I see authors getting frustrated. “Just tell me how much editing will cost!” They cry, annoyed at vague or incomplete answers.
The editors are sitting on the other end of the email chain despairingly, grumbling in annoyance, “How long is your book??”
As an editor, an author, and an employee of a publishing firm, I think I can clear this right up.
Authors: there is no set cost for editing. Editing depends on many factors, but the two main ones are:
- Wordcount (length of book)
- Type of editing desired (there is more than one)
These two things are extremely important. A 30,000-word book will take far less time to edit than a 100,000-word book, which is why there are significant price differences.
Generally, the cost of editing comes down to how much TIME it will take the editor to completely edit your book. They will estimate number of hours for the project, multiply that by their hourly fee, and that’s your price.
There are two main types of book editing that happens after the book is written.
- Copyediting: This is general proofreading. Correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word usage while preserving the meaning and voice of the author. Checking for overall clarity and consistency of format and style.
- Substantive/developmental Editing: Sometimes these words are used interchangeably. This is a more in-depth edit, including checking for plot holes, asking questions, looking for plot consistency, suggestions on word changes, restructuring paragraphs or sections, asking questions of the author to create better clarity of the story, and can even include consulting on titles, cover design, and more.
Editors: the authors don’t understand editing as well as you do, have patience. They are also incredibly nervous about handing over their book — a piece of their soul — to someone and not knowing what happens next.
How can you alleviate their fears?
First, be open about your process. Tell the authors exactly what they can expect from you, how your process works, the types and number of check-ins and progress updates you’ll do.
Second, take the time to really discuss the different types of editing with your authors and your timeline and deadlines.
Thirdly, remember how it was for you, and be open to answering a million questions and getting to know your author. Ask questions, be honest, and really be a part of the process of their book, not just a side quest.
Try to be collaborative. I like to edit in a Google doc, so that the author can pop in and out, make suggestions, answer questions from me, and be constantly aware of anything happening to their book.
This has served me well and allowed a symbiotic author/editor relationship. It also makes sure that the author is not surprised by any changes I make, as they can see it happening and make the final call.
Your editing is great, but the final product needs to be something the author is excited about and proud of, too.
Authors: You are allowed to say no to editor suggestions (though not if it is a grammatical error. We feel strongly about those.). When it comes to style and wording, your preference wins.
Editors: Authors are allowed to say no to suggestions in style and wording, and you’re not allowed to feel bad or take it personally. Their book, their story, their voice.
Is this helpful? Do you have questions? What is your relationship with your editor like?