Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Garbage in, garbage out: hire a good editor, not a cheap one


Partly, this is a reminder to you indie writers out there who might be needing a copyeditor/proofreader as you steam toward self-publication. I’m ready, willing, and able to help, and at a significant discount compared to the norm.

Check out my services and rates at Indie-Scribable.

Also partly, this is a wee rant at the freelance job market, which has been funneled mainly into a platform called Upwork (formerly Elance-oDesk). I created a freelancer profile there not long ago, hoping to gather a few new clients to get my editing biz up and running, and what I discovered right away is that the “employers” on Upwork are unbelievable cheapskates.*

Most of the jobs listed have budgets so low there no point in applying. I know my mighty reasonable $2.50/page proofreading rate is already a bargain, but these people want to pay $50 for proofreading a whole novel! I really hope they get what they pay for (which may be one reason self-published books have such a bad rep out there …) But aside from that, the fact that there are dozens of applicants for each job means that the rate gets driven down by competitive bidding. I’ve applied for quite a few jobs already, sometimes bidding more than the listed rate just to make a point, but no employer has chosen me yet. Surprise surprise. They’d rather find some doofus to edit their 200,000 word fantasy novel for $75.

Good luck with that …

My philosophy with respect to indie authors is, I want to help you get your book into the best possible shape it can be, but I don’t want you to take out an equity line on the house to pay for it. I don’t want to rip you off. However, I want my rate to reflect the level of expertise I’ve reached over the years so that it feels like my time is worth the expense (e.g., $750 for proofreading a 300-page novel).

Upwork reinforces the idea that the lowest price should be the goal for an employer. It also appears to require (not officially) that a new freelancer work for free until a minimum number of Upwork hours has been reached, which will attract new potential employers. I don’t qualify for most of the jobs I’ve applied for because I have zero hours on Upwork.

It could very well stay that way too.

I’d much rather work with writers I’ve been following these last three years on WordPress, or with their referrals. So if you’re getting close to finishing your book, drop me a line. And if you know someone who’s in need of a good, experienced editor with three indie novels under his belt, spread the word, eh?

Bottom line is, if you’re only willing to pay pennies for something as important as proofreading, you might as well save your money and publish your book as is. It comes across the same either way: amateur hour.

*Just today, for example, there’s a job posted for copyediting a 90,000 word novel for $300. And that’s copyediting, not proofreading. This dude basically wants professional service at an 80% discount.

8 comments on “Garbage in, garbage out: hire a good editor, not a cheap one

  1. Parlor of Horror
    March 24, 2016

    Writers, at the very least, have to have their stories proofread before putting them up for sale. I’ve began reading too many indie books with too many mistakes for me to continue reading. Those authors have lost me as a reader forever. For instance, how many times have I seen indie authors write, ‘to many’ or ‘to much?’ Too many times!

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 24, 2016

      You’re so right. Sometimes you know within the first two or three paragraphs that the author skimped on proofreading. No sale!

      (This is why the Look Inside feature is so key …)

  2. pinklightsabre
    March 24, 2016

    My god, $750 for proof-reading a 300-page novel is a deal in my mind, particularly, especially, no because you have the skills to back it up, that’s well worth it. If I’d completed a 300-page novel, the toil that would have landed me there would well deserve that investment to have it professionally cared for. So go on with your bad self and call bullshit. Which I hyphenated there first, and corrected. It’s now one word, or has been for a while.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 24, 2016

      Pretty good deal, eh? Just proofreading, though. I don’t rewrite crappy sentences for that price!

      When I calculate that I’ve made about 9 cents an hour as a writer, this looks like pretty good money to me …

  3. francisguenette
    March 24, 2016

    Well said, Kevin. Is there no end to the seedy-under-belly we are to discover as we negotiate our way through self-publishing? It seems it’s always just another can of worms and I appreciate the very upfront way you are about what you’re doing, why and how much you’re charging. Way to go.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 24, 2016

      Thanks, Fran! You know, it really irks me that there are “editors” out there who’ll snatch a hundred bucks from you and do a crummy job (because no one’s going to spend 10 or 20 hours on a $100 job). I hope indie writers understand that the quality of their books is a big deal — for all of us.

  4. sknicholls
    March 24, 2016

    I spent about $900.00 on two copy edit passes and a proofread for 250 pages. It was a package deal. The editor said that he rarely had the opportunity to work with such a clean copy. He helped me with both sentence and paragraph structure for clarity. It’s funny, I would write something and knew it wasn’t clear, but could not quite get a handle on how to say what I was saying. (Does that make any sense?) Anyway, my brain is a bit disorganized and he helped tremendously. I’ve read your books and would have hired you in a minute had you been doing this when I was in need. I feel you are offering a more than fair deal. The only problem I had with my editor was the fact that, while he had edited suspenseful thrillers, he had not edited murder mysteries, and he kept wanting to me to explain things too early in the book that would have given away clues…or make things to obvious to the reader, whom I like to think has a brain and can put two and two together. He wanted to write a pastry road to the killer rather than leave bread crumbs and I felt like that was dumbing the book down. Since I have read the story so many times now, I have no clue how it will come across to a pair of fresh eyes now that the editing is done.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 24, 2016

      That’s a pretty good deal, Susan! Glad it worked out for you, plus it sounds like he’s capable.

      I kind of like the idea of a pastry road, though. Mmmmmm!

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2016 by in Writing and tagged , .
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