The BIG Questions – How Much Does Editing & Proofreading Cost? And How Long Does It Take?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Thank you for joining me today so I can answer the two questions that editors and proofreaders are most frequently asked: How much will it cost and how long will it take?

These questions are linked. The answers to both questions depend on the same variables. And to be honest, both questions are very close to asking, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ I will do my best to explain why that is.

The short answer to these questions is, it depends. It depends on the individual editor, which industry surveys and reports you read, on the required turnaround time, and how complex the project is.

Most professional editors have been in a situation where they have given a writer a quote, and the client has turned around and said, ‘But I got a quote from another editor and they were cheaper than you.’

The reasons for the variations are:

  • There is no one rate. Freelancers are independent business owners, and the editing marketing is global and diverse. All editors and proofreaders specialise in carrying out different types of editing, and we specialise in different subjects and genres. Due to my experience and my training, I specialise in various subjects and genres. (Check out My Services)
  • We all have different business models and varied costs of living.
  • There is no universal way of offering a set rate. Some editors charge by the hour, some charge by the word, some charge by the page, and others charge a flat fee. For manuscripts, I prefer to charge per 1,000 words on a sliding scale. For marketing material, I charge per hour. There is no set rate for either of these, it depends on the parameters of each individual project.
  • Due to the internet, editors and proofreaders can live anywhere in the world. Which means both you, and the editor, will need to take the fluctuations of exchange rates into account. I recently prepared a quote for a client in the UK. Due to the low value of the Australian dollar, the client got a very satisfactory cost for my services.
  • Some so-called editors are NOT editors at all. They might be English teachers or people that love to read that do it in their spare time for an extremely cheap price. Yes, they can probably pick up most of the misspelled words, incorrect punctuation and some of those pesky grammar mistakes. But they don’t have the training to perform a professional edit and all that entails. Remember the saying: you get what you pay for!

How much will it cost for you to edit (proofread) my manuscript/document? And how long will it take to do it?

I often get asked these questions within the first contact email from a potential client. The email usually goes like this, ‘Hi Jenni, I have just finished writing a book and I was wondering how much it will cost me for you to edit it, and long will it take?’

Editors need a lot more information before answering. Below are some of the questions that editors will need answers to before we can quote:

What genre is the book?

As I said earlier, most editors specialise in certain genres. On My Services page, you will see which genres and subjects I specialise in. If you are unsure what genre to label your manuscript with, or your story covers a few genres, let me know. You can give me an overview and I will let you know if I am able to give you the help/services you need.

If your manuscript is a genre that the editor is not familiar or comfortable with, but you really want that particular editor to complete the project, you will need to discuss this with your chosen editor. If they agree to help you, you will need to allow extra time for research and for the editor to familiarise themselves with the genre. I must admit, I am familiar with most genres, I am widely read, but I am not able to edit all genres.

How many words is the book?

This is important. It is no good telling me that your manuscript is 500 pages long. The quantity of words that fit on a standard A4 page differs. It depends on the font style and size, the formatting of the pages, and if your manuscript includes pictures/tables etc. The number of words influences how long it will take to complete the project. This is one of the main determiners of how long it will take. To find the word count of your project, it will be shown on the bottom right of the screen while in the Word document (circled below)- it is on my computer, don’t know about Macs.

Word Count

Here are some figures to give you an idea.

  • A developmental editor might manage 250 – 1,500 words an hour. Which would mean that an 80,000-word book would take between 53 and 320 hours.
  • For line and copyediting, 1,000 – 2,500 words per hour. This works out to be 32 – 80 hours for the same 80,000-word book.
  • For proofreading, 2,000 – 4,000 words per hour. For the same 80,000-word book, it would take 20 to 40 hours.

(Examples supplied by Louise Harnby 2019)

What type of editing does the manuscript need?

This is the other most important question that influences how long it will take to complete the project and how much it will cost. The editor needs to know how complex the project is. If you are not sure of what type/level of editing your project requires, speak to the editor and they can assess a sample of your work and advise. (For more information of types of editing, please have a look at My Services page.) As you can see in the examples I gave for the ‘How many words is the book’ answer, the number of words in the book, AND the type of editing required, are equally important.

What format is the book in?

Word or PDF – some editors have preferences of which format to work in. I prefer Microsoft Word so that I can use Track Changes. If you do not know what Track Changes is in Microsoft Word, here is an explanation. (A fictional example shown below.)

Track Changes Pic

Some writers may have handwritten their manuscripts. This will increase the time it will take to edit for both parties. I do not accept handwritten manuscripts at this stage.

Are you willing to supply a sample of the project for the editor to assess?

This is crucial. Without a sample of approximately 2,000 – 4,000 words (preferably from the middle of the manuscript and complete chapters if possible), an editor can not assess the type of editing required or how complex the manuscript is.

Giving the editor a sample benefits both parties. You may think you only need a light edit, check for misspelled words, incorrect spaces etc., but the editor may look at the manuscript and tell you that it needs a developmental edit. For example, maybe the chronology is incorrect, the story doesn’t flow properly, or the dialogue is stilted.

As the author, you need to decide what you would like done. Do you choose the light edit and risk losing readers when you self-publish your book, or risk publishing houses not being able to see the potential your manuscript has? For the editor, the difference between the time needed to perform a light edit and the time needed to perform a developmental edit is large. This would mean a new quote for the client and rescheduling the project.

When is the project required by?

We need to know your deadline. Do you have it booked to go to the publisher? Or a pre-detirmined release date? You need to have realistic expectations of how long the editor may need to complete a professional edit of your work.

Here’s an example I heard recently from Louise Harnby on her podcast about needing a ‘rush job’. As a writer, you give your editor an 80,000-word book to edit. Your editor quotes $XXXX and 50 hours to accomplish. Now, because your editor normally works approximately 5 hours a day, that is 2 weeks. But you need it done in one week. If you really want to work with that editor, they will have to work 10 hours a day, which means working in the evenings when most people spend time with their families, do their family shopping, help kids with homework etc. If you want your editor to work during this time, it will cost you extra. Some freelancers they up their rates by a percentage, others will double or triple their rates. This extra cost is needed to cover childcare, take out dinner and quite possibly bribes for the kids or hubby!

Not everyone understands that editing and proofreading take much longer than only reading your book does.


If you only need your manuscript or marketing material proofread, you will need to have had your project copyedited first. Editing ALWAYS comes before proofreading. Proofreading is the final quality-control check before you publish.

A proofread is the final tidy-up that looks out for any problems that have slipped through previous rounds of editing and formatting. It’s the last line of defence before you publish.


To help ensure that my rates are competitive, I regularly check the rates that are suggested by the various national editing and proofreading societies and I also check my rates against various competitors.

The societies I check are:

  • IPed– Institute of Professional Editors (Australia)
  • SfEP– Society of Editors and Proofreaders (UK)
  • EFA– Editorial Freelancers Association (US)

Please note though, that as business owners, we charge what we need to make our businesses work. My business is my livelihood. As such, and like any other business, I am responsible for tax, insurance, sick pay, holiday pay, superannuation, training, continued professional development, equipment, accounting, promotion, travel expenses, industry society memberships and other business overheads.

If you have a different question to ask me about editing and proofreading, ask in the comments below, or via my Contact Me page. I will get back to you as soon as I am able.


Note from Jenni: I hope you found this week’s post helpful. Next week I will be sharing a post that explains how to prepare your document for your editor.  Please follow my blog so you don’t miss out on any upcoming posts.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me via my Contact Me page or leave a comment below. To find out more about my services, visit My Services page. You can also find me on Facebook by clicking the ‘F’ icon at the bottom of any page on my website.


(Image courtesy of Pexels)

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