Working in Publishing & Editing

Parent Q&A

  • UC Berkeley Extension courses in editing

    (2 replies)

    Hello there,

    I am curious about the offerings from UC Berkeley in the editing department. I am not necessarily interested in taking the entire editing certificate sequence, but rather seeking information on specific courses and instructors and, overall, whether people felt like the financial and time investment was worth it for them. Thanks!

    The UC San Diego copyediting certificate is well regarded, and I believe it can be done online. Check it out: https://extension.ucsd.edu/courses-and-programs/copyediting-certificate

    My experience with UC Extension editing courses is admittedly a bit dated (2003), but the Intro to Copyediting course was fundamental to my development as a copyeditor, and got me connected to my first freelance assignment (a book for UC Press). The teacher was key: I was lucky to have Marilyn Schwarz, then managing editor of UC Press. I signed up for the Intermediate Copyediting course, with a view to doing the sequence, but I could tell from the first class that I was not going to learn anything from that instructor (don't remember his name) beyond what I had learned from Marilyn, so I dropped out.

  • Going rates for academic developmental and copyediting

    (6 replies)

    I am an experienced teacher, writing coach, and editor beginning my own freelance business. I have a Ph.D. in my field and an MLIS. I am wondering if others can share their fees for writing and editorial assistance, both with non-academic clients, and with those working in my field of expertise. Broadly, do people charge per project or a standard hourly rate? One project I am working on currently is to refine an academic article for journal publication. Another is a larger project involving revising an entire dissertation manuscript for publication as a book. I am charging an hourly rate for the article, but unsure whether to charge hourly or a flat fee for the manuscript assistance, Both involve developmental/conceptual editing as well as line editing, and both necessitate a fluency with theoretical approaches to the subject and academic jargon. I am trying to be mindful of the fact that a significant portion of fee will go to taxes and to childcare, so it needs to be "worth it", in addition to accounting for the years I have spent preparing for and working in the field. I had thought to charge $75/hour, but with taxes and childcare, that amounts to likely roughly $35/hour. And I am someone who tends to put in 2 hours for every one hour I charge for, as I am somewhat of a perfectionist and workaholic. I should also mention that I *detest* asking for money, and have done a lot of pro bono and reduced fee work in the past because of it. But I am really needing to get paid for my worth and time. I would love to hear from others what their range is, and, too, how they determine what to charge based on the type of work/client. Lastly, how to ask for money tactfully. Lawyers have no problem charging hundreds per hour, and I have a grantwriting friend who charges $150/hour. I would love to ask for $100/hour. Am I out of the ballpark? Thank you.

    Original poster here: thank you for the candid and helpful replies. A follow-up question:

    Aside from networking (I'm not very good at it) and referrals, do people have suggestions as to where to look for freelance editing and writing jobs? I have looked at CL, Flexjobs, and several of the major freelance aggregators, but the pay seems pretty crappy and barely covers childcare, let alone anything else. Someone mentioned being a writing tutor for area high school kids, but last time I looked at CL, people were charging between $20-30/hour to offer these services, and there is no way I can "afford" to compete with those rates. I am certainly not in this field for the money, but I do need to make some! Thanks very much.

    I have recently done some freelance assignments that included writing in a specific policy field and charged $90/hour. Maybe copyediting as a discrete job tends to pay less... so maybe you want to get out of that niche. However the type of work projects you are doing sound like writing as much as or more than editing so I would suggest you prepare a proposal for the client that describes the work to be done and your hourly rate and your estimated hours, perhaps indicating that the client will receive a draft of work to date at each milestone of X hours or by chapter or whatever. Don't let yourself be taken advantage of; along those lines you should also ask for in your proposal some sort of credit, yes?

    For myself, I am working toward a fee schedule that is different for non-profit clients/government clients/for-profit clients, although that has yet to go into effect.

    What you are talking about is way beyond editing. In fact, in terms of turning a dissertation into a book, it might amount to ghost-writing a book and would be considered fraud in my field (not in some others, so I am not judging, just saying it's a big job). Many people spend several years on the tenure track trying to get their dissertation into a book.  That said, I think there are a number of issues here:  1. What you can charge is what people are willing to pay you. That will depend on skills and credentials, yes, but more so on reputation. Your grantwriter friend can charge that probably because he or she has a reputation for writing grants that get funded. So factor in that you need to build a reputation at the start but it can pay off later. 2. "Billable" hours. I think you are better off charging a lower rate and charging for the hours  you work. People freak out about hourly rates. However, they also freak out about total cost.  You need to figure out how much of your 'perfectionism' is giving clients excellent work and how much is overkill. Charge for good work, not overkill. 3. If you are going freelance, you need to figure out how to ask for money. Set a rate, set some policies, and require people, politely, to follow them. Setting a clear rate and policies can make it easier. "My fees and payment expectations are in the enclosed document ..." or "on my website."

    Good writers are in demand and sorely needed -- Take courage!

     

    You could consider charging a project rate rather than by the hour. This can work well if you are fast. 

    I am responding as an academic, not as someone in your field.  I think that you should charge more than $75.00/hour.  And I don't think you should do the dissertation-to-book price as a project but by the hour.  Honestly, you'd earn more if you did private tutoring to help kids with their writing after hours or on the weekend but I understand that may be impossible since you have kids.    Given your expertise in your particular field, maybe try to market yourself to folks in that discipline so that it's your knowledge in addition to your writing skills that you bring to the table.  good luck! 

    Yes, you are way out of the ballpark. I copyedit for major publishers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ten Speed Press, and so on), and my fee is $35-$40 an hour. And yes, those are billable hours, which means I work much more than that. I do not know academic rates, but my guess is that you wouldn't know many academics (or academic presses) that can afford $100/hour. Look at the rates posted by the Editorial Freelancers Association. http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php

    Also, there is a Facebook group called EAE Backroom (EAE stands for Editors Association of Earth). If you go there, you will get many thorough responses. Sad to tell you that none of us in editorial are in it for the money. Good luck, mama!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions Related Pages

Work as a proofreader/editor

March 2011

I have previously worked as an editor and proofreader but have been out of the field for a while. Any ideas on how to start up again - preferably as a freelancer? thanks!


the bay area editors' forum is a good place to start - www.editorsforum.org. you may also want to try mediabistro.com. good luck. Dianna
I suggest joining the local Yahoo Group called Brain Exchange or BREX. Please do a search on it and email the group and you will get information for attending one meeting (free) on the 4th Thursday of most months, in El Cerrito. Then you will get answers from many women either at the meeting or subsequently, online, daily BREX messages. It is free to join. suzanne
1: Get on LinkedIn and make your profile stellar. Solicit (and give) recommendations. Join relevant groups.

2: Join local and national organizations for communicators/editors and any specific to industries where you may have a specialization.

3: Take advantage of any networking opportunities and reach out to family and friends.

4: Do pro-bono work for a charity to get references and build your resume.

5: Get listed on sites like Elance that are dedicated to connecting freelancers with jobs. Look into temp agencies. Good luck! Karen


Freelance Editing Work

June 2004

I am looking for information about working as a freelance editor. I worked as a writer about 8 years ago, I have a law degree, and editing has been an element of most of the work I have done since college, but I have no formal editing training. I have spent the last year at home with my two small kids. Should I take a course before trying to find work? (which one?) How much do freelancers generally charge? How do you build a client base? Do you need to pick a topic area and focus on that or can you be a general, all purpose editor? Is there as much demand for substantive editing as there is for copy editing? Any and all thoughts welcome.


I recommend some formal training. Editcetera in Berkeley offers excellent editorial (and other courses) for professionals. This group is also a network of experienced pro editors who've loosely banded together to get work. Our company has paid freelance editors (depending on experience, specialization, and whether the work is proofreading, copy editing, or developmental) anything from $16 to $30/ hour. Specialization (but not too narrow) is a good idea. Our company works with, for instance, a lot of cookbook specialists. There seems to be more demand for copy editing and especially good proofreading, but that's a special skill. Nicole
There is an editing program at UCB Extension (which I completed two years ago). They sometimes have little ''state of the job market'' type seminars. I can tell you from my own experience that without some sort of formal editing training or job experience, very few people will be willing to interview you for editing jobs (this is why I did the editing sequence at UCBex.) Sara

Careers in Publishing

April 2004

Hello, I periodically read messages here that recommend publishing as a career. I've looked into it superficially over the years, and had the impression that people were entering the field through unpaid internships or previous editorial experience. In the last couple of years, my line of work has pretty much dissolved, and people I respect have been telling me I should go into publishing. Yes, but how to go about it? I have a Ph.D. in the liberal arts, have published a lot of articles, and I grew up around writers and editors, etc.--but I have no editorial samples, for example, to submit for such a position, or practical experience in some components of the job. I also don't know where the job boards are for these jobs--there must be something more efficient than going to the websites for individual publishers. I will appreciate any guidance here--as I say, I've seen people write on this group who sound very knowledgeable about such work. Interested in Publishing


Although I wasn't really looking for a career in publishing I've kind of stumbled into the field of technical editing and reviewing. In my field, computers, there was, and maybe still is, a huge demand for people who both know the technical material and who how to edit for grammar and clarity. Most of the computer book publishers contract out this kind of work to freelancers. Maybe in your field there are textbooks or other kinds of material that need to be edited before being published. This isn't a true career but it can be a start. Jon

Becoming an editor

October 2003

I am looking for advice on becoming an editor in the publishing industry. I have a BA in journalism and several years of experience editing at a daily newspaper. I have this notion that I might enjoy publishing, but I really don't know anything about it -- and I am unsure how to find out more because I don't know anyone in the industry. I'm hoping there a members of this network who can help me. Among my questions are the following: Is it highly competitive? Is it youth driven (I am in my late 30s)? How should I start looking for a job? I'd love to hear whatever words of wisdom you have to share. Thanks so much. Book Worm


I have worked in book publishing in the Bay Area for almost 10 years. I think it is a wonderful profession, and the atmosphere in the Bay Area, as opposed to the big houses in NY, is very laid back and collegial.

You may want to explore marketing and publicity. Some people have the notion that editorial is the most exciting department, but I have always thought that marketing is much more fun, and if writing is what you like, you end up doing a lot of writing in the marketing department. I don't think that it is youth driven. I am in my mid-thirties, and recent hires in my company are older than me. In my company of 20 employees, a third is my age, a third is older (40s, 50s and 60s) and a third are in their 20s.

You mention you don't know anybody in the industry. A good place to meet people is in the NCBPMA (Northern California Book Publicity and Marketing Association) monthly luncheons on different publishing topics. These luncheons provide a great informal way to meet Bay Area publishing professionals. They publish a directory of Bay Area Publishers which is an excellent starting point to get the picture of how many companies are around and what they do. Check out their website http://www.ncbpma.com/

Good luck! In book publishing and loving it


The bay area is a great center of independent book publishers. There are a few wonderful organization in the bay area around book publishing:

1) Northern California Book Publicity & Marketing Association (www.ncbpma.org)

2) Bay Area Editor's Forum (not sure of the web address; there might be a link on the ncbpma site)

3) Bookbuilders West (focus on production issues)

The best thing to do is to try to hook up with one of these organizations and start going to their events to meet people in the industry. The NCBPMA website has a job board and others may too. There are also job postings in the back of Publishers Weekly magazine, the industry magazine. Kristen


I am perhaps not the best person to answer your post because I haven't worked in book publishing directly; I have worked with editors as an author and a translator, so I have some information gleaned from my contacts.

First, I don't believe one makes a lot of money in publishing. Many publishing firms struggle with the bottom line.

Second, there are many kinds of book publishing, and some of them may be more fulfilling to you personally than others. There are university and other non-profit presses that deal with academic and some literary works, there are presses that deal only with technical publication, and other very specialized presses. Some book publishers produce items that literature-lovers would scarcely acknowledge as real ''books.'' I would say that you would have to be comfortable with and interested in the type of book published by the press in order to be happy.

For academic publishing you should have some knowledge of one or more of the fields published by the press as well as editorial expertise. It helps with other types of publishing too to have some background knowledge in their specialization.

Working efficiently and accurately are important skills. My impression is that one often works in a kind of apprentice position (copy-editor, assistant editor) before moving into more interesting work. The pay at these starting positions is often low.

If you have additional questions I might be able to get a contact name and info for you with an academic publisher and a non-profit publisher.

Good luck! Linda


I've worked in the publishing industry off and on for many years. It can be wonderfully rewarding, and also very frustrating. Rewarding because the work and the people are terrific. Frustrating because it is an undervalued (in many ways) industry. You might start with one or two classes at either editcetera, a local editing consortium, or U.C. Extension. Both have wonderful classes and workshops that teach the basics and the finer points of book editing and the publishing business. Carolyn