Costs, Estimates, and Agreements

Naturally, you want to know how much it’s going to cost. Here’s how I work:

the process

For starters, I’ll want to read what you have now. Preferably, I will skim your whole manuscript, reading sample sections in depth. If you don’t have a completed manuscript yet, then a segment will do. We’ll follow that with a phone or email chat to discuss your needs and goals. There’s no charge until we have a firm agreement and I start work.

my rates

I charge $40 (U.S.) per hour for most editing jobs with a nonurgent deadline (usually four weeks for the average book-length project).

Expedited editing is $55 per hour. This would be for projects with an immediate turn-around (also known as stay-up-to-all-hours-to-meet-the-deadline).

My hourly rate is the same no matter how many skills I employ. I find that many editing projects take a bit of everything — developmental, line, and copy editing — so a consistent rate is most fair to you.

I always keep track of my time and only charge you for the hours actually worked. Sometimes a project comes in under estimate — it happens! But it won’t go over the “not to exceed” limit that we’ve agreed to.

editing estimates depend on what’s needed

How many hours will it take? That depends on two factors: length and what your manuscript needs. Each writer’s skill varies, and every manuscript is unique.

A light copy edit on a well-written draft that doesn’t need structural work typically turns 2000-2500 words per hour; in this case a 62,500-word manuscript (250 editorial pages) might run as low as $1000. A heavy edit on a draft that needs more will take more time, and might turn about 750 words per hour. A heavily edited 62,500-word manuscript would cost around $3000. Most projects are somewhere in between.

A developmental edit takes a different route, shaped by what you want and what best serves your writing. First I read your entire manuscript to see exactly what is and isn’t working. Then I have a few tricks up my (ink-stained) sleeve:

I can write you a detailed diagnostic report that tackles narrative problems through helpful, kind critique. If there’s a structural issue, I might boil down the manuscript to its bones to see exactly where elements are missing or out of alignment, and suggest how to fix it. In fiction, problems in characterizations can be uncovered by examining backstory, arcs, and agency, while plot problems might be seen through the lens of internal story coherence and momentum. A diagnostic report is the big picture analysis. It’s quite reasonably priced, depending on the length and complexity of your original manuscript.

Another alternative for developmental editing: I can “give notes” line by line throughout the text, with specific, granular questions, insights, and suggestions. That typical 62,500-word manuscript could end up with a couple hundred comments as well as line edits, trims, and rearranged text.

There’s also a hybrid option: a diagnostic report on just one section (such as the opening or ending) or a troublesome character arc that’s not working, plus specific comments throughout the text. I can include a line edit as part of this project.

letter of agreement

Once we decide on the scope of work that best suits you and your manuscript, I’ll write a letter of agreement that sets down our understanding, my estimate, and clarifies a few legal matters, such as who is the sole author and copyright holder (you). Click here for a sample letter of agreement.

how to lower the cost

The more you can do yourself to make your manuscript clean and well-organized, the faster editing will go, and the less expensive it will be. Fewer comments allow a lower bill too, so in a copy or line edit you can direct me to keep notes to a minimum (the “just do it” approach). Conversely, if you want an explanation for each change in order to improve your own writing skills, that takes time.

In the U.S. editing services are tax deductible if you file a schedule C as an author. Academics and other experts may also deduct professional expenses, similar to research costs. Check with your tax pro. Meanwhile, academics might look at their school’s professional development grants — the university pays me directly for your editing job.

coaching process

Don’t yet have a manuscript to show? You can, and soon. Let’s discuss the nature of your project and how I can help you bring it to life. Here too, I charge $40 per hour after the initial free consultation. Clients usually purchase ten hours in advance and we work in person, by phone, and/or email. Once you have pages to work with, we can blend coaching with editorial development.

keeping costs in perspective

Quality editing is not cheap. (Do you want cheap editing?)

Quality editing is an investment in your career, and in your life’s hopes. Your writing represents you in the world: you want to look brilliant and communicate clearly. Creative writers must, in addition, sparkle with flair and visible talent. Fine editing can do that for you.

Just for fun, compare what you pay per hour for other highly trained professionals. These are actual going rates in my area: auto mechanics $120/hour, plumbers $140/hour, electricians $125/hour, computer repair techs $80/hour, lawyers $250-400/hour, marriage therapists $100-200/hour, psychic readers $100/hour… As you can see, $40 an hour for an experienced editor is a bargain (and might save you from the marriage counselor).