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 on Publishing Costs 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?
Photo credit: “Perfection” Water Drop ~jjjohn~ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Infographic Credit: How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.
As I slave over my draft, every once in a great while I ponder over the cost I’m going to have to deal with when I need professional editing done. I’m hoping that the self editing I do alleviates some of the cost per hour of the professional.
I do understand the editor’s need to charge according to the current economy despite how I wish it wasn’t so.
Glynis, self-editing can certainly help. It’s also good to know one’s strengths. I struggle the most in the developmental phase of my writing and would love to work with a book coach someday. On the other hand, if I do put one of my own drafts away long enough, I can generally do a great job copyediting my own work.
Your rates definitely seem fair and have some room to go up. I’m impressed with how thoroughly you’ve researched it.
Ken, I continually research editing rates and look for examples of fellow editor’s websites. Coming across the Reedsy infographic was a relief since it reinforces much of what I have found on my own on a much smaller scale.
Jeri — thanks for this very informative post. I find it sad and demoralizing that writers and editors aren’t paid more for the essential work they do. Where would F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe have been without Maxwell Perkins? Problem is most struggling authors don’t have the money to pay an editor, so in effect, the editor is subsidizing the author.
I don’t know the solution except to work with established and published writers who can afford to pay more or to hook up with major publishers to edit their authors. My husband spent most of his life in book publishing which is notorious for paying low salaries. He used to say, “They seduce you with words,” meaning you work there because of your love of books and the written word.
Jeannette, one of my goals is finding a balance with contracts I can get with higher paying jobs with publishers while also still being able to work with independent authors on more modest budgets. It’s safe to say I love editing and have found my calling. Just my luck though. Teaching didn’t pay well either 😉 I really should have learned how to code.
Superb post, Jeri. I have a friend who is in the final stages of choosing an editor and she would have benefitted greatly from your post a few weeks ago. I’ll refer her to it and will share widely with my writer colleagues.
Doreen, it really is a great infographic. I’m happy to share it with my readers and am pleased you will do the same.
Your rate are much more reasonable but than I thought. It is easy for small business owners to underestimate the time. I like that you did the research to determine the actual time it takes. Taking time to track your time will help you appreciate the work you do.
Sabrina, when I got serious about taking on editing gigs full time, I knew it was important to track how long it takes me to get through various manuscripts. It’s helped me immensely when it comes to setting my rates and scheduling projects.
Very informative post! Unfortunately, most new writers cannot afford this. New writers need three editors for their 1st novel: developmental, copy and proofreader. Plus, a great book cover and a formatter costs money. Add all of that up publishing may cost between $2,500 – $5000. The cost for copyright, advertising and a website are not included. Indie authors price their books between $0.99 – $2.99. Most new novels by unknown authors (indie or traditional) only sell between 150 – 1,000 books lifetime.
Stacy, it’s true that publishing can run between $2,500 and $5,000. Some authors are willing to take that financial risk and others are not. Most books don’t sell many copies as you’ve pointed out. A resourceful writer can accomplish a lot with critique partners and beta readers in the developmental stage. There are always ways to save money, but I’ve shied away from using sites like Fiverr simply because I feel I deserve a professional rate, so it would make me a hypocrite to pay someone next to nothing for work that takes a good chunk of time to complete. However, I do feel okay about approaching students under certain circumstances. I’ve even tried to procure a website assistant as an intern from my local college, but a solo worker like myself isn’t nearly as appealing to computer science students as experience with a larger company.
I agree with Stacy…new writers can’t afford that much of money but I also agree that writers and editors are paid peanuts as compared to the amount of work they have to put in!
Balroop, as new writers become more seasoned, many of them also realize the need for an editor. Even when a book might not end up selling many copies, it’s still wise to get assistance to put out the best product possible if one is to be competitive.
Interesting and informative post, Jeri. Editing is soooo important and essential to creating a quality book. It’s an investment. As an Indy author, I consider hiring an editor a way of respecting my work. Of course, your editing services were tremendous Jeri. I still have to do the follow up with you.
A way to save money for new authors is to buy a cover image from Dreamstime or another excellent source rather than hiring a designer. I bought my image for my non-fiction book (paid about $20.00) and created the cover through photo shop by choosing the font etc. I’ve had so many compliments on it. The bookstores accepted my book based on the stunning cover (many of them said). Which is ironic because we’re not supposed to ‘judge a book by its cover’ LOL. Anyhow, that can save lots of money. For some books this may not be sufficient though.
Thanks for another educational post, Jeri!
Lisa, your comment is a great example of the ways someone can save money. Great book covers can be made if the process kept simple, but more elaborate designs should be left to professionals. No matter what, it’s always a good idea to get feedback from as many people as possible.
Your rates are competitive. Teachers from a couple of good workshops advised me to expect to pay a good editor charges at least $50/hour, and my asking around brought in estimates about that much.
This post is a good wake-up. About $5,000 to self-publish. And of course, after all that good editing revising and amazing cover, you make back every penny and more! This is the craziest business model ever, a fact which I don’t think about too closely. Thanks.
Julia, it really is a crazy business model that involves a lot of risk.
I posted this infographic to my Pinterest board. It’s good information to keep in mind.
Cheryl, thanks for saving this to Pinterest. The infographic gives a great overview of the costs involved in self-publishing a book that many writers don’t fully take into consideration.
Interesting data, and I know just the person I’m going to share it with!
Laura, thanks for sharing!
Very informative Jeri. I have a “Business of Being an Author” page on Google+ that I’ll be sure to share this with. What’s funny about that page is, I started it a couple of years ago when I was actively mentoring first-time authors. Even though I no longer do that people keep subscribing to it so I feel compelled to find helpful information to share with them. Apparently, it’s taken on a life of its own. 🙂
Marty, glad to your G+ page for authors is still going strong and that this post has provided some fodder 🙂
The costs for editing are higher than I expected but entitely justified as editing requires great input. You pay for what you receive. Cutting corners is just not worth it in order to save costs.
Phoenicia, it’s important to remember that rates can vary drastically, even with experienced editors. Shopping around can make quite a difference, though it matters too that the editor a writer ends up selecting is one they feel they can have a fruitful working relationship with.
I appreciate that you are explaining the costs of editing and am happy to hear that you are increasing your wage with time as you do such quality work. There certainly is hustle involved in filling the calendar and I understand that as a self-employed writer who juggles clients. I’m proud of you for the career you are building! xx
Christy, thanks so much. I’ll add to that I’m proud of the growth strides you are taking in your freelance writing career. That’s one of the best things about blogging in that it’s possible to watch a fellow blogger come into their own over the years.
You are my first editor and I expected to pay for a worthwhile service. I think every author needs to find an editor they connect with and realize the mutual benefits involved in working. A writer recommends their editor, which is a great thing. The infographic is very informative. Shared this post in my writer’s Facebook group.
PS. When I was doing freelance work, I was approached by any number of “clients” who kept telling me why I should write for them for free. I would always turn it back to them and ask them to give me their service/product for fee. Duh.
Rose Mary, thanks for sharing the infographic with the writer’s group. I need to post helpful articles there from various sources more often myself!
Not only are your fees more than reasonable and fair, you do a heck of a good job! 🙂 the info graphic is great and really breaks it all down for people looking at self publishing.
Susan, you more than any of my client can attest to the work that I do, so thank you.
I know for me, a long-winded epic fantasy writer, editing gets super pricey. Good thing I’m saving up my dollars. 🙂
Loni, writers like you who write in genres that have higher page counts do indeed get stuck with higher editing fees. On the flipside, you do seem to do a great job of getting feedback from critique partners and beta readers, so that is a great way to reduce some out-of-pocket expenses.
The cost invested in a book is tremendous. I do like the idea of hiring your own editor, even if you use a publisher. When a publisher has your novel, and edits it, you never know who is doing it. In my example, to cut costs they hired a college student. The results were less than outstanding. If you hire your own, you know who you are getting, you can do research on them.
Thanks for sharing.
William, some publishers do have their writers and editors work together during the process. That is the only way for true editing to take place. I would be wary of any other approach. A writer needs to have final approval of edits.
Thank you Jeri! For sharing this info, need to keep in mind for coming future and shared it ahead.
Sushmita, thanks for bookmarking and sharing 🙂
Jeri, this is great info for anyone thinking of publishing a book. Very few can go it alone and having a rough idea of upfront costs is fantastic. Thanks for this.
Lenie, ballpark figures are always great when it comes to planning purposes.
Great insight to all the different services. Self-publishing is expensive if you do it right, and many don’t make the costs back in sales. But I believe that publishing is a business-a business that represents you. If you invest the time in critique partners, search for a qualified editor you can afford, and a digital graphics artist, a book will turn out professionally. An author needs to put money into their book if they expect people to buy it.
Kudos to you and your hard work. I’m sure much time is spent filling that calendar. One needs to hustle to keep the customers coming, going, and happy, and that sums up you.
–If I ever write a book, Jeri-
you shall be the VERY first person I call.
Great insight, info, knowledge, and awesomeness! xx
PS. NOT everybody can be an editor. It’s a GIFT.
Kim, it’s true that editing is a gift, much like being a truly good writer is a gift.
This is fascinating Jeri. Thanks for sharing with us. I think editing must be similar to other creative endeavors where it’s hard for some people to understand why and how you charge for your work. This is a great way to explain it.
Meredith, the amount of time that truly goes into good editing or any other such endeavor (creative or otherwise) tends to be vastly underestimated by many.
This is fascinating, Jeri.
I’m in the process of writing my first novel (fiction) and I’m trying hard not to think too much about what I’ll do when it’s finished. Do I self-publish? Do I treat it as a practice run at writing? Do I pursue a publisher?
(Those questions are rhetorical—no answers required…)
I just want to focus on writing the story for the time being.
But, as some point, I may need to look at hiring an editor. So I found this post extremely useful. And $2,240 sounds really fair.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll be in touch. 🙂
Brent, I’m glad you found the post and the associated infographic useful. It certainly helps put pricing into perspective given the stats were drawn from such a large pool.