Before You Hire An Editor

What You Don't Know Will Cost You

First-time authors often underestimate their budget for editing because they assume all they need is proofreading. Many are unaware that there are several different types of editing that their manuscript could potentially undergo.

A book with poor verbiage, grammatical errors, or whose ideas are difficult to follow undermine the author's credibility. The book's buyers won't finish reading and all the brand building advantages the author hoped for goes down the drain.

If your book makes a negative first impression due to subpar language, you can't take it back. If you are still working on your manuscript and you ask for the wrong type of editing before it is needed, you'll spend more time and money in the long run fixing your errors. 

With the right guidance, you can avoid making expensive editorial mistakes. Scroll below to keep reading and learn about the different types of editing. Use this information to empower you to decide what the right next step for your manuscript is. 


The most well known editing type, proofreading, is the very last stage of your manuscript before it is sent to the formatter and on to printing.

It typically occurs after several rounds of line editing (see below).

Your proofreader will check for proper use of punctuation, spelling mistakes, typographical errors, and basic grammar usage. S/he may make simple word choice replacements or eliminations for clarity and correctness. They will not provide rewrites of great significance.

You'll find proofreading services priced from $0.005 to $0.03 per word. This will depend on the editor's experience and reputation.

Proofreading is typically performed quickly. If your book is relatively short (less than 30K words) and your proofer has a light load, they could potentially turn your project around in a few days.

Line (Copy) Editing

Line editing (also called copy editing) is the most necessary form of editing. It can also be the most expensive as several rounds are usually required over the course of a manuscript's life. It is recommended after every major rewrite or revision a manuscript undergoes.

When copy (or line) editing, your editor will provide you with an in-depth, line-by-line analysis of your manuscript. Your editor will revise and rewrite for clarity and readability. Your editor will check for word choices (a. k. a. diction) and grammar usage, which includes correcting errors in verb tense agreement, syntax, and redundancy. 

Your editor will also aim to create consistency in your manuscript's overall style, tone of voice, and clarity of thought within and across chapters. Your editor will do the heavy lifting of replacing words where necessary or actually rewriting sections.

Some of the words you wrote will be changed, but the essence of what you are communicating will not. Line editing is not an attack on you or your ideas, so don't take the changes your editor makes personally. Their goal is to make you sound your best to the widest readership possible.

Anticipate copy editors to start pricing their services at $0.02 per word. If they are an in-demand editor, don't be surprised if you see upwards of $0.09 cents per word. Turn around time, depending on their workload and the length of your manuscript, could be a few weeks.

Developmental (Structural) Editing

When they first hear about developmental editing, most people say, "What's that?"

Also known as structural editing, the function could be described as the foundation of your book. 

Here's an analogy: if writing a book was like constructing a house, then developmental (structural) editing would be the foundation and framing of the house. Line (copy) editing would be like the pipes, wires, and walls of the house. Proofreading would be the furniture and other decorations.

When providing you with developmental editing, your editor will collaborate with you to clarify the overall structure and content of your book. Issues you will discuss include the book’s intended audience, theme, main points, chapter organization, and chapter structure. Your editor may also provide guidance on tone and voice. Depending on what state your manuscript is in when your editor received it, line editing may also be a part of the developmental editing process.

Structural or developmental editing is very involved. It is best engaged at the outset of your project, before too much has been written. This could be considered book writing coaching. If the service is engaged after you have completed your first or subsequent drafts of your manuscript, your coach may show you what to say when completing your rewrites. Other times, they may ghostwrite the changes for you in your voice, depending on the agreement you work out.

Developmental editing is the most expensive type of editing. Expect pricing to start at $0.05 a word and go up from there. Your project may take more than a month to complete, depending on the condition of your manuscript and your editor's work load.

What Kind Of Editing Does Your Manuscript Need?