Need an editor? You need a strong job description
As a freelance editor, I search for jobs on various platforms where people post RFPs (requests for proposals) for editorial work they need done. I filter the jobs I review, but even with my filters, I skim at least 100 job descriptions/RFPs each day. When I come across a job that sounds interesting (i.e., when it has a good, descriptive headline), I stop scrolling and read the description.
The following are examples of bad RFPs (but unfortunately, also very common ones):
- I need my book edited.
- I need an editor for my fiction novel. [Editor’s note: a novel is ALWAYS fiction.]
- I’m looking for a great editor that can help me with my novel.
- I am looking for someone to edit and check for grammatical errors.
Do you think any of those descriptions help me figure out (a) what kind of work the book actually needs and (b) if I’m a good fit for the job? If you said, “Nope, Sharon, I don’t think they do,” you’d be 100% correct. They don’t.
So, in an effort to make everybody’s life a little easier, I’m going to share with you what I (and I assume other editors) would love to see in a job description. Ready? Please take notes. Please share this. We must stop the madness that is “Edit my book.” (I saw that job description today.)
Here are the elements that your job description/RFP should include:
- genre and subgenre (e.g., nonfiction, memoir; nonfiction, self-help; fiction, thriller; fiction, romance) [Editor’s note: if it’s sci-fi and/or fantasy, it would be helpful to include the sub-subgenre because those categories are so big.]
- total word count
- your deadline – if you have flexibility with your deadline, please state that
- your budget – Even if you don’t know what the job should cost, you likely have a max budget in mind; explain your budget situation in your description. If you have to put a figure into the system as a placeholder but the figure isn’t really representative of what you plan to spend, explain that. If your budget is $100 and that’s it, say that. I can’t take on a project to edit a 50,000-word book for $100, so if you’re clear about that, I won’t waste my time or yours in responding to your ad. However, there will be someone out there who will likely do it for that amount of money. (The quality of the work may be questionable, but they’ll do it.) The important lesson here is be clear about it.
- your reason for writing the book (not everyone will care about this, but I like to know why you wrote it)
- your audience – teens? women or men (of a certain age or not)? children? business professionals?
- your goals for the book – (e.g., to advance your business, to find an agent or a publisher, to try your hand at self-publishing)
- your writing experience – Is this your first attempt at writing anything? Is this the tenth book you’ve written? Are you a regular blogger?
- your expectations of the editor – I know this might be hard, but try to explain what you think your book needs and how the editor can help you. Do you feel like the story is missing pieces? Is it not organized well? Are you not great at developing characters? Do you really stink at grammar? Anything you can share this way will help spur discussions later with potential editors.
- your book’s condition – Did you just hit the period key for the last time on the first draft and now you’re sending it off to an editor? Do you belong to a writers’ group that has critiqued your book for months? Have you had a beta reader or two take a pass through it? Knowing this ahead of time can be helpful.
- your format – (e.g., Word, Pages, Scrivener, etc.)
Finally, be prepared to share a sample of the book. I LOVE it when an author includes a portion of the book with the job description. If I can see even just the first chapter–or the first few pages of the first chapter–that tells me so much about the work the book needs and if I’m even a good candidate for the job. I don’t edit everything, so I’m not the best editor for everyone. Seeing a sample is imperative to me when it comes to establishing a budget and a timeline as well as simply, as I said, deciding if I should even pursue the job.
OK … with this list in mind, I’m also going to provide you with a sample RFP/job description that would help me know quickly whether or not I should even apply to the job. Believe me, you don’t want everyone in the world applying to the job. It’s not uncommon at all for clients to receive at least 100 proposals within the first couple days. Can you imagine sorting through that many? The clearer you can express your needs, the better the providers’ responses will be.
Here’s my sample for you:
Hi! I’m looking for an editor for my 90,000-word thriller. It’s about a young woman who, completely out of character, steals a bunch of money from some bad people and even worse events ensue. This is the third draft of the book, and I’m ready for a new set of eyes. Although this is my fifth novel and I’m a professional editor, I need someone else to help me see if the story makes sense, if my plotlines hang together like they should, and if it’s compelling at all. I’m looking for big-picture help; I’m not worried about grammar, etc.
I want to find someone with a strong track record doing these types of projects, so please make sure your portfolio and resume reflect this kind of work. If you can send me links to works you’ve edited, I’d like to see those.
I will be querying agents when this process is complete. Should I fail to find representation, I’ll be self-publishing. Either way, I want my book to be the strongest it can be.
I’d like to have the work done within a month to six weeks at the latest, and I’d like to touch base every week to see how the work is going and if you have any questions or concerns as you’re going through it.
The system required me to enter a number for a budget, so I chose $1,000. I think this is a fair amount, but I am open to discussions about budget.
I work exclusively in Word, and I would need you to do the editing in Word utilizing the “Track Changes” feature.
I’ve attached the first chapter to this for your consideration, and I look forward to receiving your replies. Thanks for considering my project!
There is a template floating around the Internet for RFPs for editing projects that includes the line, “I’m working with previous bestsellers, so this will be great exposure for your work.” I can’t tell you how many RFPs I’ve read that include that line, and it’s obvious it’s a blatant lie. Someone shared a template, like I just did, and they included that line in the template. For whatever reason, people continue to include it. Don’t lie to people. Don’t just copy and paste my sample above when you need to post a job. Use it. Tweak it. Make it unique to your needs and your book.
If you’re ready to hire an editor, or maybe you just think you are but you want to talk about it first, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and use my sample above to guide you in telling me about your book. I can’t wait to hear from you.
And again, please share this post. We need better job descriptions out there! Thanks.