Book Editing Is A Worthwhile (& Necessary) Cost
Few publishers, if any, include editing in their packages. And most of these "no-edit" packages include an assigned ISBN. Remember, as a self-published author, you want your own ISBN, not an "assigned" one. Editing will add several hundred dollars to the cost of publishing a book and is money well spent.
Note: If you are looking for a literary agent and a traditional publishing contract, you may need to polish your book proposal and manuscript. A good literary agent will help you do just that. Some agents will do considerable editing to make your proposal and manuscript more appealing to prospective publishers.
A basic mechanical edit (typos, spelling, syntax, subject/verb agreement, etc.) will cost .01 to .02 cents per word. A substantive edit will average .02 to .025 cents and you will spend .04 to .05 cents per word for a full or comprehensive edit (includes content and style). If you have the resources, you could pay up into the thousands for a major edit. Depending on personal writing skills, the average first-time author doesn't usually need more than a mechanical or substantive edit. If you can afford a comprehensive edit at a nickel a word, go for it.
*Others may charge by the page: Base price: $3.75 - $5.00 per page, based on a 250-word page (a typical page in Word, double-spaced). Cost is about the same as editing by the word. A typical page in a 5½" by 8½" book (or 6" by 9") will average 250 words.
Note: More than price, the experience and credentials of the editor are of primary importance. If your writing is average (you have basic grammar skills), you might get by with a basic edit. If your writing needs help, a more substantive edit might be necessary. If you can't write at all but have a great story to tell, find a ghost writer. I recommend David Sluka (952-210-0000).
Editing guidelines often depend on your book's genre. Different editors follow different editing styles, the most common being the CMA (Chicago Manual of Style) and the MLA (Modern Language Association).
♦ Many (not all) professional book editors follow the Chicago Manual of Style. It was originally developed for social science and historical journal publications and is one of the earliest editorial style guides published in the United States (1906).
♦ MLA is typically used to edit works in the humanities, language and literature fields and is a simpler editorial style. It is embraced by academic institutions and is a favorite for editing scholarly works.
Information on the correct use of numbers in manuscripts and a ton of information about proper writing and grammar is available at The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue (Purdue University). Use the site map on the Owl site to answer any question about writing. It is a very thorough site.
Christian writers need to know the proper abbreviations for the books of the Bible.
Get a free editorial analysis from any bonafide editor (never pay for one). Any professional book editor will gladly provide an editorial analysis on 500 words of your manuscript and suggest the different levels of editing you might need. They will never push you or upsell you and will be happy to do at least a basic or mechanical edit.
The level of editing necessary is based on the author's writing experience. An editorial analysis will suggest an appropriate level of editing needed for your manuscript. (I wouldn't trust any vanity publisher's editorial analysis.)
Don't confuse an "editorial analysis" with a full edit. An analysis just covers a few pages (8-10) and only gives the author a basic idea of what is involved in a complete edit, along with the suggested level of editing you should consider.
*I would get an opinion from at least a high school English teacher (college English professor might be better) about the level of your writing skill and bypass the editorial analysis.
An editorial analysis should suggest the level of editing the publisher deems appropriate for the author's writing skill and should offer immediate pricing based on the manuscript word count. If you have trouble finding prices on a publishing comany's Website, you should be asking, "What are they trying to hide?" Always get up-front pricing.
Exception: full-service pubishing companies with their own print equipment will want a day or two for a quote. They will ask technical questions you need to be prepared to answer. Questions about desired paper stock and ink, cover stock and ink, finish on the cover, whether you want a two, three or four-color cover, interior graphics, and whether you want print on the inside of the cover page, to name a few. These companies generally will ask if you plan to provide a "print-ready" disc they can plug in to print your book. Unless you want to invest the time and energy required to learn how to produce such a disc, a good self-publishing company will take care of those details for you (at a reasonable cost).
You can get a custom four-color cover and professional interior layout for $550 at selfpublishing.com. Great pricing.
(As of March, 2014, that pricing is still available). Editing, database inclusion, ISBN and other necessary incidentals add to the total cost. In case you are wondering, you should expect to spend $2000 to $2500 to produce a 150 page book which includes printing and shipping 300 books to your door.
The folks at Artbookbindery.com will give you free cover design and interior layout if you print a minimum of 100 books. They are on my list of favorites.
If you order 100 books, your total cost would be around $1200 if you self-publish (including basic editing and shipping). If you buy a publishing package from a vanity publisher, you will pay more needlessly. Plus, when you print more books, you will pay roughly twice as much per book as you should. Remember the "happy publisher"?
Some offer editing by the hour. Unless you personally know the editor, you should probably stay away from hourly pricing. You can't possibly know what the final editing cost will be. However, some of the best editors charge by the hour. Get references.
One word of advice: if you don't plan to edit your book—don't publish it. An unedited book will stick out like a sore thumb to even a casual reader, let-alone an experienced bookstore manager. A professional book editor will provide insight and suggestions that will make your book "the best it can be," and insure that it conforms to modern, book-publishing industry standards. Your old English teacher may be adept at correcting typos and misspellings, but a good editor will make suggestions your former teacher won't think of.
Having said that, if all you want is someone to find all the typos and misspellings, your old English teacher might do the trick and save you money.
Patricia Fry wrote a great article on the need for a real book editor. If you still need convincing, read an article by Mark Levine.
♦ Next, learn why Cover Design is so important.
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Updated September 14, 2015