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Meghan Ward

I'm a freelance writer and book editor represented by Andy Ross of the Andy Ross Literary Agency. You can read an excerpt of my memoir, Paris On Less Than $10,000 A Day, and visit my website for more info about me.

The Editing Hour: Freelance Editing Rates

If you’re working on a book-length project, whether it be a novel, a memoir, a nonfiction book or a doctoral thesis, you’ll probably need an editor at some point. You may have writer/editor friends who can do it for little or no money, or you may prefer to wait until you get that book deal, at which point the editor at your publishing house will do it for “free” (ie, for a good chunk of your royalties). But with competition as fierce as it is, you’ll probably need an editor before you even begin to query agents because you’ll want your manuscript in tip-top shape before sending it out into the world. So when should you hire an editor, how do you find one, and how much will it cost?

First of all, there are several different types of editing:

1. Developmental/Content Editing—This is the most in-depth type of editing and includes notes on everything from character development and story structure to style, tone and pacing. Average rate: $50-$80/hour

2. Line Editing/Copyediting—This is line-by-line editing that includes grammar, punctuation, spelling and language usage. Average rate: $25-$50/hour

3. Proofreading—This is line-by-line editing, usually done in the final stages of the project, that includes grammar, punctuation and spelling as well as capitalization, spacing, formatting, etc. Average rate: $25-$35/hour

So when should you hire an editor? My suggestion is to complete and revise your manuscript as many times as you can stand to before hiring an outsider. This may mean having it critiqued by a writers’ group, having an editor or writer friend edit it for you, or taking time away from it before editing and revising it yourself. If you’re really at a loss early on, an editor can help you through the writing process as well, but a word of caution: If you let TOO many people read/critique your manuscript, you’ll go nuts from all the conflicting feedback. It’s better to have one or two people you really trust, preferably not family members or friends, edit it than a dozen.

Next you need to know what type of editing you need. If your manuscript is still in the early stages, you’ll need developmental/content editing. Although some editors may offer to line edit for you at this stage, it’s a waste of your money to pay someone to edit text that may well get deleted. Unless it’s thrown in for free (many editors can’t help correcting grammatical and spelling mistakes), I don’t recommend doing both a content edit and a copyedit in one pass.

So now that your manuscript is complete and you know what kind of editing you want, where do you find a good editor? Word of mouth referrals are always best, but if you don’t know any editors and don’t know anyone who does, here are a few resources:

1. Me—You can contact me at meghan@meghanward.com to discuss my services and rates.

2. The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto—Many writers at the Grotto do freelance editing. Take a look at the Inhabitants page for links to individual websites.

3. The Editors Guild (of San Francisco)—A Yahoo group, The Editors Guild is a great resource for finding editors. Current member count is 401!

4. Guru.com—I used this service to hire someone to do a logo for me, and it was fantastic (and cheap).

5. Editcetera—Another great freelance editing service

6. Twitter—If you go to We Follow and type in editor, editors and editing, you’ll find all kinds of resources.

7. Poets & Writers Magazine—The back of the magazine has ads for freelance editors and the Poets & Writers website has a ton of resources as well.

8. The Editorial Freelancers Association—Another great resource!

I’m sure there are many websites and magazines I’m leaving out. And the rates quoted above, which are from this chart at the Editorial Freelancers Association, are averages. There are editors who charge $25/hour and others who charge $400/hour. Also, some editors charge by the hour, while others quote a project rate. The project rate may be fixed, or it may be an estimate based on the editor’s hourly rate. An editor typically wants half up front and the other half upon completion, but may be willing to negotiate more installments. It can be intimidating to fork out $1000-$3000 or more for a book edit, so shop around before you make a decision.

What other questions/suggestions do you have about hiring editors?

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