Do I need an editor if I’m self-publishing my book?
An editor can do a lot of things for your book. They can help you make sure the story arc is as powerful and poignant as you hope it would be. They can help you develop characters, plots, and subplots. They can help you make sure your voice is consistent throughout the book. They can also help you check facts, clean up grammatical errors, and ensure your book is free of typos and formatting mistakes.
We believe working with an editor is always a good investment in your manuscript. You’ve spent so much time and effort on the writing process, having someone else look at your work and make it shine is absolutely worth the time and cost. Imagine the feeling of printing your book only to find it riddled with typos or a dead subplot!
No matter how experienced you are as a writer, a good editor can help make your book stronger.
What does an editor do?
There are three main types of editing:
- Developmental editing: Developmental editors look at your book and its parts as a whole. Do your plot and subplots make sense? Are your characters consistent? If you write nonfiction, are your arguments sound? Have you provided sufficient evidence or done enough research?
- Copyediting: Copy editors fix grammatical and punctuation errors and clean up sentence mechanics.
- Proofreading: Proofreading is the last stage of the editing process. The goal is to catch any remaining typos or grammatical mistakes, sneaky formatting issues, and minor errors introduced in the previous editing stages.
Some editors will do all of the above, but not all. Some will do only a developmental edit, and others will do a copy edit and a proofread. As you interview editors, ask what types of editing they conduct and ask to see samples of each. Be sure to ask their references about this as well.
Whatever type, or types, of editing you agree on, be sure to put it in your contract.
Other types of book editing
- Editorial review/assessment: This is a review of your manuscript by an editor, typically in its very early stages, maybe even before a first draft is complete. The goal is to get initial feedback and a few ideas for improvement, expansion, or further research.
- Fact-checking: Some books, especially works of nonfiction, benefit from fact-checking. A fact-checker will confirm facts like dates and names, and larger things as well, like historical events, data, and arguments.
What is line editing?
As you look for the right editor for your book, you may also hear the term line editing.
Line editing involves finessing the language of your book. Are your sentences fluid and poetic? Do they convey the voice and tone you want them to? This is a kind of edit that falls somewhere between developmental and copyediting. Sometimes developmental editors or copy editors will do a line edit as well; if this is what you’re looking for, include it in your editor interviews, and don’t forget to include it in your final contract.
8 tips for picking the right book editor for you
1. Prepare to introduce yourself and your project
Before you start interviewing editors, prep an intro packet for you and your project. This should include the genre of your manuscript and its length, the type of editing you want (or think you want—an editor can help you figure this out if you’re stuck), a short excerpt, and the work’s title, plus information about you and your goals for the project.
Do not expect a freelance editor to read your entire manuscript before you enter into a contract. Send them a few pages or a short chapter to give them a sense of your writing style and the scope of the project.
This will help the editor decide whether the project is in their wheelhouse and give you an estimate of how long it will take and/or how many rounds of editing the manuscript needs.
2. Look for an editor with genre and subject matter expertise
If you’re a novelist, look for an editor experienced in editing works of fiction. If you write true crime, look for an editor with similar projects in their portfolio, plus fact-checking skills. They should be able to provide relevant samples and references for the type of project you’re working on (more on that below).
There is an editor out there for everyone, no matter how niche your topic is, so don’t be afraid to shop around.
3. Get on the phone or on Zoom
Get your editor on the phone or on Zoom or meet them for a coffee. Meeting with them will give you an idea of whether you can work easily with this person, whether they understand your project, and whether your communication styles align.
Prepare questions in advance and be ready to field theirs as well.
4. Ask to see samples
Book editors should be able to show you samples of their work. This will likely be a before-and-after sample of writing, with their edits tracked.
5. Ask for references
Just like an editor should have samples of their work, they should also have a list of clients they’ve worked with who are willing to provide a reference.
When you contact these references, ask not just about their overall satisfaction with the editor’s work, but also with the details, like the timeline and communication cadence.
6. Discuss and agree on a workflow
How you will work with an editor is important. What will the schedule be? For example, some editors will work on three chapters at a time, pass them back to the writer for edits, then begin on the next three.
What program will you use to share edits? If the editor works in Microsoft Word but you don’t have the program or are unfamiliar with it, that may need to be negotiated or you might need to pursue a little training on your own.
How many rounds of revision will take place? Maybe you planned on doing only one but your editor has recommended at least two passes.
The how of the editing process is so important to get the experience right, so have this discussion before you sign a contract and start editing.
7. Draw up a contract
The contract with your editor should include all the details: the length of the manuscript, the type of editing to be done, the number of revision rounds, the editing schedule—including revision due dates and any meetings necessary—and the terms of payment (including how you will pay the editor; i.e., via Paypal, Zelle, or check, etc.).
If you and your editor sign the contract digitally, use a third-party service like DocuSign or RightSignature, which will store the documents and signatures and legally guarantee their authenticity.
8. Hold up your end of the deal
Stick to the schedule. Your editor has other clients and work, and they’re counting on you to hold up your end of the deal. Falling behind on your own due dates can put the entire project behind schedule.
Where can I find a freelance editor for my book?
There are many places you can find an editor for your manuscript, including professional editing organizations, online databases, and on social media.
- American Copy Editors Society (ACES): ACES is an organization of professional editors. On their site, you can post an ad on their job board or search their database of editors for hire and contact them yourself.
- Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA): Like ACES, the EFA is a professional editorial organization where you can post jobs and search their editor database.
- NY Book Editors: NY Book Editors is a small collective of carefully vetted professional editors who have worked with major publishing houses. Not only will they help you determine what level of editing your manuscript needs, but the group will also match you to an editor that best suits your project.
- National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE): NAIWE is a professional editorial organization. On their site, you can find a book editor by filtering for factors like years of experience, skills, location, and even a style guide.
- Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP): This is an editorial organization and standard-setter in the UK. You can use their searchable directory to find the right editorial match for your project. Keep in mind that these editors will likely specialize in UK styles.
- Reedsy: Reedsy is a database of vetted book editors. You can search their library of names or post a request for an editor with specific expertise and experience.
- Fiverr and Upwork: Freelance sites Fiverr and Upwork let you easily search and query editors. Keep in mind, though, that these sites charge a fee (sometimes to you, sometimes to the editor, sometimes both), and these professionals aren’t vetted.
- Instagram and TikTok: Use the hashtags #bookeditor and #editorsofinstagram. If you’re looking for an editor with experience in a specific genre, like romance, try #romanceeditor.
- Facebook: There are groups of book editors you can query, or ask for recommendations from independent writer collectives on the site.
- Ask for a referral: Ask your writer friends who they’ve worked with or if they know of anyone who’s been happy with their editor.
How much does it cost to hire a book editor?
The cost of hiring an independent editor depends on a few factors:
- The length of your manuscript: The longer the manuscript, the higher the cost.
- The subject matter: A modern-day young adult novel will cost less to edit than a researched book on the history of ecological conservation in the Mississippi Delta.
- Your timeline: If you want an editor to rush the project, you will likely have to pay for that rush. Don’t be afraid to go slowly through the editing process—you’ll be glad you took your time, and so will your readers.
- Your editor’s experience: An editor with two years of experience will cost less to hire than one with ten years of experience. But don’t be afraid of novice editors—many are highly skilled and will give your manuscript the careful attention it deserves. Just be sure to get samples and check their references.
- The type of edit: Because it takes more work, developmental editing will cost more than copyediting, which will cost more than proofreading.
The estimated cost of hiring a book editor
The cost of hiring a book editor can vary widely, and everyone structures their rates differently: by the word, by the page, by the hour, etc.
The cost of hiring an editor, according to Bookbaby’s rate sheet:
- Line editing: $10.00 per page
- Copyediting: $7.00 per page
- Proofreading: $3.00 per page
The cost of hiring an editor, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association rate sheet:
|Fiction||$36–$40 per hour||$0.02–$0.29 per word||7–10 pages per hour|
|Nonfiction||$41–$45 per hour||$0.03–$0.39 per word||4–6 pages per hour|
|Business/sales||$46–$50 per hour||$0.04–$0.49 per word||4–6 pages per hour|
|Medical/STEM||$46–$50 per hour||$.04–$0.49 per word||4–6 pages per hour|
Developmental editing rates
|Fiction||$46–$50 per hour||$0.03–$0.39 per word||4–6 pages per hour|
|Nonfiction||$51–$60 per hour||$0.04–$0.49 per word||4–6 pages per hour|
|Business/sales||$51–$60 per hour||$0.07–$0.79 per word||4–6 pages per hour|
|Medical/STEM||$61–$70 per hour||$0.06–$0.69 per word||1–3 pages per hour|
|Fiction||$31–$35 per hour||$0.02–$0.29 per word||11–15 pages per hour|
|Nonfiction||$36–$40 per hour||$0.02–$0.29 per word||7–10 pages per hour|
|Business/sales||$41–$45 per hour||$0.04–$0.49 per word||7–10 pages per hour|
|Medical/STEM||$41–$45 per hour||$0.03–$0.39 per word||4–6 pages per hour|