How much does professional book editing cost?

You’ve written a book. You’ve done some self-editing. You’ve made the decision to hire an editor and you’re ready to start your search. Inevitably, the question on your mind is how much is this going to cost me? It’s fair to assume that a professional editor won’t be cheap, but how do you know what kind of budget to set aside and whether the quotes you receive are reasonable? As an experienced book editor, I’ll let you in on the factors that affect the price of book editing and what you might expect to pay.

#1 Type of editing

The first (and perhaps the most major) factor in pricing is what type of editing service you require for your book. Broadly speaking, the options are:

  1. Critique / editorial assessment: Feedback on your manuscript.
  2. Content / developmental /structural editing: Big picture hands-on editing i.e. message, structure, flow, value, readability, etc.
  3. Copy / line editing: Small picture hands-on editing i.e. language, wording, grammar, tone, clarity, word choice.
  4. Proofing: Fine-tooth comb tidying to remove any errors or typos.

Within these services, content editing is the most expensive, followed by copy editing and critique, while proofreading is the cheapest. However, it’s worth noting that some editors see “line editing” and “copy editing” as two distinct services—one focused on improving the writing and the other on the technicalities of language. Line editing is often more expensive as it’s more intensive.

#2 Word count

The next major factor is the word count of the book. Unsurprisingly, the longer the word count, the higher the price, because it means more work and more time for the editor. So, if the book is 100k+ words, the price is likely to be relatively high. Most editors have standard prices for each type of editing and they calculate the price for the project based on the specific word count of the book.

#3 Other factors

After the type of editing and word count, there are other book-specific factors that may influence the price, for example:

  • Genre (some genres cost more than others)
  • Non-native writing
  • Unusual requirements
  • Complex or niche topics
  • Co-authored books where the editor needs to even out the tone
  • Rewriting (note that some editors won’t do this)

In these cases, you can expect to pay extra, and the price will vary depending on the editor. Some editors may charge a flat rate of say 20% for non-native writing, while rewriting may be charged at double the original rate or more.

#4 Editor’s experience

Aside from the book itself, the experience level of the editor has a big impact on the price. Essentially, you’re paying for the editor’s experience of the industry, their knowledge of genre standards, and their understanding of readers’ needs. Unsurprisingly then, you can expect to pay a lot more for an experienced editor, particularly if they’ve worked on bestsellers or are a specialist in their genre. On the other hand, you might find comparatively low rates from an entry-level editor who has only worked on a few books, or none at all. The price difference might be hundreds or even thousands, because you pay more for experience.

What are the average prices?

The average prices for book editing often depend on where you find the editor. For example, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders suggest an hourly rate for each service. This means you would need to contact each editor to see how many words they can edit in an hour or ask them for a price.

For a clearer breakdown, you could look to the top marketplace for freelance book professionals—Reedsy. They publish the average prices pitched on their site per genre, editing type, and word count. For example, for a 20k-word nonfiction book, you might expect to pay around*:

  • £250 for a critique
  • £650 for content editing
  • £350 for copy editing
  • £200 for proofreading

Whereas for an 80k book, it might be more like:

  • £1000 for a critique
  • £2500 for content editing
  • £1500 for copy editing
  • £800 for proofreading

As you can see, the word count makes a big difference, but this doesn’t take into account the other factors or editor’s experience level, so the only way to obtain an accurate price is to get in touch with some editors and discuss your book with them. However, hopefully this serves as a useful guide when you’re deciding your book editing project.

From all at The Book Shelf, we wish you the best with your book!

*Prices correct as of Feb 2020, but are only estimates taken from Reedsy’s price calculator. Accurate quotes can only be obtained by contacting editors.