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Freelance editing is an invaluable skill

It's never too early to begin the process, and when you're just setting out to work as a freelance editing is a job you probably won't be able to delegate. Professional services abound. You can easily find one ... but they can be very expensive.

A bureau will provide several levels of service. A 'light' edit, followed by various degrees of thoroughness. At the end of the process you should have an error-free manuscript. The downside is, you could easily have paid a couple of thousand dollars to a reputable freelance editing service. As an aspiring professional yourself, you need to think about the investment, weighed against the potential ROI, or 'return on investment' you expect to make. In other words, your royalties.

Every publisher seems to have a different way of figuring out how much to pay for a book. They know their markets; they know how much advertising is going to cost; they should have a good idea of how many copies of your book they can expect to sell. They may have staff to pay and a large office to keep up; they might also have taken a loss on a recent book, where sales were unexpectedly poor. They also might outsource to a freelance editing service, in which case, they pay the fees.

All these, and many more factors are used to work out how much a writer will be paid for a work, as a new freelance. Editing will be done at the publisher's cost, and this also will be factored into the royalties equation. (The more editing you need, the less you'll be paid.)

If you're able to get a contract with a large publishing house, of course you'll be paid correspondingly more than if you make your debut with a small publisher. The more major the publisher, the bigger the 'engine' driving the process of publishing and distribution. And if they have to outsource freelance editing, they can more easily cover the costs.

If you're pretty sure you can get a sale to a major publishing house, paying for editing services might be within your budget; go with a good 'jobbing' freelance editing service, because downtown bureaus can have fee schedules that'll make you blanch.

A point to consider is that you'll probably need a literary agent to make the breakthrough with a major publisher. Your agent's fee will usually be 15%. If your freelance editing service's fee was in the regions of $2000, for an in-depth, meticulously thorough edit of a long (or longish) book, you can cover both of these fees out of a $10,000 income from the book, and come out of it with a tidy sum.

But do be reasonably sure you can make the sale to a major house. Most writers make their professional debut with a small publisher (even writers like James A. Michener, and J.K. Rowling had to 'get in via the backdoor' of small publishers).

The 'problem' of small publishers is, their printruns are small, and your royalties will be lower. If you receive $5,000, the agent's and editor's fees won't leave very much as a gratuity for your efforts. Sure, you can work your way up the ladder to bigger printruns and higher royalties, but it takes time (you progress at your publisher's speed, which can seem glacial at times!), and ... being blunt about this, wouldn't it be nice to earn some money right now? Money saved is money earned. It's a sound idea to become familiar with freelance editing.

If you can master the skills of freelance editing yourself, you have a big advantage. At the very least, you can do four-fifths of the editing work before you have a professional editor look at it. The less work they have to do, the faster they'll be through your manuscript. You might be 'on the clock,' or you might be on a flat, scheduled fee. Either way, the less your freelance editing guru needs to do, the less you'll be out of pocket!

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