Do you really need to hire a book editor—especially when you self-publish?
Let’s face it…
Gone are the days when an aspiring writer only dreamed of publishing. Technology has made self-publishing about as commonplace as learning to drive.
Here’s what you’ll learn about hiring a book editor:
- Why do you need a book editor?
- What does a book editor do?
- What the self-editing process is
- When to hire an editing team
- What is a good book editor
- How much does a book editor cost?
- Accepting that you need an editor
Why do you need a book editor?
Tried and true strategies for creating, producing, and organizing content are readily available to any aspiring author along with a wide range of self-publishing courses from self-publishing companies and free resources that decode the once mysterious process of writing and publishing a book.
Anyone willing to put in the time, energy, cost, and effort can crank out and self-publish a book. It’s really that simple.
Well, that’s the good news.
Far less straightforward, however, is the multifaceted, often undervalued topic of book editing—the essential step that makes your manuscript actually worth reading.
Working with an editor is, in fact, so important that some authors, particularly fiction writers, begin their writing process with an editor’s support.
Most authors seek the help of an editor at the end stages of their process, and, depending on how much work was put into the first draft, hiring an entire editorial team may be necessary. If this sounds costly and time-consuming, it definitely can be, but these are included in the cost of publishing a book.
Fortunately, the work and cost of editing your manuscript can be mitigated by educating yourself about the process, incorporating editing costs into your overall budget, and learning how to self-edit your manuscript, so you can be prepared for the last step in turning your manuscript into a finished book.
And you thought writing the manuscript was the hard part!
The Self-Editing Process
After the grueling first draft is complete, many first-time authors find themselves dismayed by the unforeseen cost of editing. Not to mention overwhelmed by the extensive rewriting they are suddenly burdened with just when they thought the heavy lifting was over.
Most novice writers are unaware that revision is 80 percent of the work involved in book writing. So if you get to that glorious moment when you finish your rough draft only to feel beaten down when you realize just how much revising you have to do, you’re not alone.
For those unaware of what it will ultimately take to polish your manuscript for publication, the back-end job you are presented with at the last stages of writing a book can be both costly and extensive if you didn’t devote ample time to editing early drafts.
But there is hope!
Considering the following can help you prepare your draft for editorial review and save you money.
When to Hire Your Editing Team
Yes, I said “team.”
When I worked in traditional publishing, every manuscript went through no less than four separate editors. Sometimes close to a dozen rounds of editing.
And you know what? There were still usually a few typos that slipped through!
Let that sink in for a second.
Just as producing a manuscript involves a varied skill set—writing, formatting, cover design, etc.—so does editing it.
Depending on your genre, writing skills, experience, and how much time you put into revising your draft and incorporating the feedback of trustworthy readers, you can determine which kind of editor you need to get you to the next phase without spending extra time and money.
Estimating editing costs (along with the approximate time it will take to complete each stage of the editing process) in your budget and timeline will also save you time and energy finding top-notch editors you can afford.
What makes a good book editor & can I afford one?
Well, yes. But only if you are willing to put the time and effort into your manuscript.
Before you start reaching out to prospective editors, it is important to assess the work you’ve done from an objective standpoint so you can shop according to your budget and particular needs.
Consider the following before hiring a book editor:
- Your overall budget for editing
- How many beta readers have provided feedback (people who read your rough draft)
- Your experience level
- Your timeline
- How much time has been spent reworking the text
If you’ve never worked with an editor before, it’s important to know who does what and when to employ their services.
There are a few different types of edits to be aware of before hiring an editor.
Developmental editors address the big picture, looking closely at the content to analyze structure, plot, and characters in works of fiction and the rhetorical concerns, organization, and overall flow of ideas in non-fiction.
Content editors analyze the existing content in the book itself. Specifically paragraph flow, tense, voice, and readability. Just remember that all editing is subjective. What one editor likes, another may not. So it is super important to find someone who specializes in your book genre for this stage.
Copy editors focus on the nitty-gritty of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and clarity and may also revise and rework particular sentences or paragraphs.
Proofreaders are the last readers/editors in line who myopically comb through the manuscript for any remaining errors. Just remember, if you didn’t have your draft copyedited first, the proofreader is unlikely to catch everything.
Keep in mind no one is perfect. Typos happen. It’s just life.
Depending on your genre, skillset, and budget, you may want to consult with developmental editors after you’ve written several chapters or even as you outline your book and brainstorm.
This will help you steer clear of major revision (hopefully) and set you on course for a smooth book writing process. In general, it’s a good idea to start assembling your team as you near the end stages and prepare yourself and your manuscript for editorial review.
Here’s an example of what you can (and should) find regarding the different types of book edits when you research your own editor.
How Much Does a Book Editor Cost?
Most editors do not charge by the hour. Book editing costs are assessed based on word count or by the page, and editing rates differ depending on the type you need. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $.05-.18 per word for copyediting, $.03-.07 for developmental editing, and $.01-.02 for proofreading.
These costs vary greatly depending on the editor’s experience, reputation, demand, and the amount of work they will need to put into your draft. It is not uncommon to spend several thousand dollars editing a full-length book.
But fear not! There are various approaches you can take to keep costs low if money is an issue.
Here’s how you can save money when hiring an editor:
- Assemble a team of beta readers who can provide feedback for revisions during the writing process. Share several chapters at a time, incorporate any feedback into your revisions, and choose people who are willing to give you honest notes. This can be particularly helpful for content-related issues.
- Consider hiring a college student or reader with a background in English who has a passion for editing and won’t be concerned about hurting your feelings.
- Check out freelance websites like UpWorkor even a great site called Scribendi. (Warning: if you source an editor from these sites, make sure you hire another, professional editor to go over it afterward. There is no way to know what you are getting otherwise. Just because the draft comes back better than it was before, does not mean it was well-edited!)
- Take the time to educate yourself about grammar, punctuation, outlining, and other technical issues, especially for nonfiction works. Rely on websites such as The Owl at Purdue for style guidelines and support with grammar, punctuation, and research concerns.
- Fiction writers may want to join a writers group or workshop to benefit from the help of others who have experience with your genre and can help you develop your craft, challenge flaws in your narrative or character development, and help you improve the overall quality of your story. A flawed plot or character is much harder to revise after you finish writing your book, so it’s important to catch such problematic aspects of your book early on.
- Don’t overestimate your skills and brilliance as an author! At least not when you’re working your early drafts. Even the best writers agonize over and discard much of what they initially produce, as there is simply no way around combining inspiration with structure.
- Read books on writing, seek information about the kind of writing you’re doing, and find ways to approach your work with a fresh perspective.
- Give yourself ample time and space away from your project so you can see it as clearly and objectively as possible.
- Accept that you will never be totally objective about your writing, and that you will need, no matter how great your book is, the help of others to turn your manuscript into a masterpiece.
Your Book is Still Your Book
When all is said and done, just keep in mind this is your book and no one else’s. The beauty of self-publishing is that you have the final say in your own work.
There is no big, bad publisher denouncing your creative freedom.
If you don’t agree with some of the suggested edits, delete them! Your editors don’t know your book-baby as well as you do.
So, while expert feedback is essential to creating a polished, professional-quality book, have some faith in yourself and your writing.
You chose to write for a reason. So keep that in mind as your editor chops up the book you worked oh-so-hard on.
When you find the right editors (and it may take a few tries), whom you work well with, hold onto them! If you do, it will be mutually beneficial as you create and build together.