If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing the websites of editorial freelancers, you’ve seen it before. “Prices vary according to the needs of the individual project. Please contact me for a quote.”
(Mine is no different, though I do add that my typical range is £4–£7 per 1,000 words)
What this process of getting quotes for proofreading involves – how long it takes, what information you need to provide and what you get out of it – can vary greatly between editors. Here’s what it looks like at Luca Fossum Editorial.
1. You: First Point of Contact
I can help you more quickly if your first email is detailed. At a minimum I need to know the word count*, the service you’re after (straight proofread or proof-edit), and your desired start/finish dates and a note on how flexible these are. (More info here.) That will at least give me an initial sense of whether I’ll be able to help you.
If you’re on a very tight budget, that could also be useful for me to know at this stage.
*If the MS is incomplete, an approximate is fine; just know that what you’ll get will only be an estimate, not a firm offer.
Example A: the standard query
I’m looking for a proofreader for my contemporary romance novel (95K), which I’m planning to self-publish. First time doing it so I’m a little nervous! I’m currently working through my line editor’s notes and should have it ready for proofreading by the end of the month. So if you’re available then that’d be great. I don’t have a specific deadline in mind but I’d obviously prefer to get it out there sooner rather than later! 🙂 Your website says you quote based on a sample of the MS, so I’ve attached the current iteration here, but note that only the first 15,000 words have had the line edits incorporated so probably do your sample from there!
Example B: the challenge query
By “challenge” I mean simply that the author’s requirements – usually in terms of time or money – may limit my ability to complete the project. Don’t worry too much about whether your query is an “A” or a “B”; I’m just showing you both types to give you an idea of what the correspondence with clients looking for quotes for proofreading might look like. (Inasmuch as queries can all be sorted into two distinct types. Spoiler – they can’t really.)
Hi Luca. I came across your website and saw that you do so-called “proof-edits”. From your description it sounds like exactly what I need! My novel is a 130K fantasy, and it’s been through a handful of beta readers but no professional editor, so I’m ideally looking for a bit more than a normal proofread. The deadline would be two weeks from now. What would be your price for this?
2. Me: Covering the Basics
The standard query
With my reply, I will seek to ensure that we’re in agreement on the basics, let you know about my availability, answer any specific queries of yours, and, if necessary, ask you for further info about you and your project.
Thank you for getting in touch. I’d be delighted to proofread your novel for you. However, I’m currently booked up until the sixteenth. Would that be okay? The proofread should take around two weeks, but I’ll give you a more specific timeline with the quote.
A couple of follow-up questions before I proceed with the sample proofread:
– Are you planning on print publishing your book? If not, no worries. But if yes: if you format the MS prior to sending it to me, in addition to checking spelling/grammar/etc., I can check for layout issues. Things like widows/orphans, running heads and end-of-line hyphenation to fix gappy lines. Please advise whether you will want this or not, so I can work it into the quote.
– Based on your email address (.co.uk) and a peek at the MS, I’m going to assume that you’re based in the UK and will want UK spelling. Please let me know if this is not the case.
– Please also advise me of any specific concerns or preferences you may have. E.g. if you know you tend to overuse commas and want me to feel free to remove them as I see fit, or if you really hate semi-colons and want me to avoid them at all costs.
And if you haven’t already, please refer to this page for what is included in the proofread and let me know if you have any questions.
I await your answers to the above before proceeding with the sample proofread.
The challenge query
But perhaps your terms mean that the project is already looking impossible or unlikely for me. If that’s the case, I’ll explain the situation before we get into further discussion and advise you that you may have to concede on price, schedule or scope if the project is to be completed.
Thank you for getting in touch. I would be delighted to proof-edit your novel for you.
However, I have to say that unless your MS is really very clean, it’s unlikely that I will be able to complete it on a standard schedule. On a fast-track schedule it shouldn’t be a problem, but because that requires me to work evenings/weekends, I do charge more for that.
My price range is £3–£10 per 1000 words. In order for me to work out a precise quote for you, please send me the full MS or a sample of at least 1000 words from the middle of it.
Once I’ve done the sample edit, I will have a clearer sense of whether I can finish it by your desired deadline. The quote will include timelines and prices for both standard and fast-track (and the flexi-option for good measure). So I’m not saying no here! I’m just warning you that you will likely need to concede on either price or time. But again, I can only tell once I’ve actually looked at the MS.
[This would be followed by additional clarifying questions a la the ones in the example above]
Had the restriction been budget-related, I might let them know that, at first glance, I’m unlikely to be able to meet their requested maximum on a standard schedule, but to save money they can choose the flexi option and/or “downgrade” to a proofread rather than a proof-edit. If the suggested fee is very low I’ll likely decline to do a proper full read but offer a very bare-bones, no-frills read to eliminate the worst errors and inconsistencies.
3. You: Requesting Sample Proofread
You then answer my questions (if any) and confirm that you would like me to do a sample proofread. If you haven’t done so yet, you’ll now send me your MS, either as a Word document or PDF. Preferably this will be the full MS (or as full as it is at this point in time). But if for whatever reason you don’t feel comfortable with this, a sample from the middle of the MS is fine.
4. Me: Sample Proofread and Quote
Next, I take a look at the MS/sample and do a sample proofread of roughly 1,000 words. From this, I can estimate my speed, which helps me set my rate.
This will usually take less than 24 hours, though it does depend on the urgency of the request. If I’m quite busy and your project isn’t due to start for another couple of months, I may take a little longer. If your request is urgent and/or I’m not too busy, my response time will be on the quicker side.
- the proofread sample. This will give you a sense of the sorts of changes I’ll be making and of how I’ll be making them. Do keep in mind, though, that as this is only a sample, there might be things I’ll end up doing differently in the context of the full MS. I might, for example, spot inconsistent spelling, or an answer to a query that I had while doing the sample.
- a quote sheet. This contains my rate for the project and a breakdown of the service with a note of any specific requests. For each of the different scheduling options, there will also be an overview of the full price and turnaround time (assuming the word count and start date previously discussed).
5. You: Considering and Accepting the Offer
You’ll then take some time to look at the sample and consider the offer. If happy, you’ll contact me to accept it, specifying whether you’d like the standard, fast-track or flexi option. Also, feel free to comment on the sample and let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to do slightly differently or if there’s anything that’s particularly important for me to pay attention to etc.
6. Me: Booking You In
I’ll let you know when I’ve booked you in. In some cases I might require a partial payment to secure the spot properly or to commence the work. If this is the case, there will be a reminder here and an invoice with the instructions.