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David Antrobus

The Editor’s Fedora Part 4


In Part 3 we discussed how editors determine costs. And before you scoff at or otherwise leap to judgment of the rates, it’s probably pertinent to mention another facet of this — it’s a generally accepted rule that whatever hourly rate a freelancer settles on, you can estimate their annual salary by multiplying it by 1,000. An editor charging $35 an hour, therefore, will make around $35,000 a year.

handshakeThe thing to remember above all is the cliché, “You get what you pay for.” If an editor’s rates fall significantly below these figures they are probably not editors, but beta readers deciding to make a little extra on the side.

Sadly, I’ve seen the damage a poor editor can do to a novel and it’s heartbreaking. Someone offering ludicrously low rates is not confident of their work. Run away from them. But also, don’t hesitate to negotiate with someone at the higher end; see if you can get a discount based on potential loyalty, for instance.

I don’t mean this contentiously, but there really is no excuse for writers not knowing this stuff. It’s literally at your fingertips — Google’s been around for 15 years, folks. Recently a writer who has published numerous books approached me, and I simply assumed he knew the industry well enough to have some idea of what it would cost him. He even asked for a structural edit, initially, but I talked him out of that and told him I could cover a little structural stuff but mainly give his MS a medium-to-heavy copyedit, thus lowering his costs right there. I even reduced my rate further, but when I quoted him the estimate, he balked. To me, it’s astounding that someone with so much published material could be apparently unaware of the real costs of editing, and it felt insulting that he’d expected me to do such exacting and time-consuming work for even lower than I’d already gone. I’m sorry, but that moves beyond ignorance into exploitation territory. Which, of course, can go both ways, depending on which hat you happen to be wearing.

Do other editors or writers out there have stories, good or bad, of their book editing experiences?

“The Editor’s Fedora” is a four-part series on book editing. See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.


Note: A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on Dec. 5, 2013.


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4 Comments on “The Editor’s Fedora Part 4”

  • Peter Erikson


    I’m not a book editor, but I am a copy editor. These salary numbers sound rather arbitrary; it really depends on how many hours you work. Charging $35 per hour will net a lot more than $35,000 per year.

    • David Antrobus


      Well, of course it depends on how many hours you work. That’s a given, surely?

      Arbitrary? That’s an odd thing to accuse me of. Do you think the EAC would invite me to publish these posts here without checking? Are you talking about freelance? You might be surprised at how small the annual salary is based on an hourly rate:

      And the EAC itself has this to say: «If you would expect to pay an editor $60,000 a year in your industry, you should expect to pay a freelance editor about $60 an hour.»

    • Eva van Emden


      Peter, I’ve seen the rule of thumb of multiplying by 1,000 to get an annual salary from an hourly rate in a few places. An hourly rate of $35 would bring in more than $35,000 per year if you billed for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. However, most freelancers spend a substantial amount of time on finding work, project administration, business administration, and professional development, all non-billable time.

      • David Antrobus


        Thanks, Eva! Yes, I’ve seen that rule of thumb, too. I think I might have (unfairly?) assumed most editing freelancers were aware of it, but also, for such short blog posts, I didn’t want to overdo hyperlinking to everything, either.

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