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Editor's Notes #38, Technology and the Evolution of the Free Sample Edit -- January 4, 2007
January 04, 2007

Technology. . . is a queer thing.
It brings you great gifts with one hand,
and it stabs you in the back with the other.

-- CP Snow, NY Times March 15, 1971

In this issue:
  1. Technological Joys and Woes
  2. The Evolution of the Free Sample Edit


1. Technological Joys and Woes

First the joys.

My whole business depends on technology. I could edit with a pencil. . .

. . .or with a stick in the sand for that matter.

But I'm glad I don't.

I've always been grateful to the Internet for giving me the whole world as a marketplace for my skills. I simply could not make a living as an editor if it weren't for the reach of my Web site.

In December I hitched my wagon to a new aspect of on-line life and created a video about how much I love what the Internet has done for my business.

I was inspired by a contest my Web host sponsored. Since I had never used a video camera before, I knew going in that I wouldn't win the $10,000 prize. But I also knew that on-line video is "hot" and I always work better if I have a project and a deadline.

On November 27 I bought a video camera. While I was on holiday at the end of December, I learned that one of the two videos I submitted had won honorable mention in the contest. Not shabby at all. The prize money almost pays for the camera. But best of all, I now know a new skill -- one I expect to make use of on my Web sites.

The first plan I have is to use video to support my free course on writing verse for children. In the mean time, if you want to see my almost-winning video, visit YouTube.

And if you can think of another good use of video for this site, let me know. I'm always open to new ideas.

I guess it's time for the woes.

Before I could finish my videos, my computer started to act up. Finally, it shut right down -- all the way down. I had to finish the video editing on borrowed computers not in my own house and not on my own schedule.

The repair shop told me it would be two weeks before they could get me back in Technoland. At first I fussed, but then recalled that during one of those weeks I would be in Mexico, so really, I would be only one week without my computer.

When I got back from my vacation, the repair shop extended the time to indefinite, or something like 5 weeks. The repairman still hadn't even looked at the computer.

Now, I had been limping along, mainly trying to keep the SPAM out of my inboxes and answering emergency e-mails. Especially while in Mexico, that work took so much energy given the antiquated and unfamiliar systems and equipment I had available that I did only the minimum. Work piled up to Everest proportions.

I do back up my work, but since I use the free sample edits I do to determine the quote I give a writer, I really need to use my own tools at their best. I couldn't wait five more weeks.

I hopped on a ferry and took my computer to Vancouver to a repair shop I've used before. Yesterday the shop gave me a new hard drive and a big bill and I came home almost a happy woman.

I still had to reinstall everything, which took me until about 3:00 this morning.

But it's done! It feels so good to have keys doing what I expect!

The technological glitches have pushed me to redefine my free sample edit. Here's how. . .

2. The Evolution of the Free Sample Edit

For almost a year, I've been run off my feet doing free sample edits. It's an occupational hazard when you have a Web host like mine who really does help you get lots of traffic.

Most of those who submit samples never intend to hire an editor. When I had only a little work, that was fine with me. I had lots of time and editing is a kind of play for me. I welcomed the opportunity to play with writers' work.

But the increased unpaid workload is sucking some of the joy out of the job. What to do?

I reviewed my reasons for offering a free sample edit.

The name of my Web site is not an accident. I do want to be a help to writers.

Editing a sample of a writers' work is the best way I know of to give a realistic quote for the type of editing I do -- the type of editing that marries science and art to get the best text possible.

I needed to find a way to reduce submissions from those who are not serious about their writing or who are not serious enough about it at this point to pay for help.

At the same time, I wanted to offer a free sample to anyone who was even remotely a potential client, those serious enough to send their best possible work.

(I get an astonishing amount of terrible work that is clearly a first draft.)

For almost a year I've been playing with the idea of charging for the free sample edit.

I KNOW! That sounds so insane that I've hesitated to write about it at all.

But it does make sense.

Here's how it would work. . .

People could still send me 500 words. They would just have to include $20. The $20 doesn't pay for the editing of 500 words unless all the person wants is a copyedit. But it seems to me like $20 is enough to weed out those who are not ready for intensive paid work.

If the person chooses not to hire me, I keep the money and the writer gets a sample edit worth up to ten times as much as he or she paid.

If the person does hire me, I deduct the $20 from the bill, so the sample edit does become free again.

I imagine that some people will think that I will simply add $20 to the quote. I won't, of course.

But this is the only down side I can see.

What does this mean for you?

Well, I'd love your feedback. Some of you have been with me from the beginning and even if you don't always -- or ever -- respond to these newsletters, I know you are out there and I appreciate you as a writing friend.

Some of you may have been thinking of submitting work to me and this change may feel like a betrayal. First of all, the fee won't happen tomorrow. I have to iron out all the wrinkles and then write something coherent for my Web site. Doing that while ploughing through the pile of work I have on my desk could take months.

Besides that, I'm letting you know in advance so you can still get a fully free sample edit if that's what you've been considering.

If you think you will EVER want a free sample edit from me and haven't had one before, just e-mail me and let me know. I'll give you a free sample edit without the $20 charge. I'll hold this offer open until I can put the change on my site. So if you e-mail me even the day before the change, and remind me of this offer, I'll still put you on the list of special friends who won't have to pay the $20.

There is no time limit on when you actually submit the edit, only on when you ask for it. You can e-mail me today and get the free sample edit when I'm 85, assuming I can still see well enough to edit.


Best wishes for you and your writing in 2007.


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