“Can you give me a quote?”
This is one of the first questions I am usually asked by a potential client.
And rightly so.
A writer will most likely have a budget to work within, and they may want to compare the fees of several editors.
Unfortunately, I can’t just give you a flat rate as a response.
Freelance editors mostly all run their own business and have their own ways of working out what they charge, but below are some of the things that editors take into consideration when working out a quote for a client.
Type of editing
There are three main types of editing, though bear in mind that the terms can be different in different parts of the world, or even how they are used between editors. Just make sure you get a detailed description of what the service you are receiving a quote for includes.
In many cases, you will need all three of the levels of editing below. They are all charged at different rates due to the differing complexity level of each job.
The quote will (obviously) take into account the total number of words in the manuscript. A short manuscript won’t take as long as a long one, and therefore cost less.
Editing a textbook with complex jargon and many references will take longer than a fiction book. Tables and diagrams will take longer than plain text. A scientific book will take longer than a book for children.
If you need a fast turnaround you may have to pay extra. If it would normally take an editor two weeks to complete a manuscript, but you need it in one week, the editor may decide to put in the extra hours in that week but charge you extra for the service.
How many errors there are
Beginner writers will need more help than experienced writers, which means more time needed to edit. This is one reason I always ask to see the full manuscript before providing a quote.
A beginner writer could see this as an investment in themself as well as their book, as they will no doubt learn from the editing experience, which may then make their next book a little easier and more cost-effective to edit.
The end goal of the book
If you are only writing for your family, you may only want a light copy-edit to check for the most glaring errors and make sure it’s readable. Your family will forgive the odd inconsistency or error. But if you plan to sell your book or put it out to the public in any way, then you should invest in a full edit to ensure your book looks professional and is as error-free as you can get it. A reader will expect this and will not invest time or trust in a shoddy book. A light edit will take less time than a heavy edit.
What do you get for your money?
Qualified and experienced
When you hire a good editor, you are not only paying for the service they provide you, you are also paying for the skills and experience of that editor.
A question you should ask when hiring an editor is if they are experienced and/or qualified.
A qualified editor will have learnt their craft and know exactly what is expected (that is, qualified as an editor – having an English degree doesn’t automatically qualify you as an editor).
However, years of experience also counts. You can check an editor’s portfolio to see what they have worked on and if it’s in a similar genre to your writing.
In other words, the fee level includes allowance for the time an editor has spent on specific editing training and continued professional development as well as their years of experience. A beginner editor with less qualifications and experience may charge slightly (but not a lot) less than an editor who has worked for twenty year.
Member of associations
Not all good, experienced and qualified editors are a member of an editing association, but if they are, then you have an extra guarantee that they will know what they are doing. Associations may have a Code of Practice and Code of Ethics, have levels of membership depending on experience and qualifications, offer professional development opportunities, and much more. This all gives peace of mind that you are getting someone who knows the industry, understands what is required and is not going to take your money and run.
Time – more than just a quick read
Think about how many hours it takes to read a novel of 100,000 words, but then also take into account that most of us tend to read quite fast, skimming some bits or reading so fast we wouldn’t notice a small typo.
Editors can’t afford to read fast and skim bits as then they miss the errors. An editor will read through the manuscript very slowly, checking grammar and spelling along the way, thinking about the language and the flow, sometimes looking up a fact, and adding things to a style sheet for future reference and consistency. And then they may read through it again, slowly, to check other things they didn’t on the first pass and to catch anything they may have missed. And that’s just the copy-editing stage. It still needs a proofread too. It can take a lot longer to edit 100,000 than you might think.
The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) has guidelines on the average speed an editor might take for different levels of editing. However, it’s important to remember that this can vary depending on the level of writing (number of errors).
The hours it takes the editor need to be accounted for at an hourly rate that is fair, i.e. it doesn’t work out to be way below minimum wage. An editor’s time needs to be covered just as any business service charges for their time.
So, what does it cost?
After all that, you will understand why I couldn’t just give you a straight answer. Each editor will take all these things into consideration, as well as their own needs, and work out a quote that works for them.
There are average rate guidelines put out by EFA in the US and suggested minimum rates by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) in the UK. However, these may not be right for your country or market.
The cost of NOT editing
Flip the coin (pardon the pun!) and consider what it would cost if you didn’t have your manuscript edited professionally.
If you intend on submitting to a publisher or agent, you want your manuscript to look the best it can. They may get many submissions a week. You can improve your chances if you already have a polished manuscript and the publisher can see its potential. No matter how good the story is, if your manuscript is filled with poor sentences and bad spelling, then it may automatically get a rejection.
And if you intend on self-publishing, the onus is on you to make sure you hire the right people to make sure your book looks professional. In the end, it’s sales you want, and you will struggle to sell your book if there are errors or inconsistencies throughout.
If you are ready for editing, and would like a quote, I can help.
I am a copy-editor and proofreader based in New Zealand. My business, Clearlingo Editing and Proofreading, caters to all writers of fiction and non-fiction books. I can discuss with you where your book is at and what you need to do next.
For more information on how I can help you make your book shine, please contact me on: www.clearlingo.co.nz/contact.
I would love to hear from you.
Marja Stack is a copy-editor and proofreader based in New Zealand. She is the owner of Clearlingo Editing and Proofreading, which caters to all writers of non-fiction books, business publications and cookbooks. For more information or enquiries for how she can help you make your book shine, please see her website:
New Zealand English Series
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The Editing Process
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- How to self-publish your book in New Zealand
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- 5 things to tell your editor
- The revision and editing process
- What are beta readers?
- What to expect when you get your manuscript back
- How to order the pages of a book
- Fact checking fiction writing
- Formatting your manuscript for submission
- How long does it take to edit a book?
- Why I belong to editing associations
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