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The Cost of Proofreading (And Budget-Friendly Options)

In the last post of the series, we discuss the cost of proofreading. We all know that self-publishing a book can be quite costly. We have to make choices about what services we’re going to hire, and what we’ll do ourselves.

Previously, I’ve discussed the cost of developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing. For each editing stage, I’ve also given you some budget-friendly options. I hope these articles help you decide what to budget for.

Below, you’ll learn why proofreading is important, what’s involved, how expensive it is, and what some budget-friendly options are.

the cost of proofreading and budget-friendly options

Why is proofreading important?

Proofreading is the last check of your manuscript to ensure that all the minor errors are gone. That way, your reader won’t trip over misspelled words, faulty punctuation, or wonky formatting.

These small errors usually won’t lead to extremely low ratings, but they can affect the ratings a bit. And every bit helps to make sure your readers are excited about your book.


Related: The Cost of Copy Editing


What is involved in proofreading?

Essentially, proofreading is a smaller version of a copy edit. There’s a lot of overlap between the two. The biggest difference is that copy editing focuses more on bigger errors like syntax mistakes or sentence parallelism, whereas proofreading focuses on minor errors like typos and punctuation.

For instance, it looks at consistent italicization of words, proper capitalization, correct punctuation usage, consistency for dates and numbers, and so on.

Compared to the other stages of editing, proofreading is the least expensive. This is because it costs the least amount of time and requires the least amount of expertise.

To give you an idea of the general time it takes, the Editorial Freelance Association’s website gives you a rough indicator. Proofreading for fiction takes 11–15 pages an hour (2750–3750 words an hour), whereas nonfiction is slower with 7–10 pages an hour (1750–2500 words an hour).

In other words, a full-length fiction novel of 80k words can take a proofreader approximately 25 hours, while a nonfiction novel of the same length can take approximately 38 hours.

I find this depends on the writing quality. Generally, I manage between 2000–3000 words an hour for both fiction and nonfiction.

Free self-editing course: learn to edit your book (fiction and nonfiction)

How expensive is proofreading?

Of course, you want to know how much you should budget for proofreading. As with the other editing stages, you can price a proofreading service per hour or per word.

A price per word tells you how much your proofread will cost. However, if your manuscript is of high quality, you may end up paying more than needed.

With a price per hour, you could end up with a cheaper price if your manuscript is of good quality. However, it’s less certain what the total costs will be. Here, always inquire about the costs beforehand and make clear agreements with the editor. For instance, ensure the editor won’t go over the price estimation or that they will alert you if they think they need more time.

According to the EFA, prices for a proofread lie between $31–35 an hour or $.02–.029 per word for fiction. For nonfiction, prices are $36–40 an hour or also $.02–.029 per word.

Factors that affect pricing

As with all editing stages, what you pay is affected by the quality of your manuscript (unless you’ve opted for a price per word).

To get the most out of your money, make sure you’ve gone over the manuscript yourself to remove mistakes before you send it to an editor.

General numbers

As always, it’s difficult to gauge the exact price of a proofread, as it depends on the quality of the writing. To give you some idea, I offer my average rates for proofreading below (note that these prices are the same for fiction and nonfiction).

  • 20,000-word novel around $250.-

  • 40,000-word novel around $500.-

  • 60,000-word novel around $750.-

  • 80,000-word novel around $1000.-


When do you use an Em Dash, En Dash, and Hyphen?


What if you can’t afford a proofread?

Exchange with another writer

You can make a deal with other writers you know who are at a similar stage as you are. Check each other’s manuscripts. Do make sure that the writer you’re working with knows what they’re doing beforehand (and make sure you know what you’re doing as well). This option will cost you nothing except time.

Use grammar tools

The most popular grammar tools are Grammarly and ProWritingAid. I’ve used Grammarly for many years for my writing. It picks out most of the mistakes, especially typos and incorrect punctuation. However, you still need to be vigilant and check whether or not it’s actually a mistake.

I’ve only just started using ProWritingAid to compare, so I have little to say about it yet. It seems to pick out a lot of mistakes and the additional options seem to be great for writers to help with their line writing as well (there’s a special rewrite option).

Both have free options, so you can try those out and see which one you enjoy using the most. I would recommend using them to go through your manuscript at least once before you send it to your proofreader anyway.

Again: check what they mark and decide for yourself if it’s an actual mistake or not.

Self-study and self-edit

The last option takes the most time and is also not free, but it can pay off. You can find a course on proofreading and learn how to do it.

It’s different to edit your own book, however, compared to someone else’s. It can help to switch the font and start at the last page of your manuscript to catch the mistakes. Or you can print it out. This will help you spot errors faster.

You can find editing courses at The Edit Republic, Liminal Pages, or the EFA.

I also have a free self-editing course for you, where you’ll also learn the basics of proofreading. And these basics can go a long way!

Proofreading on a budget

I hope you now know what to expect when you want to hire a proofreader or what you can do if you’re on a tight or nonexistent budget.

Are you interested in working with me as your proofreader? Fill out the form to request a quote, and I’ll get back to you!

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