October 13

How much should you pay a book editor?

You’ve spent more hours than you’d like to admit, devoted to the first draft of your book. It was a messy, creative, unwieldy process, and as you read back through the pages two thoughts occur to your mind:

1. I have truly said everything I wanted to say in this draft. I feel at peace and complete that my message to my reader is fully in here…somewhere…

2. This draft is still a mess. There’s too much repetition, tangents, and things just don’t feel like they’re quite right. It needs some cleaning up.

Well, my writer friend, you are in the perfect position to be hiring your first book editor, and I know the primary question in your mind: How much should I pay a book editor?

First, what kind of editing do you need?

Developmental editing is when the editor breaks down the structure of your book to make sure that the content is tight, compelling, and leads the reader easily from Intro through Conclusion. The editor focuses on paragraphs and chapters, maintaining a bird’s eye view of the entire book. If you feel like your book is still a little confusing and messy, you probably need developmental editing.

Copy editing is when the editor breaks down sentences to make sure they flow well, are consistent in style and voice, and are tightly constructed. The editor zooms in, looking carefully at each sentence to see if it could be written in a more fluid or concise way. All books need copy editing.

Proofreading is when the editor scours the entire book for consistencies in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, italics, hyphens, and word usage. This type of editing is even further zoomed in, almost word-to-word editing. All books need proofreading, a separate proofreading from copyediting.

To be perfectly honest, I would say that all books need all three levels of editing. Developmental editing is what turns your messy, amateur book into a compelling bestseller. Copy editing smooths out your prose. Proofreading makes you look pro. Traditional publishers make sure each book goes through all three levels of editing, and our team at Paper Raven Books does, too.

Second, how much does each type of editing cost?

Some editors charge by the hour, and some editors charge by the word. Some editors are veteran pros in their craft, other editors have raw talent but little experience. Very rarely, you’ll find a golden editor who has tons of experience but not enough confidence to charge what he’s worth, so you’ll get a great deal on editing. Most often, though, what you pay for editing is going to correspond very much with the quality of editing you get.

I’ll give you my recommendations for the price range you should be looking at, in order to balance experience with value. I’ve hired editors for my own writing, and I’ve hired (some of the best) editors for the Paper Raven Books team, so I’m pretty familiar with all the pros and cons. Here’s what I recommend you look for:

Developmental editing at $55 to $75 per hour or $.03 to $.05 per word.

Copyediting at $35 to $45 per hour or $.02 to $.04 per word.

Proofreading at $25 to $30 per hour or $.01 to $.02 per word.

As a ballpark, if you want all three levels of editing (as I and any reputable publisher would recommend), you should plan to spend about $1,000 per 10,000 words in your manuscript. Usually, it works out to this, whether you pay hourly or per word. So, if your book is 30,000 words, budget $3,000 for editing.

Do I really need to hire a book editor?

Couldn’t I use a grammar software, like Grammarly, or hire an English student at a really good college? Then, I’d only be paying $30 for Grammarly or $10 per hour for an English BA. That sounds pretty tempting.

Yep, you can definitely do that. And I guarantee you’re going to cut the longevity of your book’s success.

Most books, given a bit of planning and launch enthusiasm, can hit an Amazon best seller status in some category when they’re free or on promotion. I love that this is possible. It’s so exciting for you, the author of this brand new book, to see its success, to see people downloading, and to read their reviews. That first launch is so adrenaline rushing and beautiful.

Too many books fall into the Amazon abyss after their first launch. Why? Amazon will continue to market your book to the wider Amazon audience. The problem is that much of the first audience was your own people/family/friends/network. They’re just so impressed you put a book together that they’re willing to give you great reviews and share the book.

But when Amazon then advertises your book to the wider audience, this is a more skeptical, less permissive audience. They expect a book that resembles what they’ve come to expect to read like a “real book,” with that cohesive, compelling structure, smooth prose, and error-free. The wider audience will rip you apart for repetition, tangents, and typos. And their reviews will start to sink your ranking until your book disappears into the Amazon abyss.

Gosh, sorry, that sounds really dark! But you know I’ve got your interest at heart. I know you’ve spent way too much time, energy, and money on your book already. When you get to the final stages of editing and publishing, it’s so important to finish strong.

Keep the larger vision for your book in front of your eyes.

Remember that you’re writing this book for a reason. Maybe it’s for the growth of your business and you’re planning to bring in more clients, sales, and revenue. Maybe you want to expand your speaking opportunities, and you’re going to use the book to get interviews, media appearances, and live events. Maybe you want to draw awareness to your cause or mission, and you want to attract people who want to help you spread the message. Maybe you just want to share an inspiring story of healing, and that is beautiful.

Keep this vision in mind, and remember that writing the book is only part of the journey. You are the publisher of the book, too, and that means you’re in charge of quality editing and design to make the book live into the potential you know is possible.

What else do you need to know about hiring an editor?

I’ve put all my best advice about hiring a book editor into a handy PDF guide for you. Grab the “10 Things You Need To Know Before Hiring a Book Editor,” right here:

10ThingsBookEditorTeaseOr click here to get the guide.

Have you ever hired an editor before? What’s been your experience?


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