How to Save Money on Editing
Updated: Jul 19
If you’ve been looking around for an editor for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that editing doesn’t come cheap! We’re talking several hundred, maybe even thousand, dollars to get your book edited, depending on the type of edit and the length of your book, among other factors. (My pricing is listed on my service page, and you can find out more about why I charge what I do in this blog post.)
It makes sense that authors want to save money on where they can. Cover art and advertising aren't cheap, either! But hiring the cheapest editor you can find is also a bit of a risk. I can recall many stories in writers forums of editing snafus, usually caused by Word’s find and replace function being used a bit too enthusiastically.
So what’s an indie author on a budget to do? If you still want good editing, but also want to save some money while you’re at it, then here are some options for you.
Do It Yourself
Probably the cheapest option of the lot. If you want to avoid spending much money on editing, then the DIY approach is the way to go. If you’re going to take this approach, you’ll need a few things:
Buy (or borrow) some books on writing craft and self-editing. You can find some craft book reviews here on my blog for ideas.
Get your hands on the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the most-used style manual for fiction publishing. If you hired an editor, they would likely be referencing this manual as they edit your book. You can find used copies online for relatively cheap, or you can see if your local library has a copy.
Find yourself some critique partners or beta readers if you haven’t already. No matter how excellent your writing skills are, everyone becomes a bit blind to their own typos over time. These outside readers will help you spot things your brain has skipped over.
Time. You’ll need time to learn grammar rules and how to edit, time to wait for feedback from your beta readers, and time to let your manuscript rest between editing passes so that your eyes are as fresh as possible.
Hire a Newbie
New editors often offer their first few edits for either free or really cheap in exchange for a testimonial. This helps them get some books under their belt, build confidence, and flesh out their websites and social media profiles. You can find new editors on social media and on the editors for hire listings for editorial associations like the Editorial Freelancers Association or ACES.
Be aware, though, that these newer editors may not have worked out their client communication or workflow yet, so they may not be as efficient or put together as more experienced editors. They also may have knowledge gaps or not be totally confident in their skills yet. If you’re willing to deal with those things, though, then a new editor could be a great match for you! Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and I started this way, too.
Ask for a Partial Edit
Rather than getting your entire book edited, ask your potential editor if they would be willing to edit two or three chapters. This is a more personalized version of the DIY approach. Rather than learning what needs to be fixed by studying grammar and reading editing books, you can have an editor point out your weaknesses, whether that’s using the wrong homonym or comma splicing your sentences. Once you know what to look for, it’s easier to edit the rest of the manuscript yourself, keeping your editor’s advice in mind.
Of course, this isn’t as comprehensive as a full manuscript edit, and it requires more of your time and hard work, but if you’re looking for professional editing on a budget, then this approach can be really useful.
Purchase a Similar but Less Expensive Service
For example, rather than going for a developmental edit, which is a thorough reading of your book, plus a multi-page (usually 20+ pages), in-depth report on the big picture issues of your book, plus suggestions of how to make the book stronger, you could opt for a manuscript critique/manuscript evaluation/paid beta read instead. A manuscript critique is similar to a developmental edit, except it’s scaled way back. It doesn’t go into as much depth, the report is much, much shorter, and the editor doesn’t usually make detailed suggestions for improvement, but rather broader, more general advice. This is a much cheaper service, and it’s often enough to get you going in the right direction.
Or, for copyediting, you could ask your editor to only do one pass. (Most do at least two, often three.) The editor will miss more things this way, so you’re sacrificing some quality, but if you want a set of professional eyes on your manuscript, then this is another option.
Take Advantage of Sales & Other Offers
Not all editors do sales, but quite a few do. Follow your favorite freelance editors on social media and keep an eye out for when they post about sale rates. I do sales two or three times a year, myself.
Some editors also offer referral bonuses, where you can get a discount on your edit if you were referred by one of their current clients. Other editors offer discounts to students, veterans, single parents...the options are as various as editors themselves!
Consider It a Learning Experience
This is the most expensive of the options because it involves paying full price. But hear me out before you click away!
Rather than focusing on spending less money, focus on the investment this will be in your writing career. Think of the edit you’re purchasing not as an edit for this book, but as a learning experience that you can benefit from for the rest of your career. This edit isn’t just teaching you how to make this one book better, but how to make the rest of your future books better, too.
If you spend a thousand dollars on editing, but you use the skills you learned from the editor for not just this book, but four more books afterwards, then you’ve actually spent about two hundred dollars per book. In the professional editing world, that really isn’t all that much! And for each book you edit yourself using what you learned, that initial investment pays for itself more and more. (And I'll tell you from experience, authors I've worked with multiple times tend to come back with better and better manuscripts each time!)
Of course, you’ll want to take your time and find an editor who thoroughly explains their changes, basically teaching as much as they edit, but it can be so worth the investment if that’s the route you decide to take.
I hope this post gave you some inspiration when it comes to saving money on editing. And if you want to save money working with me? Like I mentioned above, I have occasional sales, so do keep an eye out! I can also work with you on an extended payment plan if that would help your financial situation.
And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out via email!