How Much You Can Expect to Pay an Editor

When I wrote about where to find a good editor, I alluded to $500 for copyediting of a 100,000-word epic fantasy novel being a low-ball budget. So what is the going rate for copyediting or other such services?

In their book APE: Author Publisher Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch cite $1,050 as a reasonable rate for copyediting a 60,000-word manuscript. They note that “some people might argue that our costs are too high.”

Editor Pay
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Well, maybe some people would. But at $35 per hour, the rate cited is smack in the middle of the range given by the Editorial Freelancers Association.

The EFA publishes a chart of editorial rates that is offered as a “rough guideline.” But the chart is based on what EFA members are charging, so this information is useful to you as you shop around for an editor. It shows basic copyediting of the type Kawasaki and Welch discuss at $30-$40 per hour.

Editing rates vary depending on a lot of factors, but the key factors will be the scope of work (a heavy line edit costs a lot more than a proofread) and the experience level of the editor. Other factors EFA identifies are “the time frame of the assignment” and “the degree of special expertise required.”

Many editors prefer to give a per-word rate rather than an hourly rate. The EFA rate for basic copyediting works out to a range of 1.2 cents to 3.2 cents per word. The APE rate works out to 1.75 cents per word, and my rate, in case you’re curious, is 2 cents per word.

Of course, if you need more editing, such as substantive editing or line editing, the rates will be higher, since there’s more work involved. Remember that rates are usually negotiable, within limits, so if an editor comes at you with a rate that’s outside your budget, feel free to make a counteroffer.

What to Do if You Can’t Afford a Freelance Editor

There are several options available if hiring an editor at EFA-level rates is outside your budget.

New editors. Many editors who are just starting out may be skilled but not able to charge top rates because their resumes are thin. An editor who may not have a depth of experience and training could still give you a solid edit.

Teachers. English teachers have an excellent command of the language. Unless they have experience working on books in your particular genre, they may not be able to provide content editing, but teachers—who are usually voracious readers also—can make great copyeditors and proofreaders.

Writers. You may be able to trade editing with a fellow writer. Try doing a Google search for a writer’s association or guild in your state. Look for a writer who is familiar with your genre. Ideally you’ll get someone whose strengths complement your weaknesses. For example, if you’re great at characterization but not plotting, look for an editing partner who’s a great plotter but needs help with characterization.

Traditional publishing. Remember I said a professional editor is only a must if you are self-publishing. If you seek traditional publication, it’s totally acceptable to pitch a manuscript that’s as good as you can make it without hiring a professional. You should still be studying craft and recruiting beta readers so you can make your book as good as possible before you pitch it. Hiring a writing coach or editor isn’t a requirement when you’re seeking traditional publication, but it can give you a competitive edge.

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  1. And don’t forget, Kristen, that groups like Word Weavers ( are designed to help writers critique and sharpen their work.

    Also, as someone who has been in the biz for quite a while–and as someone who is traditionally published more times than not–I’d like to say that the bar is fairly high these days. Publishing has taken a little beating (in part, thx to ebooks and the simplicity with which self-publishing offers writers). Instead of welcoming EVERYONE’S work, they’ve focused more on their bread and butter authors, those they know have an audience. For the new author (or for the B-author) this means you often need a critiqued or edited submission to be noticed.

    1. Great points, Eva Marie, thanks!

      What I’ve seen is that with a few remarkable exceptions, most new writers breaking into traditional publishing are doing so at small presses.

  2. Kristen:

    Years ago, I charged between $25 and $35 an hour for freelance copyediting. I researched what the going rate was in Writers’ Market for what services I was offering, at which level of experience I had, and that seemed to work. Writers Market had a real handy chart to figure this sort of thing out. I didn’t have a *whole* lot of experience, but I did get a few gigs, including copyediting for a magazine. A couple of years ago, I helped someone edit some online content.

    Thanks for reminding me about the EFA. I’m not a member, but I’d like to be.

    1. EFA is a great organization. It’s connected me to some of my best clients, and the training is great, too.

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