Photo courtesy Taz.
I’m sure you won’t get this before I gather my strength tomorrow and face the difficult task of answering one of my authors’ emails. But because I’m sure you’ve plenty of advice to give, better late than never.
I received an email from an author over the weekend. He was very unhappy with the job I did editing his book manuscript and writes that I did “too thorough” a job, changing sentences that did not need to be changed, and in the process, introduced some typographical errors and some content errors.
I will not say that this is untrue. I know I spent a lot of time on his edit, and I’m sure I did, indeed, commit the sin of overediting. My question is how do you come back from that? I know I need to submit an apology, but I’m not sure what else to say other than “I’m sorry you’re unhappy and for the inconvenience.” I’ve only been a copyeditor for a few months and I’m still trying to get the hang of this gig.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
My heart goes out to you! I’m sure you know that most of us have had an experience like yours at one time or another.
I agree that you should apologize and express your regret for being overeager. Ask the writer if he would trust you to make another pass in order to put things right.
If you do another pass, ask the author to explain the kinds of things he didn’t like. If you aren’t confident that you can fix the manuscript, it might be better to say so. In that case, offer to adjust the fee; perhaps ask the writer to pay you what he feels is fair. If the writer agrees that you did more good work than bad, he should pay you something. But whatever you lose in time and money will just have to be chalked up to your education!
If your second pass turns out well, let that comfort you. And in any case, be very careful about the kind of assignment you accept next. It could be that this particular one was too tricky for a beginner.
Finally, you seem to be self-aware, but know that there are writers who exaggerate and even err in their assessments. You might have done better than you think.
Good luck! I hope you’ll let me know how it goes.