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.

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.

81 comments

  • artt says:

    Sadly, there’s only one good editor you could trust! Yourself! There is no amount of money that can force someone to be as devoted as you are towards your “creation”..
    I have paid people for editing my manuscripts and I often saw how little did they pay attention or even read properly the content. If you want a good job, do it yourself or try working harder on getting published traditionally (they have a better interest in making it right)

  • shafiek reggiori says:

    Hi, my name is M. S. Reggiori. I am too, looking for an editor. Not looking to self publish but go the traditional route. As a first time author, I am not sure how things work. I know editors like to give a critique first. Dies that mean I would have to fix suggestions, or is it that editors fix it. Other than needing the author to maybe write a few mire chapters. Advive please.

  • DP says:

    Even if picked up by a professional publisher, the average fictional novel is unlikely to earn about $7,000-10,000 (i.e., about what you’d get in an advance, as most books don’t earn past that). Most self-published books will earn far less.

    If so, spending $5,600 to $9,600 on a developmental edit will leave you with little money. If you are self-publishing and also have to pay for cover and marketing, it sounds like it would almost certainly leave you deeply in the red.

    Of course, if your book is really fantastic, you may make more than this, or if the book is a vanity project for yourself. But otherwise… for most writers… does it make sense to pay an editor as much for a few days work as you, the writer, earns for the weeks or months of writing time?

  • Jay says:

    Some of these rates surprise me. I am used to around 1 or 1.5 cents per word for basic proofreading, but the editing costs seem high. For example, PaperBlazer currently charges 3.5 cents for editing, which is drastically lower than the 8 cents. The turnaround time is also much faster.

    As a side note, rates will fluctuate with time. I’m curious how these new aluminum and steel tariffs will lead to an increase in proofreading/editing pricing — considering the impending shortage of typewriters. (I’m kidding. Haha.)

  • s carson says:

    Blake, We have a contract with a well-respected publisher. I’ve been forewarned that textbooks do not get much editing support beyond text assembly, basic grammar, and spelling proofreading.

    I am a first-time textbook author fortunate to be working with an established author team. Others of the team are responsible for illustrations, instructor notes and accompanying exercises. I am responsible for the bulk of the textbook copy and could probably use editing support.

    Are there editors who specialize in technical or textbook writing? Are the working relationships similar to those you have described?

  • There are clearly two sides to every services purchase: the buyer and the seller. The buyer wants to pay the least they can to get what they determine they need and the seller wants to get whatever he or she feels is fair compensation for the service offered.
    Some people do what they do as a hobby; that is, they don’t depend on the money to pay for their living expenses. Some are professionals who earn the majority or all of their living from what they do. The latter cannot base their charges on the former, even if the buyer is using it as a comparison point.
    It is the buyer’s choice which vendor they choose, but please don’t castigate the seller who believes that he/she offers a superior service and charges for it. Your choice as a buyer is to evaluate the value proposition offered.
    Too many buyers seem to have the attitude that “they’re my words and it’s too expensive to hire editors (or book cover designers etc).” If you want a service, you pay for it. You can’t walk into Nordstroms and say to the salesperson “these are my legs so I want the pants for free.” Nor do you get to walk into the same store and ask them what their cost of goods and manufacturing and retail presence is so that you can discuss the acceptability of their profit margin.
    Your words ARE yours, but if you want the services of someone to help you improve your product or prepare it for market or market it, you are free to buy or not buy those services. But no one “owes” you anything in regards to that.
    Freelance project workers have to calculate their gains in per-hour fees. They need to cover their living expenses as well as any professional tools they may use and dead time where they don’t have a billable project. You don’t offer them prescription plans, retirement benefits or anything except the amount you agree to pay for the project. And that’s assuming they don;t get stiffed for the final payment.
    If you do a calculation and find that someone who works on a freelance-project basis is charging less than $40 an hour, I’d ask myself WHY?
    You have the right to buy or not buy from anyone offering a service but disparaging someone who charges even 50% over the $40 an hour rate for what they do is insulting to those who try to offer high quality work to help you achieve their goals.

  • Sophia says:

    I am in the final stages of an erotica novel. I am in need of some feedback on.

  • Yael Eliyahu says:

    This article is quite helpful, and I appreciate the comparisons! I am interested to know one more thing, if you might know, or possibly know who to ask. What should a beginning freelance editor charge?

    These seem to be fair prices for professionals with a great deal of experience, but what should someone who has the training yet lacks experience charge?

  • The New Guy says:

    Hello!

    I am new to the field (re-entering after so many years; I was a published Journalist about 18 years ago). While I have been editing and writing with no real experience I was offered a chance to edit a book for a friend. I did a sample and she loved it. She asked me for a firm price, and quoted me a price her professional friend did for her…well below the prices you are quoting. I feel awful for asking her for a significant amount less than what I see here, but I want to dust off my old wings and stretch them out once again. I know my experience is minimal and would like to grow my resume. What advice do you give newbies who are just learning to fly or are kind of rusty?

    Any help would be appreciated!

    Thanks!

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