A client this morning inspired this week’s blog post. This particular client hired me to edit her manuscript and then format the book. As per the contract, I edited the manuscript and returned it to her to revise. She retyped the content into a CreateSpace template and sent it to me for formatting.

So, I formatted the book and delivered the requested PDF file, asking her to review it and let me know of any changes to be made.

She replied: “I thought the formatting would include a final editing. Was I mistaken? What is normally done for formatting?”

In short, yes, she was mistaken. If you’re hiring freelance services, then you should understand what you’re buying. Otherwise, you’ll be expecting apples when the vendor delivers oranges. Following are summarized descriptions of the services I offer:

  • Writing: Creation or generation of content. This may involve outside research. Many writing projects incorporate editing into the service contract. If so, don’t assume the writer will allow for multiple revisions. Inquire first.
  • Editing: Correction of errors and improvement of content. If fact-checking is involved–best to make sure–then outside research may be included. Editing may entail minor rewriting of less than 5% of the content. Some editors include multiple revisions. Don’t assume unlimited revisions: inquire first.
  • Formatting: Presentation of content. This involves designing the document: layout, page size, margins, fonts, typefaces (no, they’re not the same), leading, pagination, graphics placement, etc. Sometimes formatting includes the procurement of artwork. Be sure to inquire, because procurement of artwork may fall under graphic design.

​These are separate services. Writing and editing command related, but not necessarily the same, skills. Formatting involves neither writing nor editing, although the vendor may catch and correct minor errors as he or she sees them.

Let me repeat this: Understand the service your are purchasing. Do not assume something is included: always ask. In that manner, both you and the vendor understand precisely both parties’ responsibilities. Had this client specified that a second round of editing was needed, then my bid for service would have been different. As it was, she assumed wrongly. I offered to quote her for a second round of editing; we’ll see what happens.

The virtue in self-editing

A word of caution to writers seeking editors: Make sure your manuscript is ready for editing. Many, if not most, writers understand that a first or rough draft usually isn’t ready for the editor. That’s why it’s called the first or rough draft. Professional writers understand their responsibility to do their own editing before they send the manuscript to an editor.

Think about it. Let’s say you send your rough draft to the editor. It practically drips red ink upon return from the editor and you spend lots of time correcting and revising. Revising, of course, means rewriting a great deal of content. But is all that rewriting practically perfect or is it littered with errors and inconsistencies? This means you need a second round of hard editing. Essentially you’re paying for the same service twice because you failed to self-edit and revise the rough draft.

This is why most editors will not include multiple rounds of editing in their proposals. It takes just as much time to go over every single line of the manuscript the second time as it does the first.