Welcome back! Okay, here’s the second half of the post on hiring an editor. (Part 1 is here.)
How expensive is it going to be?
Ahahaha, oh, honey.
This is, understandably, where a lot of writers get nervous self-publishing, because it is by far the highest expense (IMO). Even reasonably-priced editing is going to get costly.
I researched my rates ahead of time, and they’re hourly because I’ve worked with a wide variety of authors, and I just don’t feel right charging the same amount for a fairly simple edit by an author who knows what she’s doing vs a newbie where I will spend three or four times the hours on it. So I charge $60/hr content editing and $40/hr copyediting, and admittedly this means my clients have to simply trust I’m honest about my hours (I am, and I charge in 15min increments).
Others charge per page, or per word. If it’s PER PAGE, remember that a “page” is properly formatted, so that’s Times New Roman 12pt, double spaced, one-inch margins, 8.5×11″ paper. That usually comes to about 250 words per page.
I’m going to run an 80K word manuscript through some sample rates I’ve found for you.
- First, that would be around $400 – $800 content editing or $500 – $700 copyediting with me, with the rough rate I work hourly. Different people work at different speeds, however–when hiring someone who works hourly, look to see what their pages per hour estimate is.
- I found one per-word rate place (good, experienced editor) who charges $0.015 per word for content edits, and that’s $1200. (I don’t want to hear anyone bitching about my rates ever again.)
- I found another editor I know does $0.02/word content editing, and that’s $1600.
- Yet another does $25/hr and 10 pgs an hour, so that’s about $660 for copyediting.
- Our member Julie does content editing for, I think, $1/page (Julie can correct me if I’m wrong), so an 80K word book would be $320.
So, as you can see, it varies WIDELY.
USUALLY (not always) substantive editing is going to be a bit more expensive as it requires more judgement calls and requires someone fairly experienced, whereas copyediting and proofreading is more based on established rules of grammar (and of those, copyediting is more labor-intensive, and will cost more than final proofreading).
Most editors also require a down payment up front, either a token amount or half the agreed upon fee. I know it can be a little scary to hand money to a stranger and trust that they’ll deliver, but it’s their reputation on the line. Further, the down payment is to ensure YOU are serious. I can’t tell you the number of people who want me to start work as a designer or editor without a down payment in place; you can’t expect your editor to trust, for realsies pinky swear, that you’re going to pay them after they invest a couple dozen hours in your work.
How long will it take?
This will vary.
You know how you read through your MS and you start missing things the longer you read? Editors are like that too. I can’t speak for everyone but I can usually edit for 2-3 hours a day on the same MS before I need a break. Sometimes I’ll come back and do more later, other times I wait until the next day. It’s very different from spending a couple hours reading a novel for pleasure because your brain is always on and, often, you’re taking notes at the same time.
It’s common for editing to take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Learn patience. This is another area where authors with the Big Five have an advantage: they’re used to things taking a while. This isn’t to say you should wait six months or more for an edit unless you’re told it’ll be that long ahead of time (like if the editor has quite a long queue), but give your editor a few months and spend that time writing your next book instead of obsessively refreshing your email. (And always, always allow yourself time afterward to revise according to their changes instead of whipping the book out immediately.)
What type of editing do I need?
If you have to ask this question, the answer is that you need ALL THE EDITING.
First, what types of editing are there?
Content/substantive/developmental–someone might shoot me for grouping these all together, but whatever. This is looking at the big picture, or seeing the forest instead of individual trees. This type of editing looks at your plot, character consistency, overall tone, pacing, and structure. Sometimes you might get the manuscript back with notes, other times you might just get a lengthy edit letter with what you have to fix. If your book has really dull sections, this is where you’ll be told. If your character starts acting completely different from how you’ve previously established her, this is where you’ll be told.
Copyediting/line editing–some people group these together, others don’t. I am because I’m Mama Bitchstress and I can do what I want. This is looking at those actual trees, on a line-by-line basis. Grammar, spelling, punctuation; style consistency; clarity of word choice; story consistency (ensuring your character names are the same, their eye colour is the same, sometimes creating a style sheet). This is a very hands-on type of editing in which you get the MS marked up. This editor’s job is to ensure a smooth, clear reading experience.
Proofreading–this is the final check for typos and mechanical errors that creep in. After you’ve been through your MS a bazillion times and have done lots of revision, you will need an extra set of eyes to go through the book because, and I say this with all honesty, THIS will be the only thing readers notice. You can go through half a dozen revisions strengthening your novel and if they see one typo, they will say you had “bad editing”.
If you have a couple dozen novels under your belt and some experienced, dedicated crit partners/beta readers, I am going to be really unpopular now and say that you can *probably* get away with just some copyedits and proofreading. If you don’t, then I don’t think you should skimp and instead go for the whole shebang.
I know it’s expensive, believe me, but here’s the thing: you are not just investing the money in one book, you are investing the money in you as a writer. A good editor is going to teach you something new with every manuscript. You will then apply those lessons to your future books. Investing in editing is investing in YOU. Both you and your story are worth the money.
How do I find an editor in the first place?
Network. Talk with other writers. See who worked on the self-published books you have read and enjoyed (and if no editor is listed, consider asking the author). A lot of Big Five authors now are self-pubbing work, sometimes shorts and novellas, and they often mention who they’ve worked with.
You may also get recommendations from OTHER editors. When a new client contacts me and they don’t sound sure about hiring me, I usually give them a few options to help them shop around. I don’t get any benefit from this or kickbacks, but it’s in the best interest of the book to be with the right editor.
Next time, we’re going to talk about cover art and hiring an artist.