By: Katherine Pickett (C.S. Lakin / Live, Write, Thrive)
Finished that novel? Time to get it edited by a professional? For the uninitiated, it is not unusual to experience a bit of sticker shock upon receiving a cost estimate from a potential editor. As the author, you may wonder how this person came up with the astronomical figure you are now contemplating paying. It may seem mysterious, but it’s really a simple formula:
amount of work × rate of pay = the cost of editing
Different editors may charge by the hour, by the word, by the page, or a flat fee. However, all of these metrics translate into an estimate of how much work will be required of them. The other variable in the equation—rate of pay—is based on the service requested and the editor’s level of expertise.
Amount of work
You might come across articles or posts that give an average cost of editing a novel, but keep in mind, there are numerous factors that affect that cost. Length, complexity, schedule, and depth of edit each play a part in determining how much work a particular manuscript will demand.
- Very long manuscripts, even the well-written ones, take a lot of time to read and edit.
- Very complex manuscripts, such as those with a significant number of references or large amounts of artwork, take a lot of time and even more brain power to keep the details straight.
- Short deadlines mean the editor may have to put other projects aside and work nights and weekends to finish on time.
- A stiff developmental edit, which covers high-level issues such as thematic strengths and weaknesses, consistency of characters and plot lines, and organization of the book as a whole, requires vision, attention to detail, and an impeccable ability to work with authors at their most vulnerable.
An editor assesses these factors to estimate the amount of effort it will take to complete the project on time and with the highest quality. Cost estimates based on word count, page count, or a flat fee all attempt to capture this amount of work. Pay by the hour is easiest for most people to understand, and often these other metrics come down to how much of the editor’s time a project will take.
Rate of pay
Two main factors influence rate of pay . . .
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