Several years ago, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas faced a dilemma. With a growing number of manuscripts slated for publication, we needed more book editors. But shelling out thousands for freelance editors was at odds with our business model. LPC is a small press without debt. We prefer to keep it that way.
So we experimented and began offering our editors a percentage of profits. In short, each book editor had a vested interest in a book’s success. The more profit generated by the title, the more earned income for the editor.
It is a risky proposition. Not every book instantly earns back its investment. Some editors spend hours on a book that does not begin to pay out until months after its release.
But, three years into the process, we find many editors like the upside potential of this business model. (Last year we paid close to thirty thousand dollars in editor royalties). Editors pick projects they feel have the most income opportunity and balance that potential against the amount of work involved.
Recently we expanded this idea to our line of new imprints. We solicited managing editors for our historical fiction, nonfiction, Southern fiction, etc., and gave those managing editors the freedom to sign new authors. Managing editors can publish up to eight titles a year, two per quarter. In return, they share in the profit of those titles. If they choose to serve as content editor, they earn additional royalties. They are, in effect, running their own publishing division.
We continue to tweak the business model. Our goal is for both authors and editors to make a living doing the thing they love. Currently, we have managing editor opportunities within the romance line, cozy mystery, and suspense imprints.
This new approach of paying editors isn’t for everyone—or even most. It requires an entrepreneurial spirit. But as the publishing landscape changes and POD/ebooks grab a larger market share, we feel more houses will look at their pay structure and conclude their best assets remain the motivated and inspired book editor.
(Note: LPC paid out over $25,000 to editors last year. See definition below regarding the term: “professional.” Also keep in mind many artists and sales persons are paid royalties or commission for their work.)