It’s an amazing thing that we can self-publish our books these days. We don’t have to send our manuscripts to a hundred agents, getting rejected over and over, all with the hope that one of them will finally say yes.
There’s a cost to self-publishing your book. Whereas your manuscript would go through multiple editing rounds at a traditional publisher, you have to somehow do that all yourself.
I’ve discussed the cost of developmental editing previously, so today we dive into the cost of line editing.
All of this is meant to give you some more insight into what you can expect when you self-publish a book and how much you should budget.
However, not everyone has the budget to pay for all editing services. And I feel everyone should be able to publish a book of great quality, regardless of wealth.
So below, I’ll talk about the importance of line editing, what’s involved in a line edit, how expensive line editing is, and some budget-friendly options if you can’t afford a line edit.
Why is line editing important?
While developmental editing looks at the big picture of your story and your scenes, line editing focuses on your writing on the sentence level. It’s a stylistic type of edit that improves the flow and readability of your manuscript.
It’s a common misconception that line editing means the editor will cut away the writer’s voice.
While the edit is stylistic and less “rule-based” than copy editing or proofreading, it’s meant to clarify the message and make the text flow. It doesn’t take out what makes the writing unique to the author.
If your story has weak line-writing, the text doesn’t flow well, is hard to read, and is potentially boring or confusing. You don’t want that, of course. The better the writing, the more engrossed the reader becomes, the better it’s received, the better the reviews, the better it sells.
As with everything, line editing doesn’t guarantee great sales, but it certainly won’t harm it.
What is involved in line editing?
Like I said, line editing focuses on the sentence level (but also on the paragraph level). As with developmental editing, line editing is rather expensive. This is again due to the time it takes.
The editor has to read paragraphs, go back to a paragraph, tease the sentences apart, think about the choice of words, and consider alternatives. It’s a lot of thinking.
They mostly focus on aspects like repetition, unparallel sentences, ambiguity, redundancy, monotonous sentences, and so on.
To give you an idea of the time it takes, the Editorial Freelance Association’s website gives you a rough indicator of the editng speeds (where one page is considered to have 250 words). Line editing for nonfiction and fiction generally takes 4-6 pages an hour (so 1000-1500 words an hour). In other words, a full-length novel of 80k words can take a line editor approximately 64 hours.
Personally, I aim for half that time. How? Well, I simply take less time deeply thinking about each sentence and focus more on fixing the things that really need fixing. I feel this better balances the costs for the client with the amount of value delivered.
How expensive is line editing?
The question you’ve been wondering about. As usual, there are different ways to price a line editing service:
Some also charge per page.
Both pricing options are common, and both have their pros and cons. An hourly rate gives the writer more uncertainty about the total costs of the service. However, the time a line editor needs for a manuscript is highly dependent on the quality of the writing.
With a price per word, you know exactly what it will cost, but it may be that your manuscript needs less time because of the quality (and it would’ve been cheaper if you had paid per hour).
If you do go with a service per hour, make sure you have clear agreements. Get a price estimation that includes the maximum amount of time, and make sure the editor notifies you if it takes longer. Or agree that the editor won’t go over the time frame, so you won’t spend more money than you agreed upon.
According to the EFA, prices for a line edit lie between $46-50 an hour or $.04-$.049 per word for both fiction and nonfiction. This makes it similar in hourly rate to developmental editing.
Factors that affect pricing
If you choose a rate per word, then the pricing won’t be affected, as it’s a fixed price (unless the editor charges a different rate per word based on the quality of the manuscript).
The biggest factor that influences pricing is the quality of your manuscript. If your sentences are often monotonous, if you repeat a lot of words, or if your sentences tend to be unclear, the price can increase.
Note that it’s also possible the editor will ask you to do some line editing yourself before sending it back for more edits. Sometimes a manuscript isn’t quite ready yet. A good editor will see this and will let you know.
It may also be the case that your manuscript is of such a good quality where a line edit might not be necessary. Perhaps with a few pointers, you’re able to fix those few mistakes yourself. A good editor will tell you that as well—no need to waste money on something you don’t need, right?
It’s difficult to gauge exactly how much a line edit will cost. It really depends on the quality of the writing. But, of course, you do want an idea of what you can expect. So below, you can find an overview of the costs for fiction and nonfiction line editing for the hourly rate and rate per word.
Note that these rates are calculated based on the EFA guidelines. Some editors may charge different hourly rates or rates per word.
Line editing Fiction & Nonfiction
What to do if you can’t afford a line edit?
It can be valuable to receive feedback from fellow writers. If you’re part of a writing community, ask people you know for feedback on your writing. Make sure you specifically ask them about the style of your writing. Think of questions such as:
Does the text flow well? Where doesn’t it flow well?
Were there any boring parts?
Were there unclear sentences/paragraphs?
Is the writing engaging?
That should give you some idea of where your book might have issues. Note that sometimes the above questions will give you some developmental feedback rather than line-writing feedback, but it’s still helpful.
It’s important to realize that your fellow writers also have their own styles and preferences. So, when they give you feedback, make sure that what they say has a reasoning behind it (other than: I prefer it this way). Sometimes, things are just a matter of taste.
Some grammar tools will also help you spot stylistic mistakes or points for improvement. Grammarly will tell you when you have monotonous sentences, suggest synonyms if you repeat a certain word a lot, highlight passive voice, and notice complicated sentences.
ProWritingAid is another tool you could use. I haven’t yet used this myself (but I will in the future), but it checks for unnecessary adverbs, clichés, and odd dialogue tags, and gives “show don’t tell” suggestions. It finds redundant phrases, overused words, inconsistencies, passive voice, and monotonous sentences.
A free tool you can use is the Hemingway App. If you paste your writing in here, it will show you where you’ve used adverbs and passive voice, whether a phrase can be substituted for something simpler, and if a sentence is hard to read. Using this should give you some idea of how you can clarify your writing.
Pay for what you can
Sometimes you want a line edit but simply don’t have the budget for an entire manuscript. In that case, you can also decide to pay to have part of your story edited.
You could, for instance, only ask to have the first 10k words of your story edited. After all, the beginning is the most important to hook your readers.
Moreover, you might look at the line edits that were done in the first part of your manuscript and apply what you see there to the rest of your story yourself.
Self-study and self-edit
This last option does cost more time, but it also pays off. Find a course on line editing and learn how to do it. These courses will likely cost a bit, but you do save a lot with each book you write and edit yourself.
Of course, it’s different to edit your own book compared to someone else’s book. You have to be in the right mindset for it----you tend to become blind to your own writing. Make sure you’re not too emotionally attached when you start your editing.
I also have a free self-editing course for you, where you also learn the basics of line editing. And knowing the basics can go a long way!
Line editing on a budget
I hope you’ve gained some idea as to what you can expect if you want to hire a line editor. And what you can do if you have a tight or nonexistent budget.
Are you unsure whether your story needs line editing?
Email me and send me a sample of your manuscript.
I will tell you if it could use line editing (and how crucial line editing is for your manuscript). If it does, I’ll give you some examples within your manuscript. You can then also take these examples and use it to edit the rest of your manuscript yourself.