First impressions matter a lot, according to the psychological concept of anchoring, a cognitive bias that describes our tendency to rely too much on the first piece of information we’re given.
I spent the formative years of my editing career in book publishing, where I learned from the best, developed exacting standards, and worked on enriching and rewarding projects. But the industry is notoriously low paying, and, as an in-house editor, I earned a lower effective hourly rate than I saw freelancers demand. The hours were long, and there was no overtime pay. The thing is, I also saw how razor-thin the margins were in book publishing. I knew there was a cap to what Canadian trade book publishers could pay, but I still believed in their products (perhaps to a romanticized extent).
When I left the in-house position to freelance, I tried to diversify, but of course most of my contacts were within the book-publishing industry, and I did (and do) still enjoy the projects. Knowing how cash strapped publishers were, I was reluctant to demand a high rate, and, although I’ve now worked with corporate, academic, and government clients as well, I’ve found the trade-publishing base rate to be an anchor, in more ways than one. Psychologically, regardless of the industry, I still have difficulty asking for what I suspect other fellow certified professional editors who’ve primarily worked in non-trade-publishing sectors are charging. Although I adjust my rate for different sectors, I imagine I’m lowballing myself not only with book clients but with other clients as well.
Fortunately, I have enough credentials and experience that I no longer feel I have to take on every project and every client, as I did when I started my business. But I find myself weighed down and trapped underwater by the anchor of trade-publishing rates.
Any other book-publishing alumni have the same experience? What strategies have you used to escape the trade-book trap?