The non-paying client. This should be a no-brainer, right? But for writers who are eternal optimists, hope can blind us and keep us writing long after we should have moved on to another project. Too often we buy into clients' excuses:
"I'll pay you next month when I get my bonus."
"I've got some inheritance money coming in. Once I get it, I'll write you a check."
"I can't pay you right now, but when this book becomes a best seller..."
Run away! Don't accept such premises. There is no money, so don't waste your time. Politely explain why you must decline, and search for another project.
The client who changes his mind - a lot. To the point where you've made zero progress. First they want one thing. A week later, they change their mind and ask you to take a completely different direction. Five more days pass, and they present a revised outline that has nothing in common with the original project parameters.
At this point, it's clear they haven't thought things through. Since they have no idea what they want, and it may take weeks or months or longer before they figure it out, you need to politely leave the picture. Let the client know that once they've finalized their plans, you'll be happy to work with them. It's possible you'll never hear from them again - and that's perfectly ok.
The client who doesn't appreciate what you do. Most clients are thrilled by what you can do for them. They are pleased that you make them sound so good in writing. But now and then, a client comes along who does not appreciate what goes into improving a manuscript. They'll point to a passage and complain that, "All you did was tweak a couple of lines here, delete a few there, and replace some of the words. I think you charge too much for what you do." Never mind that thanks to your targeted edits, their manuscript now reads a hundred times better than before!
Perhaps they genuinely don't like your revisions. First, give them the benefit of the doubt. Work with them to determine what they really want. If it becomes clear, however, that they don't value your service or they're trying to browbeat you into dropping your rates, you'll need to part ways. They don't appreciate your work now, so you can be sure they won't down the road, either. Your collaboration, should you decide to keep it going, will be a rocky one every step of the way.
The client with the incomprehensible manuscript. Even your magic can't repair this so-called novel. There is nothing connecting the chapters. You can't fix the plot because the plot is missing. A character who dominates Chapter 2 never makes an appearance again. Events transpire with no seeming purpose or association. The author contradicts himself everywhere. What's a book editor to do?
You can do one of two things: either do your best to improve the manuscript and add a measure of coherency, or explain that they don't have a novel. They have a collection of short stories with no central theme or unifying force - if that. Maybe all they have is an incoherent stream of disjointed thoughts.
As always, be exceptionally professional, and kind, as you explain why they don't have a viable novel. Offer to write a detailed critique. If they return a year later with a manuscript that exhibits some semblance of order and sense, then you can do your magic.
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