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Bailey Bowe


Research Assessment #3

Date: October 27, 2016

Subject: Literary Editing and Writing

MLA citation:
Waldygo, P. N. "How to Make a Living as a Freelance Book Editor." Desert Sage
Editorial Services. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016.

Initially when I first started doing research through ISM, I was more interested in
learning about becoming a corporate editor (an editor for a big name company) because I liked
the idea of more financial stability and being able to work from an office. However, the more I
speak with and interview freelance editors, the more interested I become in it. So when I came
across the article, “How to Make a Living as a Freelance Book Editor” by Ms. P.N. Waldygo,
which details both the benefits and the downfalls of being a freelance editor, I saw an
opportunity to look closer into the world of freelance editing.
One of the most prominent advantages Ms. Waldygo describes, is the convenience of
being a freelance editor. It provides the luxury of being your own boss, meaning you have a very
flexible schedule. This allows freelance editors to have children and be able to take care of them
without taking off work, and as I plan to have a family one day, this is a very appealing perk. It
also will help save time and money because there will not be a long commute to work, which will
inevitably cause greater productivity. Another aspect that Ms. Waldygo points out is that doing
freelance work allows the editor to travel and live where they please, which is another thing I
would love to be able to do as I grow older. By exploring all of the advantages to freelance work
versus working for a big name company, I have realized that I should start to focus my study and
research more heavily on freelance editing.
Although there are many advantages to freelance editing, there are still a few drawbacks
that Ms. Waldygo addresses in the article. The biggest concern is the unsteady flow of income
due to the fact that you are getting payed by the book rather than on a fixed annual income.
This is cause for some concern, but when I reflect on how it could effect my future, I believe that
it would be worth the risk to reap the rewards. Other concerns include no healthcare, loneliness,
and possible career stagnation. However, all of these aspects are not deal-breakers for me as I
still see the job as desirable after reading through this section of the article.
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In the end, I feel as if I have gained much information on freelance editing as opposed to
corporate editing. While they are both still fantastic and valid options for my future, this
research has shown me freelance editing in a different light, causing me to consider it more
seriously than I had previously done.
Bailey Bowe

How to Make a Living as a Freelance Book Editor

College graduates have a rough time in today’s job market. If you’re job hunting and no
one responded to the first 300 résumés you sent out, don’t despair. You may not
immediately find work in your chosen profession, but in the meantime, you do have
options other than unpaid internships and McJobs.

Why not consider freelance book editing? Depending on your other commitments, you
can make this either a full-time or a part-time gig. Maybe you’d like to work at home
after having your first child. Or perhaps you need to supplement your income from
another job. It’s not necessary to have a burning desire for a career in the publishing
industry. All that you need are good language and writing skills, a detail-oriented
personality, and a little basic training. Of course, the best editors also have broad
knowledge about many current and not-so-current topics, but this is acquired gradually.
The more books they are exposed to, the more expert they become in fields they once
knew nothing about.

Are you the kind of person who pounces on typographical errors in magazines and
newspapers and online? Are you now or have you ever been called a “bookworm”?
(Translation: you enjoy reading for pleasure.) Have you always found it easy to get A’s
in English, grammar, literature, and writing classes (no matter how bad you may be at
math and science)? Did you keep a journal as a child or a teen? Were you the editor of
your high school newspaper or yearbook?

If you answered yes to two or more of the previous questions, you’re probably a natural.
Chances are, you could become a good editor.

Advantages of Freelance Editing

1. Autonomy: You’ll be your own boss. You can schedule your time and can work the
hours you choose.
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2. Convenience: Working at home will allow you to seamlessly switch back and forth
from editing books to getting your personal projects done and responding to
emergencies. If the school nurse calls at noon to say your son has chicken pox, you can
immediately drive over to pick him up, without apologizing to your boss or asking a
coworker to cover for you.

3. Economy: You’ll save money and time by not commuting to work, shopping for office
clothes, dressing up each morning, or eating lunch in restaurants.

4. Peaceful work environment: You can avoid the stress of office politics and working
under power-hungry or petty-minded bosses. Most of your communications will be via e-
mail and phone calls with in-house production editors (and I have to say that after
sixteen years of working with dozens of editors, I’ve never run into anyone unpleasant.
All of them have been super-nice people, which is unheard of in any profession.).

5. Educational benefits: In most cases, you will learn a lot. Books I’ve edited have
featured cutting-edge health and nutrition discoveries that I incorporated into my own
lifestyle, witty political rants that analyzed current events more deeply than any
newspaper or magazine could, self-help advice and psychological coaching, and other
useful information.

6. Income: The pay is decent--not spectacular, but better than you’ll make at many jobs
in this depressed economy. The more experienced you are, the more you’ll earn,
generally. Publishers vary widely in what they pay. For entry-level copyeditors, it can be
anywhere from $18 to $30 an hour from trade and academic publishers and up to $60 to
$100 an hour from legal, medical, or technical publishers. Some publishers have set
prices; others ask copyeditors to determine their rates.

Disadvantages of Freelance Editing

1. Possible career stagnation: There isn’t much room for advancement, unless you
eventually decide to get a full-time job on the premises of a publishing house or else
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branch out on your own after you’ve developed a track record. If you simply stick with
freelancing for publishers, your per hour rate will usually rise over the years but not as
fast as the cost of living. Talented editors, however, can hang out their shingle and
become book doctors or ghost writers and thus make a salary that is commensurate
with their abilities.

2. No health benefits: Yep, you’re on your own here. However, you should be able to
afford medical insurance of some type now that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is
subsidizing part of the monthly insurance bills for low-income workers. If you have a
high deductible, try to stay healthy, eat nutritious food, and get enough sleep, so that
you won't need to visit the doctor unless it's an emergency. ("Yes, Mom.")

3. A feast-or-famine work flow: This is why it’s good to have more than one regular
publisher or at least work with several in-house production editors under the same
publisher. You’ll also need to stay on good terms with your credit card companies and
maintain an excellent credit rating, because Visa and MasterCard will tide you over
during slack periods or when paychecks arrive late.

4. Slow payment: You’re at the mercy of the publishers’ payment schedules. Nowadays,
before I even accept a project from a new publisher, I ask about that firm’s average
turnaround time for paying an invoice. An acceptable turnaround time is two to five
weeks. In the past, I’ve had a few publishers that took up to seven months to pay an
invoice, which wreaked havoc with my cash flow. In one case, the perpetually late
payments seemed to result from inefficient accounting practices. In two other instances,
small publishers overextended themselves and hired out more work than they had
money to pay for. No matter what the reason, I feel that it shows lack of respect for the
copyeditor, and I recommend leaving those publishers behind and seeking work
elsewhere. Life is too short to stress yourself out chasing after unpaid invoices.

5. Self-employment tax: Even if your income is modest, as a sole proprietor of your own
business, you’ll have to pay this tax yearly to the IRS, in addition to your federal income
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tax. It’s roughly equal to the amount of Social Security an employer would take out of
your paycheck. On the other hand, you can deduct most of your business expenses on
a Schedule C, thus reducing the net income that you’ll pay federal taxes on.

6. Loneliness, boredom, distractibility: Some people may miss the camaraderie of
having coworkers nearby in the office. Also, even though many books are engrossing to
work on, a few are excruciatingly boring. You may find yourself getting distracted by
more interesting activities around the house, so it’s essential to be disciplined and
motivate yourself. Otherwise, you may fail to meet your deadline for editing a book. This
is a mortal sin because it throws off the publisher’s entire production schedule. One of
the best habits you can cultivate is turning in books early, before the deadline. Your
production editors will love you for it.