There's a lot of different editors, and different price ranges, out there. Some freelancers charge a flat rate, while others charge by word count, by page count, or by hour of work. For full manuscripts, some editors—myself included—use sample edits to help calculate an individualized quote, one based on the depth and scope of edits the project will require. But how much should you really be paying for your manuscript?
Average Cost of Editing
Below, I've drawn from the average price ranges per fiction editorial service, as listed by the Editorial Freelancer's Association and Reedsy. These editorial services are listed by comprehensiveness and price, from lowest to highest. And if you're ever unsure what these services entail, feel free to read up on "The Four Stages of Editing (and Which is Right for You)."
As the last pass through your manuscript for errors, proofreading is the least comprehensive—and least expensive—of the editorial services. According to Reedsy, proofreaders charge between $0.013 and $0.018 per word on average, though the EFA reports average prices range as high as $0.029. Currently, I offer proofreading for $0.01 per word.
Since copyediting is a bit more comprehensive than proofreading, the associated cost is also a bit higher. According to Reedsy, copyeditors charge between $.018 and $0.025 per word on average, though other freelance editors site averages as high as $0.04 per word.
Like copyediting, line editing is concerned with grammar. It's also concerned with style, heading into more creative—and comprehensive—territory. According to the EFA, line editors charge between $0.04 and $.049 per word. However, other freelance editors site average prices of up to $0.09 per word for line editing. Currently, my quotes average between $0.015 and $0.040 per word for line editing services, based on an editorial sample.
Content editing is the most thorough, comprehensive editorial service available... and typically the most expensive. Though the EFA reports rates averaging between $0.03 and $0.039 a word, I've seen many rates as high as $0.12. Currently, my quotes average between $0.025 and $0.08 per word for content editing services, based on an editorial sample.
Some editors will provide all of these services, some will only provide one or two specialized offerings. For example, I specialize in content editing, line editing, and proofreading. I do not currently offer any copyediting services. As a matter of personal policy, I also avoid offering proofreading services for projects that I've worked on before, because I believe a fresh pair of eyes is best suited for catching errors.
When in doubt, you should always ask questions. A good freelance editor will be willing to explain their services to you—they should be just as invested in your manuscript's needs as you are!
But Where Does My Manuscript Fall in These Ranges?
Just as every story is different, every manuscript has different needs... and thus, a different associated cost of editing. That's why, for full length manuscript edits, I require working with a sample of your novel before we begin a contract together. A sample edit helps me to determine what depth of editing would most benefit your specific manuscript, so I can create a customized quote covering your specific needs—and never charge you for anything more than that. Plus, it allows you to determine how our styles and visions align, meaning that you get to confirm how well we fit together before fully investing in my services. It's a win win!
Even without a sample edit, however, there are a few important factors you can consider for calculating where on an editor's quote spectrum your manuscript might fall:
Your word count This may seem a little obvious, but no matter who you hire as your editor, word count is going to be the biggest influence on the cost of editing your work. The longer your manuscript, the more time your editor will need to complete their work, and the more expensive your overall quote will be.
Your familiarity with English If English isn't your first language, you will likely need much heavier editing to correct your flow and word choices in order to bring your work to a publishable standard. Heavier editing means more hours needed for the editor to complete their work, and a more expensive quote for you.
The genre and complexity of your manuscript Many editors will charge more for certain genres or complex topics that require specialized knowledge. Usually, this is more true of technical nonfiction projects. However, fiction is hardly exempt! For example, if you want a historical fiction editor who specializes in the time period your manuscript is set in, that expertise may come at a premium.
How polished your manuscript is Lastly, consider the state of your manuscript. Are you looking for professional editing on a first draft? Or have you already revised your manuscript to the best of your ability, taking into account feedback from beta readers, a workshopping group, or even a previous editor? For many editors, the stronger shape your manuscript is in, the more money you'll save on your editorial quote.
The Final Say on The Cost of Editing
At the end of the day, it's up to you how much you want to invest in editing your manuscript. Hiring a good editor can be expensive, and you may decide you need to prioritize your budget over everything else. But while weighing the cost of editing, I urge you to also consider the cost of not editing—or paying for the cheapest, lowest quality services you can find. You've already invested so much blood, sweat, and tears in putting your story to paper. It's your brain child... and like every parent, you want the best for it. So ensure your writing reaches its full potential by hiring a freelance editor you truly trust.
Still have questions?
Let me know! I'm always happy to answer comments, or you can reach out to me at my contact page.