Writing a book isn’t easy. Sometimes that first draft costs months, years, missing out on social events, sobbing in a corner, sleepless nights. When people call a project their “book baby,” they’re being pretty literal.
Arguably, the hardest part of a book is knowing when it’s actually finished. This is where editors come in.
- Do I need to hire a book editor?
- What are the different types of book edit?
- What is a developmental edit?
- What is a line edit?
- What is a copyedit?
- What is a proofread?
- How much does it cost to hire a book editor?
- How to hire a book editor
Do I need to hire a book editor?
Whether or not a writer hires a book editor depends on their goals and resources. If you are self-publishing, working with an editor is a great way to ensure that you work is polished, professional, and ready for publication.
If you are third-party publishing, having a book editor give you some feedback could increase your chances of finding an agent or publisher.
The reason a book editor can be so helpful, even if you’re a strong writer with clean prose, is that we often get too close to our story to be able to truly see it objectively. A fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea, especially if those eyes are in the head of a professional with years of editing experience.
Ultimately, whether or not you hire an editor depends on your needs, goals, budget, and the value you place on professional feedback. In general, I do recommend hiring an editor, but I won’t throw a blanket statement on someone’s artistic process–it’s really your call.
What are the different types of book edit?
The different types of book editing are the developmental edit, the line edit, the copyedit, and the proofread. Each serves a specific purpose, strengthening various aspects of a manuscript.
What is a developmental edit?
The developmental edit is the first stage of editing a book. It focuses on the big picture elements of your manuscript like structure, pacing, character development, plot, theme, and overall writing style. A developmental editor will give feedback on how the story can be improved, and how to strengthen the themes and overall message/intent of the book.
This stage is going to be the most expensive edit, as it requires the most work and time. In general, you can expect to wait several weeks for developmental feedback from an editor. They will leave you with a lot to think about. Oftentimes, the draft after developmental feedback is the toughest for writers to get through.
A good developmental editor will search for inconsistencies, plot holes, weak character development, poor pacing, and other structural issues within your manuscript. Though it is sometimes rough to get that kind of feedback (especially for new writers), going through the developmental edit process can make you much more confident in your book after it’s done.
What is a line edit?
The line edit focuses on improving the prose itself, including checking for factors like consistent voice, flow, clarity, style, and readability. A line editor will make suggestions for improving sentence structure, tone, voice, and other language-related issues.
A good line editor can make suggestions that will make your writing sound more like the best version of itself–a poor line editor will project their own style and voice onto your prose. If you feel like your line editor can’t match your writing voice with their feedback, you might want to shop for a new editor next time.
However, it is pretty difficult to set your own writing style aside to give line feedback, so do leave some room for grace, keeping in mind that you have full freedom to reject their suggestions. After all, you’re paying them for a service, to make your book as good as it can be. You don’t owe submission to your editor’s opinions.
What is a copyedit?
The copy stage of editing focuses on improving grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting. A copyeditor ensures that the manuscript adheres to a specific style guide, and they will make suggestions on how to make the writing more concise, clear, and professional.
One thing to keep in mind when evaluating a copyeditor’s feedback is that fiction is often stylistic. You’ve probably noticed that novels tend to use punctuation in different ways that aren’t necessarily grammatically correct. For example, adding or removing commas that don’t traditionally belong can make the sentence read the way they’d like it to. In dialogue (or first-person narrative voice), you’ll often see grammar and language rules tossed out the window entirely, because that’s how real people talk. “Grammatical errors” are employed to convey dialects, accents, and verbal quirks, which adds to the richness of a character.
So you might get feedback from even the copyeditor that you elect not to apply, because you know your intent and goals with your writing, so your opinion ultimately is the only one that matters.
What is a proofread?
The final stage of editing is the proofread, which involves checking for typos, spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, and other minor problems that may have been missed in previous editing stages. This editing step takes place after the interior format. This is because sometimes things get shifted, shuffled, or accidentally deleted during the interior formatting process.
A proofread happens at the very end of everything as a final check.
How much does it cost to hire a book editor?
The cost of hiring a book editor can vary depending on factors like their experience, the level of editing you’re looking for, the length of your manuscript, and your book genre. In general, a full book edit can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Here are the typical costs of different types of editing:
|Per word||Per hour|
|Developmental edit||$0.03 – $0.15||$45 – $80|
|Line edit||$0.03 – $0.09||$45 – $55|
|Copyedit||$0.01 – $0.05||$35 – $60|
|Proofread||$0.01 – $0.03||$25 – $50|
In general, the cost from highest to lowest will go developmental, line, copy, proofread. This lineup is also the sequence you’d typically have those edits done in, starting with developmental and ending with that final proofread.
Some editors charge per word, per hour, or per page, so it is hard to nail a specific price you’ll pay, but for the average 80,000 word book, you can expect a range between $500 and $10,000 depending on those same factors: your goals, the book genre, which edits you want, and the editor’s experience level.
How to hire a book editor
Hiring the right book editor can be intimidating–here are a few tips to get you headed in the right direction.
1. Ask for recommendations.
If you have writer friends, they probably have their own editors you can check out! You can also find the editors of your favorite books or ask for recommendations on social media. If you’re looking for a nonfiction editor, I highly recommend Bella Rose Pope.
2. Find an editor for your specific genre.
An editor who specializes in sci-fi series probably won’t have very applicable advice for your small-town romance novella. Just because an editor is affordable and available, that doesn’t mean they’re right for your book. Getting feedback from someone who mainly has experience in a wildly different genre can result in misplaced advice that will lead you further away from the perfect version of YOUR book.
3. Ask for sample edits.
Getting a sample edit can save you a lot of pain. Most editors will offer a few pages free (or discounted) for you to get a taste of their editing style before you sign a contract for the whole book. Speaking of,
4. Sign a contract.
Many editors will provide a contract, but if they don’t, you might want to draft your own. This contract can specify expectations and agreements, including but not limited to: payment amount, payment timeline, due dates, and anything that would make you feel more comfortable, like a non-disclosure portion stating they can’t post any portion of your work anywhere. You might also include a section about what will happen if the contract breaks off before expected, like a partial refund.
5. Remember that it’s your book.
Professionals and experts might know more about genre expectations and markets, but when it comes to your writing that’s attached to your name and reputation, the final call is yours. Don’t take advice you don’t agree with. Your gut feeling should be the deciding factor if you disagree with an editor’s suggestions.
Hiring a book editor can be a valuable investment. Whether you’re looking for developmental editing to improve your story structure, line and copyediting to polish grammar and style, or proofreading to iron out those last little wrinkles, there’s an editor out there to help you. Take the time to research and ask questions, sign a solid contract, and remember that your opinions on your own work trumps all others.