Freelance Editorial Costs for Authors

editing with red pen
Freelance editorial services ensure a professional manuscript submission. Carmen Martinez Banus / Getty Images

The editorial department of a traditional publisher performs a variety of tasks in service of a well-structured and well-edited book. But to get your book in front of that publisher in the first place, you'll need to put your best pages forward, to ensure that your manuscript reads well, and is free of grammatically errors and typos.

When You Should Consider Engaging Freelance Editorial Services

Programs like Grammarly are really sophisticated and, for a monthly fee, you can get some really in-depth feedback on your writing (a free version helps with spelling, grammar, etc).

But you should consider hiring expert freelance editorial help when:

  • You're looking for a literary agent to place your book with a major trade publisher and you suspect your writing skills could use more help, or you need developmental editing (that is, a pro to talk you about the flow of your material). 
  • If you have decided to self-publish a book (especially if you are writing a book to market your business or for some other professional platform), you’ll want to ensure your book is just as well edited as if you’d had it published by a traditional publisher.
  • You need a specialized editorial service — such as translation or indexing. 

Many self-publishing services offer editorial options for additional fees. But if you have connections to editorial freelancers (or know people who do), or if you don't mind doing the research, you might save money or have more quality control if you hire editorial freelancers yourself.

How Much Can You Expect to Pay for Freelance Editorial Services?

The rates for freelance editorial services will vary, sometimes dramatically, depending on where you live, how quickly the work is expected to be done, the experience level of the freelancer, etc. To give you a rough idea of what the costs might be, here are some general ranges for some of the major freelance editorial services.

Of course, with your rough manuscript or project description in hand, an experienced freelancer will be able to give you a close estimate what the total for their services would be.

Book Research Costs

If you need preliminary research before you start writing your book, expect to pay approximately $45-$80 per hour, depending on the complexity of the project and the qualifications of the researcher

Book Ghostwriting Costs

Ghostwriting costs vary widely, depending on the reputation and relevant writing experience of the ghostwriter and what the parameters of the deal are. That said, the cost of ghostwriting a book can range from a few cents a word to $2 a word—some ghostwriters command well into the five-figures and beyond.

As successful ghostwriting is a collaborative and highly subjective experience, it is best to deal with a reputable ghostwriting agency or a literary service who can provide you with a solid contract and give you guidelines of what to expect.

Book Co-Writing Costs

The process of hiring a paid co-writer is very similar to hiring a ghostwriter but, as a co-writer generally gets credit—that it, his or her name on the book jacket—the parameters and structure of the deal are generally different (upfront advances vs. royalties, etc.)

Book Transcription Costs

If you are an author who prefers to record his or her ideas in the spoken word, you’ll need to get your manuscript transcribed into text. If you go this route, you can expect to pay more in editing fees to develop the book to make your words and ideas flow properly in text format. The cost of transcription generally runs between $3 and $5 per page.

Book Translation Costs

Translators generally charge by the word. If you are translating your book from one language to another, you can generally expect to pay between $.20 and $.50 per word at a speed of 300-500 words an hour, depending on the complexity of the text and the translator.

Book Developmental Editing Costs

The developmental editor helps shape the manuscript. A freelance developmental editor can charge anywhere from $50-$80 per hour.

Line Editing

In a traditional publisher house, the editor who acquired your book would generally do the line editing. If you hire a freelance editor to do the line editing for your book, expect to pay approximately $50-$60 an hour.

Book Copyediting Costs

Copyediting can cost anywhere from $30-$50 per hour, and you can figure 2–10 manuscript pages per hour, depending on how heavy or light the copyediting need.

Proofreading

After all the heavy lifting of editing is done, proofreading assures that no typos remain; it’s a critical part of the quality control process, helping to ensure a good experience for the reader. Proofreaders generally charge between $30 and $35 per hour.

Book Indexing

Non-fiction books generally have indexes in the back, so the specific subject matter can be easily found. Even traditional publishers charge back their authors for book publishing (it comes out of their royalties). If you’re hiring an indexer, expect to pay about $35-$65 per hour for indexing; an average book will cost several hundred dollars to index.