So, what’s the difference between £500 and £3,000?
Those of you who are hot on numbers (clearly, not Ark, Kev or Mak who complained about numerical analysis on the previous post) will quickly answer, £2,500.
But, to be serious, what can you expect the difference to be between a job at the bottom end of the price range and one at the top?
Price is no degree of quality—is cheap always bad, or is there a real difference in quality?
Pay top money, get top work?
An expensive price may mean that someone has a lot of on-costs and/or wants a lot of profit. Nothing wrong with either of those. Most people are in business to make a profit not to provide a charity service.
What on-costs can you reasonably expect to be paying for if you use an expensive firm?
Office space, including rent, rates, maintenance, telephone/Internet bills, furniture, hardware
Employee costs, including employers NI, holiday pay, sick pay, potential redundancy, maternity/paternity leave
Someone has to fund that, and it needs to be built into costs. Simple as that.
A few years ago there were a couple of firms working in construction that had the market pretty much cornered. They charged out at around £35 an hour for a general operative and paid £10–14 to the employees.
For the slow ones reading this, that’s a difference of £25–21 an hour, or £1,000–840 a week. For each employee. At one point one of these firms had 30 employees. Two years later those employees were down to a handful. Neither firm exists any more. There are on-costs, profit, and greed.
Not that they were bad quality, both firms employed good quality tradespeople, but in a cut-throat economic climate, their prices were being undercut, by cheaper firms using less-skilled employees.
Pay peanuts, get (Gib) monkeys?
Cheap jobs are interesting. We once got a joiner who was just starting his own business, we got in early and got a cheap price and an excellent job. We met an electrician who was willing to work for €30 a day many years ago. We paid more than that and fed him and his dog and got a good job. Everyone was happy. Right time, right place, right people.
In terms of qualifications, the joiner wasn’t qualified, the electrician was.
So, qualifications and experience are a guide, but not everything. And someone working on their own, will always have less on-costs, simple as that.
In the case of editors, an editor working from home has very few costs. They can afford to charge less than an established firm that has a registered office address and employs a number of staff. More editorial firms are using freelancers courtesy of the virtual world. But freelancers and self-employed editors also have overheads: NI, no holiday pay, no work pension, (so they have to make provision for those), and ongoing costs—computer packs up? Well, anyone with any sense will have more than one, I’ve got three (two of which are of dubious status) plus an iPad. Updated versions of style guides. Down time researching current trends in fiction. Down time reading, just like any other job, to keep up with the game, let alone stay ahead of it. There is nothing so fickle as fashion and fiction is as subject to fashion as anything else.
What else to factor in? An editor may be subsidised by a partner or parents. At the other end of the age range, they may have a pension from elsewhere, have paid off a mortgage. So, maybe, in either case they can afford to undercut the going rate. It happens all the time. How many people come out of the armed forces and set up in construction or taxi/HGV driving, when they can already survive out of their pension? Yet, people who have been doing the same job all their lives are struggling to pay rent or mortgage so need to charge a going rate, while the others are subsidised.
Years ago, an accountant colleague employed an electrician on the black and complained that his rate wasn’t cheap enough. I loved her self-righteous attitude. ‘I’m complicitly defrauding the IR but I’m complaining about his rate not being what I want.’ Gotta love accountants.
The middle way?
A while ago we did an office redec. The manager decided the cheap price was ridiculous, and the expensive one sounded like a request for an open cheque so he went for our price (we didn’t know we were in the middle until afterwards).
So, what to do?
Truth is, there are no set rules for whoever you employ as an editor. And many self-publishing authors can not afford to pay hundreds, let alone thousands, for their work to be edited and proofed. But here are a few tips.
- You need to be happy with who you employ. You need to be able to rely on their professionalism, but still feel that you are in control about what you want. A decorator may say that woodchip and vinyl silk are not a good idea, an editor may suggest your writing is too passive. Your choice to reject or accept their advice. But you need a good working relationship above all. Agreeing to disagree is paramount.
- Qualifications and experience aren’t a bad recommend. If someone’s been working in the industry for 30 or 40 years, there’s a chance they may know what they are doing. In terms of editing, leave alone the recent graduate in English/Fine Arts/Creative Writing. They may have the theory … but … and they sure as hell won’t be any good at proof-reading.
- Make sure you know what you want. Read around. Susan M. Toy commented that as a writer she took editing courses to know what to expect from an editor. What you really need to know is whether you want comments on plot/overall story and style, or a basic proofread, or a mix that looks at style, checks facts, identifies repetition, picks up on dialogue, characters, pace, verb tenses and usage etc. Don’t get hung up on terms like developmental, structural, substantive, line and copy edit. Know what you want, but consider asking for what you need.
- Make sure you have an agreed set of terms and conditions. Read them. Make sure you are happy with them. Don’t be like everyone in hospital who signs their consent to an operation without even reading about potential problems and risks. If you want to change the T&Cs before you sign on the virtual dotted line, do so. Anything after that will cost you.
- Do your research. Look at different prices. Does an edit include a proofread or not? Is it one edit only? Is it time limited? Do your queries cost money? Do you have to make all the changes yourself via suggested editorial track changes? Does the firm offer discounts for future work? Is that time limited? Does the editor provide general testimonials or can they provide individual references?
- Get a free sample edit from your proposed editor/s. If they won’t do that, forget them. Would you pay a builder to start work on your house, without a visit or a written quotation detailing what they will do?
- Payment up front. A lot of editors require 100% in advance. Which is why you need to do your research very carefully. That’s a lot of money for something you might not be happy with.
So, hopefully that’s provided some answers why there could be a variation between £500 and £3,000 for what could be the same job. The cheapest aren’t always the best option, but there are good people out there offering affordable prices. Sometimes you strike lucky. The expensive ones may have good people, but aren’t necessarily any better, if you can even afford them—and—their on-costs. Same for the in-the-middle ones.
The bottom line is, there are no easy answers.
But here’s some light relief.
First, dog pix, as Kev moaned that I need to add dog pix to long posts.
The boys enjoy the winter sun.
Second, the results to the ‘what car is this‘ quiz, with some words provided by the author of Few Are Chosen, MT McGuire. (Thanks MT).
The cars in my book aren’t actually cars, they are snurds – flying, submersible, vehicles.
Snurds were born out of my love of driving and the skill involved in driving safely at speed, subject to road conditions and within the legal limit.
They were also, I confess, born out of a combination of my enjoyment of driving reasonably fast (conditions and speed limit permitting) and my impatience when following vehicles which go more slowly than I.
You know the kind of thing: farm vehicles, heavy plant, lorries… The impatience in question is usually born out of my own inefficiency, either by being late or not estimating the journey time properly.
So, while waiting for a place to overtake safely I have always dealt with my impatience by pretending I could morph my vehicle into aviator mode, take off and leave them behind.
I want one so badly it hurts; although anyone who has seen The Spy Who Loved Me will know that I didn’t invent them.
The shapes of the snurds in Few Are Chosen, and the rest of the series, are merely a selection of MTM dream cars.
My main character, The Pan of Hamgee, has a snurd based on the Elan that Lotus produced in the early 1960s. There are several variants but I gave him the S2 and named it an SE2 because I’d call all those extras ‘special equipment’. For pictures of a real one and a bit more info, there’s a Wikipedia page you can look at here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Elan. The Pan’s is the one in the first picture at the top.
The MK II
A no-brainer, this one. In the 1960s any bank robber worth his salt would be driving a MKII Jag because, for a while, it could go faster than the police. The ultimate felon’s car from the golden age of cops and robbers, Big Merv had to have one. In the unlikely event you don’t know what they look like, here’s Wikipedia again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_Mark_2. It’s also the Jag driven by Inspector Morse, longer and leaner than an S Type.
Based on something called the Uhlenhaut Mercedes, of which only two road legal versions were ever made (out of a handful in total). Frankly, Mercedes should probably be taken to court on some kind of road-candy denial charge for not making any more of them. It was based on the F1 Mercedes chassis but after a grim accident at LeMans in 1954, Mercedes withdrew from racing and also demurred from putting this car into production. If you thought that one with the gull wing doors was cool, wait until you have a look at this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/auto-clasico-mallorca/5642829717/ and for a bit more info, thank you Wikipedia one final time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_300_SLR#Uhlenhaut_Coup.C3.A9
The two on the back cover in the ‘guess the car’ quiz are based on Jaguar (front) and Mercedes (behind) cars.
Lots of you got the Jag, a few hit on the Mercedes, even though the famous triangle had been blacked out, but Sylvia had the eagle eye for the gull-wing doors. If you want a prize, download MT’s book from Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and everywhere else.
Years ago, I wasted a lot of time on a Land Rover forum, and a handful of us would post rare and unknown cars of all types. I had the art of searching for something I knew nothing about down to a fine art back then. And I learned an amazing amount of useless information about old cars.
Thanks to MTM for the geeky car info, and to everyone who played and had a guess.
And, finally, chatting with melouisef, I thought a poll about what sort of fiction we prefer would be interesting. No rigid descriptions here, totally mine. If you want to add a category, that isn’t there, please mention in comments.
Thanks for the comments, so here’s the add-on poll. I’ve put contemp and lit fiction together, on the simplistic grounds that they aren’t genre-specific. Many thanks for the suggestions.