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  • Writer's pictureToni

What does “depends on complexity of project” mean?

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

If you’re reading this post, you probably came from one of my editorial service pages, where you saw the phrase “pricing depends on the complexity of the project.” Perhaps you wondered what that means. I’d be wondering, too, so I thought it best that I give an explanation in the form of a blog post.

(**Update July 2021: As an experiment, I've changed the names of my services! You can still get copyediting and proofreading, just under different names.)

The truth is, I consider various factors when I determine the price for a project. Most of them have to do with how difficult and labor-intensive I estimate the edit to be. If I think the edit will go smoothly and will be relatively straightforward and simple, then I’ll quote a price on the lower end of the range. If an edit looks like it will be difficult and burdensome, I’ll quote toward the higher end of the range. (For some novels that are true outliers, I’ll even quote outside my ranges occasionally.)

That’s the TL;DR version, but for the sake of openness, let’s take a look at all the things I’m considering as I put your price quote together:

Sample Edit Time

This is the largest factor in determining the per-word price of an edit. Generally I select about 500 words to edit from the sample you send, then I start my stopwatch and get to work. When I’ve finished those 500 words, I stop the stopwatch and see how long it took me. Simple math tells me the rest. (e.g. If a sample took me 20 minutes to edit, then a novel of 50,000 words will take about 2,000 minutes, or around 33 hours.) Of course, I have to add a few extra hours to factor in author communication, plus several more as a buffer, but this gives me a good general estimate. (For more about how long editing actually takes, check out this blog post.)

Image text: As of this writing, I average about 1,600 words per hour all told (or about 6.5 pages) for a regular copyedit. |

Number of Errors

If you’ve communicated with me about editing, you’ll notice that I generally ask for a sample of at least 3,000 words, even though I only edit 500 to send back to you. This is so I can read the rest of your sample and get a general idea of how many errors I can expect to find in the novel at large. If I’m seeing lots of errors, that means the book will take more time to edit, which in turn means that I’ll need to charge closer to the higher end of the range. On the other hand, if I’m hardly seeing any errors at all, it’s probably safe to charge on the lower end of the range. Cleaner writing takes less time and effort to edit, so it’s cheaper. I’ve talked about this more thoroughly in this older post.

Image text: Most novels I copyedit average about 3 errors per page. |

Age Category & Genre

I also factor in the age category and genre when I’m coming up with a price. Books written for adults tend to have more complex plotlines and themes to track. They also often use larger vocabularies and more complicated sentence structures. This means they often need more careful (read: slower) reading than books written for younger audiences, as the mistakes tend to hide within the complexity.

On the other hand, books written for YA and MG audiences may be quicker to read, but they also need extra care when it comes to word choice—we don’t want to be throwing around too many college-level words in a book about twelve-year-olds. (In general, of course. Maybe your novel’s twelve-year-olds are geniuses with massive vocabularies.)

Genre is also a huge factor. Different genres tend to have different numbers of main characters and settings, different amounts of world building and character development, and different complexities when it comes to plotlines and timelines. The more characters, settings, world development, plotlines, and timelines there are, the more work it is for the editor, and thus the more it costs.

For example, in an urban fantasy, the setting is the real world, so all I have to do is list the places on my style sheet and occasionally check a few simple facts. (Like population, etc.) In an epic fantasy, though, the world is entirely your creation, so not only do I have to add places to my style sheet, I also have to add any details that are revealed throughout the novel, plus I have to get in touch with you if anything doesn’t match up. Much more work to edit.


Finally, the deadline factors in to my quote calculation. While it doesn't affect the complexity of the novel itself, it does affect the editing process. (See what a Detail Debug looks like on a tight deadline in this post.) Tighter deadlines often mean I have to work longer days (which is tiring and affects my ability to make good editing judgment calls) or even skip days off to deliver on time. While not more complex, per se, they do cut into my personal time, and so there’s an extra charge for that.

I hope this clears up a bit how my pricing works and helps you find where your novel might sit on the pricing range. Of course, you can always reach out and ask for a quote! I’ll do a free sample edit, and you have zero obligation to continue if we’re not a good match. Feel free to send an email to for more information!


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