If you need an editor for your nonfiction book and you’re a first-time author, before you can make a hiring decision you need to become familiar with the different editing stages that are necessary for your book.
In this article I’ll briefly describe the four stages of nonfiction editing and then I’ll show you the typical rates editors charge for each stage.
Nonfiction Book Editing is Multi-layered
There are four distinct stages of nonfiction editing: 1- Developmental Editing, 2- Content Editing, 3- Copyediting and 4- Proofreading.
1) Developmental editing takes care of the overall structure of your book to make sure that it’s optimized to deliver your message to your target audience.
The aim of this stage is to develop a deep understanding of your audience so that your book can be written from their perspective.
First-time nonfiction authors tend to write books from their personal perspective. Experienced nonfiction authors write books from their audience’s perspective. A developmental editor will help you make this transition effectively.
2) Content editing goes down a level into message delivery. It takes care of your paragraphs and chapters to ensure that your flow of ideas is clear at all times. It has more to do with readability than structure.
Content editors will want to make sure that your sentences make sense and aren’t too long or tedious. They’ll want to make sure that your chapters are structured correctly and that each paragraph carries a single idea.
3) Copyeditors, on the other hand, will want to make sure that your language is accurate and that your book doesn’t have spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. They’ll check that your syntax is correct and that your book follows the proper rules of capitalization.
In short, copyeditors will want to ensure that your book abides by commonly accepted rules of style in the publishing industry.
4) Proofreaders will take care of your final stage of editing, namely, to get as close to 100% accuracy as possible before your book is published, printed and widely distributed.
They’ll catch the typos that were missed in prior stages, ensure that your book’s format is consistent throughout and do the final fact checking for figures, dates, numbers, places, formulas, etc.
What Editing Rates Should I Expect from Each Stage?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the role of each type of editor, let’s look at their typical rates:
1) Developmental Editing
Developmental editors can have two separate charges, depending on the nature of your book.
A per-word or per-page rate for the textual component of your book, and a per-hour rate for books that are research-intensive (e.g. highly academic, scientific or specialized).
Per-word rates range from 8 cents to12 cents depending on the level of difficulty of your text (or $20-$30 per page). Per-hour rates are typically around $60/hour for non-editing research activity.
2) Content Editing
Content editors charge a much lower rate than developmental editors, which is typically based on dollars per 1,000 words.
For books with standard text – that is, non-specialized, non-scientific or non-academic text – the content editing rates will range between $40 and $50 per 1,000 words.
For difficult text (specialized, scientific or academic) the range goes up to $50-$70 per 1,000 words.
3) Copy Editing
As you progress through the editing stages, your costs will continue to decrease, since each stage builds on the previous one.
For books with standard text, copyeditors will charge between $30 and $40 per 1,000 words. For difficult text the rate range goes up to $40-$60.
Proofreaders have the lowest rates of all editing stages. For standard text, the range is $25-$35 per 1,000 words. For difficult text the range goes up to $35-$45 per 1,000 words.
When doing your hiring, make sure that you don’t skip any editing stages in order to lower your costs. The high-quality expectation for nonfiction books in the market demands that you engage in all four stages.
When it comes to cost, keep in mind that the quality of your book will relate directly to your credibility and your professional reputation, and those are areas where cutting corners is not desirable.
On the flip side, consider that a high-quality book will result in more business later on, since your book will act as powerful tool to promote your professional services. In the end, your editing investment will be returned to you multiple times.
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.