Earlier today, I mentioned to a group of editors that I prefer to provide sample edits to clients. A new, young editor contacted me privately to ask about that:
I’m curious about your suggestion to offer a free sample edit, and I’d love to hear more about your success with that. Currently, most of my freelance work comes from [a website], and I haven’t offered free samples because somewhere I read something that discouraged that.Curious Editor
What a great question! Here’s how I replied:
Sample edits definitely have a divided audience — some editors refuse to do them, others swear by them. I’m actually in both camps because I believe there are appropriate times for sample edits but there are also times to say no.
I only provide sample edits when working on full-length book projects, and I only edit the first 2-3 pages of the manuscript in question. Here’s why:
- If someone asks you to edit pages 14-15, they’re probably getting free samples from lots of editors in hopes of getting many pages edited for free.
- If they want you to edit an entire article (500-750 words) to see if I’d be a good fit for them on an unseen project,they’re probably sending out dozens of articles to get as many free edits as possible.
By limiting the free sample to the first 2-3 pages of a book manuscript, I can see how serious the author is about hiring an editor (versus getting free editing).
I’ve heard some editors say they don’t offer free samples because they shouldn’t have to prove their ability, but I’ve never looked at it as if I’m proving myself. Instead, I see it as an audition — the author gets to see how I work and I get to see how he/she reacts. It is not easy to hand over 80,000 words to a stranger and ask them to point out all of your mistakes; if the author/editor personalities don’t match or their styles are completely different, it will make it even harder (for both parties). My editing approach isn’t right for every author, and that’s okay. I’d rather discover that in a sample edit than after the edit’s complete.
The sample also helps the author see how much work is really involved in the edit. They might scoff at you for quoting $2,000 for a project, but after they see how thoroughly you edit, they’ll understand.
Even though I’ve built up my reputation enough that I don’t need to offer sample edits (I have authors seeking me out instead of having to hunt for clients), I still like to offer them. In my experience, they help put the author at ease by helping them better understand the process and what will be happening.
I hope that helps!
How do you feel (as an author or editor) about sample edits?