Monday, February 25, 2008

Professional editors

So I was recently contacted by a conference, which looks relatively professional, which wanted me to hype them on my blog. I haven't decided whether I'll do that or not yet, but I was reading through their website and this line caught my eye:

"A deep critique goes beyond copy editing to discuss character, plot and theme; it normally costs $0.08 a word (or $8000 for a 100,000 word mss)."

Now, when some of you people pay for a professional editor to go over your novel, do you actually pay this as the going rate? Because if so, I'm obviously in the wrong line of work. =)

Speak up, those of you who have forked over cash for professional editors--what do they charge?

(And as to why I think hiring a professional editor is a bad idea; well that's another blog post, which may never be written.)


Anonymous said...

I used a top-class pro editor (a former editorial director) in the UK 4 years ago for my 100k manuscript and I paid £350

Jodi Meadows said...

Gack. Would not pay.

That's what smart friends are for. You make 'em your friend, and trick them into reading your novel.

rhienelleth said...


Are there people who would actually pay that much to have their work professionally edited? The average advance for a first book these days probably wouldn't even cover that, which means IF you got it published post-pro-editing, you'd still be losing money.

Anonymous said...

I had my novel (women's/contemporary/literary) edited by an editor whose qualifications included university CW professor, published novelist, and freelance editor for a large publishing house. She charged $100 an hour and gave me a 7 page single spaced critique that made all the difference in the world to the quality of my final revision. Total price was $1,000. The manuscript itself was also full of comments on scenes and chapters. She did not, in general, line edit, though she put marks next to a few grammatical errors.

I think it's a question of finding the right editor if that's the direction you want to go.

Anonymous said...

PS Word count was 105,000 at that point, so .01 a word, though she charged by the hour, not the word.

Wilfred the Author said...

I've gotten quotes from $2 to $5 per page Which equals about $.008 to $.02 per word at 250 words per page.

I found a very good editor for $1.00 per page which I never used. This service was for character & scene development and consistency.

Kristine Overbrook said...

What would be interesting to know is if "professional editing" would make a difference. A good selling point for a query letter.

My novel has been edited by a professional editor in a service exchange. She commented on content as well as a line edit.

It hasn't been published...yet.

freelancemother said...

Holy crap! That's a scam. $2 to $5/page is what I quote (working for a company that quotes the same) Even at that I feel kind of guilty about making money off writers like me. But maybe they can't find friends to give them good enough critiques. Lord knows I've had a hard time with it. So, I just try to give the absolute best edits/critiques that I can.

Ryan Field said...

I had this happen to me last year. I'm in at least five to ten anthologies a year with one publisher. The senior editor is the best I've ever worked with (the dream editor who works you to death, but always makes it better) and the books are distributed well, and they sell. And, I get paid on time. I like their books even better than some of the books I'm in with large publishers. They have a sense of style that's hard to match...and the books get great reviews.

The only problem is that with single author titles they expect the writer to pay for the copy editing. You can hire your own editor, or use theirs. They only charge 600.00 in house. Now, this small publisher doesn't make a living by doing this (I know; I've checked them out), and they don't take on many single author titles a year. So they really have to like the book, and the writing to offer a contract and take the chance.

But I just can't abide paying a publisher anything for copyediting. Not 600.00 or even 6.00. So I politely declined their offer for my novel. I continue submitting short stories for anthologies, but I simply can't pay a publisher for editing. This goes against everything I've ever known about publishing. I know people do it; bless them. I can't.

Elissa M said...

I would never pay for "professional" editing. I'm sure these editors do a good job. I am also sure I'm capable of copy-editing. I have friends and relatives who are very good at spotting plot issues and other problems. On top of that, I belong to the Online Writers Workshop, and fellow OWW members are very good at picking out anything else that's been missed. If I can't create a publishable novel with all this help, a "professional" editor's not going to do me a damn bit of good.

Michele Lee said...

I have always been highly suspicious of writers who offer editing services, even thought I know some who are amazing editors. It just feels dishonest, especially in a few smaller cases where many of the writer's credits are through markets that after a bit of research are run by their friends, or by join ventures which they own. Besides, shouldn't you, as a writer, be able to edit your own work?

Anonymous said...

Hired a highly recommended Professional Editor at $5/pg, after she did a trial of 5 sample pages to make sure we fit well together (this is a must!)

For that amount I get line-by-line copyediting + several pages of notes (5-8) per 15 page chapter.

Better than an MFA because a pro editor focuses on EXACTLY what I need to learn.

She's tough, and I'm working harder and learning more than I've ever done in my life (incl undergrad degree).

No way you can (or should) expect critique group partners to deliver at that high level.

Anonymous said...

I belong to a critique group and we submit our stuff to each other, read for two weeks, then come back with suggestions for improvement. One day this woman came and wanted to join us. She tells us she paid a man who won the Pulitzer Prize $2,000 to read 17 pages of her manuscript because it took him two days to do this. Then she tells us she has spent another $10,000 elsewhere for other readers. Within a month she had left our group because we were trying to explain to her that her story was chaos. Later I realized that sometimes people pay for editing services because it makes them feel like a "real" writer, they don't actually want to hear what is being said. This woman had been working on this story for a decade but like so many historians rambled on in tangents that left the listener confused rather than enlightened.

Cory said...

I hope you do get around to writing that blog post some day - I'd be eager to read it.

I've never worked with a professional editor; I have several friends who are into writing/literature themselves, so that's the route I go.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how many people think hiring an editor is a sign of weakness, or stupidity, or lack of talent. Anon 9:27 is right on: in a lot of ways it's better than an MFA because the editor is focused on you. Writing friends and critique groups and relatives and regular friends may be fine for limited passages, or for overall impressions, but it's rare you'll get the specific and detailed craft feedback you get from a pro editor. Why do some of you hate those of us who used good editors, and have subsequently sold books? Just be smart in choosing the editor. Sure there are horror stories but no more than any other part of life. Saying that just because you're a writer you should be able to edit your own work is an oversimplication, in my opinion. Writing is all about learning. You may be born with a gift but you sure aren't born with a thorough knowledge of craft.

And no, I'm not an editor. I'm a successful author who learned a LOT from an editor.

Jeff Lyman said...

I've used a professional editor twice. Once when I was young and had a 200k word doorstop of a novel. The editor was average, and charged $900. More recently I used a pro at $4/page and so paid about $1600 for a 100k novel. Both times I learned a lot. The average editor had a lot of line-edits and chapter specific comments and managed to show me how to knock off about 50k of excess words without affecting the plot. The pro editor did that to a greater degree, and then wrote me a 40 page critique of overall plot and momentum and character, etc.

In my experience with critique groups, any of them could have done just as well as my first editor. A few well-educated friends could have come up with some of the plot points of the second editor, but not nearly so many. So it was worth it to me.

The pro editor also offers ghost writing services on a per hour basis where he/she will make suggested "fixes" to your problem scene, chapter, book, whatever. I would never employ this service, because I want to fix things myself and feel like they're mine. Even if they've just been critiqued the heck out of.

Either way, I treat it as a learning experience.


no-bull-steve said...

Hi Jenny,
I'm new to your blog (connected through Nathan Bransford). I do have some experience with your question/situation. I hired an acquaintance to edit my first novel in an early stage of my MS. He charged a $250 base, plus $0.005 per word, which came out to about $700 total. That included line editing and overall notes on plot, characterization, etc. I believe industry "standards" which are around $1,000 (from what I've heard). I've heard of "writing coaches" charging upwards of $5,000 but those are indepth services which take place over the course of time. There was a woman at a recent Writer's Conference who'd recently gotten published after working with a recognized "Coach" for "years." Still, I wonder if a brutally honest writing group might not have been better, and certainly cheaper.

Jenny, as for your suggestion to people a consulting service or editorial service....I'd ask some of your colleagues before suggestion any particular editing service for the standard on that. The first agent I ever queried suggested a specific person to contact and work with for a fee. Not knowing what to do, I posted on Miss Snark's site - keeping the particular agent's identity confidential, of course. There were calls that the agent was acting unethically and possibly even preditorily. Even Dave from P&E asked me for the agent's name to note it on his list. I knew the agent from a Writer's Conference, and his reputation was not up for question. I'm certain he had my best interests at heart so I let the matter die.

Based on peoples reaction however, if I were an agent, I'd be leery of making a suggestion of a specific freelance editor unless the tide of public opinion has turned on that issue. The agent I recently signed with (YAY!) worked with me back and forth over the course of 9 months and 3 revisions to get my MS "ready." Her help was more valuable than anything I could have paid for. Another recently agented writer went through an almost identical process.

Based on the incredible amount of work I needed to do (over a year's worth!) after paying for the editing, I go back and forth on whether it was worth it. At the time, I needed it to get to the next level with my writing but I don't think I'd do it again. I can get what I need from writer's groups, hard-line beta readers (NOT FRIENDS AND FAMILY) and my agent.

Just my thoughts for what they're worth. Thanks for the blog!

Elissa M said...

Anonymous 11:06, I never said someone who hires an editor is stupid, weak, or talentless, and I certainly don't hate anyone who hires an editor and gets published. More power to 'em. I just wouldn't hire one myself.

It's true that some critique groups and some friends and relatives may not be as helpful as one could wish. But the beta readers I have are, indeed, smart, talented, and extremely good at their task. They are also fans of my genre, and know what's fresh and what's been done a million times.

If paying for an editor is what works for you, you're free to do so. You don't have to justify yourself to those of us who don't consider such expense necessary.

La Gringa said...

Um, holy crap.

That's bigger than most first novel advances.