What is an Industry Standard Copy Editing Rate for Book Editing?

Copy Editing Rate


Welcome to the world of book editing, where organizations and individual editors have endeavored to establish a uniform copy editing rate as well as rates for all forms of editing, on a scale from the most aggressive to the most general.

  • Substantive editing
  • Developmental editing
  • Line (or line-by-line) editing
  • Copy editing <—-
  • Proofreading

In this post, copy editing (or copyediting) rates are discussed.

Sorting Word Salad is Part of the Job

The fact that the word “copy editing” is spelled as two words by the Associated Press Stylebook and as “copyediting” (one word) by the Chicago Manual of Style is a great introduction to the rates charged by book editors.

Here’s why.

Copyeditors run into heaps of words and spelling options that are open to interpretation and guided by various style guides and popular usage. On top of that, browse any word with multiple (sometimes erroneous) spellings, and you’ll open up a Pandora’s box of alternate keywords and keyphrases meant to draw traffic regardless of proper spelling — sort of a “Throw word salad into the engine and see what engages” approach. As copyeditors, we consider in-house or author preferences as well.

As we work through manuscripts and make formal decisions on use and consistency, research might be required. Our author clients may question spelling choices, which means we must define and share our rationale.

Copyediting (yes, I prefer the “copyediting” spelling) is just one word in a lexicon of millions of words, and look at the amount of time and energy expended in defending its various spellings! Thus, determining what to charge to edit a full manuscript isn’t as easy as it may seem—not by a long shot.

Pinning Down a Copy Editing Rate (or Copyediting Rate)

Below I provide some background on how I’ve devised my copyediting rates. I charge my author clients per word—not per hour. Why would any author pay an hourly rate when an inordinate amount of time might be devoted to word choice and other research?

When we put the author client first, we don’t charge for this research. In my opinion, it’s part of our professional duty. The ideal solution is to quote by word count. It’s the fairest pricing option that avoids bankrupting an author client whose difficult manuscript might require extra work—or time.

Of course, copyeditors need to see the manuscript before quoting a fair price. We might quote .03¢ per word to .045¢ per word, depending on the degree of difficulty and how well the manuscript is written. The assumption for these projects is that the book has already been developmentally edited and is ready for a deeper dive into:

  • Word choice
  • Paragraph structure
  • Flow
  • Pacing
  • Mislabeling
  • Awkward transitions

In addition to basic:

  • Misspellings
  • Typos
  • Grammatical errors
  • Tense
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Hyphenation

Or we might decide that the book needs developmental or line-by-line editing, which is a different pricing structure altogether.

Let’s Connect!

I love consulting with authors about their editing needs and my copy editing rate. Contact me at melaniesaxton@icloud.com, and we’ll discuss your project as well as timelines and deliverables.