Fees and Agreements
Reaching an Agreement with an Editor
In an initial email or after a phone call, an author will usually send an editor a short description of the project and the desired type of editorial help, along with a sample of the manuscript. The editor then reviews the material and provides an assessment of the work needed on the manuscript, the expected time frame for completing the project, and either an estimate of the overall fee or a statement of rates.
Some editors will provide a short editing sample, for free or for a fee, depending on the editor’s policy. An editor and author will often agree on a sample that represents a specified number of pages or editing hours.
We encourage you to contact three or four potential editors but to let those editors know you are doing so. (See our discussion on the ethics of contacting editors and our advice on choosing an editor.)
Once an author has hired an editor, we urge the parties to create clear agreements for working together. (See the Sample Contracts section below.)
The freelance editors in CAEN set their own rates and payment schedules. Some, especially indexers and proofreaders, charge by the page. Others prefer to work on a project or retainer basis. Most of us, however, charge by the hour. Our hourly rates are typically in the $35 to $75 range, but fees vary and can go considerably higher for editors with specialized expertise, such as medical or technical editors. Some editors offer a sliding scale.
We suggest that authors resist the urge to hire an editor based solely on his or her hourly rate. Two editors who charge the same rate may bring different skills and knowledge to a manuscript. Our fees, like our levels of experience and our areas of expertise, vary considerably for several reasons. Some of us have been editing academic materials for more than 30 years, while others are newer to the field. Some editors can turn around projects more quickly than others but may charge a higher hourly rate. Some work more slowly but may be more thorough and meticulous.
The Fair Practice of Contracting
We strongly recommend that all authors and editors adhere to the Code of Fair Practice created by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). This code includes guidelines for various client–editor interactions. Here is a summary of some of those guidelines, along with our own thoughts on the subject:
- An editorial freelancer is a self-employed businessperson whose qualifications include education, professional expertise, experience, sound editorial judgment, and the necessary equipment and technology to do the job.
- Some editors and authors are comfortable working together with only an email agreement, especially if they have worked together before. Many editorial freelancers, however, believe that the working relationship between editor and client should be defined by a letter of agreement or formal contract that covers the responsibilities of both parties in as much depth as possible.
- A good contract can help prevent miscommunication, unrealistic expectations, unreasonable delays in delivery of materials or payment, and even occasional failure to deliver. It can also be a tool for both parties as they develop their plans for the project.
- In any contract, both parties should agree to the schedule and scope of work and to a project fee or hourly rate. For hourly rates, the parties should note expectations as to billable time. Contracts often specify reimbursement for expenses and special charges: rush fees, late fees, or even cancellation (kill) fees.
- Many editors request a down payment of 50% of the anticipated total fee before beginning work, and longer-term jobs may call for payments at various points during the project. All contracts should specify procedures and time frames for invoicing and payment—how quickly the editor will be paid after submitting an invoice and by what method (e.g., personal check, bank check, PayPal, institutional check, wire transfer). All these terms should be subject to renegotiation if the size, scope, or difficulty of the project changes. On large projects, interim reviews of how things are going may be a good idea.
- Depending on the project, the parties may also want to stipulate the location where the editor will work or meet with the author; how the editor and author will transmit drafts and finished work to each other (e.g., email, Dropbox); and whether the editor may employ subcontractors. The contract might also note if the freelancer is to receive credit in the publication, a complimentary copy, or both.
- Once a contract is in place, any misunderstandings should be addressed as quickly, directly, and clearly as possible. We have found that good contracts lead to good working relationships and avoid the need for third-party dispute resolution.
The Editors’ Association of Canada has made available a sample contract that can be used as written (excluding a handful of references to Canadian legal and tax systems) or modified as needed. This contract identifies the responsibilities of each party, along with deadlines and payment details. It also specifies the consequences of termination before the project is completed. A list defining various editorial activities may also be useful, whether or not you choose to include it in your contract.
The Editorial Freelancers Association has created a more informal sample letter of agreement that can also be customized to suit the requirements of a particular project. It shows the basic issues that an editorial agreement should address.
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