30 July 2009

The numbers game

So an email's circulated on a list I belong to, offering a book that needs copy-editing. There's a catch - the copy-ed needs to be super-familiar with the topic, because it's rather specialised. No problem - I fit the criteria perfectly, whizz over my CV and a cover email and sit back and wait...

A week goes by. No word. I presume someone else has been given the book, which inexplicably infuriates me. Not just because I really wanted to do this book, but because there's a recession on and I need all the work I can get. But then, lo! Another 3 days pass and out of the blue I'm asked if I'm still available to edit the book. Damn right I am.

I'm given a word count and a "budget", which can be roughly translated as "this is the fee on offer and if you don't like it, tough." I dig out my calculator and do some sums. I know I'm skilled. I also know I can work fast as well as accurately. And so, sight unseen, I estimate that if the MS doesn't need too much work it'll only take X hours and the fee, while not brilliant in today's recession-driven climate, will be reasonable and at least cover August's rent and bills. I accept.

The manuscript arrives. I do my usual procrastination but of course there's a deadline and I eventually knuckle down. Half a day in, with 40 pages under my belt, I suddenly notice that the word count is almost a fifth higher than I was originally led to expect. Ouch.

I go back and examine the chain of email between me and the desk ed. It doesn't look as if there's any room for more money. But wait. This is a major publishing house. And this is not about an extra 1,000 or 2,000 words. If it had been, I'd probably have sucked it up in the hope of getting more work in the future from the client. No, it's an additional 20,000 words...

Only one thing for it. I fire off a diplomatic email and politely ask for more money and an extra 3 days' editing time. Within minutes, I'm granted both. Result. I get the extra 3 days, more if I need them.

And best of all, the revised fee I agree to accept is more than a fifth higher than the original. In other words, I'll be paid more overall pro rata.

Now that's what I call a win...


Anne Brooke said...

Fabulous - well done you!!! :)) Axxx

Anonymous said...

So they underpay you and give you more work than agreed. When you approach them they pay you more but still less than the job is worth......who was the winner here I wonder. ; )

Unknown said...

I don't normally permit anon comments but I've let this one through as it needs answering. As my OP says, the original fee was not an underpayment. I stated clearly that I thought it was reasonable. I never taken on underpaid work. The reason there was a difference in wordcount was because in between being offered the work and actually receiving it, the MS had gone back to the author as they wanted to add more text.

The desk ed was probably a little slack in not rechecking the wordcount before forwarding the MS but replied instantly to my request for more money for the extra work, which I think is fair. And yes, I'm being paid more now as the difference in fee is more than a fifth of the original, no doubt to make up for the inconvenience at my end.

I think everything has been handled fairly and professionally on both sides.

If you have further comments, Anon, please ID yourself or I won't be publishing them.