Looking for a Book Editor? Here’s How Much You Should Expect to Pay

Looking for a Book Editor? Here’s How Much You Should Expect to Pay

Once you’ve finished a draft of your book, the natural next step is to look for a book editor.

And of course, if you’re in need of book editing, you’ll wonder how much it will cost.

I wish I could give you a firm rule: that proofreading will always cost one cent per word, copyediting two cents per word, and developmental editing three cents per word.

But the truth is much hazier than that. How much a book editor costs depends on several factors.

So my goal here is to flesh out those factors and give you a sense of how much book editing might cost. Freelance editing rates vary widely from one editor to the next, so I’ll also help you think through how to compare different editors and decide which one to hire.

How much it costs to hire a quality book editor

When you’re ready to move to the editing stage, think through these questions. They’ll help you figure out how much you’ll need to pay an editor to review your book.

1. What kind of editing do you need?

What does a book editor do? Not all editing is created equal. Here are a few different kinds of editing:

  • Developmental editing: big picture, content editing, macro editing
  • Copyediting: micro editing, grammar editing, flow and structure editing
  • Proofreading: consistency check, format and layout

Developmental editing costs more than copyediting, and copyediting costs more than proofreading.

Don’t miss a step when editing your book and click here to grab a FREE book editing checklist created by Self-Publishing School!

2. What’s your total word count?

Book editors for hire typically charge by word count or page count. Some charge by the hour, but that’s rare, especially for editing long books.

Knowing your total word count is essential to an editor’s cost estimations for taking on your project.

3. How complex is your book?

Editing academic work to a niche style guide will cost more than editing a novel per the Chicago Manual of Style.

Editing a book with hundreds of footnotes or endnotes should cost more than editing a book without citations.

In other words, the complexity and niche of your work will affect the book editing rate.

4. What’s your deadline?

How quickly do you need the work done? The more flexible you are with your deadline, the less you might pay.

If you ask for your 100,000-word novel to be copyedited within two weeks, you might have to pay a premium for such a fast turnaround, especially if your editor is already booked.

5. What’s your writing experience?

Do you consider yourself a beginner, mid-level or expert writer?

By default, beginning writers will need more help, which means more time, which can mean more money.

An experienced editor can often take a look at an excerpt from a manuscript, get a feel for your experience level, and deduce the amount of time they need to edit the full manuscript.

For the beginning writers: always look at hiring an editor as an investment in both your book and yourself. With the right editor, you should grow as a writer because of the feedback.

6. What’s your editor’s experience level and/or demand?

A novice editor will cost less than an editor with decades of experience and multiple best-sellers in their portfolio.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and an experienced editor might bring more value.

Likewise, if you want to work with an editor who’s in high demand and booked six months out, you’ll likely have to pay more than if you choose to work with an editor who has lots of room in her schedule.

7. What’s your flexibility?

If an editor is booked solid, can you afford to wait six months to get the editor you want?

Or, will you pay a premium to jump their queue if they offer such an option? Or, will you choose a lesser-known or less experienced editor at a lower price so that you can have your editing accomplished faster?

How to compare editing costs (free spreadsheet download)

If you’d like to get truly organized about your search, use this editor comparison spreadsheet template to help in your search for an editor who meets most of your desired criteria and offers freelance editing rates you’re willing to pay.

I say “most of your desired criteria” because it’s rare to find an editor who will meet all your criteria. For instance, you may have to pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars more for your top pick. Or, you may find someone at your precise price point, but their experience isn’t quite what you’d like it to be. You must be the one to assess what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

By using that spreadsheet, you should be able to quickly and easily compare the editors you’re vetting.

Note: On the spreadsheet, the editor’s total cost will be automatically calculated once you insert your total word count and the editor’s per-word rate. If you’re given a per-page rate, you can calculate a per-word rate by assuming the industry standard of 250 words per page, e.g., $3 per page equals $3 per 250 words. Dividing 3 by 250 equals $.012.

If you’re given an hourly rate for freelance editing, ask the editor how many pages per hour they can edit, then extrapolate their per-word rate.

The rightmost part of the spreadsheet also includes pre-calculated per-word rates based on per-page rates.

Compiling this information is a headache (especially for math-averse writers like myself), but seeing every editor’s rate as a per-word rate will help you better compare editors.

Freelance editing rates: The hard numbers of editing

Now, let’s talk actual rates.

Many writers point to the Editorial Freelancers Association rates page as a guide toward setting editorial rates. (Disclaimer: I’m a member of the EFA.)

The EFA rates page lists various editing and writing tasks and their attendant hourly rates as self-reported by EFA members who took the rates survey. They break down editing into five subcategories and list proofreading as a separate category. (Tip: they also list per-hour and per-word rates for writing work.)

For comparison purposes, let’s look at the editing rates and use an average page-per-hour and an average hourly rate. For instance, the EFA lists basic copyediting of 5–10 pages per hour at a cost of $30–$40 per hour, so I’ve assumed 7.5 pages per hour at a cost of $35 per hour. The other total calculations also use their respective average rates.

For a 70,000-word book, your editing costs could be:

  • Developmental editing: $.08 per word, or $5,600 total
  • Basic copyediting: $.018 per word, or $1,260 total
  • Proofreading: $.0113, or $791 total

It’s easy to extrapolate from this what your total expected editing cost could be. Fantasy, sci-fi, and epic novel writers should be forewarned.

For a 120,000-word book, your editing costs could be:

  • Developmental editing: $.08 per word, or $9,600 total
  • Basic copyediting: $.018 per word, or $2,160 total
  • Proofreading: $.0113, or $1,356 total

While these are simply one website’s average estimates for editorial costs, they serve as a reliable benchmark.

If you end up paying more for an editor, you might be glad you did. As in life, so too in books: you often get what you pay for.

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.


  • Monica says:

    Like any field, I understand there can be a life time to learn and little time to soak it all in if your new.
    I’m an aspiring author working on my first book and though I’m not swimming in cash, I do know I can’t skip out on the editing process.
    Maybe I don’t need to be seeking an editor yet since I’m still writing, but I would like to find someone who can provide me some feedback before I’ve gone too far, finished the whole thing and am left with a huge mess to clean up. Any suggestions who that may be?

    • Blake Atwood says:

      That could be a genre-dependent answer. In other words, what are you working on? Fiction or nonfiction? And what genre or topic?

      In the meantime, I can recommend andilit.com. Browse her website and see if her manuscript critique option may be what you’re looking for.

      • monica says:

        Nonfiction, memoir. And I’m at a point where I would like some professional feedback before I continue.

        • Monica,

          If you like, you can take a look at my website, epiclesisconsulting.com, to see if I might be the kind of editor you would find helpful.

          It sounds as if the most budget-friendly option I offer that might serve your purposes right now is the Manuscript Critique sold in my Shop section, but if that doesn’t sound quite right, you could always click the Contact link to tell me more about what you need, so we can figure out if I am a good fit for your project at this point.

          Trish O’Connor
          Owner, Epiclesis Consulting LLC

  • Shalan says:

    Boy, i live in Delaware, i really need a professional editor, however i must admit that reading some of theses emails on this site is very overwhelming and discouraging. How can any new writer trust the process when so many so-called professional write so many ugly & negitive words…. im so confused!!!

  • Sean says:

    I would like to get my 200 page book edited primarily to look for copyright, and libel issues that might create legal issues. I quote multiple resources frequently in this non-fiction book, and sometimes critique them. I want to be sure I am doing this legally and professionally.
    I’m not sure if this is more of an editing issue or need to get legal advice. If you can steer me in the right direction that would be very much appreciated.

    • Alison McGuire says:

      Hi Sean, as an editor I run permissions for authors. It’s a case of contacting each right-owner (author or publisher) where the quotes are not deemed public domain, and provide them with context for approval. You can do this yourself or I’d be happy to quote for the work, if you’d like to contact me directly? My email address is alisonjmcguire@gmail.com.
      Warm regards,

  • Donna Royston says:

    Hi Alison,
    Can you explain what you mean by “completion of the final proof”? Would that be the completed manuscript? I am puzzled why your final billing would be after the manuscript is in production.

    • Alison McGuire says:

      Hello Donna,
      No need for puzzlement at all! It simply means the final proofread.
      Thank you for your concern though.
      Warmest regards,

  • Sarah says:

    Rates aside, I’m looking for advice about billing and payment schedule. Do most freelance editors bill upon project completion? Half up front? Something else?

    • Blake Atwood says:

      Anecdotal evidence from editors I know in real life and online reveals that most ask for half up-front and half upon completion.

      But, as they’re all freelancers, there’s no set criteria.

      I have worked out monthly payment plans with a few clients.

      If your budget needs a different payment plan than what the editor requests, ask if they’d be open to something else.

      Most editors I know want to help their clients in this regard and may be open to an alternative payment schedule.

      Just be sure that whatever the two of you agree upon, stick to it!

    • Alison McGuire says:

      Hi Sarah,
      I do developmental editing mostly, so I charge a flat rate to read once and build an action plan, half before and half afterwards. Then we contract to work through the plan, where the bulk of the editing takes place and for this I charge 25% up front, 50% after the developmental edit, and 25% on completion of the final proof. I find that authors appreciate the spread payments and the transparency this brings.
      Hope this is helpful,

  • 8pa says:

    If you’re given a per-page rate, you can calculate a per-word rate by assuming the industry standard of 250 words per page

  • A good editor is worth their weight in gold. Myself, I’m a frugal person, so I do my own ferocious self editing. I once belonged to a writers group, and the material the members submitted for critique made me cringe. Their story ideas were good, but were full of unnecessary adjectives, numerous misspelled words, run on sentences, and they had their characters grunting, snorting, huffing and puffing. I would spend time editing and when I gave back the material, the people were offended. I figured these people were looking for praise and not the truth.

    I finally quit the group.

    P.S. There was one person in this group who had published works. He was the only one, who took my edits to heart.

  • ConnieMWT says:

    I have worked as a copyeditor for several agencies and publishers. It is time-consuming work. No doubt about that. Authors can do themselves a great service to self-edit as completely as possible before going ahead with publishing steps. If you are a serious writer, you are not a toddler! Take responsibility!

    As an aside, I have read (and put down) several books from big name publishing houses that were virtually unreadable. They were so poorly edited, I could not continue to read them! Sad state of affairs.

  • I love reading all these responses and appreciate how supportive, for the most part, everyone is!

    One thing is becoming clear to me. Authors and editors have been mistakenly pitted against each other by a self-publishing system that is not currently working. Remember in the scheme of things that self-pub is very new, only a few years old. Twenty years ago, publishers put out a selection of the best and most marketable books. Editors were well-educated and got paid a fair wage. Authors received advances and royalties.

    Today we’re trying to both function in a new system where the publisher has been cut out of the equation. Without them, the market is over saturated with books, not all of perfect quality. The result is that it is nearly impossible for authors AND editors to do enough books to make a living.

    It will be interesting to see how things work in publishing ten years from now. People will undoubtedly still read, so my hope is that we’ll have settled into a much more stable and sustainable system for everyone.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I am late to this discussion. But I would like to speak for all those authors starting out…editing, although a necessary evil, is very expensive. Let’s face it, writing a novel is not a paid venture. If you sell your book to traditional publisher, or self publish, you will rarely make this expense up. To spend $5.0-$10.0 on your novel is just out of reach for most. I realize that editors “work hard” and “put a lot of time” into their work. But there seems a disconnect in the market place. Writers are writing for free, and shelling out all the money for little return. And yet it seems the only ones profiting is the “market place” on services. It is more an “industry” for publishing, than a means for a writer to get published, or make a living. I wish there was a middle ground for writers: an editing service that prepares your novel for submission to agents and editors at publishers, but doesn’t cost your first child! There is a need, and is truly an untapped market. But what you have are editors, at all levels, “demanding” the market price, whether they are experienced, starting out, or good. There seems to be no heirarchy with an equal level of professionalism for new writers vs experienced who might have a bigger budget for editing. I liken it to buying cars. You can buy a car at $15.0 and still get a good, safe car that looks nice and is drivable.. Or, you can buy a car at $50.0 if you want more prestige, quality service, personal attention, more features. Both are acceptable and worthy, just at different levels of affordability. Although editors are arguably at different prices, as the comments have indicated, the less you pay is for limited services, not a varying level of editing. It’s like getting a car with three wheels. But new writers do need a full service of editing…at an affordable price. I am not sure how to get there, or the value to editors, but there does seem to be a gap that needs to be filled- reliable editors, who can help bring a novel to a professional level for submission, and it be worth their time in doing so, at a rate that is more manageable for a writer’s pocketbook.

    • Megan says:

      Hey Elizabeth – I get what you’re coming from. I try to work in some flexibility with clients due to budget. Like you said, many people are charging the market rate regardless of experience. However, most good editors will work with your budget in one way or another, be it payment plans or reduced rates. I find it’s easier for me to retain clients and provide better services if the costs go down over time. Some people choose to discount the first project. It’s all very fluid. But yes, cost can be a deterrent for some folks. Self editing can drive these costs down, so taking the time to go through your work first is very helpful for the editor and for your own pocketbook..

      My recommendation for you would be to talk to other writers and find out who they recommend. Kboards is a good resource for this, or talking to an author you really liked about who they had edit their work. If you struggle with other parts of your project, such as book blurb writing, finding an editor that helps with that as well can help.

      I hope this helps! Please don’t be discouraged by editor’s rates. Many of them do this full time or to supplement their other income with their business. The quality of service is not necessarily tied to project cost, but hiring anyone who is a contractor or freelancer often means you’re getting one-on-one personalized attention you might not get if you worked with, say, just the editor of a publisher who could see your book as a quota to fill. Just my two cents!

    • One thing I never found was a guide for both writers and editors on what can be cut while still having a decent book. I had no idea when I hired an editor that so much time was going to be spent matching a style guide. My extremely short list:
      – Many self-publishers need less specialization. I sought an editor — mostly a copy editor, but also this is the only person who could tell me if I ramble in a particular chapter. I couldn’t afford a full dev edit, but I think I’m typical in wanting an editor who will tell me what my friends wouldn’t, and maybe switch hats for small sections where it’s needed.
      – It is ok to cut perfectionism that is encouraged among editors but isn’t really visible outside the field. I don’t want glaring grammar errors in my book, but matching a style guide was out of my time and financial budget.
      All this is what I learned after; I haven’t seen guides, and didn’t have a guide to hand my editor, during the process.

      • Stephen, I’m not sure what you mean by “time wasted matching a style guide.” Any professional editor of trade books knows the Chicago Manual of Style well and as a matter of course automatically makes changes that are in line with it. What you said is akin to “They waste time correcting spelling errors.” They’re not wasting any time; they’re doing their job and it’s a basic and automatic part of that job.

        “Build my house, but don’t waste time making sure anything you do is done in the normal way things are automatically done (up to code). I don’t need any of that.” Doing things the way they are automatically done does not cost more, and it doesn’t take more time. On the contrary, trying to do it in some other fashion—making up a new way to do it—would take more time. Furthermore, the results would probably be a disaster.

        I hope you find what you need.

    • Elizabeth, let me add my perspective, as an editor who LOVES working with first-time authors. Forgive the length of my response, as I wanted to give it the attention such a serious inquiry deserves:

      I am not without sympathy when some new authors get “sticker shock” upon hearing an estimate for my editorial services, and I am actually relatively affordable. (Most reasonably well-written novels would not cost even close to $3000 for me to edit, let alone $5000.) I also offer generous installment plans and discounts for bundled services. But there is a limit to how low I can go.

      Some authors budget very unrealistically, perhaps just a couple hundred dollars. (I’m not saying this is necessarily true in your case, but I have encountered it.) In such cases, I find myself wondering whom they are imagining should bridge the gap between what they are comfortable paying and what the editor needs to earn in order to pay expenses and support him- or herself.

      Even if you wrote the book in your free time, this is my day job. The per-project cost many new authors would consider “manageable” would, if broken into an hourly rate, end up paying editors less than minimum wage. They don’t intend to pay what someone could earn making french fries; they just greatly underestimate how much time must be invested in editing.

      That said, you do have some options, and I encourage you and all authors to consider them carefully.

      First, decide whether your time or your money is worth more to you right now. You can greatly reduce the amount of money your project will cost by investing more time, and vice versa. If time is no object, you may want to spend some hours in the library reading style manuals and going through your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb so that when you do hire an editor, (s)he will be able to zip through it quickly. If you end up deciding that’s more effort than you want to invest, then you will at least find the monetary cost of hiring someone to do it for you a less bitter pill to swallow.

      Second, consider getting a critique before you decide whether you need to pay for a full copyedit. I (and probably many other editors) will read your manuscript and write a several-page critique for much less than the cost of a line-by-line edit, and if your mechanical skills are reasonably good, this may be sufficient to help you get it into adequate shape for your publication plans.

      Next, it is possible to follow the road to traditional publication without hiring your own editor, with editing being done at the publisher’s expense. However, you have to be a very good writer and self-editor to get on that road, and what you write has to fit into a very marketable niche. You also need to be very patient and willing to weather plenty of rejection along the way. Don’t jump too quickly to the conclusion that this option is closed to you. Do your research carefully. There may be a small press that is just right for your book and that will be happy to help you make it the best it can be while paying YOU rather than making you pay them.

      If you instead decide that self-publication really is the right option for you and your book, this means that you have chosen to serve as both the author and the publisher. That means that you will have to (A) perform yourself, (B) find friends who will perform for free, or (C) hire professionals to perform all the tasks of a traditional publisher, from editing to marketing to distribution, all on top of performing the tasks of the author.

      It’s not easy. Believe me, I know! (I have written a number of books which I have published through my own company. Being a professional editor definitely helped!)

      In return for the sacrifices you must make in order to self-publish, you will gain total control over the project. In addition, any profits from sales of the book will be yours (not just a royalty percentage as with either a traditional publisher or a vanity press), and in some cases it may be the only way of getting your book into the hands of readers. However, there is no getting around the requirement to get the tasks done one way or another.

      If your personal finances do not permit you to finance a self-publication effort, it is worth looking into options for some kind of investment support, including the various forms of crowdfunding currently available, such as Kickstarter and Patreon.

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It may just take some work to find it.

      I wish you success in finding the way that’s right for you!

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      Freelance Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources

    • Wendy Owen says:

      Well said Elizabeth! By the time an author pays for editing, formatting and (the dreaded) marketing, they are considerably out of pocket, with no guarantee of ever recouping those costs.
      I have always edited my own books and have never had a bad comment about typos, poor language etc. I also edit friends’ books and have recently started my own editing service that is realistically priced for self-published authors.

  • Excellent article! Some of the confusion about pricing may be with those darn decimal points. $0.02 is two cents. $0.002 is two tenths of one penny. I like to just go with cents, as in 2.0¢ per word, because it’s much clearer—but harder to multiply!

    As was pointed out previously, “developmental editing” can mean a couple of different things, from just an evaluation that doesn’t touch the manuscript at all to an involved structural review that includes examples and tips to a full-package deal (what I offer) that also covers the copyedit and proofread.

    Authors need to be sure they know what they’re paying for.

  • Megan Harris says:

    Great article! I’ve been passing it around to people in my editing network as well as among other service providers. Lots of great tips and food for thought. I’m thinking about how to apply some of the discussion to my own rates.

    Loved your pricing editors spreadsheet, by the way! I feel like most authors look for a ballpark number but aren’t necessarily taking a systematic approach to vet editors. Going off of more than gut feeling and a sample edit seems like an effective route to go.

    Really appreciated the insight, Blake!

  • Sandy says:

    Wow finally a post that explains the nitty gritty of the editing pricing world. Thanks for the info!

  • About 25% of my (fiction) editing work is direct with authors, and the rest is split between two publishers. It my be of interest to note that these rates are close to what publishers pay their editors. That is to say, if you, as an author, were to traditionally publish your book, you would be paying this amount via royalties. Creating a professional product via self-publishing is not cheap, the costs (and income!) just shift from the publisher to the author.

  • Thank you for this article. I’m researching now to figure out my budget. I’m also trying to understand all the different terms for editing and this helps. I knew I would have to budget a decent amount so it’s nice to a have a solid idea.

  • Conni says:

    This is an excellent article. Authors should print it out for future reference. I am an editor and often need to justify my charges. Now I can just send my authors a link to this! Thank you!

  • Farnian says:

    as a freelancer i am always looking for cheap ones. and for a Book Editor i prefer to use a free software and not to pay any price.

    • Shayla says:

      That is a bad idea, and I can assure you every reader knows you skipped out on professional editing while reading your books. In fact, if you’re using a software for “editing,” that book is riddled with errors. Overflowing to the brim with them.

      Your book is your baby, so why wouldn’t you want to take great care of it?

      • Shayla, you are right as rain. I know a fantasy writer who insists on using programs to edit her material. I found so many errors in her writing so I stopped reading her books. It was driving me insane. Sadly, once you don an editor cap you cannot take it off.

    • Lyla says:

      It’s best, if you decide to hire a freelancer, to figure out what the going rate is for the service you need, and expect to pay that amount. Otherwise it may turn out to be a waste of money, because the quality of the service will suffer. Sometimes there are payment plans to help with high costs! But it’s really a good investment to pay industry standard for editorial services; I agree with Shayla.

  • Very interesting blog but your figures are really high here. I am a multi-published romance novelist with over 200 books under my belt. I don’t pretend to know everything so of course I work with editors and beta readers, too.
    Most editors in my genre charge from 002 to 007 per word. That’s for developmental and FLE, (Final line edit) – three rounds in all. The 10,000 fee you mention here would put off anybody from ever hiring an editor. I know few writers who could pay that, which is why Amazon is flooded with poorly written and badly edited books. I would encourage writers to contact other authors in their genre for tips on editors and to cultivate good beta readers.
    I have heard so many horror stories about editors and experienced a few myself. If an author is uncertain about an editor, most editors will do one sample chapter or 10 pages (whichever comes first) for free to give the author an idea of their style. Edits can be very intense and I would encourage authors to listen if they keep hearing the same things about their work from different sources. That said, they also don’t need an editor who is so brutal they never want to pick up a pen again.

    • I was going to tell Blake that his figures are actually a little low. The EFA uses lower prices than Writer’s Market (which is what I use as a starting point for my pricing). Two tenths of a cent (.002) per word? That comes out to $100 per 50,000-word book. It’s a rare editor who can accurately process 50,000 words a day, so that would be dooming an editor to living off of about $50 a day. If an editor is earning such low amounts per book, then one of two things is happening: that editor has someone else to pay the bills (thus not needing a real income), or that editor is blowing through books far too quickly in an attempt to earn enough money to survive, and is leaving errors—in which case it’s pointless to hire that editor. Undercutting on prices is unethical and it hurts everyone in the industry. I would not trust that editor. Anyone who pays such low prices is exploiting another person, which is also wrong. Authors, be prepared to pay fair prices. Editors, charge enough to survive and don’t undercut the industry standards, because you’re causing harm to everyone in the field, including yourself.

    • Whoa. I try to keep my rates low (most authors aren’t rolling in cash) but that is insane. The average novel takes me about 40 hours to edit, and I’m fast! $0.002 would mean I was effectively earning $2.50 per hour … before I paid taxes.

      I would absolutely encourage authors to find someone who fits their budget, offers payment plans and will work with them to get the services they can afford (some authors might be able to get away with just a manuscript evaluation, for example) I have to agree with the previous comments. Someone who is working for two bucks an hour can’t possibly be a professional, no matter how fair their prices, and that does not bode well for your end product.

      Sonnet Fitzgerald

      • The quotes I posted are for a specialized genre – romance. These books are shorter than many other types of fiction and yes the editors are professional. Many do this as a favor to authors they love and work with in publishing houses…so they lower their rates for private work. Over time of course, their rates increase but the prices I quoted for my industry only.

  • Thanks so much for this article. My experience as a freelance editor has been that many self-published authors have drastically underestimated the costs of editing, and your numbers will help them budget more realistically.

    I love what I do, and it can be heartbreaking to fall in love with with a project that is right in my niche, only to be unable to reach a meeting point on price because the author assumed a thorough copyedit would only cost a few hundred dollars.

    I would add the suggestion to be prepared for the editor to request a look at the manuscript (not just a short sample) to prepare an accurate estimate. This has been my practice for some time, and it allows me to provide a flat fee for the entire project. This makes budgeting much less complicated for the author, although of course I am willing to bill by the hour if preferred.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC

    • Alison McGuire says:

      Trish you are dead right about reviewing more than the first few pages of a manuscript! I’ve come unstuck a number of times, assuming that the entire MS will measure up to those polished, most-frequently-laboured-over first chapters.
      Your approach sounds effective. I’m piloting a contract where I charge a lower rate for a read-through and recommendations, then staged payments for macro- then micro-edits. The author is happy, can predict costs, and for a manuscript that is very much work in progress, this is rewarding work in every sense.
      Great article.

  • Colin says:

    A good editor is invaluable when starting out. Later on it perhaps depends on how complex the story or writing is. Editors can be looking for similarity not originality. The final script a poor representation of the original story or article. An article of mine, which was picked up by Wikipedia for its originality and informative ideas was given forty edits from around the world! It was like a mechanical invention rather than an interesting article in the end!
    Editors, understandably, want to be associated with well known authors and genre. My latest novel, which is in near to final preparation script wise is scientific/ futuristic. By then, hopefully, writers will glean impartial and less partisan advice from expert automata editors!

  • Lyla says:

    Hey there! In my experience (as a freelance developmental fiction editor with friends in the same profession), developmental is actually the cheapest option–I think you may have made a decimal point error 🙂 The going rate in my corner of the edit-verse is around $0.008/word, not $0.08, which means a 70,000-word edit will be $560 or so. It’s possible this is different across genres, though! Just wanted to drop a note so any aspiring budget-minded fiction writers out there can take heart .

    • Conni says:

      Good call. I think it’s .008 too.

    • Developmental editing is the most expensive option, and I usually see prices of ten to fifteen cents per word for it. Someone is steeply undercharging.

    • Shayla says:

      I can’t think of a world wherein I’d edit a 70,000-word book for $560. In fact, I would delete the email that asked me to do that, because the author either didn’t value my time and skill or didn’t have a clue what professional editing is worth.

      For editors who are charging pennies for what should be hours and hours and hours worth of work: I am saddened that you would ruin the market for those who have the expertise and ability to charge what it’s worth. You see, an author whose book needs a whole lot of help will see your rock-bottom prices and think that’s the norm. But the reality? That’s not normal. It’s not normal to charge sweat shop rates for something that requires top-notch quality.

      Here’s the deal, guys: editing is a tough job, and it’s worth every penny. If I’m going to edit a 70,000-word book, I know what I’m going to bring to the table that the cheap editors can’t.

      Blake, you are spot-on here with this article and your pricing. Thank you for taking the time to educate and inform authors and editors.

      • Lyla says:

        We may be talking about different services. I’m referring to a full read that usually creates a 5-10 page edit letter–no in-line editing. Or, perhaps we’re just working in different corners of the market. I’m around those who are freelance editing pre-query for writers hoping to traditionally publish their genre fiction, not the kind of rigorous editing a self publishing author would need, which should rightfully be much more expensive! It’s true that most people doing freelance editing at the lower rate/rigor aren’t doing it full time. It’s an optional step for those traditionally publishing, and the prices reflect maintaining access for those writers, I believe.

        • S says:

          I imagine this really depends on what ‘development editing’ service you are providing. If you’re just going to read a book, and blindly write a 10 page email about ‘what works and what does not’ then I agree, that editor probably shouldn’t be getting paid much at all.

          If however the editor is going to disassemble the book act by act, scene by scene, beat by beat, and show technically in story structure terms what needs to be changed, then the editor is spending far more time in analysis and constructing the demonstration of such to the client. Of course, this really depends on what service a client wants as well.

          Anyone wishing to pay someone 500 bucks to read their book just so they can be given a short and unhelpful overview is arguably getting what they paid for. Naturally, self publishers and the like can’t really justify the amount they’d have to spend on a real editor of story structure, but it still baffles me that these so called developmental editors exist. That is, unless they have a follow up service after the fact that is actually worth it.

          • A human says:

            While you may (or may not) be correct in your assumptions, your tone in general is rude, and disrespectful. If you are indeed a true editor of distinct taste and experience, you should not feel the need to bad mouth others for their thoughts and opinions. Show a little decency, and realize that you are indeed speaking to a human being, who probably has thoughts and feelings, and is in my opinion, a much more intelligent human for having the intellect to not attack someone verbally for their thoughts. No one needs you to be rude, or asked you for that matter.

      • Cynthia says:

        I have a 64,000 word manuscript I need edited for publishing. It is a religious book with only two or three footnotes. How much would you charge me?

      • geoff wolak says:

        I make a good living from editing, and I do a good job, many repeat customers. It takes me 6-8 hours to go through an 80k word book once, I charge $400 start rate. That’s $50+ an hour, a great rate considering I retired to Asia and it costs me $20 a day to live here.

    • There seems to be something half-way between beta-reading and development editing. I think it’s right for many new writers — I’m just finishing my first book, and was not about to pay a real development editor, but beta readers weren’t engaged enough (especially friends unwilling to point out the negatives). But it this kind of editing doesn’t really have a clear name.

      • Blake Atwood says:

        Stephen, you’re right, and I think much of the confusion about editing and its pricing stems from the fact that editors offer a range of services (in addition to a range of experience). It might be best to view editing on a spectrum from broad (developmental) to detailed (copyediting and proofreading). And it’s always best to have as clear an idea as you can about the kind of editing you believe you need.

        From your comment, you may be in search of a manuscript critique, where you pay a professional to essentially conduct a beta read with the added benefit of their experience and knowledge about the craft. Then they’ll give you a few pages’ worth of considerations. When I don’t have the time for such critiques (and I only critique nonfiction), I refer my clients to andilit.com.

        • I wrote non-fiction — and found that almost all the resources assumed fiction. I found my editor through personal connections; seeking people through organizations I’d never heard of before was daunting.

    • R. Muracka says:

      Perhaps there is some misunderstanding of the phrase ‘developmental editing’ used in this article. Given the number of hours necessary to process, dissect, and reconstruct a text of that size, it sounds like anyone who charged that lowly is doing the job for fun and has a spouse to provide for them–all the while devaluing the work of people who do this for a living. It’s really not ethical.

    • Donna says:

      Thank you so much Lyla! Those other numbers were frightening! I’m an aspiring fiction (romance) writer and trying to get my ducks in a row!

    • Rachel says:

      THANK YOU so much for this correction. I’ll be needing a couple editors within the next year or two, and that decimal sure made a difference. 8(

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