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Editorial Costs for Authors

How much can you expect to pay for editorial services for your manuscript?


Investidate by Maria Coder

Self-respecting authors like Maria Coder make sure their books are well-edited and carefully proofread in order to present their material in the best light possible.

Maria Coder

Why use freelance editorial services?

The editorial department of a traditional publishing house performs a variety of tasks in service of a well-structured and well-edited book. However, if you're looking for a literary agent to place your book with a major trade publisher, you'll want to make sure to put your best pages forward, so some freelance editorial services might be warranted.

If you have decided to self-publish a book, especially if you are writing a book to market your business, you’ll want to ensure your book is just as well edited as if you’d had it published by a traditional publisher and for that you’ll need to hire some outside help.

Many self-publishing services offer editorial options for additional fees. But if you have connections to editorial freelancers (or know people who do), or if you don't mind doing the research, you might save money or have more quality control if you hire editorial freelancers yourself.

How much can you expect to pay for freelance editorial services?

The rates for freelance editorial services will vary—sometimes dramatically—depending on where you live, how quickly the work is expected to be done, the experience level of the freelancer, etc. To give you a rough idea of what the costs might be, here are some general ranges for some of the major freelance editorial services. Of course, with your rough manuscript or project description in hand, an experienced freelancer will be able to give you an close estimate what the total for their services would be.

Book research costs
If you need preliminary research before you start writing your book, expect to pay approximately $45 - $80 per hour, depending on the complexity of the project and the qualifications of the researcher.

Book ghostwriting costs
Ghostwriting costs vary widely, depending on the reputation and relevant writing experience of the ghostwriter and what the parameters of the deal are. That said, the cost of ghostwriting a book can range from a few cents a word to $2 a word—some ghostwriters command well into the five-figures and beyond.

As successful ghostwriting is a collaborative and highly subjective experience, it is best to deal with a reputable ghostwriting agency or a literary service who can provide you with a solid contract and give you guidelines of what to expect.

Book co-writing costs
The process of hiring a paid co-writer is very similar to hiring a ghostwriter but, as a co-writer generally gets credit—that it, his or her name on the book jacket—the parameters and structure of the deal are generally different (upfront advances vs. royalties, etc.)

Book transcription costs
If you are an author who prefers to record his or her ideas in the spoken word, you’ll need to get your manuscript transcribed into text. If you go this route, you can expect to pay more in editing fees to develop the book to make your words and ideas flow properly in text format. The cost of transcription generally runs between $3 and $5 per page.

Book translation costs
Translators generally charge by the word. If you are translating your book from one language to another, you can generally expect to pay between $.20 and $.50 per word at a speed of 300 to 500 words an hour, depending on the complexity of the text and the translator.

Book developmental editing costs
The developmental editor helps shape the manuscript. (Read about developmental editing). A freelance developmental editor can charge anywhere from $50 - $80 per hour.

Line editing
In a traditional publisher house, the editor who acquired your book would generally do the line editing. Read more about the duties of an editor. If you hire a freelance editor to do the line editing for your book, expect to pay approximately $50 - $60 an hour.

Book copyediting costs
Copyediting can cost anywhere from $30 to $50 per hour, and you can figure 2 – 10 manuscript pages per hour, depending on how heavy or light the copyediting need. Read more about copyediting.

After all the heavy lifting of editing is done, proofreading assures that no typos remain; it’s a critical part of the quality control process, helping to ensure a good experience for the reader. Proofreaders generally charge between $30 and $35 per hour.

Book indexing
Non-fiction books generally have indexes in the back, so specific subject matter can be easily found. Even traditional publishers charge back their authors for book publishing (it comes out of their royalties). If you’re hiring an indexer, expect to pay about $35 - $65 per hour for indexing; an average book will cost several hundred dollars to index. Read more about the index and other key parts of a book.

Read more about self-publishing.

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