What affects turnaround time?

I have a robust business editing for indie authors, and have been told both that my turnaround time is too slow, or it’s faster than they expect.

I thought it might be beneficial to blog about what goes into a quote about turnaround time, aka the time it takes from getting the project file, until the editing requested is done and the file is sent back to the author.

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The first thing affecting turnaround time is the editor’s hourly editing pace. While rates will often be quoted per word, this is based on how much time the editor spends editing that many words, and that’s converted into a target hourly rate they’d like to make, in order to make a living wage.

The Editorial Freelancer’s Association has a wonderful survey they update every year or two with feedback from freelance editors about how many words they edit in an hour and what they charge for their time and what that per-word-rate is. Most editors I know do not do marathons of more than 2-4 hours at a time focused on a single project. Exhausted eyes miss errors. I break every two hours for 15 minutes and do something else: focusing long-distance, listen to music, or go for a walk. I also usually switch to a different client’s project for the next two-hour block. So I spend about 2 hours each day working on any particular client’s project. This has led to high-quality work that keeps my clients returning again and again.

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In that two hours each day, if I can fully focus, I will edit between 12,000 and 15,000 words. That means a single pass of copy/line edits on 60,000 words will take me about 4-5 days. I always do a “clean up” pass that takes another 2-3 days, looking back through the manuscript for crutch words and phrases, or other habitual errors that are particular to that author. So I quote a turnaround time to a client of 2 weeks (10 business days).

If your manuscript is 100k words, I’ll probably quote you a five-week turnaround time. This is not because I’m slow. This is because editing is eye-straining and brain-consuming work, and I’m only human. A rush request would be quoted a higher fee because I’d be doing two 2-hour sessions each day on your project to get it done faster, but with the same careful attention to detail – meaning I couldn’t take on other projects until yours was finished, and I try each week to reach a modest full-time income.

Since I prefer to work with indie authors, I set my rates where the market can bear and take on multiple projects in any given week so I can make my income target, while still providing high-quality editing services.

~ Lara

Published by Lara Zielinsky

I have been writing and publishing for 20 years. I have been an editor of fiction for 15+ years. I am married, live in Florida and work from home full time as an editor.

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