The Cost of Editing a Book

In her Guardian article about self-publishing, Lisa Renee Jones estimates that to publish your own book well, the cost of editing is $6,000. She figures in all the costs, everything from $125 for the ISBN to $300 for buying review copies. By far, the largest expense she cites is $4,000 for editing.

What do I think of the editing figure? Well, it’s good to hear someone else say it. If you hire one of the best editors in the industry–that is, a New York industry veteran with decades of experience, who either quit the Big Five or was laid off, you can blow through that $4,000 in one substantive editing pass.

At The Threepenny Editor, your dollar can go a bit further. Say you hire me to read an early draft of your 80,000-word novel and return it with a critique and margin notes. Then you hire me to substantively edit the next draft. If your budget is $4,000, you can have me do a final read-through  and still have money left to pay for cover design.

This may sound like a lot, but as Jones writes, “Most … expenses are about transforming your work of art into something that looks and feels as if it has just been handled by the same team that publishes the likes of Donna Tartt or John Grisham. You’re a professional, and your work should reflect it.” She concludes, “So is it worth it? For all the hassle, the expense – and in spite of the fact that the market is getting more crowded, making it harder than ever for any single title to stand out from the crowd – [author Stephen] Robinson remains convinced that indie authors will thrive.”

While Jones leaves out a few expenses and slightly overestimates the cost of others (the one she excludes is book layout, which could run to $600), the article is largely accurate and does an excellent job showing the scope of work involved in publishing a book well.

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