Key Takeaways

  • A book editor does more than just checking grammar mistakes; they work holistically to enhance the content and shape sentences for emotional impact.
  • There are different types of editing: developmental, line, copy, and proofread, which range from macro to micro edits.
    To find the right editor, consider your book’s needs and your budget. Shop around and ask questions to ensure a good fit.
  • The cost of a book editor depends on the word count, type of edit, and schedule, among other factors.
    Collaboration with an editor is important, and they are not there to judge but rather to help strengthen and enhance your work.
  • Trust the editor’s expertise. A good editor will bring a fresh perspective to your work and help you identify areas that need improvement. Listen to their feedback and be open to suggestions, even if it means making significant changes to your manuscript.
  • Communication is key. Establish clear lines of communication with your editor from the outset. Make sure you both understand each other’s expectations and deadlines, and be prepared to provide feedback and answer questions throughout the editing process.

What does a book editor do?

A simple answer would be: everything but write your book for you. A book editor has experience with fiction and nonfiction writing, and how to effectively structure a book, a paragraph, and a sentence. We want to enhance your sentences’ content and help your characters come alive for the reader. We draw out meaning, suggest changes to make your work more effective, and collaborate with you at a creative level, with knowledge of your genre and what writing rules to keep (and what ones you can safely break). A book editor doesn’t just check for grammar mistakes, but hones and shapes sentences for emotional impact. It is a holistic approach to writing that seeks to strengthen and enhance your work, not to “fix” it.

What editors actually do

While all editors have different processes, the goal is the same: to make your book stronger. We close read manuscripts, considering all aspects of the narrative, from overall plot and character arcs, to themes, pacing, emotionality, effectiveness, and writing quality. An editor will bring all their literary knowledge to bear, with a complex understanding of writing and plot structure and how to effectively craft characters that will resonate with your reader.

What are the different types of editing?

I always think of different types of editing as going from the macro to the micro, from the big content questions to the nitpicking of spelling and punctuation.

During a developmental edit, an editor will look at the overall content of the book—plot, pacing, characterizations, voice, perspective, setting, themes—and highlight what is strong and can be built up and what needs further work. We might suggest revising structure, rewriting scenes, or refocusing the narrative on a different point-of-view character.

In line editing, an editor will look closely at individual paragraphs and sentences, cutting or rearranging sentences, suggesting transitions or alterations, and generally honing your writing to strengthen it and communicate your meaning, including emotions, more effectively and accurately.

During a copy edit, the editor will look at your mechanics, such as grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation, and keep track of continuity and consistency. This is where most typos, word choice errors, and other small mechanical issues are caught.

A proofread is the final step, where an editor will look for lingering mistakes and typos in the text. For the most part, this is a purely mechanical edit, approached with the assumption that the text is almost clean and clear of errors.

How to find a book editor

Different editors have different specialties—you’ll find some that specialize in developmental/content editing, others that only do copy editing or proofreading, and some who do everything and anything. Some editors work in one or two genres, others will work across multiple genres. You’re looking for is an editor who fulfills your needs.

Take into consideration what you think your book needs. Do you want lots of feedback and content suggestions? Are you worried about the structure, the pacing, plot, or characters? Do you think your story is too long, but don’t know where to cut it down? Are you worried about your grammar and punctuation? The more aware you are of your own work, the easier it will be to find the kind of editor you need.

The other question is budget and how much you’re able to spend on a book editor. Most editors will be able to offer their rates, either per word or by the hour, and advise what they think they will charge for the edit. But it’s a good idea to be prepared with your own budget—remember that a quality book editor can cost a lot of money, but you’ll also receive a lot in return.

It’s OK to shop around. Read testimonials, if they’re available, and chat directly with multiple editors on email or by phone. You’re looking for someone who works in your genre and who feels a connection to your work. Remember that an editor is a collaborator, and so you want to feel comfortable with asking them questions and discussing your work. Editors are not judges—we’re not here to tell you that your writing is good or bad, and we’re not going to judge you for plot or grammar mistakes. Find someone that you feel comfortable with, and who fits with what you want for the book.

Ask questions. An editor should be able to give you an idea of cost, length of time for the edit, how they collaborate, how communicative they are, and what they can help you with. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask about it! Book editors will often also provide samples of their work, so that you can see what an edit will look like firsthand.

What does a book editor cost

There are many factors that book editors take into consideration for a project, and all editors are different (remember, we’re people too!). Generally, you can expect an editor to take the following into account:

Word count

A book of 150,000 words is going to cost more than a book of 80,000 words, no matter how well-written. So be prepared with your word count and know that a longer book will likely cost more.

Type of edit

A book editor will consider the amount of work involved with your project. A developmental/content edit will likely cost more than a copy edit or proofread, because the work involved is more strenuous. Samples are important—send your editor an indicative sample of your manuscript, so that we can gauge how much work will be needed.


Of course you might want a book done immediately, but many editors schedule themselves out for months. Some editors will apply a rush rate to a manuscript, which means that it will cost more if you want to schedule it earlier. It’s a good rule to start looking for an editor at least a month before you think you want to start so you can have someone who’s available right when you need them.

To get more specifics about book editors and what they charge, browse some of our editors here, find one or more that seems to fit your needs, and fill out our submit form. Talking with an editor directly will give you a far better idea of cost than anything else!

How to work with a book editor for best results

Book editing is collaborative, and it is best approached with that in mind. No editor should judge your writing, but neither should you expect (or want) an editor to tell you that it’s perfect. Consider what your goals are for your book, and what you want to get out of your collaboration. The better you know your own work and what you want from it, the better you can communicate that to your editor, and the stronger your book will be.

Remember that some things in literature are subjective, and what an editor suggests may not be exactly the direction that you wanted to go. But consider those suggestions, because they’re not arbitrary remarks—the editor is helping you find direction in your work. While you need not take everything an editor says as set in stone, you also shouldn’t dismiss things out of hand—after all, you came to an editor to improve your writing.

This is why choosing the right book editor is important; you want someone on your wavelength and who cares about your work, but who’s willing to provide constructive criticism. If you’re comfortable with your editor, you’ll be more willing to accept their critique and consider their advice.

Remember also that sometimes we just have to work on the book. Let your editor spend some time with the text without too many questions or prompts. We don’t know your work as well as you do!

Common questions about book editing

What does book editing include?

This depends on the type of editing, but generally a book editor will offer feedback, suggestions, and in-text changes. While you shouldn’t expect an editor to rewrite your book, you should receive direction on how you need to rewrite.

What is the difference between editor and proofreader?

An editor will consider the content of the sentences, as well as their structure, while a proofreader focuses on mechanical elements like spelling, punctuation, and grammar. A proofreader will assume that the manuscript is nearly ready for publication and a final check is all that’s needed.

Do book editors correct grammar?

Copy editing and proofreading will focus on grammar, spelling, and other mechanical elements, but developmental and line editors are looking more at content than whether your commas are in the right place.

How long should it take to edit a book?

This depends on the type of editing needed, but full-length books can take as little as two weeks and as much as six weeks or more. Different editors work differently—some are happy to go chapter by chapter, others prefer to work on the full manuscript at once—so find one that fits your needs.

Is a book editor necessary?

Yes. A book editor has distance from the text that the writer doesn’t, and knowledge of writing and structure that can’t be found in an editing program. We are looking to enhance the content of your sentences and help your characters come alive for the reader. We draw out meaning, suggest changes to make your work more effective, and collaborate with you at a creative level, with knowledge of your genre and of what writing rules to keep (and what ones you can safely break). A book editor doesn’t just check for grammar mistakes, but hones and shapes sentences for emotional impact. It is a holistic approach to writing that seeks to strengthen and enhance your work, not to “fix” it.

Does a book editor rewrite?

No. While some editors may offer rewriting services, that is usually separate from a developmental edit.

How many times do you edit a book?

This varies from manuscript to manuscript. Some manuscripts need a single round of proofreading, others require multiple rounds of developmental editing before we can move on.

When should you stop editing a book?

When you feel it’s ready. While edits are necessary, it’s possible to refine a book too much. At some point, the author needs to decide that it’s time. The book editor can advise on this, which is why it’s very important to find an editor you trust.

Should I copyright my book before sending it to an editor?

Most book editors will have a clause in their contract or service agreement stating that the text, including edits, belongs to the writer and the editor has no copyright claims on it. If an editor does not include this in their contract, ask them to include it.

Lauren Humphries-Brooks
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