Besides my “own” writing projects, I do a lot of editing for my husband, who is a professor in one of the hard sciences. English is not his native tongue, so he often asks me to glance over things to make sure that the words are being spelled and used correctly. I also know my way around sentences and paragraphs, and do my best to help his flow well.
The problem with editing for a family member is that you generally can’t ask for money. Depending on the task or the project, I may get dinner out or an hour at a spa, but let’s face it, in a marriage you do a lot for each other. Besides, he’s my IT guy; he washes the dishes after dinner, and he does all the heavy lifting, without complaining.
However, last fall my husband came to me with a request significantly greater than usual. He was editing a book with many chapters written by him, but also many written by others. He already had a publisher lined up. And here was the request: would I translate this 6000 word lecture for him, from German into English?
Translating that much text takes a great deal of time and energy. Translators also usually get paid, so instead of letting this be the usual freebie between spouses, I told him to see if he could get his publisher to pay me for my efforts. My husband did as he was told and the publisher agreed to pay me the standard amount per page.
As my husband’s project progressed, it became clear that I was doing a lot of editing. And so the publisher – grateful for the extra-clean manuscript – added to the original sum. They sent me a contract for four figures. And I now have a relationship with them that may open other doors.
You can’t always turn a project for a family member into something that makes money, but when the right opportunity comes along, it pays not to be shy. Bartering is good; cash is better.
Victoria Grossack is the author of Crafting Fabulous Fiction, a step-by-step guide to developing and polishing novels and short stories. She co-authors the Tapestry of Bronze series (including Jocasta, Mother-Wife of Oedipus; The Children of Tantalus; and Antigone & Creon), based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze Age. Her independent novels include The Highbury Murders, in which she does her best to channel the spirits and styles of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. Visit her website at http://www.tapestryofbronze.com.