On Editors: Find the Best Before You Invest

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How do you find the right editor and what’s a fair cost?

greatbooksEditors have different systems of working and what they charge. Cost varies depending on their experience, the type of work needed and other factors. 

As an editor, the most difficult part for me is striking a balance between giving writers what they want and determining what they actually need. 

The Editorial Freelancers Association (the-EFA.org) provides a helpful approximate rate sheet of the range of fees for types of editing:

Heavy copyediting                       2-5 pgs/hr       $40-50/hr

Developmental/content editing    1-5 pgs/hr       $45-55/hr

So for a 300-page book (75,000 words), heavy editing is $3700 average, while developmental editing–what I do–is $5000 average.

Some editors will try to do both types of editing at once, but this is unprofessional and produces shoddy results. Many editors will provide whatever service you ask for, even if you need more extensive help, which obviously cripples your book in the marketplace. Self-publishers are notorious for this kind of cursory “editing.”

Can a new author’s book compete in today’s market? If it has any chance, it needs the careful insight and refinement professional editing provides, especially developmental editing. Such in-depth development is simply required to ensure it can reach a wide audience.

So while most new writers want basic editing, they actually need developmental editing or coaching. Obviously, such work is expensive. 

Many authors can’t imagine paying $5000 or more to ensure their book can compete. Is it worth that expense? It depends. Everyone has a story–but will you be patient and invest more and work harder than your competition?

That’s the all-important question. And I’ll only work with authors who understand that.

So when hiring an editor, first consider the experience and time he or she puts in, and consider what traditional, royalty-paying publishers put into editing their books (more on that here: The Cost of a Good Book by Brian McClellan). 

Years of editing experience matter, but so does an editor’s list of successful titles. The cost of a professional editor is made up for in how they prepare your book to stand up against all the others currently out there. Like any consultant, their market knowledge and expertise is a large part of what you’re paying for.

Also, what’s their specialty? A professional knows their market and has many successful books under his or her belt because it’s their special place of interest. 

fear quote
Roosevelt said that. I think.

You’re investing in yourself and your skill first and foremost. Your book, your readers, and your future self depend on how you respond. 

Do they conduct themselves professionally and what’s their workload like? Ask for an estimate and expect to pay for quality. Finally, set a budget and get the best editor you can afford.

So consider: 

  • Experience (years spent at publishers doing what?)
  • Helpfulness (read testimonials and endorsements, ask other authors)
  • Genre & specialty market interest
  • Professionalism
  • Work load

You can afford the most qualified editor. Believe in your book, create your budget, and your investment will pay off.

The best advice I can give you? The market for books is saturated. But the market for great books is inexhaustible. Commit yourself as unto the Lord and you will rise to the top. It’s a promise with a question: 

How bad do you want it?

If you invest wisely and patiently, a successful book is an inevitability. 

Remember, highly qualified editors are not after your business because they don’t have to be. Your book began as inspiration from God. If he gave it to you, he will give you everything you need to complete it. Does that mean easy sailing all the way? Or might it mean learning through the challenges  and growing in character? Could this journey be used to make you into the best possible spokesperson for your message? Might it refine and sharpen and prepare you to meet that hungry, hurting audience of readers who are eager for what only you know?

A pro edit is your uncontested best chance of not only selling well, but of gaining the experience required to produce top-notch books. And the lessons you’ll learn in the process are far and away the best training you will receive for your career.

The spoils will go to those willing to work.


Ready for editing or coaching? Browse my editing rates and begin to determine what sort of editing you might need. An evaluation might be best if you’d like advice or to know whether coaching or waiting might be a better option for you. I look forward to seeing if I can help.

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One thought on “On Editors: Find the Best Before You Invest”

  1. bravo for addressing this topic. bet it wasn’t easy for you. but it’s good to do so. people (me!) need to know this stuff. do you edit children’s books? i wonder…..
    suzee B

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