As an emerging author, you may be frustrated to discover that you shouldn’t be following the lead of experienced authors when it comes to your editing budget and saving money on editing. The editing needs of seasoned authors are different from yours. Writers at earlier stages of their careers need strong developmental guidance. You need a strong story to even make it out of the starting gate. No amount of copyediting spit and polish will keep readers turning the pages of a lackluster story.
Yet developmental editing is the most expensive type of editing. I see you doing the math in your head: the most expensive kind of editing is most important of all for new authors, who are least likely to recoup that investment from book sales. Ouch.
You’ll be recouping your investment in other ways.
You’re not wrong.
But realize that you’ll be recouping your investment in other ways. The better the editing you get in the early stages of your career, the more you’ll learn about writing and revision and the faster your story crafting and writing skills will level up. A growth mindset changes everything.
In the meantime, you’re not without alternatives. Effective ways to save money on editing are well within your reach at every stage of your writing career.
How to save money on editing
1. Tell editors your budget up front. Don’t blindly fish for rates and bids when contacting prospective editors. Tell them your budget range right up front, and then send them your manuscript so they can assess your editing needs. Would a manuscript critique or evaluation be a budget-friendly alternative to a developmental edit for your situation? Is your manuscript strong enough to go straight to substantive editing? Get a consultation from your editor.
2. Turn in clean copy. Most editors don’t have set rates for their services; they base their quotes on how much work they’ll have to do to your copy and how long that will take. The sloppier your manuscript is, the higher your editing rate will be. So read through your final draft several times to save money on editing. Run Microsoft Word’s spellcheck feature. Read your manuscript out loud—yes, every word—to help you catch problems.
3. Develop your writing skill. If you shrug off the hard work of revisions and rely on an editor to tie up every dangling plot thread and dangling participle, you consign yourself to higher editing rates for the duration of your writing career. Don’t laugh off your errors and leave them for the editor to catch. Learn your business. Hone your craft.
4. Schedule your edits early. Three to six months isn’t too soon to begin to find the right editor you’d like to work with. If you want to work with the kind of editor who applies multiple review processes to your copyedit and thoughtful deliberation to your content edit, you don’t want an editor who’ll return your manuscript in a week. And sure, you could pay rush fees, but those can run to 100 percent or more of a project’s base fee.
Read more: Find a compatible editor who fits your style
5. Choose the right number of editing rounds. Some editors keep costs low by charging by the editing round; once they’ve finished that particular draft (no matter how many passes they make themselves during the process), that round is considered complete. Paying by the round could save you money unless you hope to go back and forth with your editor over several revisions. In that case, find out if you’ll get a discount for subsequent rounds. (This is the way I work, offering a steep discount.) If your editor includes multiple revision rounds in their base rate, ask how many rounds are included in the price of the edit.
6. Handle the cleanup yourself. Some editors send the edit to the author for review and approval, then make all the adjustments to the manuscript themselves. While this reduces the potential for error, it raises the cost of the edit. To save money, choose an editor who lets you accept and reject your own edits and do your own post-revision cleanup.
7. Try crowdsourcing your proofreading. Once all the editing is said and done, it’s time for one last check: proofreading. Your editor may provide this service; I do not, because I feel that your manuscript needs a fresh set of eyes at this point. You could hire a professional proofreader, but you may be able to save money on editing by farming this out to eager family and friends who’ve volunteered to help. Keep in mind that you’ll need to carefully vet their recommendations; their knowledge of current grammar, style, and usage or storytelling conventions will not always be on target. You can get the best of both worlds by asking your editor to review their suggestions as part of your editing followup or for a very low rate.
Don’t waste your resources squeezing a lemon.
8. Don’t waste your resources squeezing a lemon. It has to be said: No amount of line or copy editing can fix a clunker with a lifeless story. If your editor recommends stepping back from a final-stage edit like line editing, take heed. And if you’re not sure whether what you’ve written is ready for prime time—or professional editing—investigate with a more affordable assessment like a Plot Accelerator or Writing Accelerator, partial critique, or comprehensive assessment.
9. Look for package pricing. Remember that advice about cleaning up your copy in order to get a lower rate? Editors can afford to offer lower prices on subsequent editing services because your manuscript will be in better shape after the earlier edits. You’ll save money on editing by taking advantage of editing packages to get more services at lower rates.
10. Once you find an editor you click with, stick with them. Most editors provide special rates, discounts, or scheduling perks to established clients. My clients get first dibs on my schedule. Stick with your editor for similar insider treatment.