This post on how much editing costs covers:
- lower and upper limits on price
- the importance of time as a resource
- when to hire an editor
- what kind of editor to hire
Prices for book editing vary widely. The field is unregulated, which means that anyone can offer their services as an editor or proofreader. Novices may offer to edit for £10–£15 per hour. Meanwhile, the most accomplished editors (who are more likely to work on books and other texts to be published – novellas, websites, journal articles etc.) charge around £50–£60 per hour.
Cheap, fast, AND high quality? Forget it…
Low prices and low quality characterize large parts of the market for fiction and academic editing, compared with fields like technical editing or medical editing. This is because there is a large number of low-paid academic workers who require editorial services, and many first-time authors unaware of the value good editing can bring.
In academia, a journal team may simply seek out a person with subject knowledge whose first language is English. An editorially trained professional? Forget it! Budget constraints play a role. Also, academia in particular is a loosely structured field in which scholars often try to source skills within their academic networks.
Editing and proofreading are both jobs that require a lot of technical and linguistic know-how.
This means that a professional editor should be trained. Equally, they need not be a good or accomplished writer as editing is a different skill. For heavier editorial work, having excellent writing skills perfected over several years can be a great help. These fields include editing for multilingual authors, line-editing, developmental editing, and rewriting.
Per hour, per word, or per project?
Many editors – including myself – typically charge per word or per project. This is always based on an estimate of how long it will take us. It is easier for the client if they receive a fixed price for a job rather than a rate per hour. Editors’ per word pricing is typically based on an expected speed.
In my experience, there is the odd text that reads like a dream. Yes, there is also the occasional problematic text in which I frequently have to guess the meaning, but most of the time, I edit around 800–1100 words or 3–5 pages per hour for texts written by multilingual authors.
Per project pricing can work well if the task involves several services, e.g. consultation or coaching calls followed by several rounds of editing and proofreading.
How much do professional editors charge?
Standard professional rates for editing and proofreading are based on earning roughly £30–£40 per hour. The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s suggested minimum rates list offers some guidance. My rates are roughly 10% higher than the CIEP suggested minimum rates. This reflects the fact that I live in a relatively affordable part of the UK (Scotland), as well as my status as an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, which means I have a lot of editorial experience. For developmental editing, my rates are slightly higher (£40 per hour) as this is a more demanding skill. A reasonable benchmark for editing is to multiple the hourly rate by 1000 to get a rough annual salary.
When (not) to hire an editor
Clearly, professional editing is a significant investment. If you just want somebody to ensure your manuscript is written to the level that a speaker of English as a first language might produce, then you may be well-served by a trainee editor looking for experience. You could also source help from your PhD cohort for a significantly lower rate (this is how I started out!).
However, it is worth spending money on professional editing if you are publishing a key paper or book for your career, and you want to ensure it meets the best standards expected in publishing, and that the text has been carefully read by a professional who has the reader and audience in mind.
What kind of editor should you pick?
Almost all the people I work with link to my specialist knowledge. My advice is to always pick an editor who specialises in your topic. Don’t hire a fiction editor to edit your legal manuscript, for example. My specialist areas are fiction editing (especially science fiction and fantasy) and the narrative social sciences. I’d say that 95% of the work I do falls in these areas.
Besides expertise, for deeper kinds of editing, it is important to have a good rapport with the editor and to feel comfortable wih the changes they make. Finally, you should check that they are trained and have experience in your specialism. Besides looking at their editorial credentials (e.g. membership of editorial societies, training, experience, etc.), take a look at the kind of books or articles they work on – do they speak to your interests?