Over the years, I’ve consulted many a freelance editing contract template that the internet has to offer. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, and yet I also wanted a customized contract. Over the years, I’ve refined my contract less, and this updated post represents my most current rendition. Please feel free to copy and paste the information in this post to revise for your own use. If you’re a prospective client, this post provides a good idea of what to expect.
A detailed contract definitely helps alleviate any confusion over project expectations. After a potential client contacts me, I will ask a few more questions about their manuscript before completing a sample edit. Once the choice is made to go with my editing services, I then send a contract for negotiation. This freelance editing contract template contains the types of editing services, which may differ from your own. Once a solid working relationship has been established with repeat clients, I then switch to an ongoing services contract.
Freelance Editing Contract Template
CITY OF _____, _____
EDITOR & AUTHOR AGREEMENT (??? Type of Edit)
_____ (hereinafter, “Author”), an individual with a place of residence located at _____, _____, and _____ _____ (hereinafter, “Editor”), an individual with a place of residence located at _____, _____ do hereby agree to the following:
1. The Author has prepared an approximately _____-word manuscript currently titled _____. Pursuant to the terms and conditions herein, the Editor will provide service(s) as mutually agreed, confirmed in writing by the Author.
2. The Editor agrees to accept, and the Author agrees to pay $_____ US Dollars, which will be invoiced via [PayPal or QuickBooks’s Intuit Payments]. This fee applies to manuscripts up to 80,000 words. The total will be split into ____ payments of $_____. A non-refundable 50% deposit is due upon signing this contract with the other half due upon return of the manuscript. In the event of a missed submission deadline, the Editor will reschedule the start of the project as their calendar allows.
3. This price above includes a 3.5% surcharge of $_____ to cover transaction fees as the Author has opted to not pay via check or electronic funds transfer. [The Author has opted to pay via check or electronic funds transfer. Doing so avoids the need to add a 3.5% credit card transaction fee.]
4. Pending manuscript submission on or before Thursday, _____ and initial payment, work will commence on _____ and be completed on ____ when the [final] invoice will be sent (if the project has been split into multiple payments). [The Editor will be out of town the week of XXX, thus necessitating a five-week turnaround time.] The editor will communicate any unexpected delays immediately.
5. All electronic files submitted via e-mail attachment (or DropBox for particularly large files) shall be formatted as a Word document in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with one-inch side margins, and indented paragraphs (scripts, poetry, and informational text excluded).
6. The Editor shall use Word’s commenting and tracking features to make edits in accordance with usage guidelines set forth by The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition as well as adhering to spellings as specified by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary for American English and the Cambridge English Dictionary for British English. The manuscript will be returned as two versions: one with the edits visible for acceptance or rejection, and one that is a clean copy with all changes accepted. [Remove this section for reader reports and manuscript critique contracts.]
***Pick one section below depending on service, and delete the rest.***
7. In a copy/line edit, sentences and paragraphs may require reworking rather than whole pages or scenes. Areas addressed include awkward phrasing, syntax issues (sentence variety and structure), repetition, showing vs. telling, best word choices, passive verb elimination, suitable dialogue, clichés, anachronisms, chapter breaks, timeline consistency, and more. Minor fact checking as well as potential copyright issues are also covered. A follow-up proofread by another set of eyes is advised to catch minor errors and formatting issues. A manuscript style sheet and overview letter is also included.
8. In a manuscript undergoing a critique, whole pages or scenes may need reworking, but the overall story is sound and has already undergone some revision. The Editor shall use Word’s commenting and tracking features to note strengths and weaknesses with characterization, conflict/tension, description, inconsistencies, pacing, passive writing, plot, point of view, scene development, and showing vs. telling. Consistent grammatical errors will be pointed out as a common courtesy, but not corrected repeatedly. A written evaluation is also included.
9. A proofread focuses on proper conventions of sentence mechanics and fixes basic errors in spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation. In general, there is no restructuring or re-writing of sentences for clarity. Consistency in formatting is also addressed. A manuscript style sheet and overview letter is also included. Each page receives multiple passes. The Editor will only proofread manuscripts they have already performed a copy/line edit on. It is preferable the Author submit a manuscript after formatting rather than before.
10. The Editor shall prepare a 3-5 page single-spaced reader report that addresses big picture strengths and weaknesses present in the story regarding basic elements of successful storytelling. Some suggestions for revision are included as well. Whole pages or scenes may need reworking, but the overall story is sound and has already undergone some revision. Note will be taken of successful and questionable issues with characterization, conflict/tension, description, inconsistencies, pacing, passive writing, plot, point of view, scene development, and showing vs. telling. If warranted, consistent grammatical errors will be pointed out as a common courtesy. No comments are made within the manuscript.
***Pick one section above depending on service, and delete the rest.***
11. The Author shall have the right to unlimited reproduction of the work.
12. It is up to the Author whether to mention the Editor’s role in the finished product. If so, the Editor shall receive credit by name in conjunction with the website address _____ in any distributed version of the work in such places as are customary and usual within the trade for the type of work. The Author agrees to not tag the Editor on Amazon or Goodreads. This is because the Editor does not want editing projects to be displayed on their author profile.
13. The Author shall provide reasonable cooperation and assistance to the Editor in preparation of all materials. This includes being available for email communication on a regular basis as needed. At the Author’s request, one video or phone conference (up to half an hour long with the most pressing questions submitted in advance) can be arranged at the end of the editing process. If desired, short follow-up emails can be sent in lieu of in-person conferences. The follow-up should take place within four months of receiving the completed manuscript from the Editor.
14. Any additional fees for editing required or requested after the follow-up consultation will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Additional consultation time beyond the follow-up will be billed at $50 per hour.
15. The Author warrants that the materials delivered herein are the original work of the Author and that the same do not violate any copyright, trademark, or other protection of intellectual property by the Author.
16. The Author acknowledges the contracting of professional editing and/or writing services does not guarantee book sales or representation by a literary agent.
17. The Editor will promote the Author’s work across various social media platforms to draw attention to the services of Word Bank Writing & Editing.
18. This agreement, in its entirety, contains the full understanding of the parties and may only be modified by a writing executed by the parties hereto.
This agreement is made on this the _____ day of ________, 20__.
Is there anything you would add to this type of contract? What type of contracts have you encountered in the past?
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy reading Manuscript Style Sheet Template or How to Self-Edit a Manuscript for Language.
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2015. Post updated November 2016 and January 2019.
This looks like a clear and comprehensive contract. It is good to set expectations and requirements up front to start off what hopefully becomes a good working relationship on the right foot.
Donna, I try to do my best to take the element of surprise out of the process, especially since I’ve been working with a lot of first-time authors.
This is definitely a full contract. Good idea to cover as much as you can as this saves confusion or misunderstandings with your clients. Start as you mean to go on.
Hopefully one day when I am freelancing, I too will write such a contract.
Phoenicia, when you’re ready to start using contacts, feel free to revise what I’ve posted to meet your needs.
This is absolutely super Jeri! I love that you have included everything. With a contract like this, there can be no even the slightest misunderstanding and I think that’s 90% of the battle.
Jacquie, I’ve heard so many horror stories of authors who hire an editor and are given no definite timeline for completion or any indication of following CMOS guidelines etc. A clear contract should be a given, but too often it’s not the case.
Great & detailed contract Jeri. Thanks for posting this.
A.K., thanks for stopping by and thank for sharing this post as always.
This is a pretty useful and thorough template. Thanks or posting.
Ken, thanks. That means a lot coming from you as your posts always strike me as being very detail-oriented.
Your experience shows through here Jeri. You’ve thought of every possible contingency – you must have come across a few.
This will certainly make for a smoother working relationship. It can actually be used in all kinds of business.
Lenie, and just when I think I have all my bases covered, I will undoubtedly think of yet another contingency that needs to be covered. In any case, I’m finally happy enough with the contract to share the template with others.
Awesome, Jeri! I always found the business side of freelancing rather daunting. It was one thing to freelance for fellow students at my local campus (I knew where they lived … heh heh …) and I never got burned. But the one time I could have done something more professional, I balked because I didn’t know how to protect myself. (That said, the client wanted me not just to edit, but to also shepherd his dissertation through his committee members since he was working out of state. I didn’t want that headache so that’s the main reason I turned him down.)
Your contract offers protection and clarity for you and the author. Lovely!
Marie, the business side of freelancing definitely comes with a learning curve for us English majors! I’m thankful I was able to do some career coaching sessions and have availed myself to mentors of many shapes and forms. It’s amazing how much others are willing to help when asked. I guess that’s why I am so keen on sharing items like this freelancing contract template. It lets potential clients get an idea of what to expect beforehand, but it also helps fellow freelancers who would like to download it. I love to pay it forward.
I’m all for not reinventing the wheel! It’s incredibly kind and generous of you to share this template with us. I’m sure you’re helping a lot of people!
Meredith, why yes… and along with that comes the hope this post will rank well in search engine results. Every now and again, I get lucky and that happens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Good job on the contract! It is important to have a good one. I know when I have to work one up for a new client, I get a bit of a headache, but I know it’s important to fine tune the details. Also important to make sure everyone understands the details up front; even if it is written down, sometimes a client doesn’t really get what it means.
Leora, excellent point. Just because something is written in the contract doesn’t necessarily mean the client gets what it means. In my case, I do sample edits. That can help clear a lot of too before I get to the contract stage.
Contracts. SIGH. I seem to have spent as I suspect have many others, many months of my life scrutinising contracts and fiddling about with words. I never expected to do that as part of any of my careers.
That said this is a very neat example, clear, concise and not too long, with enough detail for clarity but not so much as to confuse. A fine balance.
I’m going back to my own client contract to make some changes. I could certainly be more concise, thanks Jeri for the excellent example and prompt.
Rosalind, thanks for much for noting how concise the contract is. I strive to achieve just that in all I do, and conciseness takes a lot of hard work! This must be the twentieth draft I’ve made of my contract since I’m tweaking it all the time, but such documents needs to be changed as we aim to be more concise.
It seems to me that your contract covers everything and will prevent all sorts of misunderstandings. I’ve not seen such a complete one before.
Beth, thanks. It definitely took a lot of trail and error to get it to this point.
How timely is this post? My husband and I were just talking about how I should create a contract for the services I provide. Up until now, I’ve been dealing with people I somewhat know, but I think a contract even for them is important. It leaves little confusion. Thanks much for sharing.
Denise, that’s great you’re considering using a contract with your clients. That’s an important step as you start working with more people. It is also a great way to ensure you are consistently revisiting your business practices.
I am THE worst with contracts. Rarely are they so air tight there is no confusion. The only experience I had is my own fault: didn’t even have an author friend look at my publisher’s contract. Live and learn, sometimes the hard way, makes me think this share of your sample contract Jeri, is going to cover it all. Thanks.
Patricia, I’ve never had to deal with publishing contracts such as yours, but I can imagine surprises are often in store. Another set of eyes is always helpful for sure.
Looks like you’ve got a good contract! I doubt I’ll ever get into editing myself, but it’s good to have something to compare with.
Loni, from an author’s perspective, this can also give you something to compare with other contracts with editors you might come across.
Wow, a friend of mine could have used this a while back, although she’s been editing a memoir. Some of the individuals involved decided they wanted to change some very pertinent facts, which would change the story substantially, among other things. Although she didn’t have a contract, she talked to a lawyer and got some good information about her rights. It’s so important to have a contract written up before any work gets started, to avoid misunderstandings! Thanks for posting this, Jeri.
Krstyna, sounds like your friend went through a nightmare. Getting lawyers involved is never fun.
This is wonderful information. As a new author, I truly require specific detail like what you gave in this post. I may need to self publish my next book, and I will be looking for an editor.
Thanks for sharing it really helps out people like me.
William, so much goes into picking the right editor or any given person, but I think it’s safe to say the thoroughness of a contract says a lot about the approach of the editor to working on manuscripts 😉
I really like this Jeri. It’s easy to read, doesn’t bury you in legalize and yet makes all the right points. I spent years negotiating contracts in the travel industry so I am definitely a fan of clearly establishing expectations right up front.
Marquita, that’s great to hear coming from someone like you with lots of experience with contracts. If I still had my original one, I would post it as a way of showing how much I’ve refined it as time has passed.
This is totally rad, Jeri. Thank you so much for sharing it!!
Laura, my pleasure!
“11.The Author shall have the right to unlimited reproduction of the work.”
This line seems a bit problematic to me. If the author owns the work in question then the editor has no grounds to say whether or not they can reproduce the work. This could be misconstrued in several different ways.
Jon, how would you re-word that or would you consider taking it out of the contract? I view it as an assurance rather than a hindrance. It hasn’t been an issue yet, but time will tell.
I personally would remove it, at least for now. It is on the borderline of looking like a rights grab, which I figure you aren’t intending. The problems I can see coming from these all fall into legal speak. If only a couple words in that are changed, it would end up that you could be considered the copyright holder and they have legally signed the rights of their work over to you.
I hope you are writing a book with all
of this significant information in it!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kim, I’m just here to share helpful info. Maybe someday in the distant future I’ll package it in a book. Someday…
A good contact makes all the difference – especially between vendor and client. I’ve seen the problems it’s created in my past life when a contract is lacking. ?
Susan, I can only imagine the number of contracts you’ve had to deal with.
Clear and straightforward.
Smart to cover the transaction fee. No need for you to eat the cost.
Alex, transaction fees can really add up, that’s for sure.
Putting your contract out for everyone to review, I would think, will raise your popularity with writers, Jeri. [Smart move!]
While I was here, I re-reviewed your editing service. Could you explain more about the Reader Report? I’m thinking it may be an option for the first professional edit depending on the price and what you provide. I read the example but that’s going to be different for each story.
Glynis, the general format is the same for my reader reports. For full-length manuscripts the report is always five pages. I cover strengths and weaknesses present in the manuscript while also offering suggestions for revision. If necessary, I weigh in on genre concerns and marketability as well.
I found your contract easy to understand and opt in/out for what we were working to accomplish.
RoseMary, thank you! You were great to work with!
This looks so helpful! I have some friends who have learned the hard way about the importance of using a good contact. Better to be prepared!
Meredith, agreed. It’s best to be as prepared as possible.
This template is very clear and lets the author know what to expect from you. I can attest to your editing skills as a client 🙂 And working with you has been a pleasure, Jeri. Very professional and you’ve completed work in a time frame that you’ve predicted. So very reliable!
Interesting about the author rights statement. I read the earlier comment and can understand there might be some confusion.
Great post, Jeri.
Lisa, I do strive to be as professional as possible. Perhaps I will revisit the author rights statement.
This contract looks thorough and I like that it is straightforward to understand. I’m sure the template will help many people! Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with contracts so great to have you sharing your experience here.
Christy, I think it’s good to share resources as often as possible.
I love that you add the 3.5% for transaction fees. Those really take a dent in the profit. And more and more of us small business owners will be charging them because we can’t afford to absorb them into our costs.
Erica, it brings me peace of mind too when a client can pay with a check since then I know they’re aren’t putting their book baby on a credit card that might take some time for them to pay off.
Thanks for this! It’s very helpful!