Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

Editors go by many different titles. Here are job descriptions of the four main types of editors you will come across, along with their alternate names and how much you can expect to pay when you hire them (based on industry averages).

Book coaches

Manuscripts in progress. Focus your writing and shape the overall direction of the book. May work with you from inception. Can guide you through the publishing process or for just a few months until you have your writing on track. Also called book shepherd.

Average rates: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editors

Very big picture. Shape the content of the book. Review organization of the book as a whole as well as organization within chapters; highlight areas that need work, need rewriting, require expansion, stray from topic. May overlap with copyediting. Also called content editing.

Average rates: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $75 an hour


Big picture. Work with completed manuscripts. Fix errors of grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense, as well as flow of paragraphs and word choice. Highlight further areas of development. Will do some rewriting; query places that don’t work, don’t make sense, don’t say what you think they say. Can overlap with development. Also called line editing.

Average rates: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $45 an hour


Finer details. Catch whatever the copyeditor may have missed. Fix grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense. Very little rewriting. Usually pages have been typeset so making changes becomes costly and time-consuming. For best results, do NOT use the same person to copyedit and proofread your work.

Average rates: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $30 an hour

Whenever you hire a vendor of any kind, be sure to clarify what their services include. Open communication is the best way to ensure you are getting what you expect.

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9 thoughts on “Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

  1. Anthony Wade November 28, 2014 / 2:28 PM

    Interesting post. I hadn’t heard of book coaches until now

    • Katherine Pickett November 28, 2014 / 2:34 PM

      That one was new to me too until I started working with individual authors rather than solely with publishing houses. For writers who need someone to hold them accountable, a book coach can be invaluable.

  2. mfsadler27 June 29, 2015 / 1:11 PM

    Why different hourly rates, Katherine? I figure an hour of my time is worth an hour of my time, whether I’m copyediting or proofreading. They’re all hours on which I depend for a living. I charge the same rate — one just gets done faster than the other.

    • Katherine Pickett June 29, 2015 / 1:15 PM

      Different editors charge differently, but for those who charge based on type of service, it’s a question of value added. The expertise required to perform a high-quality developmental edit is significantly greater than what is required for proofreading. I think one should be paid accordingly. The value of my time is the same, but the value of my expertise is not.

      • mfsadler27 July 1, 2015 / 11:33 AM

        Do you think other professionals charge for their services that way?

      • Katherine Pickett July 1, 2015 / 11:38 AM

        Yes, I know that they do. When I worked in-house, we paid different rates for different services. Also, if you look at the Editorial Freelancers Association’s rate chart, based on a national survey, you can see that different services earn different wages. Some editors and publishers feel the way you do — an hour is an hour — but many follow the business model I present here.

      • mfsadler27 July 1, 2015 / 11:41 AM

        I was thinking doctors, social workers, lawyers, teachers. 🙂

      • Katherine Pickett July 1, 2015 / 11:50 AM

        Ah, yes, I believe some do. In my experience, doctors charge differently if it’s a well visit or a sick visit. Lawyers have different fees for the different services they provide, for example, a phone consult vs. forming an LLC. Teachers and social workers are not self-employed, so their rate structure probably doesn’t flex.

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