People hire book editors for various reasons and pay different book editing rates according to needs and budgets. I always sprinkle in a little extra TLC regardless of the type of editing I’m hired to do, but it’s a good idea for authors to understand what to expect for their payment.
The Book Editing Menu
Book editing generally has levels, from the lightest editing that corrects minor errors to invasive editing that will change the flow and feel of the book. Below is an idea of the types of projects for which editors can be hired, from least to most expensive.
- Copyediting is much like proofreading and corrects grammar and punctuation.
- Line editing (or line-by-line editing) addresses paragraph structure, flow, pacing, usage and writing style.
- Developmental editing is a vastly more advanced form of editing that focuses on your narrative, story arc, overall conceptualization, plot, characterization, theme, and other storytelling elements. I may rewrite or develop new content.
- Substantive editing often includes ghostwriting, which is the addition of my writing in your book. It may require that the manuscript be rearranged from top to bottom, rewritten, or even re-conceptualized.
A grammatically correct (but boring) book
There have been times when potential new clients have commented that they didn’t like a book that I previously edited.
My answer to that is, “What was it about the book you didn’t like?”
They might say, “The flow was off,” or “The characters weren’t fully developed,” or “It was boring.”
My answer to that is, “Well, authors can hire editors to address the flow, the characterization, and the action. But often they don’t.”
“Why?” they ask.
“Because authors may be pleased with their book just as it is. They may only want the editor to correct grammar and punctuation. Or, they may not have the budget to pay for a heavier edit.”
“Oh! That makes sense,” the potential client says.
This type of conversation seems to turn on the light bulb. Yes, authors can choose the type of editing they prefer, but it may or not be the level of editing the editor suggests. Consider this when you hire a book editor, for they will provide precisely what your order from their “editing menu.”
Book editing rates for different services
When I consult with authors, I explain the differences in editing services and book editing rates, as well as the results they can expect. That way, if authors want nothing more than copyediting (much like proofreading) and receive less than flattering feedback from beta readers … they know why. They realize their book still needs line editing or developmental editing. Simply correcting the grammar wasn’t enough.
The better choice would have been to pay for an all-encompassing edit, especially since I offer payment plans. I completely understand the constraints of a budget and do everything I possibly can to enable authors to get the services they need on terms that work for them.
You want someone who can identify what the manuscript needs. It really helps when a book editor like me is hired to do what is necessary to elevate the content with the full blessings of the author, but this is not always the case. Again, sometimes the author ONLY wants certain work performed, and I honor that.
Dollars and cents
For instance, an author may hire me strictly for copyediting and pay me .02¢ per word for this service. They may need a stronger form of editing, but are only paying for proofreading. Therefore, their book may need a substantial amount of developmental editing at .03¢, .04¢ or .05¢ per word that goes unaddressed because they are not paying for this level of service. I stumbled across a quote by John Ruskin that resonated with me:
“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little.”
Sometimes authors inquire about manuscript evaluation which is an overarching editorial assessment of strengths and weaknesses in a manuscript. They may want an opinion before the editing begins. I think this is great, but manuscript evaluations can run $500 to $1,000. My suggestion is usually that authors allow me to read through a manuscript and suggest a fair editing rate, which might include developmental editing. The spares them from having to pay for a manuscript evaluation in addition to the editing—it basically becomes an all-in-one project. After all, my quote, based on whether it is high end or low end rate, is a “mini” manuscript evaluation in an of itself. It either needs a lot of work, or not, and the quote reflects that.
Contact me for book editing rates and a consultation for your special project.
Send an email at email@example.com and we’ll discuss the ins and outs of your project.