Once you’ve done the hard part and actually written your book, now you get to move on to the harder part: editing. There are a variety of types of editing, including self-editing or hiring a professional freelance editor. This post is going to go through the different types of edits, and considerations you should keep in mind when looking for a professional editor.
In this post, I will be walking you through your two main options for editing your book: self-editing or hiring a professional freelancer. As an indie author, and an avid indie reader, I know it’s sometimes hard to afford upfront costs for things like editing. So while I do highly encourage hiring a professional editor, I am going to walk you through your options for self-editing.
However, no matter what method you use, there’s still a few overlaps, and that’s the type of edits that are going to happen. So let’s talk about those first.
Types of Editing
There are three main types of editing: developmental, line editing or copy editing, and proofreading. Typically you do complete them in the order listed. Meaning, you’ll do developmental edits first, then a round of line and/or copy, and then your final proofreading. But what do these even mean… Let’s go through them.
1. Developmental Editing
Developmental edits, also called content editing, are an in-depth review of your entire manuscript and is designed to focus on the big picture elements of your story, like plotline, pacing, character development, worldbuilding, and structure.
These types of edits are going to result in the biggest changes to your manuscript. Often, developmental edits tell you where you need to focus more on (expanding scenes) and where you’re focusing too much on (cutting scenes). For this reason, development editing should always be done first.
As part of developmental edits, you’re going to get a lot of feedback, especially if you’re a newer author. That’s okay! This step is vital, and if you can only afford one type of editing, I do recommend splurging on this one. It will ensure that you have a solid story.
We’ll have another blog post coming soon about how to accept and use feedback, but for this post, I’m just going to say: taking feedback is hard, take off your protective writer hat and put on your open-minded editing hat.
2. Line/Copy Editing
Line editing, sometimes also called copy editing, is the next “round” of editing that occurs. This is much more detailed and involves looking for grammar issues, consistency, word choice, sentence structure, and aspects like that.
This type of editing will tell you that your character’s eye color changed somewhere in the book, while developmental editing tells you that you never described your character’s appearance at all.
Line editors are highly skilled in language, grammar, and spelling, and this is their main focus. You may not see a lot of changes here, or you may see a ton, it really depends on your writing style and your editors editing style.
Some things line or copy editing might catch include:
Repetitive sentence structure
Incorrect dialogue formatting or structure
Rearranging sentence order to clarify
Changes in word choice
Basic fact-checking for spelling or historical dates
Correcting passive voice
Errors in grammar or punctuation
Switches in tenses (first person v. third, or present v. past)
And so much more!
Proofreading is the last round of edits you should do, and it should be done after all changes you can ever make have been made. This round of edits goes through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and looks for spelling errors, punctuation issues, grammar, awkward spacing, things in the wrong font, or other small details like that.
In such a competitive writing market, proofreading can often be make or break for your book’s success. You want everything to be spelled correctly, or that’s often the only thing that will get talked about by readers.
Proofreading is best done after you’ve formatted
When doing proofreading, either DIY or paid, you want someone who is meticulous and nit-picky. Trust me, their attention to detail is a good thing.
Methods of Editing
Okay, now that you know you’ll have to go through at least 3 rounds of edits (and let’s be honest, it’ll probably be more), let’s talk about your options for how you can edit. I’m sure there’s much more detail we can go through on this, but let’s break it down into two categories: self-editing, and professional editing.
There is a lot of talk out there saying that you should always do professional editing, and never rely on self-editing. But the reality of it is, I understand how expensive it can be starting out on your very first book. And sometimes, self-editing is just what you have to do.
I will always encourage professional editing, but I recognize authors sometimes don’t have that option, and want to provide that alternative and details on it to give a full picture.
This method of editing is the free, or very cheap, way, and that absolutely 100% does NOT mean that it’s the bad way. By choosing to go DIY, all it means is that you’re not hiring a professional editor and instead you’re going to be the brave soul who’s going to do the three types of editing yourself.
If you’re able to disconnect yourself from your writing and read it objectively, as if it was written by someone else, then I envy your brain and want it. I can’t do that, and I know that about myself.
You can either do it all yourself, or you can have friends help you out and do one or more of the editing rounds for you. If you trust the detail orientation of the people that are editing for you, then go for it!
If you decide to do it yourself, I encourage you to look into grammar and proofreading software, like Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid. These programs are invaluable for self-edits, and help you look at sentence structure, passive voice, spelling, grammar, and a host of other common issues.
Deciding to go this route? Check out some self-editing books like: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Refuse to Be Done, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers, or Intuitive Editing.
If this post is helpful, please consider sharing it for others to use!
For this one, all it means is that you’re paying someone to edit your book who does this for a living. Typically, you would hire someone for developmental edits, and then someone else for line/copy edits, and then someone else different for proofreading. This ensures that there are more than just two sets of eyes on your work and that nothing gets missed.
When looking for a paid editor, do your research! Here’s some things to consider:
Get a sample edit. If they don’t offer a sample edit, don’t work with them. You need to know their editing style and if it 1) matches how you prefer to receive feedback and 2) makes sense with the context of your book.
Research editors specific to your genre. You wouldn’t want an editor who mainly does children’s picture books to edit your high fantasy novel. Match up with the right editor.
Get references. If they don’t have a client testimonial page on their website, ask them if there are past clients you can speak to about their experiences.
Ask about pricing. If it seems dirt cheap, there’s probably a reason. Similarly, if their pricing is outrageously expensive, that might be a red flag. The Editorial Freelance Association has a super helpful chart for industry standard pricing for various types of editing available here.
Clarify expectations. Ask your editor what their editing process is like. Will they only go through it once? Twice? How do they provide feedback? Will they answer questions after the edit is done?
And please, don’t just go with the first editor you find. Best practice is to find 3 or so that you like, and then go through the above with them and narrow it down to the one that fits best with you. You’re trusting your word baby to them, there needs to be a good relationship.
Finally, for paid editing, you need to sign a contract. If for some reason the editor does not have you sign a contract, you need to have them sign one. This protects both of you, lays out the expectations for work done and what will be delivered, and timelines. It may seem harsh, but it’s not. If you need some ideas for what to include in a contract, check out here and here for some details.
Where to Find Editors
You didn’t think I was just going to leave you hanging there, did you? Of course not! Let’s chat about where you can find these elusive professional freelance editors! There’s many ways, but I’m going to list out a few top ways:
Other editorial professional associations
Search on Instagram
Ask other authors in your genre who they used (word of mouth is really really really good)
All in all, there’s several ways to find an editor to use. The important part of this is vetting the editors you do find. Take your time to find the best fit for you. This is going to be a big investment, so take your time to make sure the editor you choose is the best on for you and your book.
Now, let’s talk money. Professional editing can be expensive, especially if you’re looking to get more than one type of editing done. But, I want to reiterate: other than your cover, this is the best investment you can make in your book. Don’t skimp if you can afford it.
But, it can be hard to know what a reasonable investment is if you’ve never done it before. So, I’m going to give you two different total costs using a 100,000 word novel as a base. I’m going to calculate it based on EFA suggested rates, and then use what I paid for my edits as a second example.
As another note: editors may charge differently than how I’ve listed it below. Some editors charge by word, some charge by hour, some charge by page, and some do banded fees by word count groups (i.e. 100,000-125,000 words cost the same). It’s important to understand up front how your editor charges, if they require deposits, and if they take payment plans.
Finally, I want to make a short comment about a way to get around some of these types of editing. If you can only afford one type of editing, and you want it to be something like line editing, or proofreading, find yourself a good team of alpha and/or beta readers to help you with developmental self-edits. These are readers who will take a look at your draft and leave detailed comments and feedback around specific areas of your manuscript, from a reader’s perspective.
Not sure how to find good alpha or beta readers? I’m planning a post on that soon!
Editorial Freelance Association Rates
This information all comes from the Editorial Freelance Association’s industry standard rates chart, which can be found here. This is a good place to start your editing research, and to find editors like I mentioned above.
Developmental editing: $.03–$.039/word for fiction (or $3,000-$3,900 for a 100,000 word novel)
Line/Copy editing: $.04–$.049/word for fiction (or $4,000-$4,900 for a 100,000 word novel)
Proofreading: $.02–$.029/word for fiction (or $2,000-$2,900 for a 100,000 word novel)
For a manuscript of 100,000 words, this would total $9000-$11,700 if you got all three types of edits. However, I want to note: These are the suggested rates for very experienced editors who are part of the Editorial Freelance Association. Additionally, most editors will over bundle discounts if you choose to use them for all three types of edits.
I didn’t put these numbers together to scare you and make you feel like you can never afford professional editing. But I did put these numbers together to give you perspective. Many editors are not this expensive, but many are. It’s important to go into this process with all the facts available.
My Editing Costs
I’m a full and firm believer in transparency. So now I’m going to walk you through what I paid for editing. But, I need to caveat this. I went through a first round of developmental editing and proofreading with an editor, and I ended up still not being happy with where my book was, and decided to go through another round of developmental, line, and proofreading with a different editor. So this is going to be more expensive than normal. But I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can invest this money into my book, and I understand that not everyone is.
Developmental and proofreading combo (with a 10% discount for a bundle) on a 90,000 word manuscript: $2,200
Developmental editing (with a rush fee because I’m a poor planner) on a 100,000 word manuscript: $2,800
Line editing on a 100,000 word manuscript: $675
Total for all my rounds of editing: $5,675
So, even though I went through more rounds of edits than normal, I still paid less than what the EFA rates said I would based on their standard rates. I wanted to share this because again, it adds perspective.
I hope your biggest takeaway from this is that prices may vary, but they will likely be more expensive than you’re expecting. So manage your expectations and be prepared to invest in editing to make your book shine.
So, you got through your rounds of editing (and this obnoxiously long post, sorry) and you’re thinking now what? Do I just keep editing in an endless loop?
Nope, you do not! Once you’re happy with where your book is, it’s time to move on to something else with your book. Likely, this is some form of marketing. Oh, you didn’t know that there’s more to publishing a book than just writing it? You sweet summer child. You better buckle up.
We’re going to be going through a lot of marketing elements in the next few posts. Check out my other posts in the Author Resources category to find your next adventure!