Good, Fast, and Cheap

Whenever anyone is looking to hire someone to provide a service there are three things that they generally want. They want it done inexpensively, they want it done quickly, and they want the job done well. Well guess what? You can pick two.

You read that correctly; you can only have two of those things. There isn’t a freelancer out there who can give you expert work, in record time, for entry level pricing. Occasionally, you might find someone who is new to a platform or who just left a position with a publishing company who is trying to build a portfolio. They might be willing to work at a reduced cost if you’re willing to provide a good reference, but only for a short time until they get the positive feedback they need.

I can’t tell you how many times I see a job posted that says something like this:

“In need of experienced editor with an advanced degree in literature to edit an 80,000 word historical fiction novel for a first time author. It’s already been edited 3 or 4 times by my friends and family and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback, but I want a professional edit and proofread done before I submit it to a publisher. Deadline 72 hours. Budget $50.00. Serious candidates only.”

Are you kidding me? Let me try and break it down quickly for you.  The average adult can read 300 words per minute. That means it will take approximately 4 1/2 hours for the average person to read this particular book. At $50, that is $11.11 per hour just to read this book. Now granted, I can sit down and read about 30k words per hour if I have no interruptions, and could probably knock out the book in under 3 hours. That’s why I do this for a living. But that’s still only $16.67 an hour, and that’s just for reading the book.

You want me to not only read the book, but also find your grammatical mistakes, your plot holes, and your inconsistencies. You want me to tell you where your characters are weak and need more development. You want me to pause in my reading and make a note or a mark every time I find something that needs to be addressed, and to fix any obvious spelling and grammar mistakes as I come across them. When I’m finished, you want me to give you a few pages of feedback about the overall quality of your book and what I thought of it. Do you have any idea how long that takes? I can break that down for you too.

A good editor can do a thorough edit of 4-5 standard pages per hour. A standard page is about 250 words. Which means that we can edit 1000-1250 words per hour. At 80,000 words, that is between 64 and 80 hours worth of work that you’re asking me to do, for $50.  Do the math, and that works out to be $0.63- $0.78 per hour. Would you work for that little pay?

If you want your book edited well, and you want it done quickly, be prepared to pay anywhere from $30-$50 per 1000 words for the work, depending on the level of editing. If you want this turned around in less than a week, I’m going to have to pull 16 hour days where I lock myself in a room and ignore my family while I devote myself to your book; count on it being at the higher end of that estimate. If you give me a reasonable amount of time to get it done, say, 2 weeks, I’ll probably be willing to do it for $30 per 1000 words. Good and Fast is not going to be Cheap.

If you still want your book edited well, but aren’t worried too much about getting it done quickly, I can possibly drop the rate down to $10 or $15 per 1000 words. But this means that I’m going to get to your book when I have some down-time in between higher paying jobs; it may be many weeks to even a couple of months before I get it back to you. If this is a hobby or life’s dream of yours, and you’re not depending on revenue from your book to make a living, this can work. But realize that even at a lower price, you can still expect to pay $800-$1200 for me to edit an 80K word book. And yes, that’s inexpensive. Good and Cheap will not be Fast.

If you want your book done quickly and inexpensively, go find someone else. It is simply not possible for me (or any other reputable editor) to do quality work at rock-bottom prices, and I don’t want to do anything less than quality work. I have a level of professional integrity to maintain, and every book I edit needs to be able to be used as an example of my skill. I’m not going to take your project on for what amounts to $1-2 an hour or less. It will be rushed and sloppy work, and I will not be able to live off that amount of money anyway. Your book will turn out terribly, and I won’t want to add it to my portfolio as an example of what I can do. We both lose. You can find editors willing to work for that amount of money, but chances are English is not their first language, and $3.00 an hour is good money where they are. Now don’t get me wrong; I have the utmost respect for people who can write and edit in a language that they didn’t grow up with. But they don’t have that fluid grasp of what good writing is supposed to sound like. Fast and Cheap is never going to be Good, and I make a point to only do Good.

Before you message me asking for a quote, or hop on a freelancing site to post a job, think about what you are looking for in an editor, and what concessions you’re willing to make to get the job done well. It’s either going to be time or money, but it’s up to you to decide which way you want to go. And $50 is NEVER the way to go.



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