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How Much Should You Pay for Manuscript Editing?

Laura J. Thompson

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If you were to survey two hundred editors, you would come up with two hundred different quotes for manuscript editing. Unfortunately, the industry standard for editing isn't entirely reliable, and there are hundreds of factors that editors take into consideration when generating a quote. Some editors have flat rates that they charge per word or per page, while others prefer to create custom quotes based on specific manuscripts.

The bottom line, however, is that you need to know a reasonable price for manuscript editing. How much should you actually pay? And how do you know when you're being taken for a ride?

Level of Editing

The first thing that an editor will take into consideration when determining fees is the level of editing required to make the manuscript presentable. Few editors can take a manuscript that needs developmental editing and simply proofread the document; it isn't in our nature. That said, you will need to find an editor who can work within your budget for the level of editing required.

Word Count

In many cases, you'll pay less per word for a longer manuscript than you will for a short one. Some editors work on sliding scales that benefit the client for book-length novels and books. To discover if this is the case without asking directly, simply ask for two quotes: One for a 3,000-word short story and one for an 80,000-word novel. From there, you can divide the price by the word count and see whether length makes any difference.

Type of Material

A technologically-complex manuscript will usually cost more to edit than one without any complicated jargon or explanations. Some editors won't even work on technical projects, while others will do so for a price. Make sure to ask about the editor's technical editing fees if your manuscript is technical in nature.

Editor's Experience

This is where your editing fees come with a Catch-22. You will probably save money by hiring an inexperienced editor who has very few clients under his or her belt, but you might be sacrificing quality for price. Paying more for an experienced, talented editor will ensure that you don't have to repeat that process. It just depends on your budget and your manuscript quality.

Rush Delivery

Most editors have a rush delivery service, which involves an additional fee for fast editing. For example, I offer 24- and 48-hour rush delivery for an additional 10% of the editing quote, though this will certainly vary by editor. If you're working on a deadline or are simply impatient, you will probably pay more for editing services.

Bottom Line

Now that I've outlined some of the factors that go into determining an editing quote, let's talk about the bottom line. How much should you spend on editing services?

Proofreading. For a small editing job such as proofreading, the project will take your editor the least amount of time and it will involve the least amount of effort. Some editors charge as little as $0.02/word for proofreading, while others might charge around $0.05/word. That comes out to between $5.00 and $12.00 per page.

Copy Editing. Since it's more involved and is more of a time commitment, copy editing will be somewhat more expensive than proofreading. According to the Writer's Market, the average copy editor charges between $0.12 and $0.40 per word, which comes out to between $30.00 and $100.00 per page.

Developmental Editing. This is the most complex of all editing, and is sometimes referred to as a Ghostwriting/Editing Blend. The editor will add and subtract entire paragraphs (or even pages) to improve upon the manuscript. Since it's extremely involved, most editors charge between $0.30 and $0.50 per word, which amounts to between $100 and $125 per page.

You Get What You Pay For

As a final note, I want to remind you that you'll often get exactly what you pay for. If you try and go the “stingy" route, you might want up with an editor who doesn't know what he or she is doing, which is simply money down the drain.

Laura J. Thompson is a professional editor, ghostwriter and consultant. She provides these services at competitive prices for both businesses and individuals all across the United States. You can learn more about her services by visiting her website ( ) or by reading more of her articles. She specializes in fiction ghostwriting and editing, though she also enjoys self-help and other non-fiction articles and books.


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