April is the month that everyone in the U.S. thinks about money—which makes this an appropriate time to talk money and indie books.
Although comparing dollar amounts is an easy way to try and compare services for your book, including editing, this practice gives you an incomplete picture at best. At worst, it leads you to make a choice you later regret. Being cheap often leads to looking cheap, and may actually cost you more in the long run. Let’s go over the top parameters your editor considers—and why these are more useful than price.
Key information your editor wants about your book
Chances are, if you’ve approached an editor or writing coach and started the conversation by asking for a fee quote, they’ve countered with a series of questions.
- How long is it?
- What genre is it?
- What kind of work do you want done on it (there are choices)?
- Is it specialized?
- When do you need it by?
These questions pertain to more than books, by the way. If you are looking for a copywriter for your blog, or an editor for your article or your website, the same questions apply.
Answers to these questions help your editor provide you with an accurate quote. Importantly, they also help you find the editor best suited to your project and your needs. If you’re seeking a book editor, blog copywriters—amazing creatures that they are—will not be your ideal choice. The time horizons and type of content are very different.
Content farms serve a purpose—just not yours
There are a lot of websites that promise to provide you with writers for $5 a blog post, $20 for a white paper, and $50 for proofreading or editing. These virtual clearinghouses are un-affectionately known as content farms, because the business model promises to churn out as many projects as possible for the lowest price per unit.
As an author or a business owner on a budget, you might believe a marketplace where writers and editors try to outbid each other in the lowness of their prices benefits you. Unfortunately, the fact is that professionals working for $5 or $50 a project can’t afford to spend much time working on yours. They’re busy collecting as many projects as they can so they can pay the bills. If you are working on a book, this is bad news. You need someone who can afford to pay sustained attention to your work. You don’t want someone who’ll take a quick read through and mail it in. How much value will they bring to your project? How much time are they willing and able to spend on it?*
Additionally, many of the “affordable” options at content farms work from overseas and may not speak English as their first language—a definite editing handicap.
Your book is not a pair of jeans at the department store
Stores arrange jeans by size, color, cut, and so on. One pair of extra-long distressed boot-cut jeans by a particular brand is designed to be the same as any other of the same size. You can pull any of them off the rack, and, barring manufacturing damage, they are interchangeable, as is their price.
Now think about your writing. Is every book identical in size, shape, and purpose?
You need to consider value, rather than price:
- What are your goals? Are you trying to attract more clients, build a speaking platform, connect with readers who will become avid fans of your work?
- What kind of a voice do you want your piece to have, and can your writer or editor help you with that?
- If you are dealing with a specialized topic, does your editor have knowledge or expertise in that area?
- Can they meet your deadline?
Your project is worth more than $50, and might be worth something quite different from another book even in the same genre. Think about what you want to achieve with your book. If the results look cheap and slap-dash, how valuable is that book to you? What does a “budget” version of your book do for your brand as an author?
The final irony is that, in the end, you may pay more for your project because you need to fix the bad job the cheaper options provided you.
The bottom line
One size does not fit all. Awarding work to the lowest bidder is a dangerous way to do business. Compare your options on value. What are you getting in return for that dollar amount? The answer should be: an expert resource that brings your book to the next level.
Don’t shortchange your book because of the false sense of comparison that a monetary amount gives you. Ask the same questions that your editor will be asking. Your book will hopefully last a lot longer, and be of more value to you and your readers, than that pair of jeans.
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*In fairness, you can find competent writers at content farms. However, the business model doesn’t benefit either party in the long run. Results run the risk of being superficial and alienating your readers, who may draw negative conclusions about your professionalism or value (and cease to read your book).