How much does an editor cost?

This post answers the question ‘how much does an editor cost’? In summary:

  • there is no simple answer or upper limit
  • novices in the UK should charge at least a living wage
  • professionals in the UK should charge at least the CIEP minimum rate
  • professional editing organisations, such as the CIEP and EFA, publish guidance on rates
  • there is likely a loose positive correlation between price and quality

Prices for editing and proofreading vary widely, and there is no guarantee that a higher price equals a better service. The field is unregulated, which means that anyone can offer their services as an editor or proofreader.

Now, you will be able to find an editor at all price points, but the service you receive will vary drastically.

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.

How much does an editor cost in the UK?

The CIEP offer guidance on what standards they expect a professional copyeditor to meet. This includes:

  • references from satisfied clients
  • a minimum of 500 hours of experience
  • editorial training with feedback from experienced editors

If an editor meets these criteria, they can list their services in the CIEP directory. They recommend that editors charge the CIEP minimum rates (£31.30 for copyediting or £36 for line-editing in 2022). You’ll find most editors charge per 1000 words, though, and their speed per hour could be anything from 1000 words per hour for an intensive line edit to 3000 words per hour for a very light copyedit.

These rates are comparable to entry rates for junior copywriters, and you will find that very experienced editors will likely charge substantially more than this.

Equally, you will find entry-level editors with no or little training (but perhaps with substantial expertise in a subject area and a desire to learn and improve their editorial skills) offering services for much lower rates. Nobody should offer rates that work out lower than a living wage, however. Arguably, freelance rates should be substantially higher than a living wage as independent business owners also have to pay for all business expenses, pension contributions etc.

How much does an editor cost in the USA?

In the USA, the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) publish median rates based on a survey of their membership. You can find these details here.

What about editing on a budget?

You know the adage: cheap, fast, good – pick two of the above! If you are looking to save money but also work with a professional editor, you could try offering an extended deadline so that the editor can fit the work in around other jobs.

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.

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?

Are you looking for help with your book manuscript?

  • Contact me for a free 20-minute consultation about your project.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Andrew, very useful.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.