The cost of editing a book can convince some aspiring authors that the DIY method is the way to go. But making the decision not to hire a copy editor or invest in line editing, developmental editing, and other book editing services can be a huge obstacle to seeing your labor of love in print.
For one, catching the eye of a literary agent requires a polished manuscript. Agents receive dozens of queries per day. It’s all too easy for these gatekeepers to reject a sample that’s full of easily remedied mistakes.
Plan to self-publish? In this case, hiring a professional editor is just as important—if not more so! Whereas a traditional publishing house provides the services needed to ready your book for the public eye, self-published authors are typically responsible for editing and proofreading on their own. But let’s be realistic: producing a professional-quality book is a team effort. That means getting help from a professional editor to make certain your book is ready to meet the world.
Sure, seeking help to put the finishing touches on your book may be daunting from an emotional as well as financial standpoint. (It can be difficult to imagine someone else red-penning your hard work!) But hiring a copy editor is almost always worth it. In this article, you will learn approximately how much editing services cost, how to hire a book editor who is the best possible fit for your project, and why bringing in the experts is an investment you’ll be glad you made.
Freelance editors charge different rates according to the type of editing your manuscript requires. Additionally, book editing can be priced by the word, by the page, or by the hour. Technical writing or a highly niche subject may require specialized editing, which costs more.
Your manuscript may need some or all of the following editing services:
A developmental edit is all about making your book stronger by addressing the big-picture aspects. Think structure, organization, plot, and character development. The developmental editing process usually takes place after you’ve completed one or more drafts of your manuscript. But it could even begin after you’ve written up notes and outlines. You can expect a professional editor to tell you what’s working and what’s not, so you have a road map for further revisions.
Developmental editing is not only the first step in the editing process. It’s also quite possibly the most important stage. A good developmental editor can push you to make your book even better than you imagined and save you from big mistakes—like a plot hole that derails your novel or a style that’s not quite right for your intended audience.
Because a developmental edit is such an in-depth process, it costs more than other types of editing. A professional editor will typically charge around fifty dollars per hour for this service.
Line editing, also called substantive editing, addresses a range of issues in your manuscript. Unlike developmental editing, line editing does not focus as much on big-picture issues (although a good line editor should point out any glaring structural problems or plot holes in your book). Rather, this phase is about tightening up your language.
Line editors review your writing sentence by sentence to ensure it’s consistently clear and effective. They tackle stylistic concerns—like whether “grab” is a better verb choice than “gather” or how to strengthen your writing by switching from passive to active voice. Wondering if your dialogue sounds realistic? Ask a line editor! These pros also evaluate pacing and how your book flows from start to finish.
You can expect to pay in the neighborhood of forty-five to sixty dollars per hour for line editing services. That’s because line editing is an art. It’s all about ensuring your sentences are crisp and powerful and achieve the tone you hope to convey. Though this service can be pricey, it’s worth every penny.
Your manuscript is ready for copyediting when it has already had a developmental edit or line edit. Why? Because copy editing focuses mostly on mechanical errors in your writing. Your copy editor will proofread your book, correct grammatical and syntactical mistakes, and even perform a light fact check.
At this stage, the focus is less on the role each sentence or paragraph plays in your book or whether you could have chosen a stronger adverb to convey a character’s mood. Instead, your editor will focus on making sure every sentence is polished and correct.
For a basic copy edit, you’ll likely pay between thirty and forty per hour. Manuscripts that need more attention may cost between forty and fifty per hour for a heavy copy edit. That said, a copy edit is often the least expensive book editing service you can purchase.
Remember: not every manuscript requires all the above editing services. If your book is already in great shape, you could get by with just a copy edit. But if this is your first book, working with a sharp-eyed developmental editor or line editor can be a wonderful learning experience that results in a stronger manuscript and more successful publishing experience.
When you first decided to write your book, paying for professional editing probably wasn’t on your mind. At some point in your journey, it became obvious you needed another pair of eyes to review your writing. And that’s OK! Famous authors from Charles Dickens to Alice Munro have relied on editors’ insights to hone their work.
Professional editors provide myriad benefits that are well worth the cost of editing a book:
The approximate hourly cost for editing services isn’t always helpful in figuring out how much your edit will cost. After all, the time it takes to edit a book can vary greatly. So how does your editor estimate the total price you will pay? Several factors go into this estimate:
If you pay for book editing services by the hour, it’s important to have some idea of how long the process will take. This depends on the type of editing your manuscript requires:
The cost of editing a book at any stage of the editorial process can range from thirty to sixty dollars an hour. As mentioned earlier, it all depends on what kind of editing services you need.
But let’s break that down further. Say your manuscript requires a basic copy edit, and you find an editor who charges forty dollars an hour. Typically, copy editors work at a pace of five to ten pages per hour. Let’s assume your manuscript is in decent shape and your editor is on the faster end of the spectrum. We’ll set the editing pace at eight pages per hour. As an industry standard, a page is 250 words. So your 80,000-word manuscript should take about forty hours to copy edit. You can expect to pay about $1,600 in total.
Of course, that rate doesn’t include other editorial services you might need. Depending on the shape of your manuscript, developmental editing and line editing may be in order before your book is ready for a copy edit. Freelance editors tend to charge higher rates for those services, driving up your total cost.
An economical way to pay for editing and proofreading services is to look for editing bundles. Editors sometimes offer special pricing if you combine multiple editing services—like developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing. (For instance, instead of charing per hour, Elite Authors offers per-word rates and a 20% off discount if you purchase two or more editing services.)
Another benefit of bundling is that you get to work with the same team as you transform your manuscript from diamond in the rough to polished gem. When you build a relationship with your editor(s), you’re likely to end up with a more cohesive book.
One way you shouldn’t try to save money on the cost of editing a book? Hiring unvetted editors. Online platforms like Upwork or Fiverr may appear to offer a great deal on editorial services. Often, you get what you pay for. Since it’s difficult to evaluate candidates’ experience in these online marketplaces, you may end up with an editor who lacks the skills to make your manuscript the best it can be.
Hiring an editor calls for a significant investment of your time and money. So picking the right book editor for your project is key. While cost is a big consideration, you should keep other factors in mind when evaluating a freelance editor or editorial services company:
A good editor knows how to balance criticism and tact. It never feels good to have your work torn to shreds, and authors tend to be more receptive to criticism if it is delivered respectfully. But while some may want a delicate touch, others need a little tough love. It’s important to identify what you’re looking for in the relationship between you and your editor. From your initial communications, you should gain a sense of your editor’s style and whether it works for you.
Most editors will edit a sample of your work at a reasonable rate—or for free! This gives you an opportunity to assess their work and decide if you want to move forward. It’s also a chance for the editor to evaluate the condition of your manuscript and estimate how much work needs to go into it. After completing a sample, your editor should be able to give you a rough estimate of the cost of editing a book.
It’s a great sign if your editor can provide proof of happy clients. Ideally, you’ll want to pick a book editor with experience in the genre you work in. Ask if the editor’s authors have gone on to successfully publish—whether independently or with a traditional publishing house.
It’s rarely a good idea to search for the cheapest book editor you can find. A quoted price that seems too low for the industry may be a red flag. Rather, look for qualities and services that set your editor apart at rates you can afford. Also ask whether your editor can provide help with extras like layout design and back cover text—and whether there’s a discount for bundled services.
Elite Authors is a comprehensive editing agency that offers all the editing services you need to take your manuscript to the next level. No one else makes it easier to craft, edit, proofread, format, package, market, print, and publish your book. If you want to know the cost of editing a book, contact us to get a quote!