Day 7: How Much Editing Your Book Will Cost

January 21st, 2016

 I‘m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. The theme for me is “personal, not pretty.” See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

Often, new clients approach me for a price: “How much will you charge to edit my book, which has xx,xxx words?”

Oh how I wish the answer to this question was a simple one! But the reality is, every book project is unique, and there are a lot of factors that go into how long it will take to edit it. I always bill clients hourly—I feel this is the fairest exchange for everyone, but understandably, authors want a rough idea of how much they are going to spend. Sometimes, they have an actual budget in mind, but even if they don’t, they need to watch their spending.

I recently answered one such email from a lovely young woman in search of an editor for a fiction book. She wanted to know what the editing process would include, and how much it would cost. This is what I told her:

. . . . . . . . .

It all depends on the state of your manuscript and what you are looking for. In descending order, here are the types of editing I can help you with:

Developmental Editing

I’ve charged people as little as $500 to read their freshly written, full-length book for the first time and give them developmental feedback on the structure and message. This is for authors who want to know what’s working and what’s not, so they can tackle revisions before taking the next editing step.

Line Editing 

The next level of editing is line editing. If you think your manuscript is in good enough shape already, it’s time to tackle the sentence structure, grammar, and general readability of each sentence. This is the most labor-intensive type of editing. The price varies wildly depending on a few things:

  1. How much work your manuscript needs in the first place.
  2. Revisions: How much “noodling around” you want to do during the editing process. In other words, are you still thinking it through, or committed to finishing it?
  3. How “technical” your book is. Will I need to do a lot of research to make sure terms, names, places are spelled right and used correctly? I recently edited a book about the music industry, and it entailed Googling nearly every artist, album, song, concert, etc. to make sure it was correct. That made the editing process take about twice as long as it otherwise would have.

I’ve line edited a well-written, short ebook without a lot of mistakes for about $600. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve spent well over a year in collaboration with a client who needed a lot of help with rewrites and quite a bit of ghostwriting, and charged over $10,000. I would say that, on average, most full-length books fall in the $1500 to $2500 realm for this stage of the editing.


The last level of editing is proofing—making sure there are no mistakes. I can do this, or you can have a second eye on it (I often recommend to). Proofing is generally about a 10-15 hour process in addition to the line edits. Proofing usually happens at least twice: once before you hand it off to a designer to format, and once after, to make sure no mistakes were inserted in the formatting.

I know; it’s a lot! Of course, your book might not need everything I talked about above. But when I take on a project, I almost always start with line editing, unless the book has been line edited (well) by someone else. 

Oh—and there’s an easy way for me to give you an estimate of my time: we do a sample edit. Read more about this in my recent post “What Is a Sample Edit?” Or email me today to get a rough quote on your project!

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