That probably sounds foolish. Why would you want to work against your editor? But see, here’s the thing: Working with them begins before you’ve even agreed on a project.
I’ll use myself as the example. I can’t speak for other editors’ expectations, but mine are pretty simple. At least I think they are.
When you’re in the market for an editor, don’t take the first one you come across. Poke around. Ask other writers of similar work to yours who they used, and don’t be skittish about asking nitty-gritty questions like “How much did they charge?” And why similar work to yours? Because many editors have favorite genres or are specialized in some way. A medical journal editor isn’t likely to be a good fit for your urban fantasy.
Most professional editors have a contact page of some kind. Maybe it’s a blog. Maybe it’s a Facebook page. Maybe it’s a full-blown website. I’ll bet if they’re active on Twitter, there’s a link in their bio. Go to it and read. Poke around. If there are links to further information, follow them. Chances are good that’s where you’ll find things like their rates, the kind(s) of editing they do, their specialization (if they have one), and so on.
Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I expect anyone contacting me to have at least looked here at my personal page, and to have read my Google docs (clearly linked from that page). Most of my contacts come from Twitter. The link to my page is right there in my bio. I don’t hide it. If your first email contact with me asks me what my rates are, I do two things: I mentally note that you haven’t done your homework, and I send you to my page so you can do it. “What are your rates? I have a magazine that needs editing” is not the best opening for fruitful negotiation. It tells me you have no idea what my focus is (hint: not periodicals, no matter what the topic) and that you haven’t bothered to look at my info page. And when that’s the entire contents of the first-contact email? Well.
I’m not going to cover every contingency here, but suffice to say I expect prospective clients to act like they’re professionals, and to treat me like one. I’m not your great aunt who taught English forty years ago and who’ll do you a favor by reading your little story. I have over a hundred titles under my editorial belt (not counting those I worked on as an employee of a company). I’ve been doing this as a freelancer since 2012, and before that I was a technical editor and later a creative director (read: production editor) for a major RPG publisher.
I know what I’m doing.
Ask me questions if there’s something that wasn’t covered by the docs linked from my personal page. I tried to hit everything that I felt was important. Ask sooner rather than later. Failing that, ask as soon as you think of the question.
My services include developmental critique (short of a developmental edit, but still a 30,000-foot view of your work and the Big Picture Problems), substantive editing, line editing, and copy editing. It’s difficult to explain the differences between those last three because my typical method combines them. (Briefly, though, substantive and line editing have to do with the structure of the work and the flow of the words. Typically in fiction I don’t have to do a lot with structure. The flow, though . . . that’s a big deal.) That’s how I learned, through my on-the-job training. Since then I’ve also taken a few courses to fill in the gaps.
I know what I’m doing.
Some editors charge by the hour, and some by the word. Me, I charge by the word for a full edit because I know indie authors aren’t made of money, and while it would be lovely to make more of it for myself, I don’t want to price myself out of the market I’m aiming for. Some clients’ work I can breeze through (a week or less for 100K words, including a proofing pass), others’ takes longer (a month for the same word count). For a dev critique, I charge by the hour (minimum of 2 hours). It’s a different kind of work.
What can you do on your side, to make this whole experience better for both of us?
Let’s do a new post on that. Tomorrow or the day after good for you?