Going rate range for editing food writing?

Does anyone have a good sense of what the current rate for editing food writing is? Price calculated per word? Thanks so much!



beejay45 July 23, 2013
Huh. After all that, I had meant to say that setting an hourly rate isn't always the best idea. I preferred to quote a project price. Straightforward, we both knew what it would cost. I only gave a refund if it took me substantially less time than I'd estimated. If it took me more, I bit the bullet and stuck to my estimate, unless the extended hours were due to the author decidingto "rewrite the last half of the book." That's in quotes because that's what one client told me. For the most part, giving a flat rate is best for everyone. No surprises. Mostly.
beejay45 July 23, 2013
I've never edited another's food writing, but I have edited fiction writers. Even if you know the subject very well, you need to rely on the author, as a professional, and by extension their editor at the publishing house, magazine etc. to know the rules for what they are writing. It would be inappropriate for a freelance editor to tell an author they can't mention whomever in their project. That's not what a freelance editor does. An editor at a periodical/publisher can do that, because they set the rules for their publication, but I'm pretty sure Emily is talking about freelance editing.

When I was offered a book project, for example, I usually read at least a full chapter and glanced at the rest to determine how much work it would be for me to bring it up to standard -- so large projects. If it needed too much work or had major problems, rather than cost the author a fortune in editing fees, I would recommend that they go back and rework some of the specific problems I saw. I should think it would be the same for food writers.

I don't know what rates are in this industry, but I can tell you I charged $80/hr for literary editing. If that takes your breath away, let me say that I was also a writing coach, so it wasn't just line editing. The author gained a lot of knowledge in the process, and I work very quickly, so less hours than someone slower. ;) I believe Pierino is thinking in terms of shorter projects (which don't pay the writer that much) with the rates he suggests. But really, if a writer is so new they need a simple review edited, they should take a class, find a mentor, or join a critique group to get them on a more solid footing before looking for an editor. An editor can become a crutch that writers use rather than learning their trade.
pierino July 25, 2013
Beejay makes some excellent points here. I worked in the publishing world for quite a few years. One of the sad truths is that these days editors don't do any real line editing. Their job is to acquire books and consult perhaps on some plot points etc. but publishers expect your work to be professionally edited before it's even submitted. And it has to be agented to them as well, otherwise good luck in the slush pile.
marialissio July 21, 2013
Congratulations Emily. This could be an excellent opportunity to extend your well-honed skills. I have been reading your blog and watching your participation on food52 at arm's length for quite some time. You have a special energy, tons of education and you know your food. Here in the Washington DC area, we are very lucky to have you and a number of very distinguished food bloggers within our midst. The individual advice above is good although frankly I would take Mr P's advice with a grain of salt for what it is worth. He has not answered your question but rather gone off once again on a personal rant about hi opinions and himself.
boulangere July 21, 2013
What an interesting project you have. What you think your time is worth and what the market will bear may be two very different amounts. I have a good friend who is a relatively well-known writer who is also a prolific and proficient editor, and I will run your question past him for some advice. And obviously, when editing someone else's work, the question is not how much of your voice or life is included (none, in other words), but rather how much of the original writer's. It will be very interesting to see how your project develops and, moreover, where this leads you.
amysarah July 20, 2013
Emily, I've done a lot of freelance writing/editing for design publications - not quite the same thing, but I'd think the scales are pretty similar. Amanda's piece and the Writer's Market are good guides - unfortunately, print almost always pays more than online. I wouldn't pay attention to random 'editing' rules - this is where working with a good friend comes in handy: you probably have a good sense of her 'voice' and the content she's going for (assuming this is content and copy editing.) That's probably one of the reasons she'd like you to do it - she knows you'll 'get' the site's style.
em-i-lis July 20, 2013
Hi amysarah, thank you so much for your feedback here, and Suzanne, thank you for the link to Amanda's piece. I very much appreciate it all! Best, Emily
sdebrango July 20, 2013
Here is the article from Amanda that has some great information including rates. You may have read this but in case you didn't here it is: http://food52.com/blog/3195-advice-for-future-food-writers
em-i-lis July 20, 2013
Yes, indeed, Bevi. I find personalizing food writing one of the best ways to draw in readers.
In this instance, I guess I should have been clearer in my original question. I have been asked to take the position as editor for a food product company a friend founded and owns. So, I'd edit her blog/website/recipe cards/pamphlets and so forth. I love to edit, am good at it, and would very much enjoy this job, but I have no idea what current rates are re: charging for this mixed-media sort of work. I've seen all sorts of range estimates (http://www.writersmarket.com/assets/pdf/How_Much_Should_I_Charge.pdf) but want to neither overcharge my friend nor undervalue my time and ability. Thank you!
pierino July 20, 2013
Bevi, that is absolutely true if you are editing a food memoir. And MFK is an excellent example. But my point is that that stuff doesn't belong in a review, and if you read reviews it turns up all the time.

Voted the Best Reply!

Bevi July 20, 2013
Em, I assume by food writing you are referring not only to reviews but to various categories of writing involving food history, food memoirs, etc. If this is so, I beg to differ with the "rule" to never mention an SO or spouse by name. MFK Fisher, by any measure one of the best food writers many of us have had the pleasure to read, mentions her SOs, her sister, her brother, and others she encountered throughout her food writing by name.
pierino July 20, 2013
I can't cite a fee schedule but it really amounts to what you think your time is worth. $10.00 per hour? $20.00? Will you be editing a 500 word article or a 900 page manuscript?

That said, here are some "Do's and Don'ts" (mostly "don'ts) for editors and food writers:
DO; know something about your subject. Read the lit and the history. It's not enough to have eaten 500 restuarant meals. For every really good review I read, I must read at least ten truly inept ones.
Don't; if you are a reviewer, mention your spouse or SO by name, as in "I ordered the... and my wife, Donnette ordered the..." And NEVER use the word "Hubby".
Do; develop your own style. I tossed out Strunk and White the moment I finished grad school.
Don't; don't mention your gym. As in, "one of the trainers at my gym recommended this wonderful Mexican place". Nobody care about your gym (unless you are reviewing it). Believe me, I read a review like that yesterday in a local free weekly where the writer has worked for twenty year despite being incompetent.
Do; submit your proposals anywhere you think is appropriate---even if you don't get paid, it just builds your brand. Jonathan Gold started out working at Rhino Records in West LA. He then moved on to the LA Weekly where his reputation for eating absolutely anything established his credentials. He went on to win a Pulitzer at Gourmet and is now back at the LA Times. He is now truly one of the most esteemed food writers in America.
Do; if you are an editor, be a close reader. Don't be afraid to use your red pencil if you notice something that's just dorky. But encourage personal style and "attitude" as long as it's consistant.
Don't; don't trust "spell check". One of my most respected graduate advisors red penciled a word in my thesis because he thought I'd misspelled. I didn't. It was a real word used by another author and a glance at the OED would have revealed that.
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