After I posted my thoughts on setting boundaries with clients, an editor asked me to describe how I set expectations ahead of time. Mostly this is part of my project quote, which you can see below. I use slightly different wording for publisher clients to account for the differences in working with them—they aren’t the author, they don’t pay deposits, etc. Also, when working with indie authors, I expect full payment in advance, but this is unusual so I have included deposit language instead:
Dear Potential Client:
Thank you for thinking of me to edit your novel! I’ve had a chance to take a peek at your manuscript (1), Love Lies Bleeding on the Ground. I would be happy to provide a complete developmental edit on this manuscript. Please note that the following quote refers to the full manuscript of 80,535 words that you sent on October 19th. I can’t promise the quote will stay the same if the ms has changed (2).
As we discussed, you want me to identify problems with the narrative arc, such as plot holes and threads that aren’t tied up, as well as to provide suggestions for creating a more believable character arc for the protagonist. In addition, I will look for related developmental problems, such as scenes that contain unnecessary exposition, a central conflict that could be sharpened, and concerns with world-building/setting (3).
This edit will include queries and limited line edits on the manuscript itself to help you see where the problems are cropping up and how to fix them, plus a three-to-five page revision letter that will provide a plan for your revision (4). It does not include copyediting, although I will correct egregious errors that I spot.
The edit includes up to three hours of email/phone coaching to answer questions about the edit and to support your revision process. Any time required beyond these three hours is billed at my hourly rate of $X an hour (5).
As we further discussed, I will review your revision and make a final set of edits to reconcile any outstanding problems (see dates below) (6).
My fee for providing this service is $X. If you would like to book this edit, my next available opening is DATE. I will need your 25 percent nonrefundable deposit of $Y by A FEW DAYS FROM NOW (7) to hold this time for you. I will return my first round of edits to you by ABOVE DATE PLUS HOW MANY WEEKS IT WILL TAKE TO DO THE EDIT (8). Final payment will be due at this time (9). You will need to return your revision to me for my review and final edits by DATE PLUS TWO MONTHS. If you do not return your revision to me by the deadline, I will not be able to provide the final review (10).
Please remember that the deposit is nonrefundable. If you cancel the edit ahead of time, I cannot return your deposit as I cannot guarantee that your spot will be taken by someone else (11).
Once you’ve agreed to the quote, I’ll send you an invoice for the deposit (12).
Thank you very much! I look forward to hearing from you.
- I never suggest that I have done any serious examination of the ms because then the author will want to know what is wrong with it before I’ve even done the edit.
- Authors are notorious for saying, “Wait, wait, read this version!” I can’t promise that my assessment of “Oh, this is in fairly good shape” will remain the same if the author takes it into their head to completely start over.
- This paragraph describes what the edit—in this case a developmental edit—will include. It’s notable for what it isn’t: looking for incorrect comma placement and other sundries.
- This paragraph defines the deliverables—what the author can expect to receive from me.
- This paragraph defines what happens when the allotted coaching time is exceeded. It’s a good reminder that the author can pay for additional time if wanted.
- If any part of the process requires the client to take action, be sure to define what that action is and when it must be taken by.
- The amount of the deposit can vary—maybe it’s one-third or one-half or maybe it’s a dollar amount (I require full payment in advance)—whatever it is, make it clear that it’s yours once the client books the edit with you.
- Just as you want the author to commit to a deadline, you need to commit to a deadline!
- Always, always, always make it clear when the final payment is due.
- Again, this confirms #6—any necessary action the client must take and when the client must take it by. Note that it includes the consequences if the client does not.
- This section is for any policies you have to prevent cancelations and no-shows.
- You can instead use a link to an online booking form or a Paypal button to pay the deposit—just make sure it’s clear what the author needs to do to pay the deposit.
Use a template for your project quote to make sure you don’t overlook anything important.