Random Thoughts

To Edit, or not to Edit

[tagline]Or, why are editing services so expensive.[/tagline]

One of the topics of conversation doing the rounds on various blogs, usually asked by first time or emerging writers is, ‘why is editing a book so expensive?‘ Usually indicating they are, in all likelihood, going to (a) self-publish and (b) not have their work edited or, at the very least, not edited by a professional.

By profession, I mean someone who would take between (on average) 60-100 hours, and yes, sometimes more, to edit a 100,000 word manuscript. No, it doesn’t come cheap. And here’s why; an editor doesn’t read your book once. They don’t even read it twice or three times. They read it several times. They read it forwards, backwards (if they’re doing their job right) and slowly. It is an extremely time-consuming occupation, and even at its most basic, the editor is reading at a measured pace, taking notes, making suggestions, and appending either onscreen, or on a printed copy.

It all takes time. And, as everyone knows, time is money. 

Each stage of editing takes time, you can go into depth and detail, or simply address just the mechanics of your MS. A copy editor and a proofreader do a similar job, and whereas a proofreader is concentrating on consistency, they still have to go over each and every word, each and every page, and each and every chapter, not once, but a number of time. While the copy editor’s task is made all the more complicated by not only doing the above, but checking flow, spelling, grammar, and what can take a sentence from being so-so, to better, to great, all the while considering pacing, voice, and storytelling.

Go even deeper, and you are into developmental and structural editing. This is small detail big picture editing, looking at in-depth characterisation, pacing, flow, and yes, plotting. It’s nitty-gritty nuts and bolts, fine tooth comb analysis on an level known as anal. 

If you still want your friend down the road to do the job, after all, she is a teacher. Then you’ll get exactly what you pay for. But if you are serious about your craft and what you write, looking to build a body of work, and, along the way, a reputation, then you have to give serious consideration to having at least one level of editor look through your work before it goes to an agent/editor, or more, directly into print.


Check out what the CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) says about editing. You can also look up freelance professionals on EAC (the Editors’ Association of Canada) or the American equivalent, EFA (the Editorial Freelancers Association) for how long each stage of editing might take, and, on average, how much it might cost. 

2 comments on “To Edit, or not to Edit

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    Beware Of The Reader

    I absolutely love this post Alexandra and will send it to my friend who wrote her first novel! As you said it takes multiple times of reading rereading, taking notes, making suggestions, sometimes rewriting a scene or adding to a character! That’s what I tried to do for her unfortunately I could not do all her book several times as I have another job but yes, it takes hours upon hours! The most difficult (that I found) when you feel there is a scene or chapter that does not work well but you can’t put your finger on why! By the end I usually find what the problem as but as I am not a trained professional, just a passionate reader and beta reader, it takes me so much time!

    • Alex

      Thank you, Sophie. I know that you, as a business professional will understand the effort that goes into what seems to be straightforward and, by some, simple. It never is. Reading and appending notes to any kind of document, whether a novel, or business manual, takes lots of time.

      A really good novel will have had several passes over by various levels of editor in order to help tighten the prose, and make sure all the nuts and bolts are in place. Each of these different editors put in 50-60 hours minimum, which is why the whole process can take several months to complete.

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