Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I offered to give a casual friend a discounted rate for editing her first
book. It was supposed to be a small project, but it mushroomed when
she realized what a good editor could do for her. We had been
FaceBook friends prior, and would bump into one another around town
maybe once or twice a year. She paid me midway through what
seemed fair for what I had done thus far, but now, several edits later
with countless mind-numbing hours of proofreading later, she keeps
thanking me for “being such a great friend” and for “helping out so
much!” She also tells me how “other friends are donating their time”
and how appreciative she is that they are “because this is all so much
more than I imagined.” I’d warned her at the outside that the project
would take about double what she thought it would in terms of tine
money, and energy. Do I have to pay for being right?


Dear Quitter/Not:

Business dealings between friends are always better when the
agreements are explicit and up front. If this is what you do for a living,
you should have said very simply in the beginning, I know we are
acquainted but I don’t do this work without my standard contract, here
it is. I am willing to reduce my hourly rate, or discount the bill, but I
cannot afford to work for free. So if this is more than you can afford I
can recommend some other folks.

Given that option is past, here’s what you can and should do. Send her
an email exlaining that you hate to be an I-told-you-so, but that for
the work you’ve done since she last paid you she owes you $xyz.
Because this project is turning out to be more than she expected,
you’ll discount it by, say, a third. But you can’t continue to work
without being paid. Explain that you made a mistake by not using your
standard contract form the beginning, but you trusted her as an
honest person and you still do. Book publishing is an industry and the
latter stages of proofing are the most aggravating. Encourage her to
use your time selectively, and suggest that she enlist good friends to
help her with the next few rounds of reading and proofing. Nothing is
more valuable than a fresh set of eyes, and, from my experience, the
single biggest proof-reading rule is READ EVERY WORD OUT LOUD.