Updated: 1/2/2021

It’s the dilemma most indie authors face: should we bother paying for an editor? After all, we’re understaffed, under budget, and often overwhelmed. The correct answer to that question will always be yes, yes, and yes! Thankfully, we live in the age of the indie author and with it are plenty of people peddling their editing services. But what kind of editing should an indie author pay for; copy editing, line editing, or proof editing? And what’s the difference?

Let me begin by explaining the different types of book editing:

  1. Line/Developmental Editors: go over the general story and look for poorly constructed characters and holes in a story’s plot. If problems are huge they may ask you to rewrite sections.
  2. Copy Editors: look over facts, and also go over punctuation or poor dialog.
  3. Proof Readers: look only for grammatical errors and misused punctuation.

Many indie authors pay big bucks for several rounds of editing to avoid looking self-published, a problem that plagues many indie books. However, indie authors aren’t the only ones who are using freelance editors. There are bestselling authors who pay for some light editing before sending it to their publisher to preserve their reputations as literary geniuses. So like it or not, we’re all doing it.  

Will Editing Get Rid of All My Errors?

No, editing will not make your book mistake-free, all books have errors but some less than others. For example, Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight are considered some of the worst books ever written, yet both authors had editors. In fact, I’m sure their work passed through many hands before it went to print. Yet that doesn’t stop the literary snobs from pointing out the poor prose and redundant verbiage in these bestselling books. Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, said it best, “I’m a bestselling author, not best-writing author,” and that is the attitude that separates those authors who make it big versus those authors who believe in literary perfection.       

How Much Does Editing Really Cost?

The typical editor makes about $1 a page and up. However, there are those that charge per word, generally they ask anywhere from $.03 – .35 cents and up. Also, some editors are paid by the hour and they’re usually the most expensive. In any case, a professional editor will ask to evaluate your manuscript before they give you a final quote.

Be warned, price ultimately depends on your skill level and the overall complexity of your book. Some books require fact-checking and extensive rewrites. However, there are indie authors who forgo the entire process and just publish as-is.  Then there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum, those indie authors who spend thousands on editors and still wind up with errors in their book. 

What to Look for in an Editor

The rules are simple when hiring any freelancer and they are:

  1. Samples: If someone has no samples, don’t trust them.       
  2. Testimonials: Avoid those who don’t have testimonials that can be verified.
  3. Research: Go to author groups on social media to see whom they recommend. You can even Google the company name plus the word reviews.
  4. Policies: Make sure a company has a money-back guarantee policy, or will at least correct any botched job for free.

Do not hire anyone who cannot prove they have command of the English language. There are some companies that outsource their work to people in countries like India, or The Philippines to maximize profits. Do your best to find an editor based in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K., if you want decent results. 

Here are some resources for legitimate editors:

 A Final Note

I can’t really say how many rounds of editing your particular book may need. Honestly, that depends on your budget, experience, and also, your self-esteem. Yes, I said self-esteem because some authors can’t handle criticism, and refuse to allow a third party into their writing process.  That’s fine, but if you can’t handle a professional editor’s critique you’re probably not going to like it when book reviewers and readers trash your book.   

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