Why editorial costs vary so much

“How much will it cost for you to help me with my book?” you ask. “It depends,” I answer.

I know that’s frustrating.

Here’s what affects that cost — and how you can work cost-effectively.

Why talent costs vary

I price by the job, not by the hour. But behind the scenes, I am estimating the job at a $450 per hour rate. You’ll pay less for someone less experienced or less specialized.

My rate is based on experience from 45 book projects and 20 years as a technology analyst writing about business and technology trends. If your project needs that, you’re going to pay, whether it’s me or someone like me. But if you have a less specialized text or a less demanding need for the manuscript to be powerful and awesome, you’ll want a general editor that works more cheaply.

Match the editorial resource to the job requirements and the budget.

Why editing costs vary

The primary factor in pricing an editorial job is the word count. (Always talk words, not pages, to an editor.)

But editing a 50,000 word book might cost $6,000, and might cost $25,000. I never quote a price until I see the manuscript. What affects the price?

  • Is it well organized? Does the manuscript have major structural problems, or is the structure effective and clear?
  • Are the chapters in good shape? Does each chapter have a clearly defined and logical structure, or is the text meandering and repetitive?
  • How is the writing? Are the sentences full of problems (too long, missing words, hard to follow)?
  • How many passes? After I edit it, am I going to have to edit a revised draft?

Be aware that 50,000 words of tortured prose costs more to edit than 50,000 words that just need a polish — because the former takes more of my time.

You can save money here by analyzing and solving your structural issues before hiring an editor, and correcting what you can with a tool like Grammarly.

Why ghostwriting costs vary

Ghostwriting jobs are highly variable. The main things that affect the cost are the quality of the source material and the process it takes to turn that material into a manuscript.

If the source material is murky and the writer has to do most of the work, it’s costly. If the material is well structured, it’s cheaper. If your review process is complex and involves multiple passes and multiple reviews, that raises the price as well.

You can save money here by organizing your source material and simplifying your review process.

Why coaching costs vary

You might think writing coaching should just be priced by the hour. And that makes a lot of sense.

But some coaching involves review and editing content ahead of the coaching session. That’s valuable to the client, but more time-consuming for the writing coach.

To save money on coaching, listen and learn to become a better writer. Then you’ll be done with your coach more quickly.

Get a project price

I still think you should hire editorial help by the project, not by the hour. That motivates your editor to move quickly, not slowly.

But have a clear discussion of process and do what you can to prepare and improve materials yourself before hiring an editor. And match the editor to the specialized needs of the content. Then you’ll be spending your money wisely.

Because if you hire someone like me, we’ll both be happier if I’m worth it.

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