Some authors are very confident in their abilities to edit their own work, while others understand the importance of editing. They diligently seek out affordable book editing services, just to be shocked at the astronomical freelance editing rates – not to mention how long they plan to take to deliver the manuscript. Many people opt for beta-readers or a best friend who did alright at English in school to “edit” their books… But what they don’t realize is that:
- There’s a massive skills-gap between beta-readers (i.e. free book editors) and professional manuscript editors. Professional book editors have years of experience and know how to communicate with readers. They consider style, sentence structure, reader personas, and your specific aim for your book.
- A good friend doesn’t want to offend you, so s/he won’t point out all your mistakes to you (only to their family or another mutual friend)… That’s if they bother actually skimming over the book. People are busy and nobody’s going to invest time they could be doing something else into your book unless they get paid for it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have had friends ask me to edit their books for free (since we’re friends and I’m a pro) and I’ve skim read the first page, scrolled through a chapter or two and told them it’s great. However, I’ve since developed a greater respect for the industry, and won’t hesitate to recommend they hire a professional – even a “cheap” one, rather than me, who has a family to feed and bills to pay.
- If you’re not willing to invest in having your book professionally edited, you can’t expect readers to invest in buying it. Any business requires investment. A baker must buy flour and pay for electricity. A plumber or carpenter needs his tools. A writer and editor must invest copious amounts of time into crafting works that change lives. You can only change lives if your readers understand what you are trying to communicate.
In order to better answer your question – how much does it cost to hire an editor –, I decided to explain exactly how to edit a novel professionally. It will also help you understand why best-selling authors value their editors so highly…
Initial Engagement – How to Hire an Editor Who Will Edit Your Manuscript
When you’re ready to hire an editor, it usually starts with a quick Google search:
- editing a manuscript tips
- edit my book for free
- how to get a book edited for free
- how much does a beta reader charge
- free beta readers
- beta reader price
- beta readers wanted
Once I receive your email with a request for book proofreading or affordable editing services, I will respond by asking for the following information – unless you’ve supplied it in your initial message. Typically, authors will find me via my website, via referral (from other happy clients), or via Upwork. Each author has his or her own ideas and expectations – especially when it comes to the question how much does it cost to hire an editor? –and it is during this stage that we weed out true authors from people who imagine that “any idiot can write and publish a book” or that free beta readers can do as good a job as professional book editors for hire.
1. What type of editing do you require (line by line, substantive, or copy-edit)?
2. What is your page / word-count?
3. A sample of your manuscript
To ensure the most accurate quote possible, clients can provide their manuscript, or at least a sample chapter for assessment. I will then perform a no-obligation, FREE sample edit on their manuscript to determine what type of editing is required and how long that will take.
The sample edit involves a spot check throughout the manuscript that looks at:
- sentence structure
- missing words
- wordiness (too many adjectives, for instance)
How much does it cost to hire an editor? Here are the factors to consider.
During the sample edit, I will take into consideration the following factors:
The secret to a thorough, high-quality edit, is to ask the editor for an estimated timeline. Believe me, we want to complete it just as soon as you want it published, but just like good wine, good editing takes time. The sample editing process gives the editor a very vague idea of how long it will take to edit your manuscript. Say it comes to 10 pages an hour, we need to determine how many hours we will have to spend on your manuscript in total (based on page count), and see how that fits into our schedule. That will determine how long it takes to complete the project.
We don’t charge a per-word rate, because no two sets of 1000 words from two different authors will take the same amount of time to edit. A sentence of 18 words, where there is a sentence structure issue that requires 3 words to be shifted, doesn’t merely require a quick once over… The words have to be moved / replaced and then the sentence has to be re-read to ensure it makes sense as a standalone sentence. Afterwards, it must be re-read along with the previous and the following sentence, to ensure it still makes sense. (And that’s only a SMALL portion of the actual process… Each word is read at least twice, if the manuscript is perfect, and if not… at least 4 times.)
Expert Tip: Choose an editor with long lead-times, because a busy editor is a good editor. 😉
Book Editing Prices Depend on the Level of Editing Required
This can be a tricky topic, as many authors are convinced that their manuscripts are in perfect condition, which it isn’t always. When you ask how much does it cost to hire an editor?, consider that the level of editing required will be affected by various factors, some of which can be foreseen in the sample edit. In fact, it often can’t be foreseen until we have read the entire manuscript. Authors usually either start off cautiously, checking their work for the first few chapters, and then fall apart; or they start off insecure (resulting in many mistakes in the earlier pages) and then get better as they go along – although this is unusual. That’s why we ask for a full manuscript to get at least some idea of how your writing matures.
The initial check does provide a partial estimate of how many pages (written by you in the specific manuscript) we can edit in an hour, but it doesn’t show us the bad habits (most authors have those!) that we will have to correct throughout the book, for instance: one easily confused word used multiple times; a sentence structure issue that has become habitual, or, as is sometimes the case, multiple merged words throughout the book.
Our ppHr (pages per Hour rate) is not to be mistaken for a profit margin. In fact, it is the minimum rate we can justify for the amount of time we expect to spend on your manuscript. There’s no profit involved, and you’re probably scoring a few professional hours on the deal. Our quotes have never been more than the ppHr, ever…
Professional Book Editing Prices: Considerations
As an author, don’t assume upfront that book editing prices will be $50 and then be shocked when it’s significantly more than that. Don’t assume that a book editor can read your manuscript and apply all changes in 3 days flat, because there’s a big difference between reading it once over (which also takes time) and professional manuscript editing, which requires a minimum 4-step process (initial spell / grammar check, thorough read over with editing, final read-over and final changes).
Expert Tip: A good way to save on book editing costs, and also to determine the minimum charge of your manuscript edit, would be to read your manuscript out aloud, paying attention to the punctuation (pause at commas, periods and semi-colons, use the right intonation at exclamation marks and question marks, etc.). Time yourself while you do so. During this check, you will get an idea of the amount of time it takes to read through your book. Times that by 3 and that will give you a minimum budget to work with.
Editing requires immense focus to ensure that everything every word is used correctly and that your sentence structure is on point. The English language can be very confusing, especially when you’re passionately weaving the tales of your protagonists and too excited to perform the self-edit read-through suggested above. Rely on your editor to point out holes in the plot, inconsistencies and similar errors that can diminish your readers’ enjoyment and understanding of your story.
What Makes a Good Book Editor?
While good manuscript editors work fast, they are only human and they know that they can’t put in more than 5 hours of quality editing a day without compromising on the deliverables due to a lack of focus or fatigue. Yes, they will use book editor software (an automated spell-checker) during the initial editing phase, but artificial intelligence can never be a viable substitute for the human touch (and intelligence). A good book editor will get into your story and into your readers’ minds. Even the most sophisticated spelling and grammar checkers fail to pick up all the errors in a manuscript, and many of the substitutions are inaccurate. The best book editorshave feelings and understands how your target audience reads. Likewise, a human book editor has pride in a job well done. They love and understand the English language and they will want to ensure that you publish a book that makes them (and you, of course! 😉 ) look good.
The manuscript editor’s job is to fill in for your readers. After years of experience, we’re able to assess and improve the level of understanding and enjoyment of your manuscript. We aim to make your novel a pleasurable read for your readers, and that will take time and personal attention from a professional.
Editing Take Away
Want to know how to get a book edited for free? (Seriously?) Want to learn how to edit a novel first draft and how you can reduce your editing costs? Get some awesome, helpful insights, editing a manuscript tips, and action steps that you can implement right away from The Editor’s Guide to Writing a Book on a Shoestring budget.
Ready to take the bull by the horns and request a free, no-obligation sample edit and quote? Get in touch here.