“The short answer: Because every book you’ve ever loved had an editor.” Chantel Hamilton
Think back for a moment to when you first started writing your manuscript. You spent hours, maybe even days, pouring creativity onto page after page. You may have bought and devoured writing books, and you surely developed skills. When you’ve put this much time and effort into your creative abilities, why not give it the quality refinement it deserves? This is my area of expertise, so I’ll spend some time highlighting editor pricing and what to look for.
First, let’s look at a few reasons writers can be resistant to hiring an editor. Here’s a couple with some brief explanations:
- Cost: Yes, it is often surprising to the writer and can be daunting. It is an investment. More on that below.
- Self-editing: A lot of writers have the impression that editors only fix typos. They grab a few books or do a google search that help them find words to avoid/correct and believe that is sufficient. These are all excellent moves for great writing and polishing your manuscript, but I cannot overstate how important it is to have it copyedited and proofread. The objective set of eyes that have been trained to look for specific corrections is imperative to a published book. To clarify, self-editing is important. Before you send your manuscript to an editor, you want the editor to care about your work because you care about your work. This will save time and money, since it will allow the editor to focus on the big picture—not correcting mistakes that should have already been fixed.
- Having a friend with a creative writing (or similar) professional degree read over their work. A writer is not an experienced editor. While it is a great idea to have feedback from beta readers and other writers, editors have the skilled eye that comes from being trained in specific editorial ways.
- Not understanding the different types of editing. More on that here.
- Good writing. There are also a lot of writers who feel their writing is good enough to skip the step of hiring an editor. While you might be an excellent writer, all writers need an editor, and there’s no shame in this. An editor is not there just to provide correction for every little mistake. You are hiring someone with a different set of skills to benefit your writing as a whole. Professional editors hire editors for their own writing. Let me be clear about this: good stories do not trump typos.
- Publishing contracts: Writers may also think that if they get traditionally published, then a publisher will pay for it. It is widely known that a manuscript needs to be edited and proofread before being sent to a publisher. You have to get it in front of the acquisitions editor if you want to be considered, right? Publishers are looking for the absolute best, most polished manuscripts. Your work needs to stand out so it won’t be thrown to the slush pile. This is not something you really want to gamble on if you are hoping to get a contract.
It’s important to remember that reputation is important. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: your name is going on the cover.
So why should you consider hiring an editor?
Editors have an objective eye: Excellent, creative work simply doesn’t happen alone. Because you are so familiar with your work, it is often hard to spot areas that need improvement. You could find yourself frustrated, creating errors, or over-editing after multiple rereads and revisions. The editorial eye is an unbiased one, which is important when it comes to identifying issues.
Editors give you the competitive edge: You need solid editing to help your book stand out. This helps you retain readers, sell more books, and obtain positive reader reviews. You cannot underestimate the value of a professional editor.
Editors help you refine your writing: A good editor wants the best for your novel, is dedicated to your project, and genuinely wants you to succeed. We typically explain the reasons behind our suggestions, which helps the writer hone their skills with structure and better word choices.
What should you look for?
My best advice is to be thorough in your research of finding an editor. You’ll have a professional working relationship, and you really want to like your editor. Don’t just choose someone at random. There are more factors to consider than cost. Good, respectful communication is key. Do they have a professional website? Are they clear about their process? Their prices? Ensure they use a style guide and offer a contract. Do they work in your genre? Will they provide a sample edit so you can see their work? Read their testimonials. Do they care about preserving your voice? You are trusting your words—your completed manuscript—into someone else’s hands. You want someone you like and trust.
Editors book out quickly. I’ve had situations where I am booked a couple of months in advance and the writers don’t want to wait. That is understandable, as the author may have a deadline they can’t escape. It’s hard to strike the balance, but if you have prepared for this step, weigh the pros and cons of whether you can make the wait. Better yet, consult with an editor a couple of months in advance. Good editing takes time. (Side note—good editing should take time. Any type of rush job should be a red flag). Book early, and it’s one box checked off your list.
You’ll get the most benefit from an editor who offers both developmental and copyediting for a thorough service to your manuscript. I know the sticker price of these services can be surprising, especially for new writers. But investing in this process is not a waste and will give you a quality manuscript. Also important to remember—you get what you pay for.
The Average Cost
The EFA covers a list of average fees for editors here. However, each editor has their own pricing setup, so it’s good to have an idea about cost before you invest. Some charge by the hour, by word count, or by page. A quick example of average pricing:
A 70,000 word manuscript
- Developmental (Content) Editing: $0.03/word, total of $2,100
- Copyediting: $0.02/word, total of $1,400
- Heavy Copy/Line Editing: $0.025/word, total of $1,750
- Proofreading: $0.01/word, total of $700
For a 100,000 word manuscript
- Developmental (Content) Editing: $0.03/word, total of $3,000
- Copyediting: $0.02/word, total of $2,000
- Heavy Copy/Line Editing: $0.025/word, total of $2,500
- Proofreading: $0.01/word, total of $1,000
The editor you choose should encourage and respect you. They should point out your areas of talent, balancing that with constructive feedback for growth opportunities. Hiring an editor is a wise move and one that will benefit your writing career. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me here.
Photo by: Alex Loup