June 3, 2005

More editorial freelancers than ever: because they want in, or because they've been forced out? . . .


Membership in the Editorial Freelancers association has risen by 500 since 1998 and the number of freelance book editors belonging to the American Society of Journalists and Authors has more than doubled, according to a report by Patricia Kitchen in Newsday. However, many of the new freelancers may actually be experienced editors—victims of the rampant downsizing that occurred at New York publishing houses. The article claims that many of those who have been let go have become “book doctors,” freelance editors paid by authors to increase their chances of being published; some book doctors charge as much as $15-$20 per manuscript page. As the article notes, as “book publishers shed staff jobs, many of those editors, whose days had been filled with meetings and agent lunches, are now freelancers getting back to basics – working with words.” The article cautions authors, however, from using just any editor. Edit Ink, an upstate firm, may have defrauded as many as 3.600 authors by “misrepresenting editors’ qualifications and providing an undisclosed 15 percent kickback to editors and agents who sent them business.” Edit Ink was recently ordered to pay $6 million in restitution and $2 million in penalties.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives