Fiction Editing Rates: How Freelance Editors Price Their Projects
How much should you be paying a freelance editor for their work?
You can imagine the scenario. You’re sitting across the table from the person who could be your creative companion for the next few months. You’ve just had a really good conversation, and you can tell that they know their stuff and are really interested in your project. This could work out, you think. There’s just one last thing to consider … “How much would it cost?” you ask.
How do you know what a reasonable offer is? If it seems like more than you expected, how can you be sure that you aren’t being taken advantage of? If it’s less than you expected, are you going to get cheap or substandard work? If you’re going to sign a freelance contract with confidence, you should be aware of industry and freelance prices across the board. That way, if the number that comes back at you is unexpected, you can ask informed questions and even haggle a bit to get it closer to current rates.
What Are Freelance Editors Being Paid Across The Board?
Before you go in for that initial consultation with your freelance editor, do some research about what base rates of pay are in that industry for both independent contractors and in-house employees. The Editorial Freelance Association (EFA) has a handy page on editorial rates available. Here is part of the table they’ve put together to estimate both pace and cost of editing. It uses a pgs/hr formula which many freelance editors also utilize when calculating the price of a project:
This cheat sheet from 2015 offers another breakdown, courtesy of the Writer’s Market. They suggest paying freelancer editors of varying categories as follows:
- Business editing: $72/hour
- Copyediting for businesses: $61/hour
- Newsletter editing: $63/hour
- Copyediting of corporate periodicals: $70/hour
- Content [or developmental] editing: $50/hour
- Copyediting: $34/hour
- Anthology editing: $52/hour
- Copyediting: $58/hour
You’ll notice that editing services in the book publishing industry are located at the mid-to-low end of this spectrum. It’s also important to note that freelancers will adjust for inflation as they go, so what was base rate in 2015 may not be identical in 2017 or 2018.
So How Does That Translate Into A Real Life Quote?
This information is helpful in the abstract, but how can we use it to better understand exactly what a freelance editor might charge for a project? Let’s use the two lists above to estimate the base price for a developmental edit of a 300-page manuscript. We’ll say it takes this editor about one hour to edit seven pages, and charges $50 an hour.
300 pgs / 7 = 42.85 (rounded to 43) segments of 7 pgs, which means that 43 x $50 = $2,150 base price.
The specifics will change from editor to editor, and these are all merely estimates. Some might take longer to read a manuscript with a rate of 3–5 pgs/hr, while some might only charge $40/hr. Things like experience and project complexity can also influence price. Additionally, the base price doesn’t usually cover things like meetings, phone calls, emails, market research, and the like. However, this example will give you a basic idea about how editors come up with pricing based on current rates.
If this estimate surprises you, that’s understandable. Often the expectation is that if someone is freelance they are automatically the most inexpensive option. This is certainly not the case. If you’re simply looking for the cheapest option, there are other options out there. Volunteer beta readers, online editing communities, or a good friend can edit your book for dirt cheap.
A good freelance editor, however, will be offering you results based on years of experience, study, and honed skills. Trained editors combine artistry with industry knowledge in a way that can effectively improve any project. They will know their worth, and will also be worth it.