I’ve been dreading this post for a while now, mostly because we authors get confused about the different types of editing and we’re over protective of our work. However, as self-published authors we need to be aware not only the different types of editing, but the process, the potential costs, and whether or not we should trust someone with our proverbial baby (translation: manuscript). I have been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people, it is because of them that I write this post.
The job of editor is a thankless task. I cannot say that often enough. Editors take our hard work and rip it to shreds. They don’t do this because they are frustrated authors, although I know many editors who are authors, they do this because they love reading. To an editor there is nothing worse than reading a book that has not been edited, in any form, it makes them cry. Well maybe not really cry, but emotionally it tears them apart. Even worse, they fight with an author to make them see reason with regards to their critiques (yes, I am guilty on this count).
Types of Editing:
Developmental Edit – This is the edit that looks for developmental issues in the whole story (makes sense right?). It is not about correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. It is the edit that looks for continuity errors, POV issues, character development, showing vs. telling, dialogue issues, flow, and other problems. This is the edit that helps an author smooth out trouble spots to create a coherent, readable work. The cost for this type of edit will vary greatly from editor to editor. According to the EFA it should run between $45 to $55 per hour. Do an online search and you’ll find that the cost is typically $.03 to $.04 cents per word ($2820 to $3760 for a 94,000-word manuscript like Golden Opportunity).
Substantive Edit – Some editors use this type of editing as a synonym for developmental editing. However, they are actually two very different things. This type of edit is for a work that may have some scene or plot issues, but is actually fairly well-polished. This type of edit will focus on tweaking, reordering, cutting, and rewriting areas that are not working as well as they should. Costs should be between $40 to $60 per hour, or $.02 to $.04 cents per word ($1880 to $3760 for a 94,000-word novel).
Line Edit/Style Edit – The editor goes through the manuscript line by line finding weak language, passive voice, repetition, overused words, etc. This edit focuses on paragraph structure, sentence flow, and word usage, but not grammar and punctuation. It is used to improve paragraphs and sentences. Typical costs for line edits vary but should run between $40 to $60 per hour, or $.01 to $.03 cents per word ($940 to $2820 for 94,000 words).
Copy Edit – Spelling, grammar, word usage, style, syntax, and structure are all fair game during this type of edit. This edit will look for consistency issues, like a character’s physical description changing, making sure there are no obvious errors such as dialogue taking place one place and then having it shift mid-stream to another. Rates are similar to a line edit; in fact, many editors use both interchangeably when discussing the services provided. Cost should run $30 to $50 per hour, or $.01 to $.03 cents per word ($940 to $2820 for 94,000 words).
Proofreading – This is the final run through of a completely revised manuscript and is usually done after final editing. This will catch any mistakes in spelling or punctuation that slipped past the author and the editor and is done prior to publication. Costs will run $30 to $35 per hour, or $.005 to $.015 per word ($470 to $1410 for 94,000 words).
Scary isn’t it? If you think you need all those edits and you have a 94,000-word novel (like me), you’re going to look at a minimum cost of $7050 ($2820 + $1880 + $940 + $940 + $470), but you don’t need all of those edits at the same time. If you have a good group of beta readers and you trust their judgement you’ve taken care of developmental edit if you actually make the suggested changes. That’s a $2820 savings, if you trust your beta reader crew like I do. As for the rest. At the very minimum, you need copy/line edits if you have a limited budget. As for proofreading, no manuscript should ever be published without it! Spend the extra money and have it proofread before you publish.
I know a few editors that I trust implicitly with my work. The first is Candace Kuhn, she’s an excellent editor and brutally honest, something that I respect greatly. The other is a novice editor, who is in school and trying to expand her portfolio. You can contact her via twitter because she does not have a professional website yet. I let her have a crack at Golden Opportunity and I did not regret it. Her name is Rachel Lapidow, tell her I sent you (she knows me as Vicki), her twitter handle is @RachelLapidow.
I hope you found this little post interesting. If you guys happen to have any editors that you feel deserve recognition, let me know and I’ll add them. Make sure to include a website so I can link to it.
V. L. Cooke