This post has links to research on the dollar value of editing. I want to help editors (like me!) to market their services and justify their rates. I’ve also included some expensive “headline” examples. Adrienne Montgomerie’s followed this issue much longer than I have, so I’ve included some of her links on Right Angels and Polo Bears
Since my post “What’s the value of Editing?” (27 August) I followed up on Geoff Hart’s suggestion that editors’ organizations should collaborate By good luck the EAC board is meeting this weekend. They may consider sponsoring some research.
It was “sticker shock” at a $US295 price tag, for a report by Dana Beth Weinberg and Jeremy Greenfield, that made me think of EAC as research sponsors. Read Dana’s summary of results from asking self-published authors what service providers they hired to help them with their projects, and for how much.
Can’t Value vs How to Value
Editors agree on the intrinsic value and interpretive character of editing. The value added is qualitative, not quantitative. Editors are split two ways about research. Some say you can’t evaluate in dollars because it’s invisible. Others focus on reader reactions. The consequences can be quantified in dollars.
Data on the Dollar Value
Dollar figures on the value of editing can be startling.
Legal Punctuation: bad comma in a contract costs Rogers $1 million
The hilarious correction below this story shows the general lack of copy editing staff.
Don’t Kill Bill: a problem of version control?
“Parliamentary experts say they have never heard of such an error being made before.” The House of Commons staff sent the wrong version of a bill to the Senate. The Senate knew, but passed it. What will this cost the parties affected?
Seams Straight? Spelling errors “cost millions” in lost online sales
Love the contrast here? The BBC’s Education reporter describes the concerns of a company selling women’s tights. “Charles Duncombe says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.” It’s encouraging that, even when shopping for tights, spelling’s important to readers. Reminds us that grammar and spelling errors are used to indicate internet fraud via spam, phishing and fake sites.
Web Editing: lost click-throughs
Even at IBM, editors aren’t properly valued. James Mathewson, the Editor in Chief at ibm.com, found that edited web pages “make a 30 % difference in visitor engagement” (number of clicks that visitors make to desired pages) over unedited pages. He did the research because he needed to defend the value of editors to IBM.
The Reader Experience: yes, edit my news please
Newspapers have been firing editors for quite long time. We’ve all noticed it. Now it’s been established that readers prefer news that’s well edited.
The Value of Reputation: fact checking, typos and liability.
Most readers don’t much care about typos, and aren’t aware of that fact checking is regarded as an expensive luxury by traditional book publishers. The dollar consequences can vary widely. As Adrienne posted on FB, 5 Sept, “It is possible that typos don’t matter — a leading premise these days (and in days of yore, per my link below). When I asked my few (extended) industry contacts about how typos hurt sales (for a piece I wrote), I was told that they do not. Unless, perhaps, it is a technical work where sloppiness might throw into question the validity of the rest of the work.”
Again, Geoff Hart’s post is worth reading. He looks at five ways in which editing can bring value to business, some in hard cash, others in intangibles: eliminating reprinting costs, defending against lawsuits, reducing translation costs, defending against embarrassment, and ensuring clear communication.
Use Business Language
Editors should use words that matter to managers and accountants, when negotiating rates or salary. Example: skipping editing is an “opportunity cost.” Accountants usually ignore opportunity costs, but wise business owners think of this hidden loss when they decide about two possible actions – to hire an editor or not.
Cost-benefit analysis “takes into account both quantitative and qualitative factors for analysis of the value for money for a particular project.” It’s used by publishers to figure out whether to fix errors after printing or publication (thanks again , Adrienne).
For the business world, should we re-brand editing as “quality assurance?” Seems that steps in QA mirror steps in editing.
But, as Virginia D noted on FB, 5th Sept “Editing often adds cost without improving profits. It slows down production. Certainly, short-term profits aren’t likely to be improved. Is this also true in the long-term? Readers don’t always choose by price sticker or demonstrable features. They also want value, quality and reliability.”
Not all self–publishing authors use professional editors, of course. Comparing sales of edited vs non-edited books might show that using an editor boosts sales. Big companies offering digital self-publishing might allow researchers to use their data to measure this effect. It could help them to sell editing services to more of their client authors. Their readers would be more likely to boost sales by writing good web reviews, referring titles to friends, and other things. And publishers could then claim to book buyers that their titles, on average, are better value because of editing.
I’ve used comments on my post in Facebook editors’ groups (Editors Association of Earth (public group) and a closed group for EAE). My thanks to colleagues Adrienne M, Virginia D, Aden N, Greg I, Karin C, Stephen T, Katharine O, and Sharon S.