How Much Does Developmental Editing Cost?

The editing process can be complex and time-consuming. Not only do you need to find a developmental editor that you trust with your book, but you also need to find a developmental editor that can work within your budget.

Most writers begin the search for editorial services by considering the suitability of the book editor, but cost can't be ignored. Though good editorial services are an essential part of the publication process, they must be provided at a price that makes sense for you and your book. In fact, the overall developmental editing costs might be the determining factor in how you decide to publish your book.

Let's face it, there's nothing more frustrating than finding a good book editor, only to discover the developmental editing costs are beyond your budget.

So, what is developmental editing, what will it cost and why is it so important?

What is Developmental Editing?

Editing is the process in which a manuscript is assessed for wider structural issues and plot holes. The editor will read the manuscript and look to make suggestions to lift the story to the next level.

The editor will be looking for several potential problems. The most common of these include:

  • Issues with the plot.
  • Character development.
  • Structural issues.
  • Issues with the narrative and viewpoint.
  • Genre expectations.

These are just a few of the key issues that an editor will assess. Each manuscript is different, and each manuscript will require an intelligent and comprehensive assessment from an editor.

The result of editing is a manuscript that contains both tracked changes and embedded comments. There will also be a separate editor's report that will outline the key problems and the suggestions that can be made to resolve these problems.

Editing is a time-consuming process, and the turnaround time is normally measured in weeks and months, not days. However, the final product can transform a good novel into a great novel.

You can read a more detailed description of what is included in developmental editing here.

Types of Pricing

Editing costs can be difficult to understand. In fact, it sometimes seems that book editors are intentionally making editing costs difficult to understand. We've all seen those sites that ask you to add your email before they are prepared to share their editing costs...

There are three types of pricing for editing:

  • Price per page.
  • Price per hour.
  • Price per 1000-words (or word count pricing).

Price per Page

Originally, editing was priced per page. This is a throwback to the traditional publishing process, where publishers would pay freelance editors by the page. However, publishers would have a clear indication of the book’s page count prior to the editing process.

This system of payment works well when the exact page count of a book is known.

In recent times, the page count of books is flexible, if known at all. Digital formats, such as mobi and epub, have what is known as flowable text. This format means that the book never has a set number of pages since the text will flow to match the screen that is being used to read the book.

Some editors will insist on providing a cost based on page count, and the emphasis is on the writer to determine the overall page count for their book.

As a rough rule of thumb, a novel will typically have approximately 300 words per page. This can be used to determine a rough estimate, but the actual number of words per page will vary greatly from book to book.

Price per Hour

It is not unusual to see editors quoting their price per hour. This presents obvious problems. It is impossible for a writer to know how long it will take an editor to edit their book.

The number of words an editor can edit per hour will depend on several factors, including the book's complexity, the quality of the writing, and the editor's experience.

This means that determining a like-for-like price for a developmental edit based on the cost per hour is impossible. The only way a writer can find an accurate price is to give their book to the editor and get a quote for the work. Even then, it is not unknown for editors to alter their price once the developmental edit begins, or even not produce a final price until after the developmental edit has been completed.

This means that a writer can waste a huge amount of time as they send their manuscript to editors to assess before a quote can be given.

This type of pricing is mostly used to protect editors, who do not wish to be caught out by books and novels that require a huge amount of work due to poor English.

Price per 1000-words

In 2008, BubbleCow was the first editing service to offer a price per 1000-words. They developed a flat fee that was based solely on the length of the book. Using word count allows writers to determine an accurate price for an edit before any engagement with the editor.

This transparent and easy-to-use word count-based pricing system is by far the most preferable for a writer.

Since BubbleCow’s ground-breaking pricing strategy, several other editors have followed suit and provide costing as a price per 1000-words.

Pricing per 1000-words is, by far, the most transparent, fairest, and most useful method of pricing an edit. It allows writers to clearly determine the cost of an edit before communicating with a potential editor. This saves a huge amount of time and effort for both the writer and editor.

Here's a link to our book editing price calculator.

Factors That Affect Pricing

No matter whether you are looking at a price per page, a price per hour, or a price per 1000-words, the overall cost will be determined by several factors.

The first of these is word length.

Naturally, the longer a book, the more costly the edit will be for the writer. You will also find that some editorial services have a minimum word count. This is the minimum amount of words that they are prepared to edit. This will typically be around the 15,000 words mark.

The second factor to consider is the complexity of your book.

An editor will often charge more for more complex books. You will find that a simple, well-written novel will often be less expensive to edit than a complex non-fiction manual that requires specialist knowledge and attention.

The third factor, when considering pricing, is the level of English.

For writers that English is not their first language, they will often find that the price for editing is greater than they would have expected. The reason for this is that to correct the flow of the sentences and bring the book to a publishable standard requires significantly more work than a novel or book written to a higher standard. Most experienced editors will be reluctant to work on a book that has been written in this manner.

The final factor to consider is the genre of the book.

Certain genres (often non-fiction) will require specialist editors and these editors tend to be more expensive since they require specialist knowledge. For example, a highly technical non-fiction book will require an editor that is both experienced in editing and in the book's topic. Naturally, these specialist editors come at a premium.

The Typical Cost for Developmental Editing

Determining the typical cost for developmental editing is problematic.

As we have seen, several factors will influence the final price for the edit. These include word count, but also the complexity of your book and the standard of your English. Also, how the editor is seeking to determine the cost, be that price per page, price per hour or price per 1000-words, will all have an impact.

In addition to all of this, some editing services will offer items that others will omit. For example, BubbleCow's editing service includes line editing as part of the price. This is not the case for most other editing services.

Therefore, in order to determine a typical cost with developmental editing, it is best to use the transparent cost per 1000-word model. This allows you to clearly assess the price of editing your book without a direct conversation with an editor.

At the time of writing, BubbleCow, who pioneered the cost per 1000-word model, currently charge $25 per 1000 words. This is a flat rate, and no additional pricing is added post-edit. We can use this to determine a typical price for editing.

  • 15,000 words novel would cost $375 for a full edit.
  • 25,000 words novel would cost $625 for a full edit.
  • 50,000 words novel would cost $1250 for a full edit.
  • 75,000 words novel would cost $1875 for a full edit.
  • 100,000 words novel would cost $2500 for a full edit.
  • 150,000 words novel would cost $3750 for a full edit.

BubbleCow have a handy price calculator that you can use to determine the cost for a developmental edit.

What to Look Out For When Deciding on an Editor

When deciding which editor is most suitable for your book, price should not be the only factor you consider. There are several other factors that should play a part in your final choice of editor.

  • Upfront price or quote? Some editors will want to see a manuscript before they provide a quote. The reason for this is so they can assess the amount of work that is required. These editors are usually those that also fail to provide pricing on their website. A fairer way to approach the cost of editing is to provide a standard price (typically quoted per 1000-words) from the outset. Writers work to a budget, and it is only fair that they understand the costs from the outset. This is the approach we take at BubbleCow. Our price will never change, no matter how much work is required to complete the edit.
  • Are you working directly with an editor or a third party that will give your book to a freelancer? Editorial companies will act as third-party middlemen and will pass your book to a freelance editor of their choice. You need to decide if you are happy for this to happen or prefer to work directly with an editor. You will also find that companies using third-party freelancers are often more expensive since you are paying for the middleman.
  • What is the turnaround time? The amount of time it will take to edit a manuscript varies greatly. It is important that you get a firm return date from your editor, prior to payment. This will give you a clear indication of when your manuscript will be returned and allow you to plan the next stages of the publishing process. If an editor is unable to give a firm date for return, then alarm bells should be ringing. As a rule of thumb, about one calendar month is a reasonable return time.
  • How experienced is the editor? It is possible to find less expensive editors who are less experienced. Consider using these cheaper editors with caution. It may be that you have found a bargain, but it may also be that the editor is trying to learn their trade with your manuscript.
  • Will they provide a sample edit?ALL reputable developmental editors will provide a sample edit of the first few thousand words of your book. This should be free of charge. If an editor is unable to provide a free sample edit or is asking you to pay for this edit, then alarm bells should be ringing.
  • Post-edit service. The service you receive after the edit may or may not be important to you and your book. Before you engage an editor, consider what you expect to receive once the edit has been completed. Will the editor be able to talk to you directly? Will you be able to ask the editor questions? Will the editor look at additional revisions of your manuscript?

Community Feedback on Cost of Editing

The discussions surrounding the costs of developmental editing reveal a broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives from various writers. The conversation navigates through the complexities of investment in developmental editing, weighing the costs against the potential for significant improvements in manuscript quality.

Price Disparities and Value

One user highlighted the confusion surrounding the vast range of editing costs, asking,

"What is the reason for this massive price disparity? Are most people just getting copy/line edits? Or am I just looking in the wrong places?"
This question underscores the challenge many authors face in deciphering the editing market and determining where true value lies.

Another community member offered insight into their decision-making process, stating,

"Paying someone $700 from an up-and-coming editor or using a site like Fiverr... is a reasonable thing to do to get some help with your story if you think you need help."
This perspective suggests a more measured approach, advocating for a balance between affordability and quality.

Experiences and Recommendations

A significant portion of the conversation focused on personal experiences with developmental editing. One user shared,

"My novel... I paid $2000 for an editor that did grammar and content. She was invaluable in making my book a good read."
This testimonial emphasizes the potential value of a developmental editor in enhancing the overall quality of a book.

Yet, the community also cautioned against overspending without assurance of return, with advice like,

"Be honest with yourself... if you feel strongly enough with your plot and story and the feedback from your associates, is paying for the developmental edit going to be worth it?"
This advice encourages authors to critically assess their own work and the potential benefits of professional editing before making a financial commitment.

For a deeper dive into the discussion and to explore more personal stories and advice on the cost of developmental editing, visit the thread on Reddit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions that will provide you more information.

What factors affect the cost of developmental editing?

The cost of developmental editing can be affected by several factors, including the length and complexity of the manuscript, the level of editing required, the experience and reputation of the editor, and the market rates for editing services in the particular genre or field.

How do developmental editors typically charge for their services?

Developmental editors may charge by the hour, by the page, or by the project. Some editors may also offer package deals or discounts for ongoing work or repeat clients.

What should I expect to pay for developmental editing?

The cost of developmental editing can vary widely depending on the factors mentioned earlier. However, as a rough guideline, rates for developmental editing can range from $50 to $150 per hour, $5 to $10 per page, or $1,500 to $5,000 per project, depending on the scope and complexity of the work.

What factors affect the cost of developmental editing?

The cost of developmental editing can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the length and complexity of the manuscript, the level of editing required, and the experience and expertise of the editor. Additionally, some editors charge by the hour, while others charge by the project or by the word. It's important to discuss these factors with your editor to get a clear understanding of the cost and to ensure that you're on the same page regarding the scope of the project.

How much should I expect to pay for developmental editing?

The cost of developmental editing can vary widely, depending on the factors mentioned above. Some editors may charge as little as a few hundred dollars for a short manuscript, while others may charge several thousand dollars for a longer work. As a general guideline, you can expect to pay anywhere from $0.03 to $0.50 per word for developmental editing, but this can vary depending on the editor and the specifics of your project.

Are there any affordable options for developmental editing?

While professional developmental editing can be expensive, there are some more affordable options available. For example, you may be able to find a freelance editor who is just starting out and is willing to work for a lower rate in exchange for the opportunity to build their portfolio. Additionally, some writing organizations and writing conferences offer discounted or free editing services to their members. It's important to do your research and to choose an editor who has the skills and experience you need, but it is possible to find more affordable options if you're willing to look around.

Further Reading

If you're interested in learning more about the writing and editing process, or in improving your writing skills, here are three non-fiction books that you may find useful:

  1. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
    In this classic guide to writing, novelist and editor Sol Stein offers practical advice for improving your writing skills, including tips on crafting compelling characters, developing plot and structure, and refining your prose. He also shares insights on the editing process and offers examples from his own writing and from other successful authors. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced writer, this book is an excellent resource.
  2. The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker
    In this ambitious and thought-provoking book, Christopher Booker explores the seven basic plots that underlie all stories, from ancient myths to modern novels. He argues that these plots reflect fundamental aspects of human experience and that understanding them can help writers to create more compelling and universal stories. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the art of storytelling.
  3. On Editing: How to Edit Your Novel the Professional Way by Helen Corner-Bryant and Kathryn Price
    In this practical and accessible guide to editing, two experienced editors share their insights on the editing process and offer tips for improving your manuscript. They cover topics such as story structure, pacing, character development, and dialogue, and provide examples and exercises to help you put their advice into practice. This book is a great resource for writers who want to take their editing skills to the next level.

Final Thoughts

The editing process can be costly and time-consuming. However, it is an essential step in the publishing pathway. It is essential that you consider all elements of the editorial process before engaging developmental editors, whether they are a freelance editor or a book editing service.

Budget will always be an important factor, but it should not be the most important factor.

Before deciding on the editor that is right for your book, speak to that editor and determine that they understand what you are trying to do with your book. It is also important that you get multiple quotes and sample edits before making a final choice. Also make sure that you are comparing like with like, for example, will they be carrying out line editing as part of the service.

The editorial process should be enjoyable and transformative, and you should be in control at all stages of the process; picking the correct editor is the difference between a good and great book.

If you are thinking about timeframes, this article examines the time it takes for a developmental edit to be completed.

If you are looking to work one-on-one with a book editor, our book mentoring service may well be ideal for you and your book.

Further Reading

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