So, editing's easy, is it? Then why  don't you get it right the first time and do away with the big, bad editors who have the gall to expect payment for the work they do?

Yes - I'm angry - In fact, I'm furious. Some people seem to think that all you need is a good story and it doesn't matter if you can't string a coherent sentence together with appropriate spelling, punctuation and grammar because the editor will fix that. It's time to wake up and smell the coffee; story may be king, but if your readers stumble over every sentence you write, they won't bother to read much of your work. 

Then there are those who think anyone who has ever read a book can edit one - wrong again. You can't find all the answers by running it through the spelling and grammar checker on your computer. Sometimes, they get it wrong - spectacularly so. In order to edit, you have to have a sound knowledge of grammar and structure and the common sense to know when it's correct to allow idioms. You also need a range of international dictionaries and an understanding of dialect and slang across a number of cultures.

Who am I to be saying all this? Let me present my credentials. I hold a teaching degree in English and Modern Foreign Languages (French and German) and have in excess of 30 years' experience in education. I am a grammarian by trade as well as an author, poet and editor. However, I'm not here to throw a rule book at anyone. I'm the first to admit that sometimes the rule book should be thrown out of the window. I also believe that the best editing is a process of negotiation between author and editor and this should happen before the work is even seen by a publisher.

That brings me to my next point. Would you expect the plumber to come out and fix your toilet without charging a call-out fee? Editing takes time and in today's world, time is money. Writing is an art form and editing is a craft. If I undertake to edit a book at any stage, that is a professional commitment on my part and whilst I am doing that I am not earning my living any other way. So if I'm editing a book for a week, that's a week when I'm not teaching and therefore editing is my only source of income. My bills still have to be paid, I still have to eat. I cannot afford to be a charity. 

Recently, I spent a substantial amount of time editing two extremely difficult pieces of work and the publisher who had engaged me reneged on our payment terms, claiming that the work was unsatisfactory but failing to provide evidence in an accessible format. By the time I added up the working days I'd lost and the failure to pay the agreed fee - or even part of it - I was left in dire straits financially. The client then informed me that in future they would only pay 25% of the going rate for my services, and that, only if they approved the work after it had been done. This, after spending six months telling me I was the best thing since sliced bread! (I have the emails to prove it.)  Needless to say, we have parted company. I could see where this was going. I would do the work; they would not approve it so I would not be paid. Or, if they did approve it, I would be paid the equivalent of $10 a day or less. They told me I would be easy to replace. Fair enough, but my heart goes out to my successor with this message. I hope your altruism pays off because sooner or later your work won't.

Johanna Nield
8/4/2013 06:35:38 am

It's worrying that any publisher would behave this way: one would hope that most publishers would be appreciative of the skills involved, let alone the cost of one's time to provide such a necessary service. Have you notified the authors?

8/4/2013 07:17:22 am

*Applause* As someone who has used your services, and superb they are, I can truly say it's their loss. I am so pleased you have posted this and the publisher should be named and shamed, but no doubt they will continue to act the same way. Unfortunately there is a lot of similar practice going on in almost every field of employment. Shonks and cons abound.

8/4/2013 08:42:14 am

I'm sorry to hear this, Lil. I know an editor who recently had a client refuse to pay. He's going to write more contracts with clients in the future.

8/4/2013 09:39:17 am

With a group of other professionals we offer a very cheap editing service. Between jobs, we take on editing and we have pro editors in our community group. It's not just publishers who 'cheat'. When a client takes us on they quite often end up making claims that "You changed my work!" etc ad nauseum. This is just another way to 'get out of paying'. Fortunately there are also those who work with us and end up with a fine piece of work.

Will Macmillan Jones
8/4/2013 04:59:10 pm

Head for Preditors & Editors, Lillian, and make some noise. After all if they are going to treat a professional editor in that way, how will they behave to the authors?

8/4/2013 11:45:19 pm

I feel your pain. This is the kind of stuff that happened to me a couple of times when I was a copywriter. I'd write stuff for someone, they'd' say it was rubbish and then I'd discover they'd used it.

Very, very annoying.



Miss Singapore
8/4/2013 11:52:08 pm

Brava, lovely Lil. I have secured the services of Cornerstones to help me. Even though many have cried against it I know I'm not a detail person and need an expert to help.

Hugs x

Ron A sewell
8/5/2013 12:35:10 am

Sad state od affairs when you do not get paid for work done. I often work with a cover designer and gladly pay the cost of her time and work. Perhapd money up front or at least a deposit is the way to go.


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