If you’ve made yourself visible enough to be asked to quote, that quotation needs to sparkle with value. A poor response is just poor marketing. Here are some ideas about how to offer compelling quotes that go beyond the fee.
Why quoting is a part of marketing
1. You’re not alone
It’s never been easier or quicker to find an editor and get a quotation. That’s great news because any one of us can make ourselves visible. That’s just the first step, though.
Your author has probably asked more than one editor to quote. And so they should have. They’re trying to find the best-fit editor – someone with the right skills, experience, availability, fee structure, and personality.
And just because you’ve made the final three, five, ten (or whatever) doesn’t mean any of you will get the gig. If none of you float the client’s boat, they’ll head back to the search engines and directories in a jiffy. There are plenty more editing fish in the sea.
Never forget the competition when you’re quoting. You’re not alone; you’re one among thousands. Standing out is essential.
2. Is the author really just asking for a quote?
Most of us have been interviewed at some time. Questions are asked and we respond. But we’re not assessed just on the words that come out of our mouths.
The interviewer(s) will also be influenced (even unintentionally) by how we smile; what we’re wearing; whether we seem friendly, confident and engaged; whether we arrive in a timely manner; and the degree to which the answers we deliver reflect the CV we submitted.
It’s the same when we respond to quotation requests. Our authors, too, will be influenced by the engagement we show, the speed of our response, the tone we use, and whether that matches what they were expecting.
Imagine you and I have just sat down in a restaurant. You ask me what my favourite chocolate is. My response is one of the following:
If all you want to know is what my favourite chocolate is, then (1) answers the question. But if we’re chatting over dinner, I’m not exactly helping the conversation along. You might think me rather dull. You might be texting Uber. You might already have your coat on.
The other two responses tell you something more about me. Answer (2) might evoke a sense of warmth and openness. Answer (3) might evoke a sense of my political and environmental values. Either way, both show that I’m interested in your question, that I’m prepared to give thought to it.
And maybe I can hold off your Uber text for just a little longer.
Our responses to requests to quote need to demonstrate engagement and thoughtfulness too. Getting a cab with Uber is quick. Deleting an email is quicker.
3. You might be able to change their mind
Perhaps the author’s done their editor search with the intention of sourcing three hundred quid’s worth of proofreading within the next month. Based on the sample you’ve assessed, you think it needs seven hundred pounds’ worth of copyediting. Plus, you’ve got a wait list of six months.
You don’t know what the author’s budget is but that’s not what matters. What matters is that they do, and it’s way lower than what’s in the email you’ve just sent them. And the time frame is just wrong.
When you add value, you might be able to change their mind. Maybe they’ll say:
‘I’d planned to have this turned around within the next few weeks, but you’ve blown me away. You’re worth waiting for.’
‘I’ll be honest – that’s a lot more than I’d budgeted for. However, you’ve really nailed what I’m struggling with, and I think you’re worth it.’
4. Or they might become your champion
Sometimes you won’t be able to change the author’s mind because the budget or the timing just isn’t right. But that doesn’t mean you won’t stay top of mind. Perhaps they’ll say:
‘I really, really need to get this out now, so I’m going to walk away. But I want you to know that I would have loved you to edit my book. Here’s a testimonial.’
‘I’m really sad that I can’t afford you. You’re worth every penny. Next time I’ll plan ahead and save up.’
And even though they haven’t hired you, they’ll still be your champion. Perhaps they’ll tell another writer about you, or maybe they will plan ahead with the next book and save up for you.
When you add value, you’re not just quoting for this job, you’re quoting for future jobs too.
5. You’re dealing with people who don’t know you
If you’ve been contacted by someone who’s never met you before, trust issues are already in play. For the less experienced author, sourcing editing can feel like a high-risk venture.
Unlike doctors or electricians, there’s nothing to stop anyone entering professional practice. Editors can’t be struck off.
Here’s what an author recently told me:
‘My problem is one that's all too common across all aspects of the indie publishing landscape. The barriers to entry are few (a website) and the options available to a customer to confirm or verify quality are limited and poor, short of taking a test drive.’
We need to help potential clients confirm or verify quality. Adding value is part of that process.
6. Your brand is at stake
Responses to quotation requests need to be on-brand. Branding is not just about having an eye-catching logo. It’s about conveying the essence of what you stand for at every touchpoint of your business – from your website and business cards to your emails and invoices.
There’s little point in having a compelling website if your quotation responses are forgettable or off-putting.
Whether your passion lies in editing for students, academics, corporates, or novelists, your quotations need to reflect that passion. Offering value – something beyond ‘This is what it will cost and when I can do it’ – is one way of reinforcing that brand identity and moving away from an any-old-editor mentality.
How to add value to the quote
1. Include a digital swag bag of relevant hero resources
Let’s imagine your evaluation of the sample indicates problems with dialogue tagging and viewpoint.
What if, in addition to telling the author your price and availability, you gave them two free booklets that offer guidance on how they might rectify those problems in the book you’re quoting for or their future writing.
Even if those booklets are on your website, don’t assume the author has downloaded them. Maybe they didn’t get round to it, or perhaps they found you through a different platform.
Hero content adds value in multiple ways:
2. Do a small sample, even if you haven’t been asked to
Even if you usually charge for sample line/copyedits or proofreads of a thousand or so words, consider doing a short one for free. This delivers value in the form of:
3. Provide a teeny critique
Another option is to offer a mini critique of the sample they’ve sent. I’m not suggesting a five-page report, but rather a few paragraphs that summarize the main problems as you see them, illustrated with a few examples.
As with the free short sample edit, it’s something they can use, and it demonstrates your knowledge of and engagement with their craft.
This is an opportunity to show not only how you’d get under the skin of the writing, but also how working with you would push the author’s project forward.
4. Be a little personal
How about including a personal snippet that responds to something in their enquiry that truly resonated with you?
Whatever you choose to communicate, remember that it’s a small personal connector that says, ‘I get you.’
Don’t make it up. It must be genuine ... the thing that excites you and reflects your desire to invest in the book. When we feel that itch, we’re starting on a journey too, one that compels us to do a standout job. Communicating this in some small way can help you to earn the author’s trust.
5. Show your enthusiasm
Don’t forget to make sure that you sound like you want the job! ‘This is what is will cost and when I can do it’ won’t inspire confidence in any author who’s even slightly nervous about working with an editor … not on its own.
If, like me, you love your job, and think it’s a privilege to get paid for doing something you love, use language that conveys that passion. Tell your potential clients that you want to work with them, that you’d relish the chance help them with their writing journey.
Talk to them about the price and your availability, of course. That’s what was asked for and it must be front and centre.
That’s where you should start … because when it comes to the fee you’re offering, it’s not enough to think, I’m worth that. Worth has to be proved. And in a noisy, global online market, that takes effort.
If that effort helps you secure the opportunities to work for your ideal clients, it’ll be time well spent. An editor with no work is not running a business; they’re unemployed. Every minute we spend adding value to our quotations is an investment in employment and business ownership.
Let me know what you do to add value when you quote for work!
With thanks to my fellow editors Cally Worden and Lesley Jones for their inspiring comments and suggestions.
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with independent authors of commercial fiction, particularly crime, thriller and mystery writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and an Associate Member of the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA).
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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