The cost of editing, like all professional services, varies drastically depending on qualification factors such as level of training and years of experience. While I’ve consistently raised my fees, I also strive to offer incomporable quality at affordable rates. The amount I propose to individual authors is less than what I earn from a couple of contracts with other publishers, but my goal is to consistently close that gap. Though I started out by charging ridiculously low fees to gain clients and experience, I have valued myself and my work enough to work towards earning a living wage.
The Cost of Editing
The infographic below is courtesy of Reedsy, whom I have no affiliation with. However, the cost of editing outlined within falls within the range I tend to charge for editing services. Other professional rate guidelines can be found via the Editorial Freelancers Association or this Writer’s Market pdf titled How Much Should I Charge?
I average 45 hours to complete a copy edit of an 80,00-word manuscript that entails multiple passes, filling out a style sheet, as well as writing an overview letter upon completion. Based on those numbers, what is a livable hourly wage? Keep in mind, a general budgeting guideline for the average person is to set aside 50% of income for living expenses, 20% for savings, and 30% for discretionary funds. A self-employed person also needs to set aside around 30% of their gross income to pay their taxes.
Like the water droplet picture above, all those numbers stand in stark contrast to life’s other edges when working for one’s self. Though I charge a flat project fee based on word count, my rate is based on the average number of pages per hour I tend to edit. I have tracked this information for a few years now. It’s a given some projects take longer than others, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take to not have to surprise an author with additional fees. I also make sure to pace myself accordingly. If an author seeks a one-week turnaround time or would like their manuscript returned piecemeal, I am not a good fit.
In order to average a gross hourly wage of $50, an editor who works at the same pace as me would need to charge $2,240 to copy edit an 80-000 word manuscript. Obviously I am not there yet, but I will be someday. My best per hour rate on a project so far has been $84. Given the scope of all the different projects I worked on in 2016, my hourly wage averaged $30-35 depending on the type of project. It’s a living, but a modest one at best. Plus, a lot of hustle is involved in procuring projects to keep my editorial calendar filled. Don’t get me wrong though. I love being my own boss.
How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?
The Reedsy infographic How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book? featured here is based on more than 2,000 project quotes from over 400 professionals. The cost of editing as well as the cost of cover and interior design can indeed run much higher or much lower, but this serves as an enlightening starting point for price comparison.
We all work within budgets, so as always, do your research and look for the best deal you can afford without sacrificing too much quality. Great critique partners, writing workshops, and beta readers can also be great way to get feedback. Graphic design students would likely jump at the chance to design a book cover for you. Yet, at the end of day, if you’re serious about publishing, it’s prudent to amass a team of professionals to help you make your book the best it can possibly be.
What are your thought on the cost of editing as well as other expenses related to publishing a book?
Infographic Credit: How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.