How to Save Money on Professional Editing

Sophie Playle

It’s no secret that, sadly, being an author often isn’t the most lucrative career choice, and if you’re at the start of your writing career, funds can be tight.

Even if you are rolling in money, no one wants to pay more than they need to for a service …

Hiring an editor can be expensive (and rightly so), but luckily there are ways you can save money in this area.

How editors set their rates

First, it’s useful to understand how editors set their rates. An editor’s fee is often based on the following:

  • Type of service (proofreading, copy-editing, development editing …)
  • Word count
  • Shape of the manuscript
  • Working speed of the editor

Some editors will always charge a flat fee no matter what. And that’s fine – it works for them, and everyone knows exactly what to expect in terms of money. (E.g. £17 per thousand words.)

However, some editors use several factors to give you a tailored fee. This is why editors have those dreaded lines on their websites: Get in touch for your personal quote!

This isn’t a sales trick. They’re not just trying to get you in the door to give you the hard sell. Well, maybe they are, but there’s also another reason for this way of pricing: you can’t control what service your manuscript needs. You might decide to go for just the proofread when your manuscript really needs a development edit, and that’s your prerogative, but when it comes to quoting for a service, an editor needs to know how complex the task is likely to be.

Different editorial services will be priced differently, so if you want you manuscript to be edited in the way that it needs to be edited, it’s best to follow the advice of your editor. You also can’t really control the word count of your manuscript. You’ve written it to the length it needs to be.

You can’t control the working speed of the editor. (Though hopefully you won’t hire an editor who is painfully slow, nor one who’s suspiciously fast …)

What you can control

So, you might not be able to control what editorial service your manuscript needs (even though you could decide to overrule the advice of an editor). You can’t control your novel’s word count, and you can’t control how fast your editor works. What can you do to influence the criteria editors use to set their fees?

You can control whether your manuscript is in a decent shape.

To a degree.

The more time and care you take in revising your manuscript to the best of your ability, the less work your editor will have to do, and the lower the fee will be.

This means:

  • Making sure your novel’s concept is strong
  • Having an effective beginning, middle and end
  • Ensuring your narrative mode and point of view is consistent
  • Formatting dialogue correctly
  • Using correct formatting in Word (e.g. paragraph indents and not multiple spaces)
  • Running a spell check

So when you see an editor asking for details and a sample of your work before they tell you their fees, one of the reasons is probably because they’re trying to give you a fair quote.

And the better shape your manuscript is in, the less time it will take your editor to edit it, and the lower the fee will be.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more:

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