One of the first questions people ask me about editing is how much it will cost. Of course, I understand. When I’m interested in a service, cost is one of the first things I wonder about too.
The answer—and I don’t think this will surprise you — is it depends.
Factors That Affect Editing Cost
Once you understand the editing process and know where you are in that process, you’ll be able to estimate how much it will cost to edit your book, or at least how long the project will take to complete.
So, the first question I have for you is how much have you already done?
One reason there’s no simple answer to the question of cost when it comes to editing is there are a few types of editing. Another reason is every manuscript is different. I edit manuscripts from people with a range of writing skills. Some are professional writers. Many are service providers and small business owners who are not writers, and some are folks whose native language is not English.
An average-length book (which is somewhere around 300 pages or 60,000 words) can take anywhere from 25 to more than 100 hours to edit. Why the big range? Some books can be edited in one or two passes. Others require a third or fourth reading to get everything in order.
Four Types of Editing
Think of editing the way you’d think of building a house. You start with the foundation and work in stages until you’re ready for an inspection before your certificate of occupancy is issued.
When you write a book, you start with a raw concept, polish it in stages, and then dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
Generally speaking, the stages of editing are:
1. Developmental editing
2. Line or content editing
Actually, proofreading is technically not editing. It's a service that checks the final manuscript against the editing you’ve already done. The term goes back to the days when proofs needed to be read against a red-lined (edited) copy. But these days, most people use the term proofreading to mean a final or light edit.
Ideally, the person who proofreads your book will not be the same person who edits it.
A Closer Look at The Editing Process
If you have an idea, an outline, or a very rough draft, you may need to start with developmental editing. A developmental editor will help you shape your idea into the pages of a book.
Once you’ve written a draft, you may move on to line editing (also called content editing), which focuses on how the sentences flow, how well you tell the story, readability, and logic. It ensures you’re telling the story you want to tell the way you want to tell it. If you’re an experienced writer, you may not need deep line editing.
The last stage of editing (before proofreading) is copyediting. At this stage, the editor focuses on consistency, verb tenses, punctuation, succinctness, and other details that make sentences more readable. If you’re using a style guide (that is, if your manuscript will be traditionally published or you are self-publishing but want your book to have a professional look and feel), a copyedit also ensures adherence to that guide.
Finishing Touches: Proofreading
Most professional writers and editors know it’s nearly impossible for writers to proofread their own work. If you’ve written it, your brain knows what you meant to write, and that’s what your brain will see. The same idea holds true once an editor has read your book two or three times during the editing process. That’s why it’s smart to have a new pair of eyes do a final proofread.
What’s the Bottom Line?
So, now you can see why there’s no easy way to say how much it will cost to edit your book unless I see your writing and know a bit about your project. But I understand that you’d still like some numbers, so here are some ballpark figures.
A professional editor working on nontechnical nonfiction may charge $40 – $60 per hour, though most will give you a flat-rate estimate based on that rate. That means the 60,000-word manuscript I mentioned above will cost between $1000 and $6000 to edit (give or take).
Now that you know the factors involved in narrowing that range to a quote for your project, you can probably pinpoint whether the fee an editor will charge you is at the lower or higher end of that range. When you’re ready to hire an editor, ask for a sample edit. That will give you and the editor a solid idea of whether you can work together within your budget and time frame.
If you still have questions about how much it will cost to edit your book (or any other aspect of the writing or editing process), feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to discuss your project and point you in the right direction!