How long does professional editing take?

editing timeWhen you’re eager to see your book in print, it’s tempting to look for an editor who can promise your manuscript back in just weeks or even days. Buyer beware: Do the math. If an editor promises to turn your manuscript around in little more than the time it takes to read your book, you should wonder how much critical judgment is actually being applied.

Most professional editors have eyes on the page from four to six hours a day; any more tends to dull the focus needed to spot issues. A group of my colleagues recently discussed scheduling about 25,000 words to 35,000 words per week for a typical edit, if there even is such a thing. Editing rates vary greatly depending on the type of editing and the condition of the manuscript. It takes more time to tease the knots out of a tangled story line than it does to step through a line edit in a polished, carefully revised manuscript.

While I do have clients who work on tight production schedules and need quick turnarounds, I’m a slow, thoughtful editor by default. My life during an edit might remind you of yours during the writing process. I’ll worry and pick at the details whether I’m at the computer or driving to the grocery store. Read this intriguing play-by-play of an edit from editor Karen Ball.

If you’re getting an edit that will involve multiple editing rounds, you’ll need to consider your own revision time as part of the total. Your edit will come back with many comments, questions, and opportunities for revision and improvement. If you’re a slow, methodical writer, there’s no reason to expect you’ll dash off the revisions in a week or two. I recommend one to two months for revisions between editing rounds, and many authors prefer more.


editingReady to schedule an editor? That editor could be me! Find out how far ahead to schedule your edit.