The Basics: Why Are Editors So Expensive?

The above question is usually peppered with swearwords and followed by a frustrated sigh. But the question is a good one, and today, I’m going to answer it.

Facts About Editing Rates:

  1. While every freelance editor has the ability to set his or her rates, most rates fall within an accepted range and are updated yearly (due to inflation, the market, etc.).
  2. Whether hourly, by the word, or by the page, the rate editors charge should be based on both their skill level and the amount of work involved.
    • A young editor fresh out of college should charge less than an 20-year veteran with large publishing house experience.
    • If you’re only looking for help with the basics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, and grammar), the charge should be less than, say, a developmental edit.
    • If you haven’t run spell-check, proofread a few times, and done at least a bit of self-revision, expect to pay more.
    • Conversely, the more time you’ve taken with your work, the more an editor can help and the less you’ll be charged.
  3. After reviewing all the pieces of your project, an editor should offer a quote, along with a time frame for completion. You should then be asked to sign a basic contract. These details are crucial and help prevent miscommunication, protecting all involved.

Remember, anyone who works as a freelancer has to pay out of pocket for things like health insurance. And they deserve a living wage, just like everyone else.

The Basics: “Why Can’t I Just Use Spell-check?”

When it comes to editing services, one of the statements I’ve heard throughout my career is “Why can’t I just use my word processor? It checks spelling and grammar.”

The statement is factually correct: Most word processors do offer both spell- and grammar-check. Those programs, however, were never meant to replace a human editor.

When you misspell a word, the WP offers suggestions for correction. There are some problems, however.

As far as grammar-check:

In short, while word processors have come a long, long way, they still have miles to go. Until then, a real-life human editor can make all the difference.


The Basics: Types of Editors

There are as many different types of editors as there are publications, and their responsibilities change from company to company. The list below includes a few of the more universal positions, along with their typical duties.

Copy Editor: Spelling, punctuation, grammar, flow, consistency, fact-checking, character development, dialogue … These editors can do it all. In the case of freelance editors, copy editing services are usually broken into light, medium, and heavy categories, with the cost of the service depending upon the depth of the work. (For instance, a “light” copyedit might only include spelling, punctuation, and grammar.)

Literary Editor: Details both the strengths and weaknesses of your work while also including concrete suggestions for improvement.

Developmental Editor: Starts at the beginning, working in concert with the author every step of the way. Offers advice, answers questions, and provides the services of both a literary and copy editor.

Proofreader: The last step on the road to publication, a proofreader’s job is to catch what others have missed with regard to the core issues of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and format (but not the organization, flow, character development, etc.). (Note: This title is also used to denote an editor who only checks the basics of spelling, punctuation, and grammar.)