Monday, July 6, 2020

Why Does A Professional Edit Cost So Much?

By Andrea Merrell

Every writer needs an editor. Even editors need an editor. It’s a basic part of the writing world. Once we read over our own work a number of times, our eyes will skip over obvious mistakes because our mind knows what is supposed to be on the page. This is especially important when a writer plans to self-publish. But a question I often hear is, “Why does a professional edit cost so much?”

There are many different types of editing, as well as editors with expertise in certain areas. To help you better understand the process, let’s look at the three most common.

This is the most intensive form of editing and the one that is generally most needed. Along with punctuation, grammar, spelling, and usage, your editor will look for problems with such elements as:
  • Redundant words and phrases
  • Verb tense
  • Hooks
  • POV (point of view)
  • Dialogue 
  • Speaker tags and beats
  • Characterization
  • Backstory
  • Telling instead of showing
  • Inconsistencies
  • Syntax and flow/awkward sentence structure
  • Chronological order
  • Formatting

In addition, there will be fact-checking, verifying Scripture references, and looking up rules in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and the Christian Writers’ Manual of Style (CWMS). Your editor will also frequently refer to the dictionary, especially for hyphenated words, unfamiliar words, and words that don't fit the sentence or topic. This is all very time-consuming. Most editors can typically edit six to eight pages per hour in this type of edit but sometimes less. It is a much slower and more tedious process than the other types of editing and depends on the quality of the writing.

Copy Editing/Line Editing
Basic correction of punctuation, grammar, spelling, and word usage. The editor will also look for omission, repetition, inconsistency, and other errors.

Proofreading is generally done after the initial editing process to ensure the manuscript is ready for submission or publication. At this point, the proofreader is primarily looking for formatting issues, typos, and obvious errors. The more eyes the better. Sometimes a manuscript can go through several beta readers and proofreaders and still contain errors. It’s difficult to catch every little mistake. I have never read a book, even by large publishing houses, that didn’t contain at least a couple of errors. There is no such thing as a perfect book, but your editor will help you present the most excellent product possible.

Vet your editor before you sign a contract, make a verbal agreement, or pay a deposit. Check the website. Look at endorsements. Ask around. Find out how long the editor has been in business and how many books they have edited. Not everyone who claims to be an editor is qualified.

Some professional editors charge by the word, while others charge by the page or per hour. The best way to choose an editor is to have them do what I call an initial critique/edit of your first few unedited pages. This helps you understand the editing process and gives the editor a better idea of what will be required. There is usually a charge for this service, but it is well worth it to see if you and the editor are a good “fit.”

Whether you’re working with a freelance editor or one assigned to you by your publisher, your editor’s job is to help you present your best work. Trust your editor and learn to work hand in hand. The author/editor relationship can be a wonderful experience that just might lead to a lifelong friendship.

Is a professional edit costly? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

What has your experience been working with an editor? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of, posterize, and Stuart Miles.) 

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