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The Real Cost of Editing

Jeremy Collier

Jeremy Collier

Founder, Steam Powered Dreams

Authorpreneur, Editor, and Publisher


Apr, 2017

The cost of editing can vary between the type you’re looking for and the state of your manuscript. Today we’ll be talking about the average cost of editing, as well as some of the factors that can increase or decrease the amount you’ll be looking to dish out.

But before we continue, we want to point out that every editor is different and set their own price. The numbers in this post should just serve as a general guideline to finding the right editor for you. With that said, also be wary of prices that are much higher or lower than the ones we talk about, as they could potentially be a sign of a bad editor or a scam.

Average Cost of Editing

If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between Developmental Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading, make sure to check out this article before continuing.

For each type of editing, we always have a base price per word in mind, which is the standard way to measure how much a manuscript edit will cost. If you’d like to think of it as price-per-page, you can generally get an idea by doing “cost x 250”. So, as an example, if it’s 1 cent per word you can estimate that a page will be somewhere around $2.50/page (0.01×250=2.50).

The average cost of editing can be seen as a good guideline on where to start and how to know if you’re getting a decent deal or being ripped off, but as I said above, it should serve as just that, a guideline.

The cheapest form of editing, but in no means the least important, is proofreading. The average cost of proofreading will be somewhere around .75 cent per word ($0.0075/word). [Editors note: this price has been updated to reflect feedback from other editors.]

Next, we have copy editing, which is in the middle cost wise. The average cost is somewhere around 1.5 cents a word ($0.015/word).

And lastly, we have Developmental Editing, which is the most expensive of the three by far. While the cost of this type of editing has the greatest flux in price, I’d say the average of a decent developmental edit should be around 3 cents a word ($0.03/word).

“Making sure you’ve run your manuscript through a basic spell checker and grammar checker is essential. This is something that should be done even before thinking about sending it to others to read, let alone getting edits done.”

Factors That Keep Cost Down

The quality of the writing is the first and most important determining factor in cost. We don’t expect a manuscript to be perfect, if it was we wouldn’t be needed after all, but there is a certain level of self-editing that should always be done prior to hiring a professional.

For developmental editing, making sure you’ve gone through the story at least once (preferably more) really goes a long way to keeping costs from going up. You’ll need to try and make sure there are no plot holes, there is solid character development, your settings and the story itself all make sense, and also make sure the manuscript has a high readability. If you have a trusted friend to read it over and give you their thoughts, that can also help.

For copy editing, making sure you’ve run your manuscript through a basic spell checker and grammar checker is essential. This is something that should be done even before thinking about sending it to others to read, let alone to an editor. Finding an advanced grammar checker is also a good idea and can often time bring the cost of editing down.

And finally, for proofreading you need to make sure you’ve gone through all the steps of Second Draft, this includes self-editing, developmental editing/alpha readers, copy editing, and beta reading. Once the book is ready for publication, that’s when you’ll want to hire a proofreader. Skipping any of these steps will drive the cost of proofreading up, sometimes even increasing it by 3 or 4 times. This is because many writers who feel they have a good grasp of grammar tend to try and skip the copyediting stage and go straight to proofreading, not a good idea.

The Editors Process

So as you can see, it isn’t a simple matter for editors to put their prices on their website. While some offer a general range, such as we do, it is still just a guideline. So, before we end this article, we wanted to give you an idea of the process we go through to give an accurate quote.

The first thing is an assessment. This is done before we sign a contract or give a solid quote. We generally ask for the first chapter, last chapter, and a section in the middle, usually around 1000-2000 words total. This will give us an idea of the quality we can expect from the manuscript as a whole and we’ll create our quote from this.

After we’ve gone through the writing and determined the price per word, we’ll then communicate with the writer and come up with any terms that might need to be set, such as extras that the writer is looking for. This will be the basis for the contract.

After the contract is signed, we’ll start work on your manuscript. The time it takes for the actual editing process varies mostly on the length of the manuscript.

I hope this has helped you better understand the cost of editing and helps you find the one that is right for you. Feel free to use the comments below, or contact us directly if you have any questions regarding the cost of editing or the editing process.


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