by Karin Beery
I can’t get any clients. I’m thinking of dropping my rates.
I often hear this when talking with new editors (I was one of them), and I always have the same response—charge what you’re worth, not what people will pay you. That’s not always easy. For years I lost potential clients to lower-bidding editors, but in recent years I’ve changed my mind about that. Here are five reasons why I think you shouldn’t drop your rates:
- You aren’t your competition. Have you ever heard of Mercedes slashing their prices to sell their cars at the same rate as a Chevy Aveo? No. Why? Because their cars are worth more. They might offer incentives or sales to entice buyers, but they don’t let the competition dictate their value. You shouldn’t either.
- It devalues your skill and your work. You’ve received special training and education (possibly a college degree), as well as continuing training. Developing and maintaining your skills takes time and money; your compensation for your work should reflect that.
A substantive book edit can take up to 100 hours to complete. If you’re charging $500 for that service, you’re earning $5/hour. $5/hour! Less than minimum wage! Do you really think the work you do is worth less than flipping burgers at a fast food place?
- It devalues the profession. When editors start charging $4-5/hour for their work, writers start to expect it. Once you’ve demonstrated your mastery of the craft, people will still expect to pay pennies per word for their edits because that’s what they’ve been taught to expect. You pull everyone down with you when you lower your rates.
- It leads to burn out. I provide substantive edits. Depending on the length and quality of the manuscript, I usually ask for 4-6 weeks to complete it (working 20 hours/week on it). I usually charge $1,500-3,000 for that work. If, however, I charged $500 per edit, I would need to edit at least three books a month, working 60+ hours a week, not including the non-billable work. It wouldn’t take long to burn out.
- It results in poor quality work. When you drop your rates, you need to take on more projects and finish them more quickly in order to maintain a livable income. I don’t know of a single profession where that combination doesn’t result in a loss of quality—you simply can’t devote the time needed to find all of the mistakes you would have found if you weren’t rushed.
You are a skilled professional—you’ve earned the right to charge for your knowledge and experience. Will you lose potential clients because of it? Absolutely. Does that mean you should never offer a sale or editing special? Of course not. But don’t let the authors tell you how much they’ll pay—no other profession operates that way, and neither should we.
Owner of Write Now Editing, Karin Beery is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Christian Editor Network, where she teaches several editing classes through the PEN Institute and serves as the coordinator for the Christian Editor Connection. She is the Managing Editor of Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her sophomore novel, Practically Married, is a 2020 INSPY Award semi-finalist.