One of the questions I get asked most often is: What does editing cost?
My answer is always: it depends. How much an editor will charge you for editing your manuscript depends on several different factors.
Factors that influence editing costs
Type of editing: In a previous blog post, I explained the three different types of editing. Content/developmental editing is often much more time-intensive than copy editing so content editors usually charge more than copy editors. When you hire an editor, be very clear about what type of editing your manuscript needs.
Quality of writing and the writer’s level of experience: The more work the editor has to do to make the manuscript presentable, the more the editing will cost. Skilled writers with relatively clean manuscripts pay less. So normally, editors will want to see your manuscript or at least a sample before they can determine the costs of editing.
Length: Most editors charge by word count, which means editing a longer novel will cost more than editing a novella or a short novel. Some editors also charge by the hour, but since editing a longer manuscript takes up more time, you’ll end up paying more than for a shorter manuscript.
Editor’s level of experience: The more experience an editor has, the more they can charge. If you hire an inexperienced editor who’s just starting out, you’ll probably save money, but (depending on the editor) you might sacrifice quality.
Deadline: If the editor needs to work on a tight deadline, you’ll probably pay more for editing. Most editors charge 25% more for rush jobs.
Number of read-throughs: If you want the editor to go through the manuscript more than once, you’ll probably pay more. Still, it could be worth the money because often times mistakes get overlooked during the first read-through or previous revisions introduce new errors.
Different methods of calculating editing fees
There aren’t only different factors influencing the costs of editing a manuscript; there are also different methods of calculating editing fees.
- Hourly rate: Some editors charge by the hour.
- Word count rate: Other editors charge based on word count, regardless of how many hours will go into editing a manuscript.
- Page count rate: Some editors charge based on page count. The industry standard assumes that 1 page = 250 words.
Advantage of a word/page count rate:
- Both the writer and the editor know beforehand how much the editing will cost. With an hourly rate, the total costs won’t be determined until the editing is finished.
- With a hourly rate, some writers fear the editor will drag out the editing to have more billable hours.
Disadvantage of a word/page count rate:
- Sometimes it can be difficult to estimate how much work is involved in editing a manuscript before you actually start working on it. If the editor underestimates the extent of the job, she ends up working for a very low hourly rate.
What does editing cost?
So, with all that said, what’s a reasonable price for having your manuscript edited? Since it depends on the previously mentioned factors, it’s easy to see that I can only give you ballpark estimates.
A helpful source is the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) chart of common editorial rates.
- $30-50 per hour. According to the Writer’s Market, the average is $35. Experienced copy editors might be able to edit about 10 pages (2,500 words) per hour, which would mean they make $0.014 per word if they charge an hourly rate of $35. That adds up to $1,120 for an 80,000-word manuscript. According to the EFA, basic copyediting for an average-length manuscript would cost $960-2,560.
- Many copy editors ask for $0.02 (2 cents) per word. That would mean between $1.600 for an average 80,000-word manuscript. I’ve seen some editors who copyedit for $0.005 (half cent)/word ($400 for an average manuscript).
- According to the Writer’s Market, the average per-page rate is $4 (=$1,280 for an 80,000-word manuscript).
- $40-60 per hour. Depending on the hourly rate and how long it takes to edit the manuscript, that would add up to $2,400-19,200 for an 80,000-word manuscript.
- I’ve seen some editors ask for $0.02 to $0.03 per word (which would mean $1,600-2,400 for an 80,000-word manuscript).
- $45-55 per hour. According to the Writer’s Market, the average is around $50.
- Most editors ask for around $0.02 to 0.075 per word (which would mean $1,600-6,000 for an 80,000-word manuscript).
- According to the Writer’s Market, the average per-page rate is $7.50 (=$2,400 for an average-length manuscript).
Can you get editing for cheaper?
For most writers, that’s a lot of money. Can you get editing for cheaper? Probably. But you usually get what you pay for. And remember that editors by no means get rich, even if they charge you thousands of dollars/euros.
Let’s say an editor can line or content edit five pages an hour. That means an 80,000-word manuscript would take him or her about 60 hours. If the author pays $500, the editor would make only minimum wage! Someone who wants to make a living editing can’t afford to work at those rates. So that might mean the editor is forced to work faster and be less thorough–and that’s something you definitely don’t want!
Here are some ways to reduce the cost of editing:
- Hire an editor who is just starting out and charges less.
- Find beta readers who help you improve your manuscript. Most of the time, they might not be able to replace an editor completely, but they will reduce the level of work required by the editor and therefore reduce the costs.
- Deliver a manuscript that is as clean as possible. Make sure you understand essential craft elements such as point of view, show and don’t tell, and how to write a strong beginning. Trim the unnecessary words and fillers, and catch all the grammar and spelling mistakes you can before you send the manuscript to the editor.
Writers: What’s your experience when it comes to editing costs?
Editors: Please feel free to leave a comment with your editing fees or link to your website.
Oh, and talking about improving your craft: There’s a sale of helpful books for writers going on right now. Feel free to check them out!