A lot of my business comes from editing. I'm good at it. I know what publishing companies want, and I can polish a manuscript so that an agent and/or a publishing company will take notice. With that being said, I did a general search today for editing services and prices. Wow. There are millions of editors, and each editor seems to charge different prices for manuscript editing.
So, today, I'd like to give some information about editing. What is a 'fair price' for editing a manuscript? Would I like you to hire me to edit your manuscript? Absolutely. However, if you know me personally, then you know, beyond my own selfish intentions, I want no one to be duped.
Before we get into prices, let's talk about manuscripts, first. For a new, author, a manuscript, fiction or non-fiction should be 80 to 100 thousand words. If your manuscript is over 100 thousand words, then it is too long. This is an issue that many professionals will skirt around, not giving a definite stance. However, I can assure you that a first-time author will very rarely be offered a publishing contract for a manuscript over 100 thousand words. A manuscript that long is reserved for seasoned authors who write epic novels, and even those may not sell well.
Word count is important because editors charge in various ways. Some editors charge per word. Others charge per page, and most editors charge per hour. If an editor charges per page, then that fee is based on a page of 250 words, which is the typical word count per page for a published novel.
Secondly, the cost of editing is determined by which type of editing that your manuscript needs. Many editors use various names for the types of editing. Typically, you will see the following words: light editing, proofreading, copy editing, heavy editing, developmental editing, etc...
Basically, what you need to know is that the more work your manuscript needs, then the more the editing job will cost. In my opinion, most manuscripts need some type of heavy editing. Light editing is usually reserved for proofreading for grammatical errors and typos; however, most manuscripts will need more extensive work. This is not to say that you're not a good author. All published authors have editors, and if you asked a famous author how much work his/her editor performed on his/her original manuscript, the author would probably tell you that the edit performed significant edits. It's just the way it is.
Okay. So those are the fundamentals. Also, you need to keep in mind that most editors will not CHANGE your manuscript. In other words, they will tell you that a specific paragraph is unclear, that it needs to be written in active voice, or something of that nature. When that is the case, the editor will give you suggestions. Then you will rewrite that portion of the manuscript and resend it to the editor. Sometimes this takes a LONG time- and multiple exchanges. IF you hire an editor that you trust, then I recommend that you allow your editor to make changes to your manuscript. In any professional edit, the editor will utilize some sort of track changes element, so you'll get to see the specific changes that the editor made. However, if you don't allow your editor to make changes to your manuscript, specifically, then you're looking at a longer, and possibly more expensive process.
So let's take a typical manuscript. We'll say that it's 80,000 words.
Now, we'll look at an editor who charges per word. IF you can find an editor that charges a penny a word, then you have found a CHEAP editor. At a penny per word, your edit would cost you 800 dollars. Typically, a good editor will charge anywhere from 3 to 50 cents per word. If you do the Math, then that's a LOT more money.
Now, let's examine edits per page. A CHEAP editor may edit your manuscript for $3.00 per page. At 250 words per page, an 80,000 word manuscript would be around 320 pages. That's a total of 960.00 dollars. A good editor will charge anywhere from 5 to 15 dollars per page. Again, there is a significant price difference there.
Finally, let's look at editing per hour. A CHEAP editor may charge you $25 per hour for manuscript editing. In that case, an editor would read 2-6 pages per hour, but for our experiment's purposes, let's say that the editor could read 5 pages per hour. It would still take your editor 64 hours to edit your manuscript. That's a total price of $1600 for editing. A good editor will charge 30 to 70 dollars per hour for heavy editing, which costs much more.
So all in all, what's a fair price? In my humble opinion, if you find an editor who will edit your manuscript for LESS that $1000 dollars, then you do not have a very reliable editor, and even though the price may seem fair, you'll be wasting your money on a poor editor. However, if an editor offers to edit your manuscript for $5000 or more, then you are probably getting duped. In my opinion, a fair price for a manuscript edit is anywhere from $1500 to $3000.
That may sound like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. However, if you're serious about publishing your manuscript, then this cost is an investment that is well worth the price. A publishing company and/or agent is much more likely to accept a manuscript that has been prepared for publication by a professional editor.
Whatever you do, make sure you choose an editor with experience, knowledge, candor, and empathy. Ask your editor for a list of references. Ask your editor which editing style he/she uses. Ask your editor about his/her experience and what he/she knows about publication. Do your homework. There are a lot of great editors out there, but there are also some pimply, snot-nosed college students who are posing as editors to make a little extra beer money. You don't want to entrust your life work to the wrong hands.