Insider Info: Small Business vs. Content Agency eBook Editor

2014 has been the year many in the content industry referred to as “The Year of Quality Content.” In fact, Digital Journal has dubbed 2014 the “Year of Content Marketing.” Regardless of how you label it, one thing is certain: Content matters more than ever. But what does this mean for self-pub and indie authors? What’s the takeaway as we speed, full throttle into 2015?

The Content Lesson of 2014

The past year has taught one invaluable lesson: Investing in high quality content creation, the kind that borders on perfection, is a winning strategy. We’ll talk more about the application of this lesson to copywriting and businesses in a later blog. Right now, we want to talk directly to the self-publishing industry.

We recently shared a breakdown of yearly e-book publication derived from our research. We established that somewhere between 600k and 1m books are published every year in the US. Roughly speaking, 1,600 to 2,700 books are self-published every day.

For indie authors, the looming conundrum is getting their book seen amongst the masses. It needs to standout. It needs to rise above the monsoon of mediocre material. To quote our eBook Market Review & Guide to 2015, it needs to “pop, fizzle, and WOW beyond expectation.” In a concentrated effort to reap the most lucrative results, you may turn to a professional for assistance. Instinctively, you may seek out content, copywriting, or content marketing agencies in your search for a qualified editor. Is this your best and only option?

Understanding Content Agencies and Large Companies

Let’s get one thing straight: Content agencies and big content companies offer viable and equivalent services when compared to smaller service providers and individual freelancers. We will never turn our readers away from any of these options because our team members have worked for and with them. There are advantages and disadvantages to each one. The trick is choosing the one best suited to your needs.

Unfortunately, the choice isn’t easy. When it comes to choosing a freelance editor the water can seem more than a little swampy. Let’s face it; there are some insane horror stories out there from folks who have worked with so-called “quality freelancers” and ended up right back at the big agencies or small incorporated service providers. They wasted time and money, resources already in low commodities. You can’t blame them for broadcasting their tales from the rooftops.

On the other hand, equally gruesome stories emanate from the independent authors going to big name companies, mid-sized agencies, and other highly advertised content and copy businesses. They pay high dollar for low quality. Although these entities rank high on Google search results and talk a good game, the ultimate execution of the project leaves the consumer high and dry.

And let’s not forget the freelance editors and small service providers who braved nightmarish customers—the ones who clouded their reputations with no legitimate grounds. They grabbed the power of the Internet, and ran into the fields of slander without a second thought, tarnishing reputations because they were simply unpleasable.

Which side of the horror stories do you believe? With all the controversy and scary campfire stories running amuck, how do you choose a freelance editor or small service provider? Should you?

The Truth about Freelance vs. Agency

Grab whatever you’re sitting on and hang on tight because we’re about to blast some hard hitting common sense your way. Are you ready for this?

Not every freelancer who claims to rock, rocks. But isn’t it also true that not every business claiming to deliver satisfaction succeeds?

BOOM! Mind blown! Okay, so we’re having fun embellishing the moment.

Here’s the thing, folks: Freelance entities are just like brick and mortar businesses; some exceed expectations while others fall short. The trick is learning how to spot a good—even golden—egg.

Since the invention of the Internet and the boom of telecommute positions, self-labeled editors have poured out of the woodwork like termites. Every Tom, Dick and Henrietta with a copy of Microsoft Word and a basic understanding of how to check boxes in the “proofreading” settings thinks they can edit.

Tom and Henrietta do it for pennies on the dollar while Dick seems determined to sock it to you with a pretentiously high rate. Here’s the rub: All three lack true experience, qualifications and skill because they’ve jumped on board to turn a quick profit for some outstanding bills, not to further their careers. If you, the potential client, don’t do your research, you’ll never know their lack of ability until it’s too late. THAT’S the horror story.

Business Horror Stories
Image courtesy of hyena reality via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tom, Dick and Henrietta are the sorts who frustrate the living daylights out of hardworking freelancers and compact teams (hey, we’re pointing at ourselves as we write this part)—the professionals who have been here since BEFORE the boom. Bad freelancers create a bad industry reputation. As a result, they send more and more clients running into the arms of mid-sized and large agencies. The truth is; it’s not always the better option.

Here’s a little insider info: I’ve worked for copywriting agencies, small service providers, and brick and mortar magazines. I’ll be the first to tell you that these three entities can provide perks a solo freelancer or small team cannot hope to match in volume, but I’ll also be the first to say working one-on-one with a high quality freelancer—particularly if they are local or tech savvy—can blow those perks out of the water.

6 Reasons to Choose a “Small Time” Editor

You’re abreast of what’s going on in the e-book market. You know you need to publish the best possible version of your book. You know it could be your ticket into a small to medium sized publishing house or the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List. It could be the start of a whole new chapter in your career. You see the potential value of professional editing, but you’re stuck.

Option A has good reviews, but they’re beyond your budget. Option B is cheap, but you’re worried you’ll get what you pay for (smart thinking). Option C isn’t one of those top Google indexed companies; it’s a very small team of 10 or fewer people, or an individual. Option C is more focused on the final manuscript’s quality and one-on-one collaboration than pricing.

Which do you choose? Before you answer, consider the following reasons option C should be seriously considered:

1. 100% Direct Contact 

We cannot stress this reason for choosing the small team or individual enough. Unlike bigger service providers, they offer 100 percent direct contact and no middleman hassle. You go straight to the source—the professional physically handling your project—every time. The next five reasons to go with the small, professional provider stem from this first.

2. Less Miscommunication

Your time is valuable. You’re searching for a qualified editor to review AND improve your current manuscript because you lack the needed expertise or time. The last thing you want is a bad case of miscommunication.

In our experience, working one-on-one with the editor eliminates a great deal of miscommunication. You might be thinking, “Isn’t a large team better than a solo or small act?” Sometimes, yes. But have you heard the old adage about too many hands in the cookie jar?

Sometimes the “team” you recruit at the agency isn’t a team at all. Behind the scenes, they’re merely a front for a varying number of faceless, nameless, credit-less freelancers. It’s not always clear how they were vetted, and the sheer volume of “team members” results in too many hands (in some cases unqualified ones) touching your project. As a result, your needs and your vision get lost in translation; ultimately, you end up with a final project miles short of your expectations.

Professional freelancers and compact teams dedicated to supplying quality will state up front what to expect. Most will customize a contract to your specific needs, thus ensuring your expectations are crystal clear and kept firmly in focus. Agencies don’t always do this, instead assuming you’ll understand their mission or values and be happy with whatever they provide via cookie cutter plans and packages. They pass your project along, they pass it back, and if something is wrong, the nameless editor suddenly (miraculously) has a name!

Working one-on-one with a freelancer or small team often results in more prompt and precise communication because each e-mail, telephone call, or instant message travels through fewer channels. Communication skills and a one-on-one, unmasked approach are strong indicators of a worthy editor.

Bottom line: It should be about your needs, up front communication, and high quality, not a ton of fine print.

3. Faster Turnaround Times

It’s not always a guarantee, but most content agencies can turn a project around in about two to four days. Professional freelancers and small teams will be able to match, if not beat, this timetable.

Unlike middleman companies who consistently refresh the pool of independent contractors they employ, the small team promotes a better kind of consistency in professional reliability. For starters, change is less of a constant, which means the same editor (or editors) will work on your project every time. As a result, turnaround times grow faster.

For example, we’ve been editing business documents for several of our corporate client for over three years. The first few projects took our average 24 to 48 hour turnaround time for general editing. Once we had a feel for their expectations and established a one-on-one collaborative relationship, we were able to deliver their ongoing projects within 24 hours or less. You won’t find this kind of ongoing efficiency improvement at the large agencies.

4. Cost Effective Pricing

When it comes to pricing, there is one unavoidable truth: Freelance editors and compact companies can offer cheaper prices plus the ability to flex to meet your budget. According to WelcomeBrand, “The average freelancer doesn’t have anywhere near the overheads of an established agency…so here is an immediate and tangible saving that you as a client can make.”

Smaller companies, like us, are also able to offer more community-geared programs. For example, at Anita Lovett & Associates we run a program for e-book editing called the eBook Pro Bono Program. Through this program, we help authors who would otherwise be unable to afford editorial services produce their best possible finished manuscript for press. Not only do we help them make the kind of stunning impression that draws readership, but we also blast news of their book out via Diablog (our blog) and our social media channels.

5. Higher Standards of Quality

The nice thing about working with a small service provider is their attention to quality and value. The freelancer is a solo act. The compact team is a tight-knit group. If they are going to be successful, they know that quality and value are essential to survival.

It’s high standards—standards and attention to detail that blow middleman and mid-sized to large agencies away—that keep clients coming back. If you’re after the highest quality, look to the little guy, but be careful to select the right one. Anyone can call themselves an editor or service provider, but can they live up to it? You need to determine this before doing business.

6. Stronger Working Relationships

The sixth and final advantage of working one-on-one with an editor is their unique client perspective. In the world of freelancing and small business, every job matters. Therefore, you will never be “just a number” or an “acceptable loss” if the project goes south. Instead, you will forever be a professional with specific needs—a real, live person deserving of a true working relationship.

Here’s a little more insider info: Agencies are not obsolete, and they don’t lack attractive services or perks. In 12 plus years of industry experience, I have personally worked with and for numerous copywriting and content agencies. Agencies are experts at tackling the big picture, especially when it comes to marketing resources, social media assistance, and undertaking those intricately huge projects requiring numerous editors or writers.

Don’t let the glitter and glamour of the agencies steal you away from the opportunity to work one-on-one with a capable, professional freelance editor. Instead, learn how to spot the diamonds in the rough and find the perfect match to your needs. You simply cannot replace true one-one-one collaboration with an experienced editor.

Finding a Gem of an Editor

So, how do you spot an excellent editor? Now that you know about the diamonds in the rough, how do you find them? Are there telltale signs of professional editors versus con artists? Stay tuned because we’re going to give you a guide to gauging the value of the little guy in the near future.

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