerfectIt’s initial scan and changing the interface. You can see it here.

In the past, PerfectIt’s initial scan was when you could step away from the computer and treat yourself to a cup of coffee or check your social media. With PerfectIt 4, a scan that could take as long as 5 or 10 minutes is now over in seconds. Coffee and social media will have to wait!

The biggest change in the interface is that every location now has a separate fix button. That makes it easier to use the preview text to see context and make changes. The time saving is just a second or two for each fix. However, the effect is cumulative. If you save a second or two on each fix, that can be a minute or two on each document. When you add that up over the course of a year, it’s significant.

Time savings aren’t the only improvement. We’ve also made changes to PerfectIt’s styles. We’ve added support for GPO Style, and we’ve updated WHO Style, UN Style, EU Style and American Legal Style. In addition, you can now base a style on an existing style. So if you do legal editing, you can start with PerfectIt’s built-in American Legal Style and build your own preferences on top of that.

Do More of What You Love

We made saving time the focus of PerfectIt 4 because that’s what every professional needs. Time saved on mechanics is more time for substantive editing (or more time for family, hobbies, and things that have nothing to do with editing). Do something you love. Checking for consistency mistakes is an important part of the job, but it isn’t why you edit.

Daniel Heuman is the CEO and founder of Intelligent Editing. PerfectIt is available for a 14-day free trial or a $70 per year purchase at You can purchase it for just $49 per year (30% discount) if you’re a member of one of these professional editing associations.

July 3, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I)

By Richard Adin

In the early years of my freelance editing career, I joined the EFA (Editorial Freelancers Association) as a way to “meet,” via its chat list, other freelance editors. One thing that struck me was how united — except for me and a very few others — EFA members were in their approach to the business of editing. We outliers viewed our chosen career as a business, while most of our colleagues viewed what they did as more like art; that is, they paid as little attention as possible to the business side of freelancing and as much as possible to the skill (editorial) side.

There were many discussions about financial struggles, poor pay, added tasks, multiple passes, and the like. There were few discussions (and very few discussants) regarding advertising, promotion, business practices, calculating what to charge, negotiating — any of the business-side skills. And when business-oriented discussions did start, they often ended quickly because colleagues piled on about how craft was so much more important than something as pedestrian as business and money.

As I said, I was an outlier. For me, it was about the Benjamins (the money). Freelancing was my full-time job — my only source of income. I had a mortgage to pay and two children to feed, clothe, keep healthy, and school. I had no trust fund or wealthy relative who couldn’t wait to send me money on a regular basis. Although how well I edited was very important to both myself and my clients, the money was equally important to me.

I recognized from the start that if I didn’t pay close attention to the business side of freelancing, my family and I would be in trouble. When my son needed $5,000 worth of dental work, it was my job to make sure he got it. It was not my job to tell the dentist, “Sorry, but I am an artisan without sufficient income to pay for your services.” When it came time for college, it was my job to try to get my children through with minimal or no debt for them to deal with upon graduation. And this doesn’t even address such things as providing for my retirement or providing health insurance and auto insurance and the myriad other things that are part of modern life.

In other words, for me, it was all about the Benjamins in the sense that my editorial work could not be viewed through rose-colored glasses as if the only thing that mattered was artisanship.

Which brings me to the point of this essay: EditTools 9 and the project management macros that are part of the just-released EditTools 9 (

In Business, Data Drive Success

What seems a lifetime ago, I wrote a series of essays for An American Editor about calculating pricing and why it is important not to look at rate surveys or ask colleagues for guidance (see, for example, the five-part essay “What to Charge,” beginning with Part I, and “The Quest for Rate Charts.” ) Yet, when I go to chat lists like Copyediting-l, it is not unusual to find colleagues asking “What should I charge?” or “What is the going rate?” Nor is it unusual to see a multitude of responses, not one of which is really informative or meaningful for the person who asked the question.

When I meet or speak with colleagues and these questions come up, I usually ask if they have read my essays (some yes, some no) and have ever actually gathered the data from their own experiences and used that data to calculate their personal required Effective Hourly Rate (rEHR) and their actual EHR, both for a project and over the course of many projects. Nearly universally, the answer to the latter questions (about data collection, rEHR, and EHR) is “no.” Why? Because “it is too much effort” or “the XYZ rate chart says to charge X amount” or “I can’t charge more than the going rate.”

But here are the problems: If you don’t collect the data,

  • you can’t determine what you are actually earning (as opposed to what you are charging; you can be charging $3 per page but actually earning $45 per hour, or you can be charging $5 per page but actually earning $9.25 per hour);
  • you can’t know what is the best way to charge to maximize your EHR for the kind of projects you do;
  • you can’t determine whether some types of work are more profitable for you than other types; and
  • you can’t easily determine what to bid/quote when asked for a bid/quote for a new project.

Ultimately, if you don’t know your rEHR, you don’t know if you are making money or losing money because you have nothing to compare your EHR against.

It is also important to remember that there are basically two ways to charge: by the hour or not by the hour (per word, per page, per project). Although many editors like to charge by the hour, that is the worst choice because whatever hourly rate you set, that is the most you can earn. In addition, it is not unusual to start a project and suddenly find that it is taking you less time — or more — to work than originally expected. If you charge by the hour and it takes less time than originally thought, you lose some of the revenue you were expecting to earn; if it takes more time, and assuming nothing has changed, such as the client making additional demands, you run up against the client’s budget. I have yet to meet a client with an unlimited budget and who doesn’t rebel against the idea that you quoted 100 hours of work but now say it will take 150 hours and expect the client to pay for the additional 50 hours.

However, to charge by something other than the hour requires past data so you can have some certainty, based on that past experience, that you can earn at least your rEHR and preferably a much-higher EHR. The way it works is this:

If you charge $3 per page for a 500-page project, you know you will be paid $1,500. If your rEHR is $30, you also know that you have to complete the job in no more than 50 hours. If you can complete the job in 40 hours, the client still pays $1,500 because the fee is not tied to the time spent but to the page count, and your EHR is $37.50. If you were charging by the hour and charged your rEHR of $30, you would be paid $1,200 — a $300 revenue loss.

All of this is based on knowing your data. During my years as a freelancer, I accumulated reams of data. The data were not always well-organized or easy to access until I got smarter about how track the information, but it was always valuable. Within months of first collecting data, I learned some valuable things about my business. I learned, among many other things, that for me (I emphasize that this applies solely to me and my experience):

  • medical textbooks earned a higher EHR than any other type of project;
  • charging by the page was better than charging hourly;
  • calculating a page by number of characters rather than words was better;
  • high-page-count projects that took months to complete were better than low-page-count projects (I rarely edited books of fewer than 3,000 manuscript pages and usually edited texts ranging between 5,000 and 7,500 manuscript pages; I often edited books that ran between 15,000 and 20,000+ manuscript pages);
  • working directly with an author was highly problematic and to be avoided;
  • limiting my services to copyediting was best (I phased out proofreading and other services);
  • working only with clients who would meet my payment schedule was best;
  • saying no, even to a regular, long-time client, was better for business than saying yes and not doing a topnotch job because I hated the work.

I also learned that investing in my business, such as spending many thousands of dollars to create and improve EditTools, paid dividends over the long term (the more-important term).

And I learned a lesson that many editors don’t want to accept: that sometimes you lose money on a project, but that is no reason not to try again. Too many editors have told me that when they have charged by a non-hourly method, they lost money, so they returned to hourly charging. How they know they lost money, I do not know, because they had no idea what their rEHR was, but their assumption was that if they earned less than they would have had they charged by the hour, they lost money. This is not only incorrect thinking, it is short-term thinking.

Such decisions have to be made based on data. Because collecting and analyzing accurate data is a stumbling block for many editors, EditTools 9 includes the Time Tracker project management macro, discussion of which will begin in Part 2 of this essay.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync, and creator/owner of EditTools.

July 1, 2019

EditTools 9 with Time & Project Management Macros Is Now Available

By Richard Adin

It has taken nearly two years to create the newest release of EditTools, but EditTools 9 is now available ( New features in EditTools 9 include:

Time Tracker not only lets you keep track of the time you are spending on a project, but it also keeps data about your projects and calculates your Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) and Average Pages per Hour (APH) for the specific project, all projects worked on in the current year, and all projects over your career.

EditTools 9 requires a new license; your EditTools 8 registration number will not work with EditTools 9. There are two versions of EditTools 9: a full version for a first-time EditTools user and an upgrade version for registered users of EditTools 8. Unlike past upgrades, the upgrade is not free.

For details about how to upgrade from EditTools 8 to EditTools 9, see the information at “Download Upgrade to EditTools v9 from v8.”

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnsync, and creator/owner of EditTools.

June 19, 2019

How Not to Network

By Ælfwine Mischler

With spring weather comes conference season and plenty of conferences for indexers, editors, and communications professionals of all types. For those of us who are freelancers, conferences offer a chance to socialize in addition to learning more about our craft and networking that might eventually lead us to new work gigs, since people are more likely to recommend or offer work to someone they have met in person.

But conferences are expensive. While there are ways to reduce the costs, unless you are a fantastic trainer or speaker whose costs will be covered by the conference hosts, you will have to lay out a considerable amount of money for travel, hotel, meals, and conference registration. It’s one reason that so many of us interact with colleagues online rather than in person.

That expense is particularly difficult for those of us who are new to the field. With that in mind, friends of an indexing software developer who had been generous in helping indexers established a scholarship in his memory to help defray the costs of a conference for newer indexers. In 2019, they offered two scholarships to entrants who had completed some formal index training within the past five years and had registered and paid to attend one of the annual national conferences offered in the USA, UK, South Africa, or Canada. If there were more than two entrants, the winners would be chosen by a blind drawing. (Disclosure: I was one of the 2019 scholarship winners.)

This was a great opportunity for networking and professional development. Unfortunately, it also led to a level of bad networking behavior in social media. While this is only one instance of how not to network, and an unusual one at that, it might be instructive for colleagues.

It so happened that the other winner and I had both completed our training five years ago, so this was the last time we would be eligible for the scholarship. As soon as the winners were announced in one of the indexing e-mail groups, one person — whom I’ll refer to as I.M. Pistov — started to rage in the group. Pistov complained that the scholarship had unfairly gone to two established indexers and that this showed bias in the indexing organization. Pistov claimed to have experience in editing and writing, but having difficulty breaking into indexing. The organization was corrupt, this was a terrible field to go into, etc.

When some people tried to tell Pistov otherwise, he accused them of calling him a liar. At least one other person on the list said something about how entertaining Pistov’s behavior was. Others politely told Pistov to reconsider his marketing plan: Maybe he should concentrate on using his website, and he should consider how he speaks to clients — if it was anything like what he was demonstrating on the forum, he should reconsider being a freelancer in any area, not just indexing.

I stayed out of the fray until one of the administrators of the scholarship spoke up to reiterate the rules for the scholarship and to state that the indexing organization and the forum were not in any way affiliated with the scholarship. A few hours later, Pistov came back on the forum and apologized for his earlier behavior. At that point, I came into the discussion to say that I admired his courage in apologizing in public and to wish him well. One of the less-gracious posters from earlier in the day then apologized to Pistov, moving herself up a notch in my estimation.

This incident is an example of how not to network. It might not be as common as other kinds of rude behavior toward colleagues online, or something like asking colleagues to share their client lists, but it had the potential for Pistov to be known and remembered for anything but his professional skills and value as a colleague.

Nowadays, most of us do the majority of our networking in e-mail discussion lists, online groups, blogs, and similar outlets. We have to remember that our behavior in an online forum is just as important as our behavior in person. If you feel that you must publicly voice your disappointment with something related to your profession, at least do not accompany it with name-calling and unfounded accusations of bias or cheating. Better yet, vent your anger and disappointment in a Word file and delete it unused, so there is no risk of accidentally hitting the Send or Post button.

There are dozens, at the least, of associations and social media communities to participate in for networking purposes — but we all need to remember that our online behavior in these forums is also an important way to connect with colleagues. Over the years that I have been a member of the Copyediting List (CE-L) and various indexing e-groups, for instance, I have learned who the frequent posters are and what areas they specialize in, and I have also gleaned something of their personalities. One member seems to be very sensitive; I have to be careful how I word things directed to her. Another always gives such short, almost cryptic answers that I have to ask for clarification. I ask questions, but I also have learned to be of assistance to colleagues whenever possible, and to always use a polite, pleasant tone — it’s so easy for online communications to come across the wrong way.

It works both ways: Colleagues have contacted me both on- and off-list with questions in my area of expertise, and I have referred colleagues and been referred by colleagues for gigs. The ones who behave professionally are the ones who earn responses and referrals.

There are many more tips for networking online, some of which have already been discussed in this blog. See, for example,

Are Networking and Marketing Essential to an Editing Business?:

Making the Best Use of Interaction with Colleagues:

Have you had any difficult experiences in social media behavior? How have you handled such incidents?

June 17, 2019

On the Basics: Where Do We Go for Our Own Editing Support?

Filed under: On the Basics — An American Editor @ 9:32 am
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By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, AAE Owner and Editor-in-Chief

As often happens, I’ve been inspired by a Facebook post to write a column here. This time, someone asked where editors who are also writers find editors for their writing work. Here’s how I responded:

“Since I’ve been writing, editing and proofreading professionally for a looonnnng time, I’m lucky to have a network of colleagues and friends whom I can trust to look at my stuff if needed. If none of my go-to people are available, I give preference to anyone who has attended a Communication Central ‘Be a Better Freelancer’® conference.
“I would never bother with a ‘nameless editing site’ or outlets like Upwork. If I didn’t know anyone to ask, I’d go to the EFA, NAIWE, ACES, EAC, SfEP, etc., to look for someone whose skills and background seem compatible.”

As a much-published writer, I get edited by some of my clients, so I know what it feels like to be on that end of the relationship or process. As a freelance editor and proofreader, I work on material by clients, some of whom are more nervous about being edited than others (although I’ve rarely had to deal with outright outrage). As the owner and editor-in-chief of the An American Editor blog, I edit colleagues regularly (and I hope sensitively).

As we all know, editing can be a delicate dance: We have to learn how to balance fixing obvious and more-subtle errors with retaining the author’s voice and not upsetting an author by the level or volume of changes we suggest. We have to learn how to relay our substantive changes with authority and tact — not always easy to do simultaneously. We have to be able to explain or defend some of our changes, which can be a challenge when there’s something we know is wrong but we can’t quote a specific rule to support what we think the author should do.

Being professional editors ourselves makes the search for our own editors both more challenging and more interesting. We’re likely to be more demanding about the skills and experience another editor brings to the process, and we might be more difficult to work for. Finding and working with editors on our own material can make us better at both writing and editing by reminding us of the value of that outside set of eyes on our work, and showing us where our writing needs help. We also might be grateful to learn how to make our own writing better, stronger, livelier …

As editors, we know how the process works. Some of us may have had challenging experiences with clients, so we know how not to behave on that side of the equation.

Steps in the process

The first step is to accept that everyone needs an editor (or at least a proofreader). No matter how experienced any of us might be, we can’t see our own writing with total objectivity. We know what we meant to say and often see that intent, rather than how a phrase, passage or entire article might come across to readers. We even miss clear-cut typos in our own work, especially if we’ve turned off spellchecker to enhance the writing flow or don’t use resources like PerfectIt or various Editorium tools to automate some of the process.

We have to put our egos aside so we can focus on what I see as the ultimate goal of editing: making the work better.

The next step is to define what we need or want from a colleague’s editing services, and whether we can pay for their help.

With all that said, where do we go (channeling the Chief Blue Meanie’s plaintive query to his sidekick Max in “Yellow Submarine”!)?

As I said in my Facebook post, I can’t see myself using online sources like, Upwork, Reedsy, Craigslist, etc., to find an editor for my own writing. I know that many colleagues use such sites to find projects and find them worthwhile, but I turn to other channels. I start by looking among my colleagues for someone who has editing experience, has demonstrated strong knowledge of usage and all its aspects, follows the rules of groups or lists that we belong to, and seems as they would be sensitive to an author’s tender ego or at least knows how to relay suggested edits tactfully. In other words, I probably look for someone a lot like myself. We probably all would do that.

Having a colleague edit my writing work is usually a simple matter of contacting someone and saying, “Do you have time to look something over for me?” For those here who don’t have the great good fortune of a network like mine, here are a few tips.

  • Edit yourself — set your manuscript aside for a day or two, and then go through it one more time to make sure it’s as clean and complete as possible. Try to view it through a reader’s eye to find clunky passages, danglers, missing facts, consistent style (especially with character names!), and any other elements you would look for in a client’s material.
  • Put together a brief description of your manuscript or project — genre, length in number of words, preferred style, planned outlet if known, deadline, etc.; level of editing you want to receive; budget. (If you’re low on funds, think of ways you might be able to swap services, but remember how you feel when a prospective client wants Cadillac editing for go-cart prices.)
  • Put your ego in your pocket.
  • Go to reliable sources: the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, Editorial Freelancers Association, American Copy Editors Society, American Medical Writers Association, Society for Technical Communication, Society of Editors and Proofreaders, Editors Canada, freelance sections of specialty groups like the Society of Professional Journalists or National Association of Science Writers, etc.
  • Post or list your project with one of these professional associations, or identify a few people through their directories who look like a good match and contact them directly.
  • Remember to let those you don’t choose to work with know that you’ve found someone.
  • Go for it!

If you’ve had someone edit your writing work, how did it go? And are there resources I’ve overlooked that colleagues would find useful for this?

May 24, 2019

Thinking Fiction: Protecting an Editor’s Rights — If Any

By Carolyn Haley

A subject that comes up from time to time in publishing circles is whether an editor has any copyright interest in an author’s manuscript — that is, the edited version of the manuscript. Some editors believe the edited version is unique to them and forms a new and different work, which can give them leverage in demanding payment from a recalcitrant party.

I first saw this tactic suggested as a last-ditch measure against publishers that don’t play fair — those that pay late or try not to pay at all. I’ve since seen editors adding language to the same effect in their contracts with independent authors, to protect themselves from clients who change their tune after the job is done and refuse to pay, or take way longer to pay than was agreed. As part of the language, the editor’s claim to having a copyright in the edited version becomes null and void upon receipt of full payment.

In my opinion, attempting to conflate copyright with payment is irrational and unprofessional, regardless of whether a given case is winnable in a court of law. My opinion comes from my combined position as an author, an editor, and a self-employed business entity.

How Copyright Works

Consider first that copyright applies to intellectual property. Per the U.S. Copyright Office, it pertains to “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.”

“Original” and “tangible” are the key terms, because ideas themselves are common and fluid, and expressed in myriad ways by myriad people, and have been so over centuries, if not millennia. Copyright law only protects an individual’s unique presentation of an idea, not an idea itself. (Nor are titles protected by copyright.) In addition (italics mine), “copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”

A work qualifies as derivative “if the changes are substantial and creative, something more than just editorial changes or minor changes. . . . For instance, simply making spelling corrections throughout a work does not warrant a new registration, but adding an additional chapter would.”

With those criteria in mind, how much does an editor have to change in a manuscript before it becomes a different enough “tangible medium of expression” to acquire uniqueness, and thus give the editor a copyright?

How Editing Works

Adjustments in punctuation, spelling, subtleties of phrasing, consistency — the tools of line editing and copy editing — all serve to clarify an author’s unique expression of their ideas, not change them. Perhaps developmental editing can get deep and gnarly enough to significantly change an author’s presentation, but does it change the book’s concept, audience, characters, or plot, or the author’s essential language and style?

If so, then the contract between author and editor should be about co-authorship, not editing.

The main thing to understand is that in an editing job, the author has the right to accept or reject the editor’s changes and suggestions. That gives the author ownership of the content by default. In some draconian contracts out there, an author may have signed away that right and must accept whatever a publisher’s editor or an independent editor does to the work — but in that situation, the author has made a regrettable mistake. In the absence of such contract terms, the agreement between author and editor generally is based on the editor helping improve the author’s work, not alter it.

Understanding Editing vs. Revising

Another argument against claiming copyright of the edited version of a work is the nebulous relationship between editing and revising. A manuscript is a work in progress until it’s locked into its published form and released. Until that point, starting with the first draft, most authors revise their work numerous times, and may have other parties, such as friends, family, colleagues, beta readers, editors, proofreaders, agents, and pre-publication reviewers — paid or unpaid — participate in the process. These helpers, individually and collectively, contribute to a version of the manuscript different from the one before, which is different from the one before, as often as needed to complete and polish the work.

Should each party in that revision cycle get a copyright interest in the work? Should the parties involved in the next cycle supersede them because a new, copyrightable version has been created?

What if the author desires to register their copyright after the first draft? Registration is not required for an author’s copyright to be valid, because copyright is automatically granted the moment a work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Registration is recommended to protect the author’s interests in the event of a legal challenge, but is not conditional for protection. Nonetheless, many authors register their copyrights because doing so makes them feel more secure. Imagine, then, what the paperwork and costs would be if they had to register every updated version of a work in progress, each one involving different people!

The whole idea is silly, because all editing occurs before a work is deemed complete. As such, it is subsumed into the overall development and revision process. Without a legal structure to define and support the many layers of building a publishable work, and the many people who might be involved, there is no basis for giving anyone but the author a copyright in the work.

The Alternative to Claiming Copyright

Having copyright-related language in editing contracts might be effective with publishing companies that employ accounting departments and lawyers, who fear legal action and can’t or won’t take the time to research the efficacy of defending copyright claims. Such language also might discourage individual authors from playing head games with independent editors.

More likely, the language would chase away independent authors of good will who are paying out of their own pockets for professional editing services, and who desire a personal, supportive, and honest relationship with their editors. Many writers have been coached by other writers or online gurus to fear that editors will steal, or drastically change, their work. Adding the threat of somebody claiming a copyright on their work will just reinforce their anxiety and give them a reason to look elsewhere — or go without editing at all.

In which case, an editor won’t have to worry about getting paid.

Getting paid does remain the bottom line. It can best be assured through transparency and a straightforward contract. My contract states: “Unless a co-authorship arrangement is made in writing, all royalties and monies gained from the sale of the book will be the sole property of the book’s copyright owner. Editor acknowledges no rights to the manuscript beyond the right to withhold delivery of the edited manuscript until final payment for work is received.”

In other words, the politically incorrect expression “no tickee, no shirtee” applies. I consider this a reasonable business position (i.e., I do the work, you pay me for it), and that claiming a copyright for something that isn’t mine is needlessly aggressive. It is also not trustworthy, owing to the copyright claim’s dubious enforceability and the specious element of “oh, that claim disappears as soon as you pay me.”

From an author’s standpoint, I wouldn’t hire an editor who would hang that kind of threat over me. My book is my book, and somebody who thinks they have the right to hijack it is somebody I wouldn’t deal with.

A Balanced Approach

Editing is — or should be — a cooperative profession, not an adversarial one. Editors stating plainly that they expect to be paid are declaring themselves professional businesspeople. Editors stating plainly that they are prepared to co-opt an author’s copyright are inviting trouble. Most publishers and indie authors will pay for services rendered. The minority who won’t pay are the reason that editors consider using the copyright-claiming ploy.

One way to avoid needing such a ploy is to require a deposit before commencing work. This usually isn’t an option for independent editors dealing with publishing companies, which state the terms that editors must take or leave. In such cases, editors need to weigh the pluses and minuses, negotiate the best they can, and be prepared to accommodate a loss should the project go awry.

When making deals with indie authors or amenable companies, however, editors should state their terms and stick to them. I have found that a signed agreement delivered with a 50 percent deposit demonstrates a client’s intention to pay. They go into the deal knowing that I will sit on the finished edit until they pay the balance, and if they don’t pay, they lose the work and have to start all over again.

In the event they don’t pay, I may have wasted time but not suffered a total loss. The less-than-expected final compensation might end up being a painful learning experience, but still, learning can’t be discounted. Meanwhile, I still have something in my pocket to show for the effort.

Nine times out of 10 (more accurately, 9.999 times out of 10), I end up with full payment on time, a happy client, an open relationship, and future work from the client or someone they refer. These benefits come from respecting authors’ work and position, and not messing with their heads. Better yet, their work goes to publication; and with luck and a good story, cleanly edited, they enjoy publishing success. I doubt I would have this track record if I made it a policy to step on their writerly toes.

How many of our readers have invoked copyright claims on edited work with authors who have not paid as promised and planned? Has it worked for you? What other techniques have you used to ensure being paid?

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, 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 1997, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at the New York Journal of Books, and has presented on editing fiction at the Communication Central conference.

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