How Much Should a Book Editor Charge?

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Some authors think a book editor’s job is to correct spelling and punctuation, but a book editor does so much more. Yes, part of their job is proofreading a manuscript and correcting spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors; however, a book editor is also a fact checker and a manuscript doctor. In addition, there are different levels and types of book editors.

Copyeditor: Basic copyediting involves reviewing text and correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation. A copyeditor will read your entire manuscript, checking for consistency, redundancy, flow, transition, and the proper use of words. He or she will ensure that the proper tense and tone are maintained throughout the book, and provide suggestions or copywriting to smoothly transition from one thought to the next. Some copyeditors are asked to fact check statistics and sources within the book for accuracy. The copyeditor is also skilled at eliminating confusion, providing clarity, and making sure the author doesn’t lose the reader’s interest. Skilled copyeditors are proficient in maintaining the author’s style and tone, while polishing the manuscript and improving the copy.

Developmental Editor: While the copyeditor receives the book after it has been written, a developmental editor is involved with the writing process, sometimes before the author has even begun to write the book. Developmental editing involves the entire development and organization of the book, the characters, the story line, and the pace in which it is told. The developmental editor often suggests the order in which the chapters are presented, as well as the overall content, flow, and arrangement of text. When the developmental editor is done, the book should be ready to be sent to a copyeditor.

Do you need both? No. Some authors will only need a copyeditor. Depending on their writing skills, some may need different levels of copy editing, from basic to heavy line editing, and even occasional ghostwriting.

Depending on the type of editing desired, what should be a book editor charge? The following book editor rates were suggested by the Editorial Freelancers Association in 2008:

Basic copyediting:       $25 to $40 per hour     Pace: 5 to 10 pages an hour

Heavy copyediting:      $35 to $50 per hour     Pace: 2 to 5 pages an hour

Substantive editing:      $40 to $65 per hour     Pace: 1 to 6 pages per hour

(also called line editing)

Developmental editing: $50 to $80 per hour    Pace: 2 to 5 pages per hour

Of course, rates vary from one book editor to another. Some freelance book editors will work for $10 to $20 per hour, but you can expect experienced book editors to charge $25 or more per hour. Expect to pay more for editing technical writing or specialized subject matter, as well.

A book editor is an expense that you should include in the costs to write and publish your book. Their expertise often means the difference between an okay book and an exceptional book. If you want your book to give you credibility, secure the services of an experienced book editor who will polish it and make your book the very best it can be.

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Editorial Freelancers Association book editor rates obtained at: http://freelancewrite.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=freelancewrite&cdn=careers&tm=60&gps=396_1000_1415_738&f=10&tt=12&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php

  • Rebekah

    what is your opinion on per-page charges? (double-spaced pages) 

  • http://www.donnaferrier.com/ Donna

    I’ve been an editor for more than 20 years, 15 of which were spent working full-time in company publications departments. Per-page charges usually mean the editor has never done any professional work outside of just installing MS Word and declaring himself or herself an editor. Becoming a top-quality editor means getting the college degree in English, Journalism, or something related, gaining professional experience in the workforce, and developing a professional portfolio before venturing into the world of freelance.

    Companies generally don’t pay freelancers by the page or by the word. It’s usually by the hour or by the project. Some companies won’t work with any freelancer who isn’t charging a certain hourly amount because if the freelancer doesn’t think his or her work is worth the price, the company won’t either.

    Individual clients, of course, are different, and most of them don’t know how much it costs to hire an editor. They also hate hourly rates, so I come up with a flat price for these folks, based on the rates I charge. And I give conservative prices; I don’t inflate them, in other words.

    Best advice I can give you is to get editing samples from anyone you want to bid on your project. That’s the only way you know who is really right for your job. Asking a prospective editor to do a sample for you is also a good way for the editor to know how much work the manuscript will need.

    Hope that helps.

  • http://www.donnaferrier.com/ Donna

    I’ve been an editor for more than 20 years, 15 of which were spent working full-time in company publications departments. Per-page charges usually mean the editor has never done any professional work outside of just installing MS Word and declaring himself or herself an editor. Becoming a top-quality editor means getting the college degree in English, Journalism, or something related, gaining professional experience in the workforce, and developing a professional portfolio before venturing into the world of freelance.

    Companies generally don’t pay freelancers by the page or by the word. It’s usually by the hour or by the project. Some companies won’t work with any freelancer who isn’t charging a certain hourly amount because if the freelancer doesn’t think his or her work is worth the price, the company won’t either.

    Individual clients, of course, are different, and most of them don’t know how much it costs to hire an editor. They also hate hourly rates, so I come up with a flat price for these folks, based on the rates I charge. And I give conservative prices; I don’t inflate them, in other words.

    Best advice I can give you is to get editing samples from anyone you want to bid on your project. That’s the only way you know who is really right for your job. Asking a prospective editor to do a sample for you is also a good way for the editor to know how much work the manuscript will need.

    Hope that helps.

  • http://www.donnaferrier.com/ Donna

    I’ve been an editor for more than 20 years, 15 of which were spent working full-time in company publications departments. Per-page charges usually mean the editor has never done any professional work outside of just installing MS Word and declaring himself or herself an editor. Becoming a top-quality editor means getting the college degree in English, Journalism, or something related, gaining professional experience in the workforce, and developing a professional portfolio before venturing into the world of freelance.

    Companies generally don’t pay freelancers by the page or by the word. It’s usually by the hour or by the project. Some companies won’t work with any freelancer who isn’t charging a certain hourly amount because if the freelancer doesn’t think his or her work is worth the price, the company won’t either.

    Individual clients, of course, are different, and most of them don’t know how much it costs to hire an editor. They also hate hourly rates, so I come up with a flat price for these folks, based on the rates I charge. And I give conservative prices; I don’t inflate them, in other words.

    Best advice I can give you is to get editing samples from anyone you want to bid on your project. That’s the only way you know who is really right for your job. Asking a prospective editor to do a sample for you is also a good way for the editor to know how much work the manuscript will need.

    Hope that helps.

  • http://www.aliciadunams.com Alicia Dunams

    From Donna’s astute comments below, it seems per-page charges is not an industry standard and probably exemplifies a novice. Hourly, or per project flat fee, is the way to go for your project.

  • http://www.aliciadunams.com Alicia Dunams

    Thanks Donna by providing your professional opinion here. When I work with editors is on a “per project” basis. Editing is extremely important, so wanted to ensure you are working with someone who has a proven track record. – AD

  • Guest

    Do Development Editors generally get a percentage of the book sales? I am editing a book now, and have already singed a contract to get a flat rate for putting the book together. The author is offering me 2% of the book profit…is that a good amount?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ja1113p Joshua Powell

    Do Development Editors generally get a percentage of the book sales? I am editing a book now, and have already singed a contract to get a flat rate for putting the book together. The author is offering me 2% of the book profit…is that a good amount?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ja1113p Joshua Powell

    Do Development Editors generally get a percentage of the book sales? I am editing a book now, and have already singed a contract to get a flat rate for putting the book together. The author is offering me 2% of the book profit…is that a good amount?

  • Donna

    If you’re getting a flat rate for working on the book, plus a percentage of the sales, it probably means the author couldn’t afford the price he knows he should have paid to get what he’s getting done to his book. If you were just getting a back-end 2 percent profit, that would be even worse. At least you’re getting something with the flat rate.

    The only reason authors offer a percentage of sales is to avoid paying the editor because either a) they want something for nothing or b) they can’t afford an editor. There’s no way to know in advance how much the book will sell. All the author has to do is dummy down his sales when he reports them to you or just say, “Well it hasn’t sold yet.” The author has no reason to do you any favors.

    Book sellers don’t report how many copies a particular book has sold to
    the public, so you’re basically taking the author’s word for it. The
    author could be selling thousands of copies of that book at a
    public-speaking event that you’ll never know about, or he could be
    selling nothing. You’ll never know for sure, unless it shows up on a
    best-seller list.

    If an author calls me and says, “I’ll give you 2 percent of the book sales,” I either don’t return the call, or if I’m in the office and pick up the phone, I just say, “I’m sorry; I don’t take deals like that.” I don’t care if the author offers me 100 percent of the royalties. If he was to say to me, “I’ll pay you half your fee, plus 100 percent of the book sales,” I still wouldn’t take it. The author would have to pay my entire fee, and then if he still wanted to pay me royalties, I’d take it then. But the author has no reason to do that because it wouldn’t benefit him. Now, you can always try to negotiate a fee for the editing, within reason, like if someone can only afford $400 instead of $500, for example, or $800 instead of $1,000, but that’s entirely up to you.

    I also get calls from people who say, “I have a great story for you and you can make millions off of it. It could even be made into a movie.” But they don’t want to pay anything for the work, which would become a high-priced ghostwriting job, possibly with additional expenses if I had to travel to specific locations to interview people. Then my first question becomes, “If it’s going to be so successful, why aren’t you writing it?” I can tell you why: they want someone else to do all the work, and then the only way I’d see any money is if I sold it, as well, in addition to writing the book. In the meantime, I can’t go to my utility and credit card companies and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t pay you until the book comes out.”

  • http://www.aliciadunams.com Alicia Dunams

    I agree with Donna. A book author should pay you your editing fees, and if they offer a percentage of the book, then that’s just gravy (oftentimes thin watery gravy). Simply put, there is no way to track their royalties, unless you have access to their Quickbooks or CreateSpace/LightningSource accounts. I would actually not do any work for a % of royalties – just get your deserved editing rate. – AD

  • http://www.aliciadunams.com Alicia Dunams

    I’m just thankful you received a flat rate for editing.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks :)

  • Archangel

    Take the number of pages you think you can actually get through in an hour (look over a sample of the manuscript first to get a feel for how much work is needed) then divide your hourly rate by that much. For example, if I charge $30.00/hr and I’m confident that I can get through 10 pages of this particular manuscript in an hour, then I tell the client that the price is $3.00/page.

    Always quote the hourly rate first, as Donna said. Only quote a per-page price if the client specifically requests one.

  • mbshus@gmail.com

    Someone offered me a job as an editor making 5% of the sale. This doesn’t stack up with what your numbers are stating. If we forced the facts against each other in a dog fight it wouldn’t take long for 5% to slink away with its tail between its legs.

    Do you feel as if 5% is a fair number? Can you elaborate on it for me?

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