It fills me with terror when I see short turnaround periods offered for manuscripts on some freelance service platforms, where folk offering many different services can utilise to garner business. Often a guaranteed timeline is presented upfront without assessing the writing requiring the work. Is it arrogance or ignorance of editing skills involved?
Editing speeds vary from person to person. Yes! this is a set of skills that requires the human brain, not AI, not an app!
Multiple factors feed into how long a project will take, such as the type of editing, word count, language(s) used and the overall condition of the manuscript. Another critical factor is the editor’s familiarity with the writer’s work. The more familiar, the more we know the nuances and common errors that arise and the slicker one can become in completing a manuscript.
When I see small house publishers or independent writers churning out book after book, I wonder how much time is spent on this essential process and how many passes a book undergoes before publication. I also wonder ‘who’ is editing. It’s a dangerous assumption that any writer or reviewer can also be an effective editor. Editing is far more than reading and spotting the odd typo. Unfortunately, the latter is a common ignorance in particular writing circles and some so-called ‘editors’.
As a serious writer with pride in your work, you should consider these questions too. Consider what an editor and publisher can genuinely do to add value to your process before signing a contract.
From my desk (and I’ve already explained how many factors play in), I average 1k-2k words per hour. I reiterate this is editing, not reading.
As a simple example, a 60k manuscript = 60 hours of work. What would you expect to be paid for working 60 hours?
This little example is worth considering when you are pricing an editor — who will have additional tasks before the edit begins on your piece. The essential set-up stages also cost them time. And as the saying goes, in business, time is money.
When I set up my editing business, Word Refinery, I offered introductory rates. As a passionate freelancer and supporter of creatives, I supported small publishing houses with additional discounts at my own expense. Independent businesses incur more costs than just time — which is one of the most valuable commodities. And, of course, the cost of everything is rising worldwide. With that, Word Refinery fees are under review.
Professional relationships between writer and editor or publisher and editor require a two-way level of respect. Fees are an integral component of that.