#SaystheEditor: But We Had a Date!

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Author: Susan Helene Gottfried

Probably the most commonly asked question is if clients have ever refused to pay me for editing work. Since I won’t start work until payment’s in hand, the answer is no, but… There was this one time that hardly even counts.  The author sent a longer manuscript after billing was taken care of and refused to pay that small difference when she didn’t like the evaluation I gave her, but otherwise, the answer’s no. I’m pretty inflexible on this point; I do have a mortgage to pay and a business to run.

But something else has a tendency to happen, and that’s clients who go through a sample piece of work, decide to use me, book time on my calendar and then … vanish into thin air.

Most often, some author who’s dropped me an e-mail to check my availability gets lucky and they fill that gap in my schedule. Or a client who sent a manuscript in advance (something I encourage doing) gets a bump up on the schedule. If a project was supposed to only take a day, maybe I’ll take the day and do the administrative stuff I always want more time for.

Sometimes, I get a mea culpa from the author. Life happens. I get that. Inherent Writerly Insecurity can paralyze you. I get that, too. Money becomes an issue. Yep, I get that. In fact, I’ve had all three happen to me. That first one can be a killer and if you don’t believe me, walk a mile in my shoes.

When you get down to it, I’m a softie, always willing to believe the best in people. So I’ll give second chances. Sometimes, I’ll even give a third chance.

But I don’t forget. In fact, I make notes. Some notes say to anticipate the edit taking longer. Some notes reflect an author’s preferences. Some remind me to check the style sheets from previous manuscripts. And some notes say the client vanished with no advance warning.

I will always do my best for my clients, even when they make decisions I don’t personally agree with, or when they show up later, full of chagrin. I will always do my best for my clients, even when it means I have to sacrifice a few hours with my kids. But I expect something in return, and that’s my client’s best, too. Their best-to-that-point manuscript. Prompt arrival in my inbox. And communication if you’re going to keep me waiting while others want my time and attention.

It seems hard to get your brain around sometimes. I get that. But authors, you’re running a business, too. Don’t alienate your contacts. Be professional. And keep your dates with your editor.

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