How much does a book editor really cost?

Posted 11 Feb 2021, by

Brendan Brown

Finishing the draft of your book is a huge achievement. Well done!

As tempting as it is to sit back and enjoy a celebratory drink or two – there’s still more work to be done, so don’t get too cosy.

It’s time to get your book edited, so it’s in the best shape possible for publishing.

This can be quite a daunting stage for many writers. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your work and the idea of handing it over to someone you don’t know to critique is enough to induce fear in the hardest of writers.

But it’s also a necessary step in the process. So, it’s time to take the plunge.

Of course, the biggest question on your mind now is: how much does a book editor cost?

Let’s go hrough the different editing options available to you, exactly what you can expect from an editor, and the different types to choose from.

I’m going to break down the average costs of each one, so you can pave a clear path going forward to see your book through to publication.

But first…

Do you actually need a book editor?

Before you even dive into your search for a book editor, you may pause for a moment and consider whether you even need one.

Yes, you do. Although this doesn’t mean you need to pay and arm and a leg for it. In fact, there are free options out there.

(More about these below).

As much as you don’t want to admit it: no-one is perfect.

If you want your book to be the best version of itself, it’s time to embrace the editing task. Writing the book is just the first step in the process – editing the book is just as, if not more, important.

It can make or break your book.

Mistakes happen. But there is absolutely no room for mistakes when it comes to time to send your book for publication.

It could mean the difference between a best-seller and an average read:

  • What if there’s a glaring plot hole you’ve skimmed over?
  • What if you’ve missed spelling mistakes throughout that detract from the story?
  • Are your sentences too long-winded?

There are so many things for you to consider that it’s natural to have mistakes slip through. Editing is a chance to catch those mistakes before your book goes to print.

Still not convinced?

Think of it this way: Book editing can be compared to doing the housework. It simply goes unnoticed unless it’s not done.

And just like vacuuming your home, there’s no escaping it. You can either do it yourself, or hire a professional – but either way it has to get done.

Which leads us to the next section.

What options are available to you?

You now understand that editing is an essential part of the book publishing process. You can’t move on without it.

But is a professional editor your only option?

A professional editor is one of the best options out there. They have a trained eye when it comes to catching spelling and grammar mistakes, and years of experience to back them up.

They can offer advice on the smaller things, such as your use of grammar and long-winded sentences, as well as the big-picture items, such as the flow of your book and the plot.

But that doesn’t mean they’re your only option when it comes to getting your book edited. Here’s some other options you might consider – especially is you’re looking to save yourself a few dollars in the process.

Self-editing

Why get someone to do what you can do yourself?

If you’re looking to save on costs, then self-editing is a viable path to go down.

But you do need to know what you’re doing. It’s going to take time, a lot of frustration and some really tough decisions.

How objective can you be about your book?

This is your baby that you’ve nurtured from conception, and now you’re getting it ready to send out into the world. Are you capable of seeing the faults in it, or are you likely to turn a blind eye?

Some people simply can’t take a step back from their work to get through the self-editing process. If this is you, then don’t waste your time.

You need to be ruthless and essentially tear your book apart on the hunt for any plot holes, characterization mistakes or oversights that have crept their way in.

It’s a huge task. But it can be done.

Here’s two things you need to remember:

  1. This book isn’t for you, it’s for your reader: this means any parts you’re attached to, you need to let them go if they’re not working for the story. It’s not about your feelings, it’s about telling a really good story for your audience. You need to give them what they want.
  2. Grammar, grammar, grammar: you can’t be an amazing writer if you’re book is full of spelling and grammar mistakes. In fact, many readers will put it down and won’t give it the time of day. Be prepared to read, reread and reread again, going through each sentence with a fine-tooth comb to find those errors.

Beta readers

Never heard of a beta reader before? They can be the best tool to have on your belt before going to print.

This is your audience.

Your entire reason for writing your book in the first place.

And their job is to have that first read through once your book is ready for print. This means, they come in right at the end. After you’ve looked at the book. After an editor has been through your book.

They aren’t professional editors in any sense of the word. It’s their job to take in the broader view, from characterization to pacing, plot and voice. If it doesn’t sound right, feel right, or flow right, they’ll let you know.

It’s a chance to test the market before going to market and get feedback from everyday readers – and an idea of how your book will be received.

As you might expect, it’s important to choose your beta readers carefully. Of course, your Mom is going to put up her hand to help you out, but is she really going to be constructive about your work?

(Of course not!).

You want to choose people who aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings, so you get honest feedback that is worthwhile.

Now is the time to develop that thick skin of yours. If you want your book to be the best it can be, then open your ears to constructive criticism.

Of course, at the end of the day it’s up to your whether or not you take on this beta feedback.

What to expect from a book editor

Let’s get this straight from the beginning – professional editors aren’t magicians.

You can’t expect to hand them a sloppy, half-written book and turn it into a masterpiece. This simply isn’t the job of an editor.

If you’re not sure about your book and hoping an editor can step in and pick up the pieces for you – then you’re not at editing stage.

It’s time to go back through your manuscript and get it to a place you’re happy with.

A good book editor will significantly improve your writing and catch any mistakes you have made.

Book editing encompasses a variety of different roles, from simple manuscript review through to an in-depth line-edit and critique of the entire book.

By determining what type of editor you need for your work, you can narrow down the expected costs.

Different types of book editing

Before looking into the costs associated with professional editing, it’s important to understand what type of editing you’re actually after.

There are three main types to consider, which will go on to explain below. With each of these different editing styles, we have outlined a general rate for you to consider.

These are based on the Editorial Freelancers Association rates page, where they did a survey of EFA members to get an idea of rates charged.

While these are just a ballpark figure, they do give you a good understanding of the industry standard and what you might expect.

Proofreading

A proofreader will check your book for consistency, format and layout. They will help out with any minor spelling, and punctuation mistakes, and any formatting inconsistencies throughout.

Their name comes from the fact they generally check a printed proof and mark up the text with specialized symbols. Of course, with the digital age, they now do the same job with tracked changes.

Book proofreading only focuses on the minor stuff. They aren’t going to pick up any major changes to content, structure or language.

This is why they’re generally the cheapest option when it comes to a professional editor.

Based on a 70,000 word book, your proofreading costs would be $0.113c per word, or $791.

Copyediting

A copyeditor will review your text and check for spelling and grammatical errors. They are brought in at the end, when your manuscript is in the best shape you can get it alone. They will also check for consistency, flow and sentence structure throughout the book, often providing tips and suggestions throughout.

If you have facts that need checking, you can ask your editor to carry this out for accuracy. It’s their job to maintain your style of writing while polishing the manuscript. They have an eye for detail and will leave no word unturned.

Based on a 70,000 word book, your editing costs would be $0.18c per word, or $1,260.

Developmental Editing

These editors look at the big picture when it comes to your book. They look closely at the content of your book, the structure, plot and the characters and the overall flow of your book and how it reads.

A developmental editor is often involved in the actual writing process. You might even approach them with just an idea. They will help with the organisation of the book, from the characters through to the storyline and more.

Their value: they have experience when it comes to putting together a story that reads well. You might have brilliant ideas brimming in your head, but no way of bringing them together and putting them on paper. Or you may have finished your book and find yourself unhappy with the way it develops. They can help with this.

Based on a 70,000 word book, your editing costs would be $0.08c per word, or $5,600.

Factors you need to consider when hiring a book editor

Before you go ahead and work out the costs of hiring an editor, you need to look at the job on hand. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

1. What type of editing do I need?

Refer to the three types above and work out which one applies to your book.

2. What’s your total word count?

Many editors charge per word, so your total word count is going to play a huge role when working out costs.

3. What genre is your book?

If you’re writing a non-fiction piece on civilzations around the world, it’s going to require a lot more in-depth editing on factual accuracy over a romance title.

4. Do you have a deadline?

As you might expect, if you need the work done as fast as possible, then some editors will charge extra. If you have more flexibility, it can help you save on costs.

5. How experienced is your chosen editor?

Just like any other field, you pay for experience and knowledge. If you’ve chosen to go with a professional who has been in the industry for more than 10 years and has a surplus on knowledge, then you’ll be paying top dollar for that.

On the other hand, if you’re happy to take a chance on a university graduate, then this could save you plenty of money.

How to choose the best editor for you

Now that you know the basic costs involved when it comes to hiring an editor, how do you choose the best one for you?

You need to work out exactly what you need from an editor. Use the questions above to determine exactly what you’re looking for and then make a list of your desired criteria.

It’s up to you to decide where you’re willing to make sacrifices and where you’re not – and this will factor in to the editor you find for the job.

For example:

  • Are you willing to pay more to get an editor with the highest qualifications, or are you more interested in cost-cutting?
  • Are you rushed to get the manuscript ready? This may narrow who is available to you.
  • Do you need an editor who specialized in a particular genre?

If you find yourself particularly stuck between your choices, draw up a pros and cons list for each one.

This way you can narrow down which editor best fits your needs when it comes to the areas that matter most to you.

Own your book

At the end of the day, it’s your book.

Your words, your story, your ideas… all coming together on paper.

If you don’t agree with changes the editor has made, you don’t have to accept all of them. You get final say and should feel comfortable to use it. As long as you’re looking at your work objectively and aren’t making any emotional decisions.

And when you do find that right editor for you, hold onto them. Once they get your tone and style, they’re worth their weight in gold.

Keep them on hand for your next masterpiece.

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