Desert Sage Book Editing Services  

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Maybe you're wondering, "Do I need an editor for my book?  I've written eighteen drafts, and everyone I know has read it and given me advice. Way too much advice." The short answer is, yes. Though it always helps to let multiple pairs of eyes read your book, even the best writers need the services of a professional editor. (If you still need convincing, read "The Many Ways a Book Can Go Wrong, or 22 Reasons Every Author Needs an Editor.")

I like this quote by Stephen King, who obviously has a deep appreciation for his editor: "To write is human. To edit is divine."

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Book Editor?

The price will vary, depending on how heavy an edit the book needs. If you compare manuscript-editing services and freelance book editor rates, you'll see that many "editing mills" charge by a "per word" rate. Personally, I consider this a red flag, because every book needs individualized attention. Chances are, these large manuscript-editing services won't do more than a basic copy edit, and if your book needs fine-tuning (e.g., improving the flow, rewording or deleting repetition, changing passive voice to active, etc.), then you won't get it at an editing mill unless you pay extra. (That's assuming qualified editors are on staff  in the first place, because editing mills tend to attract beginning editors who work for low rates, in order to gain experience). Yet if all you need is a simple copy edit, an editing mill is one of the more affordable editing services. To learn how the Desert Sage method provides a more personalized editing experience, see "The Book-Editing Process at Desert Sage."

The Free Sample Book Edit Benefits Both of Us

At Desert Sage, I offer you a free sample edit that achieves two goals: you can judge the quality of my work, and I'll determine the level of edit needed and my editing speed with your book (that is, how many words per hour I can edit). Then I base my price estimate on that editing speed divided into into the book's total word count, to arrive at the total number of editing hours.

If your book first needs developmental editing, the pricing happens in two stages. I'll still initially do a free sample line edit (a substantive edit) of a small portion of the manuscript, so that you can see the types of edits I'll make. But I won't begin actual editing until the book has gone through a developmental edit. For that stage, I usually charge by the hour or by "guesstimating" how long I'll need to rearrange sections, suggest areas where you need to go into more depth, and make other changes to improve continuity and so on.

If I discover during the sample edit that your manuscript has “no major surprises,” however, I'll provide an estimate of the total cost up front, and it will probably be accurate.

“No major surprises” means that the entire manuscript is already written, the level of edit remains roughly the same throughout, and you don’t decide at some point to do a major rewrite of previously edited sections or to add more chapters or pages, thus increasing the editing time. Of course, you can revise to your heart's content as we go along; I'm flexible. I’ll keep an exact record of every minute I spend editing your book, in case you decide to add a significant amount of text. In that event, the original estimate may be too low, so I would bill the project at an hourly rate. Another factor is that sometimes the pages authors give me for the sample edit require much less editing than other sections do. This is one reason I ask to see the complete manuscript before I begin. A second reason is that before I focus on details, I like to skim ahead in case anything may need rearranging.

If it turns out that I spend fewer hours on the book than in my original estimate, I’ll either refund that amount or lop it off the final bill. Sometimes it’s hard to predict the exact hours a project will take. Authors may start off like gangbusters in the introduction, then get bogged down in later chapters. A more common problem, however, is that the introduction needs a heavy edit because the author isn’t used to speaking in generalities to create an overview of the book. In the rest of the chapters, the author is on familiar ground and may slip into a more natural narrative style, so these sections might need a lighter edit. For this reason, it's often best to write the introduction last, because how can you summarize something you haven't yet written?

Payment for Book-Editing Services

For book editing services, the payments will be due in sections consisting of roughly three chapters each (or each section can be any size the author likes). A nonrefundable advance retainer is due up front for editing the first section. At the end of any section, either you or I have the option of walking away from the partnership if we are not satisfied with the results. If we both decide to continue, payment for each new section is required in advance. I’ll send you an invoice via PayPal, and you can pay me through PayPal as well.

Contact Me for a Free Sample Edit

To receive a free sample edit and an estimate of the total cost of editing your book, please use the contact form or e-mail me at

Please answer the questions listed on the e-mail contact form: What type of editorial service do you think you need? (To determine this, see "The Difference between Proofreading, Copy Editing, and Substantive Line Editing.") Describe the topic. What is the total word count? Do you have a deadline and/or an approximate time frame? Who is your target reading audience? Do you plan to seek a traditional publisher or self-publish?

Then I’ll send you a private e-mail address where you can email me an MS Word attachment of the first 6 to 8 pages of your manuscript, plus 10 other pages that are representative of the quality of writing from somewhere else in the book. (In other words, don’t choose the most polished pages; pick average pages so that I can gauge how heavy of an edit will be required.)

I’ll next do a short sample edit (however many pages I can edit in roughly an hour), and I'll send it to you, along with a quote for the total price of the book, based on word count, and an estimate of the time frame required for editing.

For rush jobs, please add 25 percent to the cost.

Finally, I reserve the right to alter my price quote, if the project takes on proportions beyond those discussed in our initial agreement. I’ll consult with you first, though. We will proceed through the book in sections, and together we’ll decide on the level of edit your manuscript needs.

If the editing takes less time than estimated in my original quote, I will lower my final price.

Cost of Editing and Proofreading for Other Projects

Please e-mail me at or use the contact form, and give me the specifics of your editorial needs. Type of project? Size or number of pages? Time frame? If I feel that I need to see a sample of existing writing (for editing or proofing), I’ll give you an e-mail address where you can send me a Word attachment.



Editing Fees

Prices for Book and Manuscript Editing

Basic copy editing, light to medium edit: 1,250–2,500 words per hour, $40/hour

Heavy editing, substantive line editing: fewer than 1,250 words per hour, $50/hour

Content editing (scholarly): $50/hour or $3–$5/page

Content editing (textbook): $50/hour

Prices for Dissertation Editing and Thesis Editing

Light to medium edit: 1,250–2,500 words per hour, $40/hour

Heavy editing, substantive line editing: fewer than 1,250 words per hour, $50/hour

Prices for Other Editorial Services

Technical editing: $65/hour

Online editing: $40–$55/hour
Web page editing: $65/hour

Medical and science editing: $65/hour

Copy editing for advertising: $60/hour

Copy editing for business: $65/hour

Copyediting screenplays: $40/hour

Editing newsletters: $50/hour

Copyediting for magazines & trade journals: $50/hour

Copyediting for newspapers: $40/hour

Proofreading Fees and Prices

Proofreading: $40/hour

Proofreading for magazines & technical journals: $45/hour

Medical and science proofreading: $45/hour


Technical writing: $70/hour

Catalogue copywriting: $70/hour

Advertising copywriting: $70/hour


(I accept PayPal.)