How Much Does Editing Cost? Average Rates for Copyediting

After writing ‘the end’ on their final version, many authors ask themselves ‘How much does editing cost?’ While the hard costs can run into the thousands, the cost of not using an editor is much greater. 

Most readers want to get lost in a good fiction book and escape reality for a while or delve into a great non-fiction book to learn something new. If a book flows cohesively and is engaging without being confusing, you will probably gain a new reader for all your future books.

Conversely, when a reader struggles, you will lose and fan and likely incur a bad review.

Four Reasons That Lead to Bad Reviews Online

1. Unmet Expectations 

When you set expectations too high, people are easily disappointed and sometimes more likely to rage or anger. They’re let down and feel like they have wasted their time. 

This usually is caused by a description that was unclear or misleading, perhaps over-promising and under-delivering. This is especially true for non-fiction books.

2. Spelling and Grammatical Errors

This one is fairly obvious. Mind you, it can be very difficult, even with a professional editor and multiple beta readers to catch every single instance but, of course, you need to try your best to ensure your book is error free.

3. Poor Research 

This one is especially true for non-fiction books and for fiction books in a historical setting. Sometimes, no matter your best intentions, a reader will find details in your story that are inaccurate. If you make the commitment to writing a period piece, be willing and able to put in the work of researching the facts.

4. Inconsistency in The Characters and Awkward Pacing

From chapter to chapter, and from book to book within a series, both the characters and pacing of the timeline must remain consistent to guard against bad reviews.

The good news is that all of these things that interrupt the flow of the book and drive the reader up the wall can be mostly overcome by using a professional editor.

Become Part of Our Free Facebook Community

Our supportive online tribe is the best place to connect with other indie authors just like you. Come and share your success and help overcome your challenges to find more readers for your books.

Can Beta Readers Replace Editors?

Beta readers are invaluable to provide objective feedback on your draft manuscript. Choosing several beta readers will give you a wide array of changes or corrections to consider, making your story more interesting, readable, or accurate. Beta readers look over your draft to review the flow and cohesiveness, checking for plot holes, consistent characterization and spelling, and grammar issues. Beta readers are usually not writers and are often unpaid reviewers.

While your beta readers can, and do, catch many of the obstacles that lead to bad reviews nothing beats the impartial eye of a professional editor. 

Of course, cover design and editing will be your 2 biggest expenditures. But the good news is that there are different types of editors available to meet all needs and budgets.

How Much Does an Editor Change A Book?

Understandably, as an author, you don’t want to lose control over your writing or have it criticized unduly. However, a good editor should understand that vulnerability and work with you to help you make your final draft the best version of your story.

In addition, as the author, you have the final say in whether to accept any advice, constructive criticism or changes the editor suggests.

How Much Does a Developmental Editor Cost?

The second biggest concern, after how much editing costs, is how much does the editor change a book. The term “editor” can be very confusing without adding a qualifier to determine the type of editing you require. There are several different types of editors, and the amount of changes they make varies greatly as the summaries below illustrate.

If you want to self-publish then beta readers, proofreaders and copy editors are the minimum editors that you require.

Writers are passionate people; it's too hard to emotionally distance yourself to read your own work objectively.  

Proofreaders - Proofreaders are necessary to fix errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and word choice. They also catch continuity problems, ensure adherence to design, check for consistency and accuracy in various elements, such as cross-references and captions. They also look for awkward phrasing, repetition, clichés and weak language. Proofreading takes place after editing; there is no point paying someone to proofread sections that later may be changed or removed by the copy editor. It is not a substitute for editing. Your copywriter will probably be able to do proofreading to save you both time and money.

Copy Editors - Once you are confident your content is sound it’s time to hire a copy editor. Copy editors typically also do proofreading, fact-checking, stylistic and structural editing to ensure accuracy, consistency, completeness, and correctness. They check for:

  • Editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage.
  • Checking for consistency and continuity of mechanics and facts, including anachronisms, character names, and relationships.
  • Editing tables, figures, and lists.
  • Notifying designers of any unusual production requirements.
  • Developing a style sheet or following one that is provided.
  • Correcting or querying general information that should be checked for accuracy.
  • May also include marking levels of headings and the approximate placement of art.
  • Localizing content to match the market.
  • Converting measurements.
  • Providing or changing the system of citations.
  • Editing indexes.
  • Checking front matter, back matter, and cover copy.
  • Checking web links.

What if You Need More than Basic Editing?

Some writers need a little more help polishing the final version before publishing, and that’s where advanced editors come in to play. For instance, the structural or developmental editor can assist with writing original material; revising, reordering, cutting or expanding ideas; determining whether permissions are necessary for third-party data; recasting information that would be better presented in another form, or revising material for a different medium (such as revising print copy for web copy); and clarifying plot, characterization, or thematic elements.

Structural vs Stylistic Editors

Structural Editor (developmental or substantive editor) - If you aren’t completely confident about your content, consider hiring a structural editor to improve your material organization and suggest or draft content changes. This person deals with the overall impact of your manuscript.

  • Does it make sense?
  • Is everything in the right order?
  • If it’s a novel, is the plot plausible and are the characters believable?
  • How is the pacing?
  • If it’s non-fiction, have you gone into the right level of detail?
  • Is your voice compelling?
  • Do you require more footnotes or references?

Stylistic Editor - Editing to clarify the meaning, ensure coherence and flow, and refine the language. It includes:

  • Eliminating jargon, cliches, and euphemisms.
  • Establishing or maintaining the language level appropriate for the intended audience, medium, and purpose.
  • Adjusting the length and structure of sentences and paragraphs.
  • Establishing or maintaining tone, mood, style, and authorial voice or level of formality.

Watch a Professional Editor Explain Tone in Writing

In fact, here is a great video by an editor and writer about how tone or even changing a few key words can completely change a sentence.


Before committing to an editor, I strongly recommend that you ask for, a sample edit of a short piece of work or a chapter from your novel. This test edit lowers your risk before contracting to have your entire book edited. You will tell quickly whether their style matches your own and if the quality is up to your standards.

Upwork Editors 

Upwork editors are independent contractors, therefore they set their own rates, typically ranging from $35–$80 hour USD. Ask the editor how many pages per hour they can edit, then extrapolate their per-word rate. However, if the $80/hr editor is considerably more experienced and faster, they may actually work out to be less expensive than a $50/hr editor. 

Scribendi Editors 

With Scribendi you can select the number of words and time frame for completion to get an instant quote, with prices ranging from 0.0185 cents per word to .0326 cents per word or more depending on the number of words and how quickly you need it completed. The best value will be for the greatest volume of words, with the longest lead time. For example:

  • 35,000 words completed in 72 hours = $1140.36 USD (.0326/word)
  • 35,000 words completed in 1 week = $1097.75 USD (0.314/word)
  • 115,000 words completed in 3 weeks = $2132.16 USD (0.0185/word)

Editorial Freelancers Association

The EFA is the largest and oldest national professional organization of editorial freelancers, and you can get an immediate quote. 

For a 70,000-word book, your editing costs could be:

  • Developmental editing: $.08 per word, or $5,600 total USD
  • Basic copy editing: $.018 per word, or $1,260 total USD
  • Proofreading: $.0113, or $791 total USD

For a 120,000-word book, your editing costs could be:

  • Developmental editing: $.08 per word, or $9,600 total USD
  • Basic copy editing: $.018 per word, or $2,160 total USD
  • Proofreading: $.0113, or $1,356 total USD

Key Take-Aways

While these prices are for budgetary purposes only you will now have a good idea of how much editing costs, so when you are shopping around for an editor you can tell if their quotations are reasonable.

Above all, having your book professionally edited is one of the crucial elements to success as an indie author. To access everything you need to know about successful self-publishing, click here.

About the author

Denis Caron

I help you feel less overwhelmed with marketing your book so you can build a loyal fanbase who will enjoy and appreciate your books.