Why is Editing so Expensive?

One of the topics of conversation always doing the rounds on various writer’s blogs and much of social media, usually asked by first time or emerging writers is, ‘why is editing a book so expensive?

And, by professional, I mean someone who will 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. They read it several times. They read it forwards, backwards (if they’re doing their job right) 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 these notes either onscreen, or on a printed copy.

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

Each stage of editing, whether you go into depth and detail or simply address just the mechanics of your MS, takes time. 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, consistency 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 a whole other level.

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 must give serious consideration to having at least one level of editor look through your work before it goes to an agent/editor, or directly into eprint.

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.

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