Behind Freelance Book Editing Rates

Mystery often surrounds money in our society.  I’ve resolved to clear up some of that mystery in my own life–hence, adding blogs like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly to my Feedly and integrating some strategies from the personal finance classic Your Life Or Your Money into my life.

My new interest sparked an idea for a blog post–exploring the ins and outs of freelance book editing rates.

"That's what I want"

Often thought about, less often discussed.

How are they formulated?  How much weight should writers give to rates when deciding between editors?  Are there any industry standards?

My Book Editing Rates

First, I thought I’d share some of my own history with book editing rates.

When I first began editing manuscripts, I was mostly concerned with putting food on the table, paying rent, buying health insurance, etc.  I also wanted to get the word out that I was available to do this work. I based my rates on the need to cover my fundamentals and to attract clients.  The rates were fairly low, and I knew it.

As time passed, I noticed I was working a lot.  At first, I worked whenever I had work and waited for a natural lull to rejuvenate.  But the lulls grew further and further apart.

My new best friend, helping me out all the time with my rates.

My new best friend, helping me out all the time with my rates.

I recognized that I needed to become better at estimating how long each book editing project would take.  Soon I had a more accurate view of the duration of each project.  Around the same time, my stream of clients grew steadier.  I then realized that I needed to calculate rates in a more logical manner and that now I had the tools to do so.

These days, when someone comes to me with a project, I estimate the number of days it will take me to do and base my rate on my monthly income goal.  I also try to keep my rates in line with industry averages.  One good resource to find out what these are is at  Every once in awhile I search online for editors like myself and check to make sure my rates are in the same neighborhood.  I do deviate from my normal rates for rushes (raising them).  And sometimes I lower them for former clients who came in at old rates, friends, and those who are willing to put up with long or not-completely-certain delivery times.

When Evaluating Book Editing Rates, You Might Want to Ask . . .

Here are some questions to ask (yourself or the editor) before deciding on an editor.  Not everything about book editing rates is black and white; hopefully these questions will bring out some of the nuances lying behind the dollar figure.

–Can you afford to have your book edited?  This might seem basic, but I have had clients who had major delays paying, making me wonder if they should have sought out the service.
–How much experience does the book editor have?  More experienced editors could have stronger skills and a more smoothly running business.  If they charge more, their services might be worth it.  But someone with less experience who is enthusiastic about books and hungry to grow as an editor could be a good bargain.  Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals and see what their clients say!
–Do they edit books full time or part time?  People who freelance edit as a part-time gig can charge lower–but it also might mean they can’t give your work the focus it deserves.
–Does the editor have a special expertise in the your genre? One of my areas of specialty is young adult.  (I write it and am a fan.  I freelance edit young adult for a major publishing house.) Many of my clients write young adult. My familiarity and experience might make it worth paying more than for an editor who specializes in another genre.
–Does the editor offer samples?  Finally, I always recommend that if people are unsure about what editor to go with, they ask for a sample.  I offer a sample editorial letter, and for a fee, do a sample line-edit.  Actually seeing the editor’s work might tip the scales and lead you to confidently make a final decision.


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