Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

What does it cost to get my novel edited and proofread?

Posted on 12th March 2018

OK, so apologies for luring you in with the click-bait title, and I'm sure it'll come as no surprise when I say that the answer to the question relates to that piece of string, but there's method in my madness here. In this blog post, what I want to talk about is how authors shouldn't be ashamed/sorry for what their budget is, but that sometimes it's best just to be open about what you can afford.

For many independent authors, publishing a book is a hobby, something done alongside a day job, and like any hobby, these sorts of things tend to have a budget. All authors want to publish the best book they can, but that can't be done at the expense of paying bills and putting food on the table.

I am going to give two recent personal case studies about the proofreading and editing services I've offered to two different authors with budgets that on the face of it were not in line with what I would have charged.

Case 1: The long book by Joe Bloggs

I received an email from an author, let's call him Joe Bloggs, asking about my copy-editing and proofreading services, offering to send me a sample so I could determine which service I thought was most appropriate and then provide a quote. The issue without even looking at a sample was that the book was 165,000 words long. Most of my quotes are done on a per-thousand-word basis, and when the supposedly average novel is about 80,000 words, this meant that Joe would be looking at paying double the average. In these instances, and in many others, I think it's best to ask the author what budget they have and to take things from there. As it turned out, Joe had a budget far lower than I would do the work for, but that didn't put either of us off. Joe wants to submit to agents, not go ahead with the full self-publishing process yet, and so after a bit of toing and froing, we came to the conclusion that he would pay my usual rate but just for the first three chapters. This is often the sample size requested by agents (in this case, it's over 10,000 words, which is sometimes another cut-off point for agent samples) and then Joe would be able to look at the amendments and comments I'd made to the first three chapters and implement them throughout the rest of the book. This approach will obviously depend on what other work has been done on the file; Joe had had a few beta readers and was happy with the story, but formatting and a few grammar points still needed to be addressed. Joe felt confident he could do this and I put extra time in to give him links to blog posts and articles about elements he needed to address.

Hopefully, he'll now have a decent sample to send to agents and with a bit more work on his part, if agents ask to see the rest of the file, he'll have got that up to scratch. After all, if you have a limited budget but want to submit to agents, blowing all that budget at the start might cause problems down the line if the agent wants you to make hefty changes to the story, meaning you will need another round of proofreading and possibly copy-editing.

Case 2: Two long books but no firm deadline for Jane Bloggs

The same week as Joe Bloggs got in touch, Jane Bloggs did too – they weren't related but you know how these anonymising things go.* Jane had written two books, both had been well received by agents and publishers but not taken on board, so Jane decided she would self-publish. There was no set deadline on this, with a vague aim for June (i.e. 3 months' time). The books are both on the long side, 110,000 and 135,000 words, but both in very good shape, meaning it really would be a straightforward proofreading service. Had Jane needed these doing quickly, I'd have stuck with my usual rates because I'd have possibly had to turn away other work at better rates. The approach I took instead was again to ask Jane what her budget was, and though a little below my usual rate, because I had the flexibility to fit the two proofreading projects around other work (and holidays), I decided the rate worked for me too. Happy author, happy proofreader! This won't always be suitable as some editors and proofreaders are booked up months in advance (as I have been at times in the past), but I was able to look at my schedule for the three months and be happy that this would all work out.

The moral of the story

The moral of this blog post is that authors need to be honest with themselves about their budgets, not be ashamed of them, and look at ways to make the budget work with the book and project in question; it goes without saying that this applies to any clients with any proofreading or editing needs but I thought I'd keep the focus a bit narrower.

If you have a story that can't be written in 80,000 words, it's important not to just stop midway because that's all you can afford to get edited and proofread. The story needs to be written, and then you need to find a way to get the book published.

Finally, don't forget that proofreaders and editors will have different earnings requirements, and where I have said I have charged Jane a bit less than normal, that might have been a high wage for someone else. It's about making decisions that work for both parties, and there's never going to be one size that fits all.

* I take client confidentiality seriously and despite not giving much away about the two authors, they have both given permission for me to post this.

Written by Kate Haigh.