Unfortunately, the situation is confusing. The services offered vary from editor to editor, types of editing are sometimes given different names, services can be combined in different ways, and prices may be quoted either by word or by hour.
To help you sort through the various editors, I googled “what does it cost to edit a book” and randomly selected ten sites that offered editorial services and fees, skipping those that required me to enter my information and wait to be contacted by them. The sites I used included individual editors, self-publishing firms, a trade group, and a service platforms.
Here’s what I found, with descriptions and prices taken right from the websites. Please note that I’m not recommending any of these individuals or services, simply providing information.
Affordable Christian Editing – a group of six editors who “believe that there is not enough Christian or just clean, decent literature available out there.”
- Copy Editing – $0.015 per word
- Content Editing – $0.25 per word
- Proof Reading – $0.01 per word
The Book Butchers – This is a group of “insanely talented book editors with decades of experience trimming meat from fat, separating skin from flesh, exact anatomical knowledge of fiction and non-fiction writing, and the right tools and techniques for each precision cut.”
- The Quick Kill edit – $0.02 per word – proofreading, line edit, fix spelling and grammar, sales copy/summary revision
- Extra Bloody edit – $0.04 per word – all of the above plus organza ton and content, plot and pacing, manuscript review
- The Perfect Murder edit – $0.06 per word – all of the above plus formatting of print and ebook, and pre-publication proofread
Book Editing Associates – This services notes that “We screen, test, and monitor editors, proofreaders, and publishing consultants.”
- Developmental Editing – Starts at 3 cents per word – “A developmental editor looks at the big picture.”
- Copyediting – Starts at 2 cents per word – “polishing your prose at the word, sentence, and paragraph levels…. Copyediting is often considered a “mechanical” process, in that it focuses on the fine points of technique and accuracy.”
- Line Editing – Starts at 3 cents per word – “intensive, word-by-word edit fixes awkward phrasings, queries anything that isn’t clear, eliminates unnecessary words, calls out vocabulary that is either too dense or too low-level, checks that analogies are apt, corrects grammar and diction errors, and so much more.”
- Proofreading – Starts at 1 cent per word – “involves the identification and correction of typographical errors, punctuation errors, misspellings, and formatting inconsistencies.
Editorial Freelancers Association – a trade group consisting of “editors, writers, indexers, proofreaders, researchers, desktop publishers, translators, and others who offer a broad range of skills and specialties.”
- Developmental editing – 1–5 pgs/hr – $45–55/hr
- Basic copyediting – 5–10 manuscript pages per hour – $30–40/hr
- Heavy copyediting – 2–5 ms pgs/hr – $40–50/hr
- Substantive or line editing – 1–6 ms pgs/hr -$40–60/hr
- Proofreading – 9–13 ms pgs/hr – $30–35/hr
EliteAuthors – a firm that offers editing, ghostwriting, cover design, and other services related to book publishing.
- Developmental editing – $.04 per word – “turn a rough first draft into a finished final product”
- Copyediting – $.016 per word – “thoroughly check your grammar, spelling, and usage”
- Line editing – $.021 per word – “improve organization, characters, plot, and pacing”
- Proofreading – $.012 per word – “so you don’t risk publishing a manuscript with lingering misspellings, grammatical errors, or typos”
Kirkus Editorial – They offer to “Have your book edited by experts from the nation’s top publishing houses.” According to their website, “Kirkus only selects editors who have worked on books published by the top publishers in the United States.”
- Basic Copyediting – 2 cents per word – “A thorough cleanup that focuses on the mechanics of language—correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, and typos. Copy editors also look for continuity errors…and they will make sure the timeline tracks and the details are consistent.
- Collaborative Editing – 3 cents per word plus $99 for the phone call – “A developmental edit that focuses on big-picture issues like structure, pacing, tone, and characterization.… Along with the marked-up manuscript, you’ll receive a memo outlining the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, with suggestions on how to approach revisions. Once you review the editor’s comments, you’ll have a one-hour follow-up phone call during which you can ask for clarification or further advice on next steps.”
- Professional Editing Package – 6.5 cents per word – This consists of three rounds of editing and most closely resembles the editorial process at traditional publishers. It includes 1) the collaborative editing service and phone call as described above, 2) the copyediting service as described above, and 3) a final proofread to catch any lingering typos and finalize formatting.”
Reedsy – a site that “allows authors to find and work with the best publishing professionals: from developmental editors to book cover designers, publicists and translators.”
Reedsy examined the fees charged by the editors on its site and determined “the average rates charged by editors on an 80,000-word manuscript” are:
- Developmental editing – $1,920
- Copy editing – $1,360
- Proofreading – $800
The Threepenny Editor – they provide “copyediting, manuscript critiques, developmental editing, and mentorship.” For fiction and literary nonfiction.
- Line editing – “Rates typically vary from $5 to $7 per 250 words.”
The Write Proofreader – A team of editors headed by Kelly Bixler, whose mission is “Ridding the world of bad grammar one dangling participle at a time.”
- “Most projects are $0.014 per word (which is $3.50 per page – based on a standard, double-spaced page of 250 words).”
Xulon Press – this Christian self-publishing firm offers editing services
- Basic Copy Editing – $0.025 per word – “catch and correct any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and syntax…. Some formatting, such as block quotes, is corrected.”
- Line Editing – $0.05 per word – “focuses on improving the flow and readability of your work so your message is clearly understood by the reader. Wordy or awkward sentences are rewritten, passive to active voice changes are made, paragraph and sentence length are adjusted, and transitions between thoughts and chapters are strengthened. Line Editing also includes the services of a Basic Copy Edit.”
Assuming the above prices are representative, the cost to edit a book begins at about $0.015 per word, and moves up to about $0.06 per word. Editors with excellent resumes and credentials may charge even more.