The Trust Fall of Editing: Sample Edits

By Kathrin Herr

Hey, author friends! I’m Kathrin, AKA The Writing Mechanic.

In this blog post, I want to talk about one of my favorite ways to decide whether if an editor and author mesh well together: the glorious sample edit!

When I communicate with authors about editing their books, I always suggest that we do a sample edit.

A sample edit is a short excerpt from an author’s manuscript on which the editor shows his or her editing services. I charge between $30 and $50 for a sample edit (depending on length), and the value both I and my inquiring authors receive more than quadruples that amount in time and money.

I love sample edits. I’ve responded to a bunch of editing inquiries, and I always suggest completing a sample edit to help authors make their hiring decision.

Why do I love sample edits? As my editor friend, Ethan, said, “The sample edit is the trust fall of editing.”

A sample edit does 4 things:

  1. allows me, the editor, to get a sense of the author’s voice, writing style, and project;
  2. allows the author to see my work, style, and proficiency;
  3. gives both the author and me a peace of mind about entering into a business transaction; and
  4. is an excellent tool for estimating project cost and determining the type of editing needed.

I listed the sample edit’s ability to give me a sense of an author’s voice, writing style, and project first because making sure I’m a good fit for the project itself is even more vital than demonstrating my editing skills. I know my skills and experience. I can list the books I’ve worked on and the types of editing I’ve done and how long I’ve done them, but beyond those skills I’ve learned how to tell whether or not I fit with a client’s writing style and project. I need to know whether or not I want to commit to “catching” the project and asking for it to “fall” my way. It is sometimes called “sticking to your niche.” I stick to creative manuscripts in humanities genres—specializing in religious studies. But there are times when I’m still not quite the right fit for a book in my particular niche. A sample edit helps me decide if the project is right for me as an editor and if my services as an editor are right for the author.

The sample edit allows me to show my grammar and editing style and my ability to edit into an author’s voice and style. When I return a completed sample edit, the author has a personalized insight into the services I can provide for his or her manuscript. It’s like getting a freebie of substantial value that includes a guarantee of professional work. The author gets that insight and can even compare sample edits by different authors and choose the editor whose work they like the best. The sample edit lets the author know whether or not they can trust me and let the project “fall” to me.

The peace of mind a sample edit provides is crucial when you’re talking about over $1,000 in cost of services being exchanged. The author needs to know that I can do the job I say I can do. The sample edit proves that. I need to know that I’m a good fit for the project. The sample edit lets me decide that. If I complete a sample edit and feel like I’m a good fit for the book and the author sees my work and can feel confident in my abilities and services, I’m more likely to trust that the author will pay me in full and the author is more likely to trust that his or her investment will be worth the cost. I’m able to trust that the author will trust me and fall, and the author is able to trust that I will do the catching.

Finally, the sample edit allows me to better estimate how long a project will take to complete and what type of editing it requires. From the sample edit I can see common errors, I can tell whether a manuscript ready for copyediting or needs developmental work before copyediting, and I can give a cost of editing estimation based on the total page count for the project and the amount of time it took me to complete the sample edit. The sample edit allows me to get a better sense of the project and the services I will need to complete for the manuscript and to convey that to my author.

Sample edits provide author and editor with a mini-business trust fall. It is a very small amount of work on part of the editor but provides so much value to both author and editor. The editor decides with a sample edit whether or not they want the author to “fall,” and the author gains the trust in the editor to “catch” him or her in the necessary fall—paying a deposit and entering into a business contract.

The relationship between author and editor is one built on mutual trust. Why not start the relationship with the editing “trust fall”?

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