Reasonable Price for Developmental Editor

Home Forums Writer’s Digest Forum Tips and Advice Reasonable Price for Developmental Editor

This topic contains 32 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  editor17 1 week, 1 day ago.

  • Author
  • #656662


    Ever since 2015, I have been publishing my books via self-publishing. For my latest book, however, I decided to try and go for a more traditional route in publishing. This is my first time of seeking a professional editor. Up until this point, I have relied on beta readers for my editing. I am look for developmental editing for my upcoming book, Steel Prison. As it stands for the moment, the book has 48,827 words and 109 pages long. I am wishing that it could be longer and maybe make the plot more fluid. This book has been edited several times over the years, the latest one being this month while on vacation. I am looking for one last edit before sending it off to the publishers.

    What is the average price that I should aim for a developmental editor.

  • #656664

    Hi Noizchild. 🙂

    I’ve never hired a developmental editor, so I hope I’m not intruding.
    But I do have some input.

    I would check to see if the book’s word count is close to the word count that traditional publishers like to have for that genre.

    If your manuscript is too short, try adding a subplot or two.

    And I would search for a number of editors that I like who specialize in editing the genre, and find the average price.

    I would also look at editors who charge by the word instead of charging by the hour.

    I would also check the specific services that are provided, some editors provide multiple services for one overall price.

    I looked at 2 editor service websites and they both charge the same price for developmental editing. But one website includes a free ebook cover from another website that has pre-made covers.

    Just my 2 cents. 🙂

  • #656672

    Rob Vargas

    Reminder: There’s nothing wrong with getting your work professionally edited, but remember that if you get accepted, editing is part of the deal.

  • #656702

    Brien Sz

    I’ve used Writer’s Digest services in the past but never for your purposes. I believe they something akin to what you desire. I have always received good input from WD.

  • #656703

    T. A. Rodgers
    Senior Moderator

    Developmental editing is a big move to consider. With line/copy editing you can find thousands that do it and the price is anywhere from $x – $1,000. Being that it’s mainly used to catch grammar and spelling issues it’s a relatively low cost. When it comes to developmental editing you get what you pay for. Using online sources where the editor says they’ll do it for $1,000 or less is again, you get what you paid for. Be careful when going this route. A great editor never changes voice. There’s no guarantee of the results no matter who you choose, but unless they are well-known in the business I fear you will be wasting your money. I know several developmental editors and they are not cheap, but they come with real credentials from real publishing houses. Their projects are published by the top 5 and everyone below. So if I could give one piece of advice it’s think about where you want to go with the novel you are writing before you make the decision.

    Now what’s interesting in this business is that most think that once you find an agent and they sell the novel to an editor that you no longer need any other help. This is actually not true. Again I know several best-selling and mid-list authors that after they finish their novel and before they send it to their agent, they have an editor that they know and trust go through it. Their explanation is once you find a formula that works, why change it? Good luck.

    Also, please examine the layout of your novel. 109 pages for almost 50k words is way short. You should have: 1 inch margins, double space, 12 font in times new roman, indents (no tabs), and start each chapter about half way down the page. On average this will get you close to 200 pages for 50k words.

  • #656707


    I have all but the double space part, but I will check the tabs and margins.

  • #656723



    there are 5 levels of editing.
    see detailed description elsewhere in forum discussions.
    see here to find several of them:
    also here
    this site has a good 5 level summary

    the short version is (per william adams at first link above )
    Developmental Editing – Concept Level Editing
    Substantive Editing – Paragraph Level Editing
    Copy Editing – Sentence Level Editing
    Fact/Accuracy Checking – Information Level Editing
    Proofreading – Word Level Editing

    note some folks combine tasks above and only use 3 levels of editing and some use more detail to have 9 levels.

    as to price: you get what you buy. make sure the editor you hire is in tune with you and how you write.

    development editing may cost more than the lower levels of editing depending on how much help you need to organise your book logically.

    the publisher might provide the final low level of edits but you need a logical well organised book to get a publisher. You usually need that to even get an agent although some agents might work with you if you do not need a lot of help structuring the book.

    before hiring an editor i would research your approach and try to get it as organised as you can before paying for help. if you are writing fiction then try to get as far along as possible, BEFORE ACTUALLY WRITING ANYTHING, to have a framework for an editor to help you with. Without that you are essentially asking the editor to do your plot for you.

    • #656731


      if you are writing fiction then try to get as far along as possible, BEFORE ACTUALLY WRITING ANYTHING, to have a framework for an editor to help you with. Without that you are essentially asking the editor to do your plot for you.

      How can an editor help if you haven’t written anything yet? They don’t care what you think you’re going to write – they’re looking at what you actually wrote.

      I could see this approach for nonfiction, but not fiction.

  • #656729

    T. A. Rodgers
    Senior Moderator

    This is weird. So according to my email and the information at the top of this thread, noobienieuw was the last person to respond to this topic. In my email, it was a lengthy response. So unless noobienieuw deleted his response, where is it? If it needs to be approved and I’m a senior moderator, I see no way to do this.

  • #656730

    T. A. Rodgers
    Senior Moderator

    Okay, so I found it under hidden. I clicked on “unspam”. Does anyone else see it?


    I think it appears now. I don’t know if it’s a time thing or a edit thing.

  • #656732

    Rob Vargas


    I’ve been trying to figure it out. I’ve posted two whole topics, and they both just disappeared. Not even hidden.

    I think I see the post from @noobienieuw at this point.

  • #656734


    And then, depending on which “reply” button you hit, responses are either nested in the original post or show up as a separate one, so “missing” posts may actually be there, just not where we think they should be.

  • #656781

    Nesting can be annoying in this way. I have the same problem with gmail.

  • #656785


    Any other tips?

  • #656788

    Brien Sz

    Here’s my tip for when people ask me about cameras or writing services. Determine your budget. What are you willing to spend? Don’t answer vaguely, like, whatever it takes or no more than 2000 dollars. This is a goal you are thinking about, so write it down. Be specific. If you have a budget of $1000 in mind then go about researching. You may find that you just have enough. Maybe, not even close.

    Writer’s Digest offers a developmental service. $5 a page, double spaced, 50 pages minimum. In other words, 250 bucks for very little of your book. 200 pages, double spaced is a grand. You get the picture.

    WD service is competitively priced. You can find services that are a bit cheaper and there will be others out there that cost more. What’s your budget? And, do you think what you have written is worth that expense?

  • #656792

    I have never tried to get an agent, I just went straight to self-publishing.

    But, if I were to try to get an agent I would find out what kind of things they like.

    I would find out which agents have blogs or websites, and I would tailor my manuscript to their preferences.

    Maybe they like novels that have a lot of the usual tropes found in the genre.
    Maybe they are tired of the genre’s tropes, maybe they don’t like a few particular tropes.

    Maybe they like prologues, maybe they hate prologues.

    Maybe they like heavy, detailed world building, maybe they don’t.

    Any information I can use to adjust my manuscript to their liking would be nice.

    Developmental editing is a hazy concept for me.

    Is developmental editing about knowing how to structure a story in general? Well, there are plenty of YouTube videos about story structure.

    Is developmental editing about knowing the tropes and reader/publisher expectations of a specific genre? Well, there are plenty of YouTubes videos about genre tropes, maybe not so much about publisher expectations.

    Traditional publishing is not like self-publishing.

    In self-publishing, you want to hook the general readers of a genre and then satisfy them.

    In traditional publishing, you want to hook an agent or acquisitions editor or slush pile reader and get them excited enough to pimp your manuscript out to the rest of their colleagues.

    You need the right bait on your hook for the right job.

    • #656793

      Rob Vargas


      I would find out which agents have blogs or websites, and I would tailor my manuscript to their preferences.

      I’m not published, but I would advise against that. Depending on the work being submitted.

      For novella or longer fiction, this is not practical. Such works aren’t produced overnight.

      In my limited experience, this has not really been a factor.

      Tailoring THE QUERY, though, that’s been far more significant. We as writers are not just trying to impress agents or publishers. The agents, the publishers, are trying to decide if this is a work they are best suited to sell.

      Agents and publishers turned down Harry Potter, a series that’s turned JK Rowling into a near-billionaire. And some of them don’t regret that. It wasn’t the right work for them.

      It’s not just about selling to agents. They also have to believe that they can sell it. Sometimes it’s a great work, just not for them.

  • #656799


    Totally agree with Rob – you need to write YOUR book and then find the agent/publisher who’s looking for the type of book. Writing for an agent is like writing for a trend – by the time the book is ready for submission, the agent is either booked for the season, has a new interest, has retired – or you discover you completely misread what the agent really wants. And quite frankly, I can usually tell when a writer isn’t enthusiastic about the book they wrote (ie, they wrote it “to order”).

  • #656800


    Agree absolutely with Rob and Ostarella. One should always do a little research on an agent you’re querying to see if she’s in the market for your manuscript, and there’s nothing wrong with tailoring your query letter a bit to fit her preferences. But tailoring your manuscript to an agent’s tastes? It’s not uncommon to query 30-50 agents. So one should write 30-50 versions of a novel manuscript? That’s one of the most ludicrous suggestions I’ve ever heard.


  • #656801

    I never said write 30-50 versions of a novel manuscript.

    But tailoring ONE manuscript for a handful of your top choice agents might not be a bad idea.

    As I said in my original post about this, I have never tried to get an agent. I was just trying to help, I was just putting out an idea that might help Noizchild.

    To each their own. Authors should use the strategy they think will work best to get them an agent.

    I wish Noizchild the best of luck and look forward to seeing Noizchild succeed.

  • #656802

    Manuscripts are almost always tailored, it’s just that the tailoring is done AFTER instead of BEFORE, i.e. rewrites.

    If your manuscript gets accepted by an agent, the agent may have edits that he/she wants you to make. So you have to do another rewrite.

    If your agent manages to sell your manuscript to a publisher, the publisher may have edits that they want you to make. So again you have to do a rewrite.

    Here is an article that is currently on the top of the Writer’s Digest homepage:

    “The Novel in the Drawer”
    By: Guest Column | July 20, 2018
    By Gayle Abrams

    I didn’t post the link but it might still be on the Writer’s Digest homepage, and if not, then it can be searched for using the Writer’s Digest search box on the homepage.

    Gayle Abrams, is an experienced Emmy-nominated TV writer.

    In the article she says that she wrote her first novel and had her friend, Gina, read the novel. Then she said “And after she had given me her notes, I had rewritten the book from start to finish”.

    Then it seems (the wording is a little unclear) she had two more friends read the novel and have rewritten it each time.

    Then she hired a developmental editor.

    She wrote “Then I had hired a developmental editor and written a fourth draft.”

    So again another rewrite for the developmental editor. She tailored her manuscript each time for her friends and for the developmental editor, but it was after they had read it, not before.

    She had more people read her manuscript, but I don’t think she rewrote it afterwards those times, because she was getting positive feed back. She even had her favorite English professor from college read it and he praised her work.

    And then an agent had read her manuscript and was giving her feedback, but then basically told her to put the novel in the drawer (because first novels aren’t good and many writers put their first novel in a drawer and forget about it and work on a new manuscript).

    But while the agent was giving her feedback, she was taking notes (for possibly another rewrite).

    The agent recommended that she hire a freelance editor, and she admitted that she had already done that.

    So the agent said “Well in my opinion you’d need to do a pretty serious edit to get it into submission shape. We have a list of people…”

    So she asked the agent to send her the names, and said she guessed that she would have to another rewrite.

    There is more to the article, I left out some details and I left out the main reason for the article which is different from the subject of tailoring that I’m talking about. And I left out her final decision concerning her manuscript. I encourage everyone to read the article.

    On her website, Gayle Abrams says that she has worked for Bantam Books, so she is probably knowledgeable about what kind of developmental editors she should hire.

    And even though she hired a developmental editor, the agent suggested she hire one of the agent’s editors from HER list.

  • #656803

    Rob Vargas

    The traditional publishing process is too long to chase market.

    I still don’t think tailoring manuscripts is feasible, nor that agents even want that. I’ve never seen an agent reporting that he or she ever accepted a piece that was tailored to them as an agent. They’ve all spoken about what readers want. And that is far less dependent on the agent.

  • #656804


    Well, we need to recognize that this was Ms Abrams first novel. Apparently she did what a lot of first writers do – any suggestions, advice, or criticism has to be addressed and fixed! And yeah – after all those rewrites based on what so many different people told her she should fix, it’s no wonder it was a hot mess by the time it got to the agent.

    As to hiring an editor from the agent’s list, that makes sense – the agent has worked with the people on the list, knows they’re both knowledgeable and won’t rip off her clients.

    I guess my concern with writers wanting to hire an editor of any sort prior to submission is that they oftentimes sound more like they’re trying to hire a co-writer (or worse, a ghost-writer) rather than an editor. Not saying that’s the case with anyone in this thread, of course, but I’ve seen it often enough to make it a concern.

  • #656824


    Spot on, Rob and Ostarella!

    You don’t tailor a manuscript for an agent, an editor, friends, family, a critique group, beta readers, or the marketplace. You simply write the best book of which you’re capable. You write the sort of novel you yourself would love to read. In other words, you don’t write what you know (terrible advice), you write what you love.

    After submitting, an agent or an editor may well suggest some changes. It’s up to you whether to make them. But that happens *after* the submission process, not before.


  • #656830

    “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.” – Stephen King, On Writing

    Write the first draft by yourself (door closed).

    Do the REWRITE with input from people you trust (door open).

    Stephen King has about 9 trusted people (I can’t remember the exact number) he uses as beta readers, although he doesn’t call them beta readers.

    If an agent knows what readers want, why wouldn’t the agent’s WANTS match the readers’ WANTS?

    An agent would know the readership and what they want, and the agent would want the same things so they can have a successful novel.

    Gayle Abrams, is an experienced Emmy-nominated TV writer and has also worked for Bantam Books. She’s not exactly a green noobie and probably knows more about writing than all of us put together.

    In the article it seems she only rewrote her manuscript 4 times, 3 for her friends and then a FINAL fourth time for a professional developmental editor she hired.

    She said the draft rewritten (tailored) for the developmental editor felt like a keeper.

    She wrote “That version felt like a keeper.”

    And then she had more people read it and they liked it. And her favorite college English professor gave it high praise.

    She wrote:
    He had edited the Norton Anthology of Friendship and the Kenyon Review. He read the book quickly and wrote me a long letter afterward. “I was deeply moved,” he said. “You write with amazing ease and precision.” “You have a highly accomplished novel on your hands.”

    I wouldn’t exactly call that 4th draft of her manuscript tailored for the developmental editor, a “hot mess”.

    “Ready” is a subjective term.

    But in my opinion, the 4rth draft was ready, it just wasn’t ready according to a particular agent.

    And like I said, manuscripts are almost always tailored (I’ve only heard of one manuscript that was published by a major publisher without any edits), it’s just that the tailoring (edits) usually happen AFTER, instead of BEFORE.

    Write with the door closed.

    REWRITE with the door open.

  • #656857


    Perhaps we’re getting messed up with the terms – “tailored” being different, IMO, from “edited”. Tailored to me means writing to please the agent, making changes simply because the agent says to; editing means working with the agent to make your book better, and not making changes you strongly disagree with just to please the agent. Under those definitions, I would never tell a writer to “tailor” their stories to a particular agent or publisher, but they do need to be willing to work with them on editing.

  • #656871

    T. A. Rodgers
    Senior Moderator

    Agents have their wish lists, but those lists change every few months based on their conversations with editors. It’s an agent’s job to sell novels. The good agents are in constant contact with the editors they send material to. It’s the agents job to solicit the right editors for your project. The reason tailoring a project to a particular agent or agents is not a wise idea is the industry is in a constant state of flux. If it takes you 6-12 months to write a novel, another 2-6 months to find an agent, another 2-6 months to find an editor, another 18 months for the novel to come out, more than two years has gone by and that’s being conservative. When Girl on the Train was a huge hit a few years back the market was flooded by books with the word girl in them. Now it’s almost impossible to sell a thriller with the world girl in the title. If you finished your novel on the tail end of this trend, you would have a novel and no one to send it to just because of the title.

    The best advice I can think of is if you are trying to head the traditional route and want to hire a developmental editor, make sure the editor has verifiable proof that he or she has edited books that have been published by traditional publishers.

  • #656873


    So are you saying look for an agent first?

  • #656875


    If it were me, and I was planning on going with a trade publisher, I wouldn’t spend one cent on an editor. I would have 2-3 trusted betas, perhaps, but I’m trying to publish to make money (even if it’s not very much), not spend it. And frankly, no matter how good an editor you might find, their choices/preferences may conflict/contradict what an agent/publisher wants. So then you’re out that money and still no agent.

  • #656876

    Brien Sz

    If you believe in your work. If you are happy with the first 50 pages and the manuscript is completed. Look for an agent! Go for it. What’s the worse they can say, no? No doesn’t mean the work isn’t good. It just means it isn’t what they are looking for.

    The editing services are nice and all but as ostarella wrote, if you have trusted beta readers who are honest in their opinions, good and bad then that should be all you need to get the work out the gate.

    Now, getting trusted beta readers… that is another conundrum.

  • #656877

    T. A. Rodgers
    Senior Moderator

    Noizchild, only you can decide which direction you want to go with your novel. If you feel great about you work and feel it’s ready, then why not test the waters and query some agents. You may find great success. I would only recommend an editor for traditional publishing if you have written several novels, have been reading, studying, and learning the craft, and the comments from agents make you believe that the novel is almost there, but may have an issue that is preventing the noes from becoming yeses. Remember that you are spending money that you may never get back, although since you have already self-published, this route would only make the novel better.

    I can not stress enough though that if you decide to hire a developmental editor please pick one that has verifiable evidence that they know what they are doing.

    FYI: I plan on working with an editor very soon that I met at ThrillerFest via a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I would not hire anyone else, but someone that comes highly recommended. And she won’t be cheap. It will be several months before I’m ready as I need to take the current novel and edit based on past recommendations from several agents, a few authors, and my friend at HMH. We shall see if it pays off. This is my 5th novel.

  • #656910


    Alright, thanks for the tip.

  • #657711



    As noted many posts back, there are a number of levels of editing.

    1. Developmental Editing – Concept Level Editing

    Entire concepts and story angles may be redefined during developmental editing. This type of editing involves working with a writer as they are coming up with the overall theme of their article or story. Developmental editors offer suggestions on things like:
    goals of the story/article
    notes on character development
    use of dialogue/literary devices
    notes on voice, tone, and language

    Most people agree that an independent edit at the end is useful as most of us are too close to our own work to self edit well enough for publication.

    And after reading posts on various fora it seems that a lack of quality editing often results in rejection by an agent or publisher.

    I did know an English professor who could self edit at all levels and had published many books. But for the rest of us an editor would be useful.

    As to noizchild’s original post, I would expect that a development editor would work with a writer from concept through a detailed outline that is ready as a guide for doing the actual writing while ensuring the plot is solid and that other factors such as characters are compatible with the story.


    As noted in the graf above, I would expect the cost would depend on how much the editor has to do for you as well as their expertise and experience and usual hourly charges.

    The more you have for them to work with the less time and cost it would take for them to help you get to the final result.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.