Copy Editor Services: What to Look for & 6 Hiring Steps

Posted on Jul 2, 2024

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There’s little more important to the book completion process than proper copy editor services. In general, taking your draft from a steaming pile of—okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But up-leveling your draft from the best version you can make it to a publishable quality readers won’t roll their eyes at, remarking on yet another self-published book full of typos, incoherent sentences, and grammar issues.

Whether you need a novel editor for your fiction craft or someone to ensure your sentences read smoothly for your how-to guide, we’ll help you understand what to look for when hiring copy editor services, and a bit more that can be confusing about the process.

Here’s what you’ll learn about copy editor services:

  1. Definition
  2. Copy editor vs proofreader
  3. Cost of copy editor
  4. Hiring process
  5. Softwares
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What are copy editor services?

Copy editor services are when you hire someone to comb through your writing and clear up consistency issues, syntax, and other errors related to the flow and ease of understanding in the writing.

Usually, this is done over the computer. Online book editors will request a digital file of your book—either through Microsoft Word or Google Docs—and will make adjustments as needed. Some will allow the “track changes” features to remain on, meaning you can see every edit made. Others will turn this off to save you from the mess of a copy edited manuscript.

If you’re writing a fiction novel, a literary editor can still do copy editor services. This will take place after a developmental edit because in that version of editing, you will make changes and even rewrite portions of the book.

In most cases, the book editor will offer a sample edit of up to 2000 words so you get a feel for their style and if you like their approach. Most authors will get two to three of these samples and choose the editor they prefer.

Copy Editor VS Proofreader

Both of these functions of editing are important, and both have to be done before you publish your book. But they’re different, and are often completed by different people, with proofreading being the very final stage of book editing.

Here are the main difference between a copy editor and a proofreader.

Copy Editor

Copy editing focuses on improving the clarity, flow, and overall quality of the writing. It involves:

  • Grammar and Syntax: Correcting grammatical errors, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Style and Tone: Ensuring consistency in style and tone according to the publication’s standards or the author’s intent.
  • Clarity and Readability: Rewriting sentences for clarity and improving the flow of the text.
  • Consistency: Checking for consistency in spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, numerals, and font usage.
  • Fact-Checking: Verifying facts, dates, names, and URLs for accuracy.
  • Logical Flow: Ensuring the logical progression of ideas and arguments within the text.
  • Formatting: Applying consistent formatting for headings, subheadings, lists, and other elements.

Proofreader

Proofreading is the final step before publication and focuses on catching any remaining errors that might have been missed during copy editing, like:

  • Spelling and Typographical Errors: Correcting any spelling mistakes and typographical errors.
  • Punctuation: Ensuring proper use of punctuation marks.
  • Formatting Errors: Checking for consistency in formatting, such as font size, margins, and alignment.
  • Layout Issues: Identifying and correcting layout issues, such as widows, orphans, and awkward line breaks.
  • Final Review: Ensuring that the document is polished and ready for publication without any remaining errors.

Here, you can see the various types of editing services offered by selfpublishing.com:

Copy Editor Services Selfpublishing.com

As you can see, copyediting and proofreading are the last two types when it comes to their editing services, but more on this and hiring a company to edit below.

How much do copy editor services cost?

There are a couple ways copy editor services work when it comes to cost. Some charge per word, others choose to do it by page, and some are paid by the hour or charge per bulk project of varying sizes.

Here’s a general breakdown of copy editor services cost:

Cost of Copy Editor – Per Hour

  • Beginner Copy Editors: $25 to $45 per hour
  • Intermediate Copy Editors: $45 to $65 per hour
  • Experienced or Specialized Copy Editors: $65 to $100+ per hour

This method of charing has become more rare due to projects varying so much in time, and the unreliable method of keeping track. What if an editor just chooses to add 10 hours to the invoice they didn’t truly spend? There isn’t a way to know for certain with online book editor.

Cost of Copy Editor – Per Word

  • Basic Copy Editing: $0.02 to $0.04 per word
  • Medium-Level Copy Editing: $0.04 to $0.07 per word
  • Intensive Copy Editing: $0.07 to $0.10+ per word

You’re much more likely to run into copy editor services with pricing like this. You can easily do the math to know what the cost will be by multiplying the word count of your book by the cost. For example, a manuscript with 41,839 (x .02) words will cost $836.78 at the low end of a basic copy edit, and (x .04) $1673.56 at the high end.

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Cost of Copy Editor – Per Page

  • Basic Copy Editing: $3 to $5 per page
  • Medium-Level Copy Editing: $5 to $10 per page
  • Intensive Copy Editing: $10 to $20+ per page

Most books will average about 300 words per page only after final book formatting. In manuscript form, this is roughly double, at about 600 words per page. This can vary greatly depending on if a page has significant dialogue, many scene or paragraph breaks, or other general formatting. With this method, you can just look at how many pages are in your document.

If you’re setting writing goals and planning ahead, take your intended book word count, divide it by 300, and you’ll have an approximate page count. From here, simply multiply that by the copy editor services cost.

Let’s take a book that has 92,192 words. This book in a Google Doc is 168 pages.

The cost of the copy edit for a book of this size, priced per page, would be between $504 and $840.

However, if a copy editor charged this project per word, it would end up costing between $1,843.84 and $3,687.68 on the lowest end. As you can very easily see, per page may be more beneficial to the author paying for the copy editor services, not so much for the editor.

Which is why this pricing method is also not as popular. It’s much less reliable. Because you can also fit a 40,000 word manuscript in 168 pages depending on formatting.

Cost of Copy Editor – Per Project

For larger projects, such as book manuscripts, editors might offer a flat rate. This rate can range from:

  • Shorter Manuscripts (up to 50,000 words): $500 to $2,000
  • Medium-Length Manuscripts (50,000 to 100,000 words): $1,000 to $4,000
  • Longer Manuscripts (over 100,000 words): $2,000 to $8,000+

This is also more rare with freelancers, because it’s less reliable, and the price ranges usually have to do with word count anyway. Some copy editor services will list a more detailed price range, like 40-50,000 words, 50-60,000 and the like to give more accurate pricing.

However, copy editor services through established companies often use this method because it’s more organized for the business. As is the case with selfpublishing.com, pictured below:

Copy Editor Services Cost For Selfpublishing.com Ranging From $5000 To $7000

There are a lot of ways the price of copy editing can be adjusted, the main one being to lower your word count. Many writers spend the self-editing stage cutting words (especially if you’re an overwriter).

You’re more likely to pay higher prices for an experience editor, or for one who does multiple rounds as opposed to just one read through. You may also be charged based on book type, with more detailed technical pieces costing more than simpler manuscripts.

Make sure to get a quote for the copy editor services upfront before agreeing to any contract.

How to Hire Copy Editor Services

Now that self-publishing has become more respected and popular, there are various types of editing services out there. Before, you couldn’t really get a book properly edited without going the traditional publishing route, unless you enlisted your English-major friend.

Now there are two primary methods you can use, and we’ll cover both.

Editing Services Company

An editing company is one that employs many editors to work under its umbrella. Oftentimes, editors are assigned based on book genre and/or experience. Sometimes, it’s random and whomever has availability will edit the book. Going this route has some pros and cons to consider.

PROS:

  • Multiple rounds with different editors (miss less)
  • Wider scope of book types
  • Established and reliable
  • Regulated (quality) work

CONS:

  • Less personal
  • Fewer communication touchpoints
  • Costs more
  • Less customizable edit options

Here’s how to hire copy editor services from a company:

  1. Do your research: Even a search for “copy editor services” in Google can yield results for this. Many companies will pop up, including paid for advertisement spots. Collect a list of them and review their processes, and prices.
  2. Get a sample edit: Most companies will offer a sample edit. Submit the same sample for each site in order to see the various editing styles and techniques. Compare these in order to decide which to move forward with.
  3. Schedule a call or apply: Many companies have a more formal application process to work with them. This includes filling out forms, details about your book, and even a phone call in many cases. This is great because you can talk to a real person about the copy editor services, which is a bit more trustworthy.
  4. Review the agreement in full: Before signing anything, read the agreement. Make sure there are notes about copyright safeguards, any surcharges, and timeline details. Submit your agreement and you should already have a target completion date.
  5. Pay a deposit, or in full: Many book editing companies require a deposit to be placed prior to editing. This is often a percentage of the final payment. For some companies that charge a flat fee per word count, you may have to pay in full prior to the work.
  6. Follow their instructions for submitting manuscript: Companies have more rigid processes for their copy editing services. You will likely have to submit a certain type of format because of the way they choose to edit. Follow all the instructions or you risk delaying the book edit.

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Book Outline Generator

Choose your Fiction or Nonfiction book type below to get your free chapter by chapter outline!

Book Outline Generator

Enter your details below and get your pre-formatted outline in your inbox and start writing today!

CONGRATULATIONS

Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.

In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.

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Individual or Freelance Editors

Another method of getting copy editor services is through individuals who choose their own schedules and operate alone, also known as freelancers. They’re not tied to a company, and therefore have different modes of operation.

PROS:

  • More experience in specific book types (higher quality for that genre)
  • More personal approach
  • Easier to reach and communicate with
  • Often cheaper

CONS:

  • Fewer rounds of edits
  • Can be less reliable for new or not-yet-established editors
  • Might not have experience with your book type
  • Single person for all editing types may make for more missed edits

Here are the steps to hire copy editor services from a freelancer:

  1. Research specializations in your genre: This will be a more lengthly process for the freelancer route. Head to Google and research “your genre book editor” or “your genre copy editor services” to find some results. You’ll have to determine which are companies and which are individuals, but that can be done relatively easily—see the image below these steps. You can also utilize services like Fiverr or Upwork, though these can be risky because quality varies. Open a few websites and links and begin combing through each to make sure they edit your genre and they’re in your price range.
  2. Review testimonials (for trust): One of the first places you can go after establishing they fit your needs is the testimonials. You want to know other people recommend this editor. Sometimes, an author might not have these on their website, so while it’s an extra step, if you feel strongly about working with this editor, contact them and ask for some.
  3. Submit your sample for an edit: This is if they offer a sample edit. Even if this isn’t listed on their website, you can usually contact and ask, and many will oblige. Send in your sample to each, the same sample so you can compare, and review the differences.
  4. Repeat these steps for a few editors: You want to find someone who fits your style and edits in a way you like—one that maintains your writing’s voice.
  5. Choose your editor: Choose the editor that seems to get your voice and style and has the copy editor services that fit your needs. You may even choose one that you just like more if the editing styles are similar. This is especially true if you’re writing a book series and want to use the same editor.
  6. Sign agreement: Most all freelance editors will have a book agreement to sign. This has general protections for both you and them. It will also confirm pricing and sometimes even a timeline. This is important to have because you always want any agreement in which money is exchanged to be clear and written should anything happen, though scammers here are rare. Editors wouldn’t make much money if they had a poor reputation.
  7. Submit your manuscript: Each freelancer may have a different process for their copy editor services. Discuss what this is and submit your manuscript! Make sure to confirm timeline and ask about how to communicate with them in the meantime.
Example Of Searching Freelance Copy Editor Services On Google Showing Freelance And Company Results

Are Copy Editor Services From Software Worth it?

In short, not really. Softwares are run on algorithms, and a set of rules they’re given to copy edit. Which means they will “fix” sentences that may not actually be wrong, and can alter your voice and style as an author.

Because individual syntax and style an vary from person to person, and aren’t necessarily grammatically incorrect or even difficult to read, maintaining a sense of author integrity is important for your writing to avoid sounding like every other book out there (that uses a software’s copy editing services). For this, we always recommend copy editing services by real people, though online book editor services like Grammarly and the like are great for proofreading basic errors.

If you’re ready for this step in your author journey, make sure to schedule a call with us to learn more about our multi-step editing services!

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Copy Editing Services FAQ

What are copy editing services?

Copy editing services involve reviewing and correcting written material to improve its accuracy, readability, and overall quality. This includes checking for grammar and syntax errors, ensuring consistency in style and tone, and enhancing the clarity and flow of the text.

How much does it cost to hire a copy editor?

The cost to hire a copy editor varies. It can range from $0.02 to $0.10 per word, $25 to $100+ per hour, or $500 to $8,000+ per project, depending on the editor’s experience, the type of editing required, and the length of the manuscript.

What is the difference between copyediting and proofreading?

Copyediting focuses on improving the clarity, flow, and overall quality of the writing, addressing grammar, syntax, style, tone, and consistency. Proofreading, on the other hand, is the final step before publication, catching any remaining spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors.

How long does a copy editor take?

The time a copy editor takes depends on the length and complexity of the manuscript. Generally, it can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks for shorter projects to 3-6 months for more extensive works, including multiple rounds of editing.

Is it worth it to hire an editor?

Yes, hiring an editor is worth it. An editor brings a fresh, objective perspective to your manuscript, refines your writing, ensures your message is clear, and enhances the overall quality of your book, increasing its chances of success.

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