From Rick:

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t done with this series, as I thought I was. I was going through my older emails this past week and I came across one article on this subject that I felt worth passing on. It’s very relevant because it reinforces and builds on the advice I gave regarding outside editors. And I must admit that this is the best single article on the topic I’ve found to date. A lot of work clearly went into preparing it.


As Dave Chesson says in the article, do not let price be your sole consideration when deciding on an editor and more expensive does not necessarily mean better because freelance editors set their own prices. Note in his article that in some cases the prices are very close, but how they can also vary widely. In other words, there is no “standard” price for editing, only what the market will bear.

I do have some thoughts on these editing prices. Not to deny editors their livelihood, I find some of the prices border on the unconscionable. I think you’ll quickly see what I mean. And don’t think that a seemingly small price difference of $0.01 per word versus $0.015 per word mislead you. For a typical novel of 80,000 words, that means a difference of $800 versus $1200. Yeah. Or how about that one that charges $0.06 per word for proofreading! Look at the hourly rates that range from around $30 (but note some are in British pounds) to $70 per hour. I’d sure want to know how many hours it would take those editors to do the work. I can edit about 3000 to 5000 words per hour. I don’t know how fast some of these are, although it does depend on the quality of the manuscript at the start.

If you’re intending to pay these rates for an editor, then you want to ask yourself three telling questions:

1–Do you have that kind of money to spend?

2–Is the book’s earning potential sufficient in the first place to warrant spending that much on it? Be very conservative on your estimates and assume the worst.

3–Assuming the answer to #2 is yes, then is this editor good enough to increase the book’s ROI (return on investment) to offset the editor’s fees in addition to what you think it will earn?

Remember this: There are NO guarantees when it comes to book sales.

I also find it interesting that some editors charge more for developmental editing than for proofreading (assuming the article’s figures are correct), while others charge less, and yet others charge the same for editing no matter the type.

My personal feeling (obviously not shared by all editors) is that developmental editing often requires less work than content and line editing, which require intense concentration while reading.

Developmental editing looks more at the whole and makes recommendations and suggestions for fixing problems. Now, I understand that some books are really bad in their rough form and that a developmental editor could end up spending a lot of time on rougher books than on the more polished ones. But as I said in PART 4 of this series, writers who need to spend thousands of dollars to make a book presentable would be better off spending that money on workshops and classes. Or they can find a critique partner to help them out.

There is enough help out there for a lot less than an editor would charge, or even for free. No editor can or will guarantee that a book will sell after they’ve finished editing it. All they—and I—can say is that a well-written and well-edited book stands a better chance of success.

Therefore, follow Dave Chesson’s advice and do your research before hiring an editor to ensure that you will find one who’s the best fit for you, your writing, and your pocketbook.

NEXT WEEK: The Book Cover Design series begins.