Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Freebies... And not-so-Freebies...

Let's say you are at a party where there are a lot of medical professionals present. In fact, it's a hospital party for the surgeons, specialists, general practitioners, anesthesiologists, surgical nurses, ER staff, and other support staff.

Let's say you go to the party specifically to ask for free medical advice. Or perhaps with the intent to get some free medical services.

What do you think your chances are of getting what you think you may need?

Most will tell you to come to their office during regular hours (unless, of course, you have a bullet wound... in which case the ER staff will be willing to work on you after the ambulance drops you off!), set an appointment, and go through the standard billing process. Unless, of course, they are *related* to you... and then they might cut you some slack... (unless you are related to the same kind of folks I'm related to--in which case, I'd hesitate to ask them for any kind of surgery!).

Okay... different scenario. Let's say you are at a party with lawyers and investment bankers and mortgage brokers. You ask for free legal advice or investment advice or mortgage advice. With the lawyers, they'll tell you to make an appointment and come to their office during regular business hours. And the clock will start running the minute you walk through their door. With the investment bankers and mortgage brokers--their advice will most likely be to buy stuff from *them* (and they'll take their commission out of your hide when the transaction takes place).

So what do you do when someone asks for your *free* editorial services? If you have a particular editorial skill that took some training and experience to get, is it not similar to the skills and education that a surgeon or lawyer might have? (Although quite a bit less bloody or trying!)

I *do* provide "free samples" once in a while... Many times, however, they are *not* appreciated or even recognized as being helpful. (Like when I mentioned to an exhibitor at a trade show that their 15-ft-long banner had the word "Management" in "Quality Management" misspelled. Or, when I mentioned the typos in the menu at my favorite Chinese restaurant.--I guess that's considered "anal retentive" )

And, in my local Writers Group--we pass around pieces of our work for critique and copyedit sessions.. but it's sort of a mutual benefit thing among comrades in profession. We all benefit from each other's input. Most likely in the same manner as a bunch of surgeons talking shop, or perhaps some diesel truck mechanics comparing transmission gear-ratio manipulations to increase torque.

Case in point... last November, the water heater at our house died. Now, I'm sort of a klutz when it comes to mechanical/plumbing/electrical stuff (at least trying to fix it, that is). I knew that if I called a plumber it would cost a bundle--and being unemployed, I wanted to "save money"... I knew our next-door neighbor was also an "unemployed" mechanical engineer who was trying to start a Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) business.. but he was also a handyman type of guy. So... my son and I went over there to see if he could help us figure out what to do. He volunteered to help us... and we wound up paying him $500 for the new water heater, installation, and removal of the old water heater. It hurt when I paid him for his service (which *did* include the price of the water heater and new pipes). But, ya know, ya get what ya pay for. It's a good water heater, and it works way better than the old one did. And it was professionally and effectively installed. I don't feel so bad about my "investment" any more.

Likewise, a buddy of mine in our Writers Group was working on a manuscript of about 300 pages for his very first novel. He knew that I was a professional technical editor/ writer with 20+ years experience. He also knew that I was severely underemployed. So, he asked what I thought would be a decent rate for copyediting/reviewing his novel manuscript. I quoted him a "standard" rate... and he balked... then, because I was sort of on the short side of income and he *was* a member of our Writers Group, I brought my *fee* down to about half of what the going rate should have been. It took me about two weeks of on-and-off reading and editing to get through his 300-some pages of police-procedural/mystery text... but it was also enjoyable work even with the police jargon. He has since published his book and he has had his first book-signing event. He recently also published his second book. You can see his books on this Squidoo lens.

Others have also reviewed bits and pieces of his novels (separate chapters brought to our monthly Writers Group Meetings).. and other friends have also read through the whole manuscript--catching inconsistencies, typos, spelling errors, logic lapses, and so on.

Was all this eyeballing necessary? Maybe not. Did it help the novels? Most likely. Hard to tell. But one thing is certain. He *DID* get them published. He *IS* selling it on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble and through Borders. And what he paid me to edit his first novel is now a tax-deduction--for him.

So.... back to the question:

What do you do when someone asks for your *free* editorial services?

What is your *time* worth?

Editorial Freelancers Association

If you don't *know* what your time is worth, I'd advise you to browse through the URL listed above and get familiar with all the various rates there. It will be enlightening ... especially when you discover that if you have a passion for words and a skill with editing, it is actually *WORTH* something!

Reviewers can generally be found in the academic realm ... and yes, they are usually "inexpensive" (aka "free") (sometimes they are called "graduate students").
Reviewers usually just read the thing and then write a "review" praising it or trashing it for the local media or for "", if that's the route being taken. Sure... this is "free", because generally the reviewers get at least a free book out of the deal. The *FINISHED* book or whatever is sent out to media representatives as a freebie on the hope that they will write a *good* review of the thing.

But if someone wants professional *editing* ... in other words, someone to catch typos, grammatical errors, spelling errors, usage errors, logic lapses,and perhaps even technical gaffes that pertain to the technology involved in the manuscript, they are *really* asking for copyediting and technical editing services. Which are not (and *should* not be) "free" or otherwise obtained for "honorable mention" in the final version of the tome. Unless, of course, you are related to them. I have some buddies who had their wives read and edit their MS theses when they were in grad school. That saves a bunch of major pain. (Of course, it helps if your spouse is an English major and is a native speaker of English. It also helps if your spouse agrees with and is familiar with what you are writing!)

Fees for technical editors and copy editors (IN THE US AND CANADA!) can range from about $20/hour to about $75+/hour--depending on what part of the country you are in and what is being edited. Again, in the academic world, you may be able to find grad students willing to take it on for about $10/15 an hour.

I hope this has helped clarify a bit of what the market is like out there. And... because those reading this are a group of predominately like-minded professionals... this piece of writing and advice and consultation was *free*. (Donations would be greatly appreciated, however!)

Learn More About Dave's Editing Services Here

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