Perceived Value and The Book Editor

Once upon a time (1993), I was a middling Television Producer with a quartet of Emmys and I earned about $100,000 a year. Taking out this and that and adding in that and this, it comes to about $400 a day on a Freelance basis. If you add in the cost of medical insurance, the 7.5% increase in Social Security, the lack of Workman’s Comp,  the lack of disability insurance, the necessity of life insurance, and other sundries, a valid freelance equivalent would be $500 a day or, figuring a 10-hour day, $50 an hour.

1980 37477_411953891454_8262337_n

In the past 25 years of freelancing, I can’t remember making $50 an hour ONCE.

And so we reach the subject of Perceived Value or how the value of work diminishes the instant that the client isn’t actually doing it.


Take a dog-walker. He or she takes on a contract to walk a dog twice a day and charges $40 a day. At this point, the client usually sees that as outrageous–after all, it’s something he or she does for free. However, figure 2 hours per walk with travel, twice a day, a good cardio exercise for about a mile, and you’re under minimum wage. Let’s not even discuss taxes, bonding insurance needed to even enter a client’s house, and business insurance (if you’re smart) for when that puppy bites someone, and you’re practically in debt.

Much more telling is the reaction to the payment on both sides”

  • The client sees a weekly charge of an outrageous $250 and a monstrous monthly charge of $1000. Time to fire this thief and hire the guy walking 10 dogs at once looking like a Chinese prison camp.

  • On the receiving end, the walker does a good half-day of work and gets less than the illegal immigrant who cleans the client’s house or the mechanic who fixes the Mercedes. Remove the third that goes to taxes,  benefits, and insurance and Greeting at Walmart begins to look good.

The Perception of Value is the key. The client is, for the sake of argument, making $300 an hour as a PR flack which is why they can’t walk their own damn dog. They see that remuneration as perfectly reasonable and, probably, insufficient when they compare it to others in the company. In any case, their compensation goes directly into a bank and never seems enough to meet their reasonable costs of living. It’s invisible and theoretical.

However, the cost of Fluffy’s care consists of extremely real green paper that has to come out of their wallet and it simply seems far too high. Highway Robbery! Where does this scruffy person come off charging such an unbelievable fee. Isn’t the warmth and companionship of the aforesaid Fluffy enough?

Well, no, it isn’t.
Which brings me to book editing.

The Editorial Freelancers Association ( puts out a range of prices for various types of editing;  I generally do “developmental editing” which translates as really having to dig in and fix a book. Sometimes, it means re-writing or ghost-writing. It’s listed at $30 to $50 an hour.

Now let’s take an imaginary PR executive . They’ve written the next “American Psycho,” it’s a brilliant 100,000-words, and he or she asks what it will cost to brush it up. For one reason or another, ranging from a difficulty with dialog to complete illiteracy, it never needs a “brush-up,” it requires real effort.

I know my limits and, while I can only write 2,500 words a day on my own books, I can generally grind out 5,000 words a day on the first pass through someone else’s. (I’ve been told that that’s Stephen King speed if far from Stephen King quality.)

So, it just takes a bit of simple math. A 100,000 page manuscript is going to take 20 full 10 hour days. (I usually add up half-days to full days and I can’t work 7 days a week so it would take a month.)

Excuse me for being over-weening, but I would like to make a reasonable fraction of the money I made 25 years ago and that means $400 a day (let’s not worry about inflation and the full third that gets sent to Uncle Sam.)

20 days at $400 = $8000. 

At this point, Perceived Value hits.

Eight Thousand Dollars?!

That would be a week in Europe or new deck on the house! They’ll just find another Editor. Sadly, because of the economy of the publishing industry, there will always be an Editor willing to undercut the bid.

Remember how much our putative Author is making. In one hour, they clear what it takes the editor 8 hours to earn, add in the one-third in hidden benefits and you get about an hour of their time to an Editor’s 10-hour day.

Any Editor knows that EVERY book needs editing and 5,000 words a day is a real bitch so it’s inevitable that there will be a couple of pro bono days. The fact that the book is going to need a second edit and a proof is kept a secret as is the cost of decent art on a front-and-back cover and laying out the type on InDesign.


The problem is the societal perception of value between a PR executive, an attorney, an accountant, etc, versus a freelance word-wrangler. Sure, $12,000 a week is the appropriate market value of a junior executive or a first year attorney at a low-rent law firm.

Is $2000 a week really unreasonable for an Editor good enough to bother hiring?

That’s a 6 to 1 ratio!

You DO get what you pay for.

The Conundrum for Editors:

  • Do you hold to a living wage and lose every client?
  • Do you buckle under and take half plus a meaningless promise of fuiure revenues?
  • Do you just say the hell with it and go back to your own books?

Note that I have been more than fair in my examples–one client without a thought suggested seriously that a single day of his time was worth 100 days of mine. (I may still take that job, I like the guy. What can I say?)

What really hurts is the unanimous acceptance of Perceived Value. After 40 yeas in television and 25 as a writer, I no longer suggest to college students that they even consider Journalism. Banking, Business Administration, Law: those are the fields where the same amount of effort will bring in a multiple of the remuneration given to others.

Those guys are simply in a higher gear.


2 responses

  1. It’s tough for sure in the book writing and publishing world… Your value is priceless to me, Terry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. my complaints, you mean


So What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Backpack Bradie

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain

mary chase mize

adventures in reading, pursuing a PhD, baking, loving, and living

K. Tilden Frost

Autistic Enby Takes On Comics And Advocacy

black CATastrophy

Write Furiously.

Diary of an Aesthete

Follow the Journey...

Le Blog BlookUp

Imprimez et transformez vos contenus digitaux, blogs et réseaux sociaux, en magnifiques livres papier sur



Tamara Philip, Author

Where Love blossoms...


There are no foxes here

Nostalgia Pie

Comfort food for the soul from a time when things were so much simpler...

Adventures of an author's wife

Editor and publicist for my author wife Michelle McMurrie. Michelle is transgender and wrote her current books under her previous name of Michael Pugh.

Chris Brake Show Podcast

LIVE! Every Wednesday @ 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central on


Fun for the whole asylum!

Psych Circus

Enjoy, Learn, and Erase Stigma!



Globe Drifting

Global issues, travel, photography & fashion. Drifting across the globe; the world is my oyster, my oyster through a lens.

The Honking Goose

something to honk about

Blinginitwholesale produces wholesale rhinestone apparel and hot fix crystals

Customized bling shirts and rhinestone heat transfers

The Chalk Outline

the blog home of mystery writer Jeff Markowitz

Mik Mob's Music Mass

share YOUR favourite tunes with The Mob

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands that likes to Support Indie Authors.

terry73's Blog

A fine site

To Boldly Go

My mission to seek the Lord and to boldly go where He leads me


Fight corruption in PGCPS. Innovate, Change and Transform - Create Transparency and Accountability Initiative.

12 Week Weight Loss Course

Losing Weight & Looking Great!

On The Heath

where would-be writer works with words

Amanda Dyer

Founder & Creative Director at Maison by Amanda Dyer & Editor-in-Chief, Living 360 Magazine & Mompreneur 360 Magazine

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

Journal Edge

An online blog with highly informative, cheerful and inspirational articles for people who love travel to India with passion and make a different Lifestyle. Vikas Acharya is the founder and managing editor at Journal Edge Online Blog. Contact me to find out how I can help you create high-quality blog content, lead magnets, ebooks, and web copy for your business.

Art Attack

Discovering art in everything

What's Good?

Around the globe..

The Digital Inkwell

If poetry be the food for love, pen on.

Harga Timbangan

Dunia Timbangan,081280780615,081291999252,0216016259,Harga Timbangan,Harga Timbangan Duduk,Harga Timbangan Digital,Harga Timbangan Analitik,Harga Timbangan Manual,Harga Timbangan Gantung,Harga Timbangan Duduk Digital,Harga Timbangan Duduk Manual,Harga Timbangan Lantai,Harga Timbangan Mekanik,Harga Timbangan Gantung Manual,Harga Timbangan Gantung Jarum,Harga Timbangan Buah Digital,Harga Timbangan Neraca Analitik,Harga Timbangan Elektrik,Harga Timbangan Digital Gram,Harga Timbangan Gram,Timbangan Duduk,Timbnagan Manual,Timbangan Duduk Manual,Timbangan Analitik,Timbangan Laundry,Timbangan Mekanik,Timbangan Salter,Timbangan Nagata,Timbangan Cahaya Adil,Timbangan Quattro,Timbangan Sapi,Timbangan Ternak,Timbangan Adam,Analitycal Balnce,Moisture Balance,Timbangan Sn Timah,Timbangan Oc Timah,Timbangan Chq,Timbangan Matrix,Timbangan Acis,Timbangan Lantai,Timbangan Gantung,Timbangan Gantung Jarum,Timbangan Gantung Manual,Jual Timbangan,Timbangan Barang Digital,Timbangan Pemancingan,Timbangan Galatama,Timbangan Obat,Timbangan Neraca Analitik,Timbangan Lantai Digital,Timbangan Camry,Harga Timbangan Laundry,Harga Timbangan Beras,Harga Bandul Timbangan,Anak Timbangan,Batu Timbangan,Timbangan Daging,Timbangan Buah,Timbangan Sayur,Timbangan Barang,Timbangan Balance,Timbangan Floor Scale,Timbangan Counting,Timbangan Anti Air,Timbangan Water Proof,Timbangan Jarum,Timbangan Duduk Jarum

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

Strictly for the Birds

My banal thoughts while flying on just about everything

Setsu Uzume

Author, Editor, Narrator

d|gI+Al hEGeM0n ...d|g|Z|nE

Works of Thought... And Pictures of My Soul

Jobsdhamaka Blog

Job Interview Tips and Career Advices


Just a regular thirty-something-year-old trying to capture the essence of life in writing. Join me as I journey through the ups, the downs and the adventures in between.

Predictable in Her Unpredictability

Doing What Makes My Soul Shine

Boost Facebook Likes

Fast, Cheap Followers and Likes


A man who will break rules and play dirty, only bound by his own code of survival.

%d bloggers like this: