Factors Affecting Developmental Editing Costs: Hiring a Freelancer vs. Hiring an Editing Service

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Now that you’ve finished the first draft of your manuscript, you’re thinking about the next step in your publishing journey and realizing it’s time to start editing. Every author needs editing services—no matter how amazing your writing skills are, your subjective perspective is limited, so you need an objective editor to pick up on issues you may not have noticed. 

Even though it can be scary to show your work in progress to someone else, your story needs a fresh pair of eyes that can help you shape and refine it by improving elements such as plot, character arcs, and structure. Even if it’s painful to swallow criticism (however constructive it may be) leveled at your labor of love, you know it’s for the betterment of your book.

Not all editing is about grammar, typos, and spelling mistakes. You need a big-picture editor who can take your story to the next level by giving you thoughtful suggestions on a number of macro issues—such as point of view (POV), narrative, and genre expectations—which will guide you in shaping your second draft. This is the perfect editing service for you if you feel something’s off about your manuscript but can’t figure out exactly what it is. 

Once you decide on getting a developmental edit, the question becomes whether you should hire a freelancer or an editing service. After obtaining a few quotes from each, you’re probably wondering what exactly it is you’re paying for, so we’ll break it down in this post to help you make an informed decision. To learn more about the cost of our developmental editing services and our simple pricing structure, check out our big-picture editing services

Word count and turnaround 

The first thing an editor will look at before giving you a quote is the length of your manuscript. A longer book will cost more to edit simply because it will take longer to read and there’s more material for the editor to work through. Although editors used to charge by page count, these days, most will determine their price based on word count although individual rates can vary significantly. Technology has made page count nearly obsolete since the number of pages in a book can vary depending on format and font size, which are no longer fixed thanks to eReaders allowing users to customize their reading experience. 

Some freelance editors charge by the hour, but they won’t be able to give you a quote upfront as they can’t predict how long it will take them to edit your manuscript—this will depend not only on its length but also its complexity, the writing quality, and the editor’s experience. Per-word rates are set from the beginning and don’t change to reflect the complexity or quality of the writing, so you know exactly how much you’ll be paying.

Freelance editors also consider turnaround (how long they have to complete the work) when calculating the price—the less time they have, the more expensive it will be. They may also charge extra if your quick turnaround time requires them to work during their off-hours, such as in the evening or over the weekend. 

We offer tiered pricing depending on the word count; the turnaround time does not factor into our pricing for a developmental edit. For a more straightforward and transparent editing process, get a quote and a deadline before you agree to work with an editor. 

Manuscript complexity

The complexity of the ideas and the clarity of the storytelling can also come into play when calculating the cost of editing. Nonfiction books in particular can require specialized knowledge in a niche subject matter or extra attention to facts and POV, which is why some freelance editors will charge more to edit complex books than a novel or a children’s book. 

If your work delves into a niche area, you’ll want to look for an editor with expertise in it anyway since an amateur may not understand the jargon and expressions used in the discipline. The same applies to different genres of fiction as well—don’t hire an editor specializing in historical romance to edit your sci-fi thriller. Seeking out an expert in your particular field or genre could up the price a bit, but you’ll get more bang for your buck.

Language skills and writing level 

Many freelance editors will charge extra for a manuscript with more technical and linguistic errors as it will take them longer to get through it. A premium charge is commonly levied for manuscripts by authors whose first language isn’t English, which means the editor will have to spend more time improving the sentence structure and flow to ensure the writing feels authentic. In some cases, the editor may not immediately understand the writer’s intended meaning, and they’ll have to exert more mental effort to polish the manuscript. A higher rate may also apply to manuscripts by new authors who haven’t yet honed their creative writing skills and need help with clarity and structure. 

While premium charges for the writing level of the manuscript protect the editor against extra effort without the accompanying monetary compensation, it can feel unfair to the writers, especially to non-native English speakers with a strong grasp of the language or first-time authors with excellent writing skills. Editing services are less likely to increase rates based on the quality of the manuscript, making them the ideal solution for writers worried about such price hikes.

We have a standard per-word rate that will not fluctuate regardless of your genre, writing level, and the complexity of your subject matter. Thus, you can calculate the price yourself based on your word count and our rates, which are outlined here.

The editor’s experience

The editor’s experience or lack thereof can also affect your final price. A less experienced freelance editor or one who’s new to the industry might charge lower rates, but their inexperience can come at a cost, though that’s not always the case. Newcomers typically have to settle for lower rates until they make a name for themselves, but before you hire a cheap editor, make sure you vet them carefully. 

Meanwhile, a reputable editor’s experience will come at a premium but will likely be worth the investment. Do your due diligence to find the right editor for you, your manuscript, and your budget, but keep in mind that editing is an essential investment in the quality of your book, and a more expensive but more skilled editor is often worth it. If you decide to work with a newcomer, be sure to ask for samples and assess whether the bargain is worth it or not. 


The final element determining the cost of your developmental edit is the deliverables—what the editor will give you when they finish the job. For example, our editors deliver developmental notes in the margins of your manuscript plus a multi-page editorial letter outlining your book’s strengths and weaknesses and offering an editing strategy and suggestions for fixing the issues. Not only do you get a solid overview of what works in your story and what doesn’t, but the notes in the margins tell you exactly where the problems lie and help you implement the solutions more effectively.

Our simple pricing

We want to simplify the editing process, which is why our prices are based solely on word count. In this way, you always know exactly what you’re paying. If you’re ready to take your book to the next level, check out our developmental editing services

If your budget doesn’t allow for a big-picture edit, we also offer manuscript critique services, which include an editorial letter but no developmental notes. You’ll receive the same deep insights about your book, but it might be more difficult to fix the problems without the notes throughout your manuscript to guide you. 

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