by Karin Beery
Freelance editors need to know more than simply how to edit a manuscript. You also need to know how to track expenses, manage time, and market your services. Included in the marketing realm is one document that scares many freelance editors:
The Bid Letter
I’ve talked with many freelance editors who are uncomfortable writing bid letters—they don’t know what to say and/or they don’t want to talk about themselves. I get that. Bid letters are unique in that they’re business letters as well as marketing material. You need to strike the right balance between information and advertising.
Writing an effective bid letter can seem daunting, but these tips should take some of the stress and uncertainty out of the process.
1. It’s not about you.
Yes, you want the author to know about your experience and accomplishments, but they don’t really care about you, they care about what you can do for them. Don’t tell writers that you’ve edit 16 award-winning novels; tell them how you worked with six authors on their first manuscripts and helped them transform their rough drafts into award-winning books.
2. It’s not a resume.
If an author wants to look at your resume, have one ready to send, but the bid letter is not the place to list all your education and training. Remember: it’s about the writer. Mention the details that are important to that author’s manuscript (for example, if you’re editing a devotional, mention your devotional writing/editing experience and training) and don’t worry about the rest.
3. Show them you care.
Don’t just talk about your success and accomplishments; ask authors about theirs. Where did they get their education/training? Are these their first manuscripts? What else have they written? What are their publishing goals? Not only will this give you valuable information to help you figure out what the authors need, it will also show them that you’re interested in their work—that goes a long way when they have to pick someone to point out all their writing mistakes!
4. Give them your schedule.
Few new writers seem to realize that editors work weeks (or months) in advance. Instead of having a long conversation about a job that won’t fit into your schedule, tell the authors right away. They may want to look for someone else, but your letter might have won them over and convinced them to wait for you.
5. Congratulate them.
It can be terrifying to hire an editor. No one wants a person to point out all of their mistakes, but authors actually pay people to do it! It’s not an easy thing to do, which is why so many authors publish poorly written books. Simply contacting an editor puts authors ahead of their competition. Go ahead and let them know that you recognize and acknowledge the steps they’re taking.
6. Be yourself.
If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re a straight shooter, shoot straight. Make sure your letter sounds like you.
Is this the only way to write an effective bid letter? Of course not, but these tips will help you write a letter that gets noticed for the right reasons.
Owner of Write Now Editing, Karin Beery’s passion is fiction. As Managing Editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction and a PEN Institute instructor, her goal is to help authors create engaging novels that captivate their audiences. She specializes in substantive fiction edits, helping authors with big-picture issues like characterization, plot holes, and authenticity while honing fiction-writing techniques, such as showing, point of view, dialogue, and more.
Karin is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of American, and Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Thanks, Karin. As always, your tips are practical, encouraging, and clear.
Dawn E Kinzer
I appreciate all the tips you shared, Karin. I sometimes wonder if I give potential clients way too much information in my first contact letter. But if they’re new to the process, I share everything I’d want to know upfront if I was searching for an editor for my own work. I try to avoid the frustration that could come from communicating through numerous emails before they receive all the necessary info. Some writers have expressed that they’ve appreciated my thorough letter.
Karin, thanks for this. I hate bid letters. I never feel comfortable quoting a price before seeing the material, so my bid letters end up basically being an offer to do a free sample edit followed by an actual quote. I get most of my clients via word of mouth–and they seem more comfortable with this process. Do others give a price in their bid letters? I’ve often wondered.