How much will it cost to edit my book?

This is the first question many authors ask me when they want to publish a book.

The answer is, every book publishing project is unique and the cost can vary depending on the following:

  • The word count
  • The writing standard/quality
  • What level of editing is required? Structural editing, copy editing, and/or proofreading?
  • Is it text only or are there images with captions that must be considered?
  • Has the author been through the editing process before?
  • Is the author familiar with Microsoft Word track changes?
  • Who is the audience? Does the author intend to sell the book or is it for family and friends?
  • Is the author seeking a traditional publisher or self publishing?
  • Is the job urgent?
  • Has the manuscript been formatted correctly?

Below I have provided two possible scenarios to help explain how I work out a quote for fiction manuscripts.

Editing scenario 1

A beginner writer, Paige Turner, wants to publish her 70,000 word fiction manuscript for a general adult audience. She emails me her manuscript as a Microsoft Word attachment so that I can provide a quote. It is text only (i.e. there are no images). She has told me that she is proficient with Microsoft Word track changes and is happy to make my suggested changes to the manuscript herself.

I read a sample of her work and ascertain that the writing standard is quite good (i.e. spelling, grammar, punctuation is excellent) but she has made some rookie mistakes that mean a potential publisher is unlikely to read past the first page. For example, there is no opening hook to grab the reader’s attention and the narrative doesn’t flow logically, among other issues. It will definitely need a structural edit.

A structural edit involves:

  • reading the entire manuscript
  • making notes about what works and what doesn’t work
  • marking up the manuscript with examples of how it can be improved using track changes
  • preparing and typing up a summary report.

The quoting process exposed

To provide a quote for a structural edit to Paige, I need to work out how long it would take me to complete the above tasks, taking into account all of the variables mentioned at the start of this article. It is not an exact science and for this reason, I always give a price range.

For Paige’s example, I estimate it will take me somewhere between 20 and 25 hours to edit her manuscript.

My hourly rate for structural editing is $70.

So the quote would be between $1,400 and $1,750.

I point out to her that I keep a timesheet so she will only be charged for the hours I spend on her edit.

Editing scenario 2

Anne Author has written a fantasy fiction novel for young adults. The word count is 50,000. She is not familiar with Microsoft Word track changes so once she has approved any changes to her work, she would like me to make the adjustments to the manuscript.

On reading a sample of her manuscript, I discover there are numerous spelling mistakes and typos, the language used is not always age-appropriate and sentence expression could be clearer.  I also notice some major issues with the structure so advise her that her manuscript needs both a structural and a copy edit.

A copy edit involves marking up the manuscript using Microsoft Word’s track changes function to:

  • correct errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • identify issues with language choice, tense, repetition etc
  • fix inconsistencies of style
  • improve clarity of sentence expression
  • check for formatting errors.

This quote will include two items both at my hourly rate of $70/hour:

  1. Structural editing estimated at between 18 and 20 hours = $1,260 and $1,400
  2. Copy editing estimated at between 22 and 24 hours = $1,540 and $1,680

I’ve allowed extra time in the copy editing phase so I can accept any approved changes on Anne’s behalf.

Hopefully, this information will help you understand what’s involved when a professional editor provides a quote for their services and will give you some expectation of what it might cost to edit your book.