“If there’s only one thing you’re able to spend money on, it should be hiring an editor.”
–Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
In Defense of Editors
If you have ever looked at a cost estimate for having your book edited, you may be scratching your head. More than $1,000 for copyediting? More than $3,000 for developmental editing? And that’s for a regular old 250-page manuscript! That seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a book that you can’t be sure will make a profit. How do editors justify charging so much?
Here’s the short answer: Without a thorough edit, your book won’t sell.
For years I didn’t believe that. How would readers know the book was poorly edited until after they bought it? But in the era of ubiquitous book reviews, it is absolutely true. Either no one will buy the book to begin with or a few people will buy it, pan it in the reviews, and dissuade anyone else from buying it. That means whatever money you spent on services other than editing — design, marketing, printing or converting to e-book — was wasted.
Professional editing isn’t a guarantee of success, but it gives your book a fighting chance and keeps you from embarrassing yourself. And for that kind of value added, you have to be willing to put forth some money.
Now, contrary to popular belief, the going rate for editing does not support a lavish, high-flying lifestyle. Rather, it affords the usual comforts of life, and it is only reasonable to expect a full-time professional to earn a modest living. She does that by charging her clients what her time is actually worth.
Nevertheless . . .
Some authors still feel if they are only going to make a certain amount of money on a project, the editor doesn’t have justification to charge more than that amount. That notion, however, ignores the fact that you are not paying your editor based on the book’s potential earnings. You are paying her for the work she is doing today.
If you question whether your editor is going to be worth her fees, get a sample edit before you hire her. This will give you an idea of what kind of changes your editor will make and you can decide for yourself if it is worth the expense.
Time and time again my authors tell me I have saved them from major embarrassment; I have found errors they never knew were there; the editing phase gave them the opportunity to improve their writing in ways they didn’t expect. If you work with a qualified, professional editor, there is a strong chance you will have a similar experience. And when that happens, when you see just how much better of a book you have due to your editor’s efforts, you will understand why editing costs so much.
(Read Part 2 of this post, “The Breakdown,” here.)
Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.