How much will it cost to edit my book?

How much will it cost to edit my book?

It probably won’t surprise you much to hear me say …It depends.There are so many variables to take into consideration that it’s unlikely anyone will give you a firm price straight off the bat without asking you several follow-up questions.Here are the questions you need to answer before you can expect a firm quote:

  1. What level of editing do you need?
  2. How long is your text?
  3. Can I see a sample of your work?
  4. What is your schedule? Do you have a fixed deadline?

And there are some questions you’ll have yourself:

  1. What will an editor charge? 
  2. When do I pay my editor?
  3. Can I save money on my copyediting and proofreading?

If you’d prefer to listen, this episode of The Editing Podcast, which I host with Louise Harnby, covers all of these points.

What level of editing do you need?

This is a big consideration, and you will have to discuss this with your editor. While developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading are defined steps in the traditional publishing process, if you are a self-publisher, business owner or large organisation which produces content, you may need help deciding what level of intervention you need. For example, it’s very common for me to be approached for  proofreading, but when I have a chat about how the document had been put together and then look at the material itself, it’s often clear that the writing would benefit from copyediting. This is particularly true when there are multiple contributors to the document, for example from different departments for a company’s annual report, or when different members of staff write blog posts. In this case your editor will need to bring together the writing to ensure a coherent, consistent tone of voice and standardise a style of usage across the board. If you’re not sure about the difference between the two, have a look at my blog post Does my book need a proofreader or a copyeditor?

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How long is your text?

 Many editors will use number of words as a starting point, while others will go by the number of pages. It’s vital that you both have a clear definition of what a standard page is. For example, it’s not unusual to have a page defined as being prepared using 12-point Times New Roman, double spaced with one-inch margins. Don’t think you can get a better deal by cramming everything in single spaced 8-point font. We’re one step ahead of you there! 
You may find that others will base a quote on an ‘industry standard’ of 250 words per page. So a 10,000-word article would be calculated as 40 pages long and a quote would be prepared on this basis. Many editorsdon’t use this definition, so make sure that it’s very clear in your discussions that you are both talking about the same thing. Other editors will prefer to quote you a fixed fee for the project, or a day rate. They may use the above methods to help calculate that fee but present you with a figure that will cover the project within a defined set of  parameters, such as the maximum length of the text and the number of rounds of editing included.

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Can I see a sample of your work?

 In order to give you an accurate quote, your editor will ask to see the material, or at least a representative sample of it, so they can assess what is needed. This is especially important if English is not your first language. 
Without an assessment of your work, your editor or proofreader can’t judge how much intervention it needs. This goes back to my point about clients often asking for a proofread where they would benefit much more from a copyedit. Your editor can then advise you if your writing is in good shape and simply needs a proofread to tidy up the punctuation, spelling and grammar, or whether it would be better to make deeper changes to word choice and sentence structure  and perhaps re-order your writing to bring clarity and consistency. This is when you might ask for a sample edit, which gives you a chance to see how the editor works. Are you comfortable with their style and level of intervention? Do you like the changes they’re suggesting? Working with an editor is a partnership, so a sample edit is a great opportunity to find out if you’re a good fit for each other. 

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What is your schedule? Do you have a fixed deadline?

Editors are generally busy. They may be able to fit in short projects with little notice, but bigger pieces of work will have been slotted into their schedule months ahead, so if you’re writing a novel don’t wait until you’ve typed The End before looking for the right editor. And if you know you’ve got an annual report to be published on a fixed date, don’t decide the week before that you need an editor to whip it into shape – you could end up either paying a rush fee to get a good job done. Worse, you might be forced into going with whoever can take on the work – and they won’t necessarily be the best-qualified person for the job. Don’t risk getting a substandard result. If you need work to be completed urgently and it involves your editor working outside normal office hours – in the evenings or over a weekend – you can expect a premium of anything from 20% to 300% to be added. So it pays to be organised!Bear in mind the maxim GOOD, FAST, CHEAP: PICK ANY TWO.


Remember it takes longer to proofread than you think. It didn’t take you a couple of days to write an 80,000-word book, so it stands to reason it’ll take more than a week to turn around a professional copyedit for you.

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What will an editor charge? Is there a recommended rate for editing?

This really is hugely variable. Editors may charge by the word, the hour or the page, or negotiate a fixed fee. I have seen fees as low as £3 or £4 per thousand words and know of editors commanding hourly rates in excess of £100. The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading has suggested minimum rates, but these are only suggestions, and you may find that an experienced professional will charge more, particularly if their work is in a specialised field where their knowledge of a subject or their technical expertise is in demand. On average, you can expect to pay between £20 and £40 per hour for proofreading or copyediting, depending on the factors I’ve talked about.  But that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know how long it will take a professional editor to copyedit or proofread however many thousand words you’ve written. Here are some more ballpark figures for you. The average speed for copyediting is around 1,000 to 2,500 words per hour, so for an 80,000-word book, you’re looking at between 32 and 80 hours of work. Proofreading is usually faster, around 2,000 to 4,000 words per hour, which works out at 20 to 40 hours of work for that 80,000-word book. The speed at which your editor can work is influenced by the quality of the writing, the topic and the complexity of the work. If English is not your first language there may be more errors of grammar and syntax to address, which will take your editor longer to sort out. And if there are lots of tables, figures and references this can add a considerable amount of time to the job – your editor may even choose to quote separately for dealing with them. Don’t forget that your editor is running a business and the rates they charge has to cover more than just the time spent editing. They are responsible for tax, insurance, sick pay, holiday pay and maternity or paternity entitlements. So don’t compare their hourly or daily rate with that of a salaried professional – that’s comparing apples and oranges. 

Remember that you get what you pay for

How would you feel about a hairdresser who offered to do a really great job – for a fiver? Or an electrician who said they could wire your house for £50? You don’t just pay someone for the time it takes them to do something, you pay them for their skills and experience, and the value they bring. You want to avoid being ripped off by someone who offers a lot but doesn’t deliver, or who makes extravagant claims about providing perfection but on the other hand doesn’t provide you with evidence of their ability to do so. 
If you’re not sure how to go about finding a reputable, experienced editor who will deliver an excellent job for a fair price, check out my articles on finding a professional editor or proofreader: where to look and what to look for. How do I find a professional editor? Part 1 How do I find a professional editor? Part 2

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When do I pay my editor?

Be prepared to pay your editor in advance. This may be a deposit or the full amount. Many editors will ask you for an upfront non-refundable deposit of 30–50% to secure a slot in their schedule, with the balance due on completion of the job. For a very large project that extends over several months, for example editing and updating website content through several iterations, you may be invoiced monthly. On the other hand, if your job is small it may attract a minimum fee (for example, mine is £75). If you know you’re going to  produce this type of work on a regular basis it may be more cost-effective for you to negotiate a rate for regular work on a weekly or monthly basis. The details of payment should be agreed in advance of any work being started and will form part of your editor’s contract.

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Can I save money on my copyediting and proofreading?

Yes, you can! There’s a lot you can do to prepare your book for copyediting or proofreading.

  • Make sure your book has a good structure and a logical narrative flow. If you’re not sure about this you should consider getting a manuscript critique and, if necessary, help from a developmental editor.
  • Your copyeditor or proofreader should not be this first person to read your book from cover to cover!
  • Get feedback from trusted colleagues and beta readers, not family and friends who may not be the best people to provide an objective, informed critique.
  • Act on that feedback!
  • Prepare your book file before you send it to your editor – simple tasks like applying basic Word styles, doing find-and-replace searches for double spaces and running a spell checker all help to cut down on the mechanical
  • tasks your editor needs to do, which leaves more time for them to focus on your words.
  • Plan ahead to avoid those rush charges!

I hope this has given you a clearer idea of how much you’ll need to budget for professional editing of your book and the factors that can influence that figure.
 Download my free guides to help you prepare for editing and proofreading  your writing.[PDF guide: Preparing for editing][PDF guide: proofreading tips]

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