Book editing prices and services (how to find an editor)

Everybody makes mistakes.

And you might be tempted to just hand your freshly-written manuscript over to a professional book editor, but I’d warn against it.

FIRSTLY, if it’s your first book and you just finished, congrats!

You win!

But a few things:

  1. If you want people to read it, you’ll need to describe, position and package it clearly so people know what it even IS.
  2. If you want people to like it, hopefully you’ve both hit and exceed genre expectations and plot conventions.

Start by self-editing.

Cut out the slow middle where nothing happens.
Improve the first and last chapter of each book.

Rewrite the first page of the book. Start with the action, not the backstory.

Search for repetition.

Beef up character motivation and conflict (every should have a reason for what they want or want to do: but they should never be allowed to do what they want).

Read all the way through it and fix whatever you can. Then do it again. You might want to read it out loud. You might want to put it away for a month and then read it fresh. But when you’re sick of it, or you’re sure it’s done, you may want to look for professional help.

What even IS an editor, anyway?

An editor helps improve your writing.

MOST editors are line or copy-editors, which means they’ll go through your writing and fix everything they can. They’ll remove typos, mistakes and errors, while also fixing redundancies or confusing sentences – rewriting if necessary. Good ones will also keep track of content or story, and leave notes whenever they have questions about consistency (“um, he had blue eyes, but then green eyes… and his name was Petrov not Peter…”)

Generally, however, one round of editing won’t fix everything (skilled editors should find 90% of mistakes, so out of 100 typos, they should catch 90.)

In traditional publishing a proofreader will go through it for typos or spelling issues after the book has been formatted.

Some editing services include more than one round of editing and proofreading.

Make sure you know what you’re getting exactly.

How much does it cost?

When I started my first online editing company, I priced between 1 and 2 cents per word for very thorough, “one pass” editing.

I enjoyed it, and I was good at it.

However, I learned that FIXING a book won’t make it successful in most cases.

The content or story + the market demand for that kind of story = 90% of success.

You want your book to be clean, error free and well written, so readers will take a chance on it without being distracted by mistakes… but a clean manuscript doesn’t make the book more enjoyable or satisfying. Even if you pay a lot for the world’s best editor.

Check out this post for more details: how much does book editing cost.

Who can you trust?

I’ve seen writers start editing companies because they can: it’s a pretty easy skill to set up a part-time online business.

Technically, anybody can do it, without any training or credentials.

But it can be difficult to measure quality, even if they have lots of happy client testimonials. Even if they have some advanced degree in literature.

It’s mostly about how well they can sell themselves, how confident they are or how good at web design and marketing.

Interestingly it seems the majority of editors aren’t great at marketing and most have ugly, amateur websites… because most editors aren’t business people, or they’re self-employed and manage everything themselves.

Prices vary widely, but I’ve seen proofreading for .005 and editing for .01 per word.
Now that I have a PhD in Literature, I probably wouldn’t do it for less than .04 cents per word.

I don’t think I’d trust someone to do a good job for less (editing takes hours and hours of laser-like focus. It’s exhausting, and if they pay just a little less attention for 5 minutes they could leave dozens of typos).

But I’d pay more attention to past clients; I’d look up some books they’ve edited online to see if they sound smooth and well-written.

I’d check out their own writing or experiences.

I’d send in a sample trial edit (if they were willing).

You also want to see if they have any process in place for refunds if the client isn’t happy (almost none of them will).

Do you really need an editor?

I have friends who self-publish without hiring a professional editor.

Personally I do the same. I outline in detail and self edit my book as well as I can. Then I let beta-readers find typos and mistakes (there are often dozens) before publishing. I don’t use an editor because my process works, and my books don’t sell less because I skipped out on professional feedback. But I can risk doing it this way because:

  1. I’ve built an author platform and email list of fans
  2. I write commercial fiction on purpose and story matters most

I have friends who have full time editors on payroll; so they finish up a draft and send it straight to the editor for cleaning – often getting the editing for a full-book back in 48hours or less.

My point is, there is no “RIGHT” way to publish, and investing big in an editor may help teach you a lot about your bad writing habits, but may not significantly boost sales (so it’s not always a direct or necessary investment).

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