Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Cost of Editing


Today I want to discuss the cost of book editing, and what you should expect when looking for professional editors.

So you’ve written a book—a damn good book in your opinion—and now you’re debating hiring an editor. The only problem is the price. Everyone is so expensive, and those that aren’t may not be worth the pennies paid to them. So, how do you go about finding an editor?

My discussion seeks to answer this question. I’ll walk you through different types of rates editors use to charge clients, and I will inform you what the average costs for editing are. Then I will discuss my own approach to editing. Lastly, I will discuss why professional editing is important in the process towards publication.

Per Hour Rates vs. Word Count Rates: Choosing a Rate that Works for You
There are two different types of rates an editor may use to charge clients: per word/page or per hour.

The truth is that neither rate is perfect; both have advantages and drawbacks. For per hour rates, the advantage is that the project is charged by the time it takes. Because it is based on time, a per hour rate takes into account that all books are at different levels of completion, and thus need various amounts of time to edit.

There are two drawbacks to per hour rates. The first is that, if your book needs a lot of work, you may get charged much more money than you were originally willing to spend. The second is that, as a writer, you cannot know the exact amount you’ll be paying before the editor begins.

Rates based off of word or page count also have both advantages and drawbacks. The advantage is that the price will be up front and immovable because all books have a definite word or page count. The drawback is that these rates do not factor in how close to completion a book actually is. This might mean that you pay a significant amount of money for only a few edits, or—if your book is quite far from completion—you might not receive all the edits your book needs.

Why Do You Charge Per Word?
Between the two rates, I prefer the word count rate. I personally believe the word count rate benefits writers more than the hourly rate, and I am a believer in affordable professional editing.

Word count rates allow writers to agree or disagree with the price upfront. As a writer myself, I became frustrated that many editing websites hide their rates.

Average Editing Rates

basic copyediting
$30-40 per hour
heavy copyediting
$40-50 per hour
content/substantive editing
$40-60 per hour
developmental editing
$45-55 per hour
website copyediting
$40-50 per hour


The rates I pulled are from the Editorial Freelancers Association. I have heard these are conservative estimates; many editors charge more than this. Many times professional editors can get away with more expensive rates if they have considerable experience in the field. But remember, at a certain point, the rates are so high that you are simply paying for a name.

As you might have noticed, the above rates are hourly rates. So, how do you figure out the word/page count rate with an hourly rate? The industry standard for page length is 250 words. If you follow the link back to the Editorial Freelancers Association, each of these hourly rates also indicates how many pages can be edited within the hour. Do a little simple math, and you’ll get the answer.

Why Are These Rates So Expensive?
Like I mentioned above, these rates are a bit conservative; writers can pay up to $10,000 for book editing. Frankly, I do not believe that editing rates this high are ethical.

However, professional editing is just that, a profession. Just like teachers, hairdressers, doctors, and mechanics, professional editors need to make enough money to sustain themselves. There is an unrealistic belief that professional editing should only be a couple hundred dollars. That is just as unethical as an editor charging $10,000.

Editors have to make a living. It can take anywhere from a week to a few weeks to edit a book. Paying a couple thousand dollars may appear to be an outrageous cost, but for an editor, that is the money they must live on while they edit your book.

Why Are Your Rates Cheaper?
It takes me about a hundred hours to edit a book 50,000 to 75,000 words long. I also tend to finish edits within two weeks. If you do the math, you’ll realize that per hour I’m charging well under the industry average.

There are two reasons my rates are lower than industry average. First, I am currently trying to build my client base. I’ve been editing for five years, but I began my business at the beginning of 2012. To me, getting my name out there is more important to me than unaffordable edits. Second, I believe paying the industry average is a steep cost, considering the book has not yet been published. I want book editing to be relatively affordable. 

How Am I Supposed to Trust These Rates and This Editor?
Going with any editor shouldn’t be a leap of faith. Most editors will give you a free first page edit. This first page is to demonstrate their editing style. I suggest every writer seriously considering editors ask about this. For that much money, it is important to know what you’re receiving.

Why Should I Even Go with a Professional Editor if They Are So Expensive?
While it is not mandatory to hire a professional editor, it is almost always a good idea if you can afford one.

Why?

I have talked with many writers who have told me that, when they sought out publishing deals or representation, some small publishing houses and even some agencies would only accept their manuscripts if they were professionally edited. The expense was to come out of the writer’s pockets. This came as a great surprise to them. And it should. The industry was not always this way. 

Not all writers need professional editing, but these days the traditional publishing route demands high quality before a book is accepted for representation and/or publication. The truth is that literacy rates, computers, and the Internet have allowed more people than ever before to write books. Because of this influx, many agencies and publishing houses have the luxury of asking writers for highly polished books. After all, it means less risk for them. 

On the other side of the spectrum is self-publishing. Writers who are considering self-publishing should hire a professional editor. Buying a self-publishing deal already comes at a great out-of-pocket expense to the writer. If you have to market your book yourself, you will do yourself a great disservice by selling a book that is filled will mistakes. Publishing houses edit books several times before they market them. If you want your book to be competitive in the literary field, then you’re going to have to hold your book to the same standards a publishing house would.

Conclusion
When choosing an editor, there are a few factors you need to take into consideration. First you’ll need figure out which type of rate you prefer. Second you’ll need to know the average industry rates of professional editors. If you interested in my services, it is important that you understand my motives for why I charge below the industry standard, and how I approach editing. Lastly, regardless of who you decide to go with, you should always ask for a sample page of edits. You know best what you’re looking for.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services
415.745.1764

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