To cut to the chase, how much does it cost to publish a book? Well, clearly very little if you do everything yourself.
The three/four main costs to factor in are book cover, editing and/or proofing, and formatting.
Given that many people are capable of doing their own formatting, to a greater or lesser degree, that leaves the other two/three as priorities.
And while I edit, I have to say, I think a good cover is critical. We aren’t living a hundred or more years ago, when all book covers were plain coloured leather. But, if you open a book, and run into errors in the first few pages, that good cover won’t help you much either. If that ‘Look Inside’ preview on Amazon is full of spelling and formatting mistakes—as was one I looked at yesterday—it isn’t the best advert in the world for your book.
Most editing services price per page or per word/thousand words. There is little difference as the standard page is 250 words so therefore four pages equal one thousand words.
Yet, professional organisations suggest hourly rates.
Hourly rates are a nightmare in any job.
Here is a selection of the relevant hourly rates as set by the NUJ:
Production and book editing
We cannot say it too often: be clear on what the contract covers. Additional days of work generated by others’ changes of mind must, for example, be chargeable.
Specialist editing, such as classical languages or complex mathematics, GBP 27.00
(Basically, academic or technical)
Substantial editing and rewriting GBP 27.00
Copy-editing GBP 24.00
Proofreading GBP 21.00
Manuscript reading and reporting GBP 19.00
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP):
Substantial editing, rewriting, development editing £29.60
America’s Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA):
Basic copyediting 5-10 ms pgs/hr $30-40/hr
Heavy copyediting 2–5 ms pgs/hr $40–50/hr
Developmental editing 1–5 pgs/hr $45–55/hr
Substantive or line editing 1–6 ms pgs/hr $40–60/hr
Fact checking $30-40/hr
Manuscript evaluation $45-55/hr
Proofreading 9-13 ms pgs/hr $30-35/hr
Let’s look at some real world prices and note, a lot of firms include one edit, or one proof, only. (Also note, I’ve not included me in the following selection)
Firm A, British
Editing: £10 per 1000 words, or €12, $17 US, $19 Aussie
This includes an editor’s report, the actual edit (one only), and a cover design.
Proofreading: £7 per 1000 words, or €9, $10 US, $13 Aussie
I’ve reviewed a book edited by this company. It had nearly 100,000 words, so costs were minimum of around £1000. Not a bad book, readable, and to be fair only a few errors, eg stabbed to dead (death), practiced not practised (it’s a British novel), and fear no long(er) anaesthetised. Plus confusion of the verb lay and lie. (Which one takes an object?)
And at the price, the errors should be well low, no idea if proofing came on top as well.
Firm B, American
Proofreading 0.8c a word
Copy edit 1.1c a word
Developmental edit 2.5c a word
Rush jobs charged at more than double the rate ie 1.8c (proofing) and 2.15 (copy edit)
Firm C, International
Line editing between USD $0.015 and $0.04 per word
Copy editing between USD $0.005 and $0.01 per word
Proofing between USD $0.001 – $0.005 per word
All plus admin fee.
Firm D, British
Detailed copy editing: £3.00/$5.00 per 1000 words. Under 20,000 words £45.00/$75.00
Proofreading: £2.00/$3.00 per 1000 words. Under 20,000 words £35.00/$60.00
Firm E, American
Manuscript Copy Editing: primarily spelling, grammar, word choice, sentence structure, paragraphing: $3 per page
Substantive Edit: story and scene structure, plot development, character development, dialogue, and general fiction techniques: $4 per page
Both Copy Editing and Substantive Edit – a publishing-ready edit: $5 per page
Firm F, British
Editing (line and copy combined): £9 to £11 per 1,000 words
Proofreading: from £7.50 per 1,000 words
Minimum price for editing or proofing: £40
Firm G quotes hourly, and says:
Standard industry rates are between $35 to $100 per hour or between $8 and $20 per page.
But this editor charges towards the lower end of the range. Oh, that’s good.
Because looking at the American association (EFA) rates above, the highest suggested rate is $60 an hour (not $100), to do six pages which works out at $10 a page.
If you translate $8 and $20 per page to words (250 words per page, remember), you are looking at $32 to $80 per 1000 words. Do the sums and that is mind-boggling.
I’m still wondering if I’ve got my figures wrong here because that is seriously good money indeed.
It’s always helpful when everyone prices differently isn’t it?
But here’s an easy comparison based on the above, using a 100,000 word novel.
A Edit £1000 Proof £700 Total £1700 ($2,700)
B Edit $2500/1100 Proof $800 Total $3300/1900
C Edit $4000/500 Proof $500/100 Total $4500/600
D Edit £300 Proof £200 Total £500 ($800)
E Edit $2000/1200 Proofing not mentioned
F Edit £1100/900 Proof from £750 Total from £1850/1650
G Edit from $3200 (?) Proofing not mentioned
So that’s a range of min £500 up to max $4500 (approx £3000) for the same novel.
And you thought hiring a builder was difficult?
So after all that number crunching here are two decent books that were NOT full of errors ie five or less.
Broken Trust by Thomas Maurin
It’s often easier to write a bad book review than a good one. If you enjoy a book what more is there to say than, I enjoyed it?
However, here goes. Broken Trust is a fast-moving, exciting thriller, crime, mystery sort of tale which starts in Bulgaria, and via Basle, Monte Carlo, London, and America, ends up in Grand Cayman.
Here’s a blurb extract:
This is a story about three smart, successful people who were once fast friends in college and have now been thrust together again in an unlikely, multi-layered investigation with far-reaching international implications and billions of dollars at stake. One is a forensic accountant for the SEC, one beta tests hardware and software for the US Department of Defense and the UK Ministry of Defense, and the third is a wildly successful entrepreneur, software developer and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.
Add in a Mexican drug lord, a corrupt Swiss banker, and a glamorous Bulgarian arms-dealing heiress for a little extra colour.
Our three goodies aren’t quite as colourful (are accountants and IT specialists ever colourful?) but they are certainly no back-room staff. They jet around all over the place (including by private jet) while simultaneously hacking into systems all over the world and I felt exhausted just trying to keep up with them. Likeable too, although perhaps a little bland. After all, who doesn’t love a flawed hero/heroine who gets things wrong or misbehaves? So, if I’m going to pick holes I’d say the characters lack depth and are a little too one-dimensional. But, that’s a minor point.
I’ve no idea how feasible the plot is, but the use of technology seemed spookily real and quite frightening. I’m sure the power play between the US government departments was all too real.
The ending seemed rather neat, although it was left open for a sequel, which could be interesting.
All in all, it’s a good read, fast paced, and recommended if you like this type of book.
It’s written by husband and wife Michael and Bonnie Hartley under the pen name of Thomas Maurin.
Thanks to iRead Book Tours for Broken Trust.
Here’s a different thriller/suspense, from British author Tim Stevens:
Ratcatcher – A John Purkiss thriller
This is a spy book, or rather, a mix of ex-spies and serving spies, although all working covertly. Our spies are current or former SIS—MI6 for those of us who are my age—and for those who are younger, it’s the James Bond British Secret Service. Except of course, life at the sharp end isn’t always dinner jackets and casinos, certainly not in Estonia where most of the novel is set.
As with spy stories it’s the usual mix, a past romance, a double agent to identify and catch, and preventing a suspected assassination at a forthcoming diplomatic summit, with no clues to go on.
I found it unputdownable. It had lots of nice twists, loads of suspense, well-drawn characters, was appropriately tough and a totally good read.
One sign of a good book is how well the author creates pictures for the reader. I read in glorious technicolour with constant images flashing through my mind. Probably why I’m not bothered about films as I have my own cinema in my head. From the start of the book in the Croatian seaport of Rijeka, through the main action in Estonia, to the ending overlooking the Thames estuary, vivid pictures came easily to mind.
Stevens’ book is somewhere between Jack Higgins and Len Deighton, not as wordy and convoluted as Le Carré, and follows clearly in the tradition of British espionage writing.
It’s the first in Stevens’ series about Purkiss, and I downloaded it free from iBooks (also on Amazon of course) so this is a totally random review, but I thought it was good enough to merit one.
Tim Stevens was born in England, brought up in Johannesburg, and works as a doctor in the NHS in England.
And how about this for initiative? Tim managed to sell his book to a publisher based in Tallinn a few months ago, so it’s now published in Estonian.
Thanks to Tim for providing me with pix for both covers.