Editor’s note: For more information on what to include in an editing contract, see Megan’s “8 Must-Haves for Freelance Editing Contracts.”
By Megan Harris
If your book is complete, or in the process of being completed, you may start to think about the next steps involving your book–namely, hiring an editor to help you polish your work. Before you send your manuscript off to the cutting room floor, however, it’s important to provide parameters for your project and sign a contract.
Here are some of the most common questions writers who have never hired an editor ask, and some answers to help you along the way!
Why do I need a contract with an editor?
A contract protects both you and the service provider–in this case, an editor–and provides guidance for the project. No matter the size of your project, a solid contract can help organize the project better so there are fewer questions about who is paid when and where, when work is completed, what type of work is completed, and a myriad of other questions that can come up over the course or a project.
What if I already know the editor–do we still need an editing contract?
Yes! Receiving a word of mouth referral from an editor or hiring a friend who edits means you still need a contract. Even if you trust someone to provide the work for you, having protections in place to ensure both parties have agreed to the contracts terms and conditions is crucial. Plus, if your editor friend happens to have a lot of projects, the editing contract can set the foundation for your specific project and can better outline what is expected to the project is better organized.
What goes into a contract?
A contract can have many parts, and all of them are different. In general, a contract should include the project’s scope of work, terms for project payment, any conditions regarding service provider expenses, and information about arbitration if one or both parties decides to pursue litigation.
Some contracts have other clauses that might outline working with subcontractors, terms for nondisclosure (often called a nondisclosure agreement), and other more specific details that will determine the service provider-client relationship.
What does “scope of work” mean?
Scope of work describes the lens through which the service provider will approach and complete work. The scope of work provides as many details as possible to ensure the service provider and the client come to terms with what the project entails. In the case of editing projects, the scope of work will provide you and the editor an idea of your project’s word count, the payment method, what type of editing you will receive, and other relevant details to set the agreement.
Why can’t I just add on services to a contract without new negotiations?
Adding on services without new negotiations lends itself to what is called “scope creep.” It can be very easy for an agreement to lead to scope creep without any malicious intent. For example, if the scope of work includes editing the manuscript, sending the contractor a query letter to review as well is considered outside of the scope of work that was set forth in the editing contract.
How does a contract protect me?
An editing contract is designed to protect both the person receiving services and the person providing them. If you find you have hired someone that isn’t delivering the work on time, the contract allows you to have recourse. Recourse may come in the form of taking the person to small claims court, as an example.
Likewise, if a contractor has provided work and expects payment for the work but does not receive it, the contract may have recourse for them such as interest on the outstanding balance and, if push comes to shove, a court hearing.
In order to feel comfortable with your service provider, you have to build a level of trust that comes with the working relationship. A contract protects that relationship and the project. Don’t let your fear of contracts hold you back. Instead, embrace contracts as part of your working relationship with your editor and it will take you far!
Megan is an independent freelance editor that specializes in helping authors take their work to a new level. Whether you are self-publishing your work or decide to pitch to agents, Megan can provide the essential services you need to present your best work. If you have questions about editing or anything relating to improving your book, connect with Megan on Twitter @MHarrisEditor.