Anyway, my friend Cathy, who is considering a bit of a career shift, asked me for a brief rundown on just what it is an editor does. And since it seems a lot of people who read my blog are wordsmiths of some sort, I figured I might as well just share the info with y’all. Okay? Here goes:
Professionally, I do two types of editing: copyediting and content editing.
Copyediting basically entails correcting for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and general readability. In short, my job in this case is just to make sure the author or publisher does not get laughed out of town as a result of the finished product. In this case, I do not concern myself with whether or not the text is boring, inaccurate, or inappropriate—if someone wants to deliver a pompous yet pornographic three-hour speech to an audience of third-graders, I merely ensure that the pompous pornography is prepared in flawless English that hews as closely as possible in tone and style to the original text. I will suggest addition, deletion, or transposition of sections as necessary, but I will not bother with word or stylistic choice—if the author uses the word “very” 2,000 times in a 3,000-word document, I will assume that he or she intended to, and leave it at that.
As soon as I am required to write more than three sentences of my own devising, I consider the task to have shifted to content editing. Content editing entails all the duties of copyediting, with the added responsibility of ensuring that the text actually makes narrative (as opposed to just logical) sense. In a work of creative writing, such as a story, this means that I have to understand all the characters involved and check for consistency of portrayal. I will recommend suitable tones and styles based on the intended audience, purpose, and nature of the piece; and I will reorganize the text as and if necessary to ensure story flow (even if it’s not actually a story) and optimum comprehension. I will question presented facts, metaphorical significance, and overuse of clichés. More often than not, content editing for me turns into a form of ghostwriting, but I accept that that comes with the territory and simply ensure that I get paid for it.
My official (meaning you are not my good, good friend; a long-time client; or a client who guarantees successive projects) rates are: P500 per page/screen of finished product* for content editing, P300 for copyediting. This is inclusive of two major rewrites, each to be requested within two weeks after I submit the edited text for perusal; anything beyond that gets charged again, because otherwise I might spend years revising and re-revising a single text. My friendly rates are about P200 lower, respectively (Hey, you should see what I charge for actual writing!); and next to nothing for creative writing projects helmed by people I happen to like a hell of a lot. If you are Vin, you get to pay in food and soda; if you are Dean, you can pay in the bookstore or the bedroom, your choice.
Okay, so in sum, copyediting = making text readable; whereas content editing = making text comprehensible and enjoyable. Most employers/clients will assume that these are the same things; it’s really up to you to decide whether you should let them get away with this.
As for my rates listed above, do bear in mind that I am quite experienced and have a couple of industry awards to wave around to justify my prices. I am also not the main breadwinner for my family, which means I can afford to stick to my guns and turn down clients who can’t afford me. Finally, modesty aside, I am very very good, very very reliable, and very very very very very fast. (And yes, I intended to have all those “verys”.)
After all, hey, the novel I edited this year won the Grand Prize in the Palancas. Yes, three or four of those award-winning words in Dean’s Salamanca are mine.
But I’m a good professional editrix, so I won’t tell you which ones.
Some copywriters/editors charge per hour or day for their work, but it just doesn't make sense to me to reward slow work! I prefer—and I know my clients do, too—to get the job done as quickly as possible. So I charge based on output.Hey, this wasn't "brief" at all, was it?
It's important to know that this charge is based on final output, not page/screen count based on MSWord or whatever program you use. Why? Because a single arresting sentence meant to be displayed alone on a magazine page or billboard can entail as much concentration and conceptualization as the 2,000 or so words on your standard MSWord page. As a creative, you are mainly charging for the work of your head, not your hands.
Of course, I actually charge a lot more for billboards. But that's me.