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Income Diversification for Authors: Freelance Editing

Last month we talked about one of the most obvious ways for fiction writers to diversify our incomes: freelance writing. Today we're going to dive into another obvious—for some of us, even more obvious—option: freelance editing.

What is freelance editing?

Freelance editors work directly with writers (and occasionally small publishers) to improve and ready their works for publication. There are three main types of freelance editors:

  • Developmental Editors: These people analyze your story and look at big-picture issues. They might point out the occasional grammatical problem, but their real goal is to make sure your actual story works.

  • Copyeditors: These editors dive into your grammar, spelling, and terminology to make sure everything is technically correct and suitable for your genre. If they notice a major story problem they might point it out, but their job is really about focusing on the nitty-gritty details.

  • Proofreaders: Proofreaders come in at the very end and go through your grammar and spelling with a fine-toothed comb. They focus entirely on the small details and shouldn't be hired until you're confident that your book is ready for publication.

Why freelance?

You'll note that once again, we're talking about how to start a freelance business, not how to find a day job. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason, which we discussed last month, is that my goal is to help you find ways to make a living without a single full-time job. The second reason is that traditional publishing is a cutthroat business; finding solid full-time work is darn near impossible. Some of the editors I know have a part-time job at a publishing house, but most (including the lovely ladies of Write Plan) earn their entire income through freelance work.

The Pros and Cons of Freelance Editing for Writers

Like freelance writing, freelance editing comes with some perks—and some disadvantages—specific to writers.

The Pros

  • You get to read books and make money from doing so

  • You become a master of the editing process

  • You learn what it's like to be on the other side of a manuscript, which theoretically makes accepting harsh feedback from your own editors easier

  • There's no commute, heavy lifting, or other major physical requirements; all you need is a computer and a good mind

  • You control your own hours and how many books you work on per year

  • You get to share in an author's sense of pride when they publish a successful book that YOU worked on

  • This is also a great, sneaky way to build your network of indie authors, which will be invaluable when the time comes to market your own books

The Cons

  • It's practically guaranteed that you'll need to edit at least one book for free before you can find your first paying job

  • Finding work that pays a decent wage is incredibly difficult when you're starting out

  • Editing tends to be an isolating job. If you're also spending many hours writing alone, this can lead to severe loneliness and depression

  • Some of the books you work on might be painfully bad

  • You can use all your editing energy on paid projects and have nothing left for your personal work at the end of the day

Is freelance editing right for you?

Freelance editing is a great way for authors to diversify their incomes. Almost every editor I know is also an author, and more than half of the authors I know do editing work to supplement their incomes. They love it because it lets them work in the industry they love, keeps them immersed in the world of books, and develops skills that help them write great books.

But freelance editing isn't for everyone. I decided early on that it wasn't for me, because editing is my least favorite part of the writing process. I struggle to complete my edits at a decent pace, even when I have no other major projects. The idea of spending all day editing someone else's novel only to spend my evening editing my own sounds unbearable. So I pursued freelance writing instead. Some editing is still involved, but it's much less intense, and I have an easier time keeping it mentally separate from my novels.

Only you can know for sure whether freelance editing will work for you. If you love editing and you know it won't detract from the books you're trying to write, go for it! If you, like me, think editing is the worst part of the writing process, look for other ways to diversify your income instead.

Think freelance editing is right for you? Here are some resources to get you started:

Dianna Gunn is the author of YA fantasy novella “Keeper of the Dawn” and a columnist at Writer's Corner for both Creating Great Characters and Professional Interaction for Authors. She also blogs about creativity, life and books at The Dabbler.


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Twitter: @Write_Plan

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