Sally Smith (fictional character) is tired of working a 9-5 job that takes her away from her family five days a week.
Her current occupation requires a great deal of writing, so she decides to start a career working remotely as an editor.
With over a million ebooks sold each day, it’s apparent people still enjoy reading and writing—and all those authors need editors, right?
But, would Sally make enough money to replace her 9-5 income? What is a book editor’s salary, anyway?
To answer the question of salary, we need to first look at what exactly an editor does.
What are the Types of Editing?
Not all editors are the same. While the list of types of editors varies depending on who you talk to, here are just a few examples:
- Developmental – This is usually the first editor to look at the manuscript. He isn’t looking at the grammar or spelling or even if the paragraphs are rough. He’s looking at the overall concept of the book, or the storyline. This is the editor that offers suggestions on things to add to spice up the scenes or things to cut out to avoid fluff.
- Substantive – Once you’ve done your first rewrite, this editor is who you would approach next. She’s not going to worry about the direction of the storyline or if the manuscript strays from the topic. She’s only interested in checking each paragraph for flow and helping you to rewrite the paragraph as needed. She may also check for accuracy and consistency. (Are all the quoted statistics correct? Is the 32-year-old hero suddenly 45 later in the manuscript?)
- Copy Editor – The copy editor is next in line for going over your work. Among other things, he’s going to look for unnecessary verbiage and repetitious words (which will be replaced with synonyms).
- Proofreader – This is the very last person to edit your book. They will do one or two read-throughs to find any spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.
Each of these editors will charge a different fee for the work they do. Your education and skill set will determine which of these positions is right for you. Your next decision is whether you want to work for a team or fly solo.
What Is A Book Editor’s Salary?
Freelancer vs. Salaried Editor
Both of these positions have their pros and cons.
A freelance editor sets their own rates, work schedule, and workload. However, they also need to pay their own taxes and medical insurance, and they don’t get vacation pay.
They also need to provide their own equipment (computer, internet connection, etc.).
A salaried editor, one who works for a publishing company, is on the payroll and therefore they get all the benefits of any other paid employee.
They may have the option of working from home, but chances are they will have a company computer at their disposal.
The most significant difference between being a freelancer and working for a publisher is the workload.
As a freelancer, you decide which jobs you want to take, and you set the schedule (with your client) of when they are due.
A salaried editor will be assigned jobs with deadlines. This can cause some stress if they have more clients than editors to do the work.
What Does a Freelance Editor Earn?
As a freelancer, how do you determine your fees? Do you charge by the word, the page, the hour or the project?
Most charts will show “by the hour” suggested rates, but new editors don’t always know how many pages they can do in an hour.
Many seasoned editors average about eight pages in an hour – that’s double-spaced, 12-point font, with one-inch margins – which is about 250 words per page.
A simple formula to use for figuring your salary for a project is:
#words ÷ 2,000 × hourly rate
As mentioned earlier, your education and skill set are significant factors in what type of editing you can do and thus what you can charge.
But, when it comes to figuring an hourly rate, you also need to add your experience to the equation.
According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, a freelance editor who does developmental editing charges, on average, $45-55/hour, while basic copy editors charge $30-40/hour.
Many editors start at the low end, but as they gain experience (and a group of authors who repeatedly use them), they begin raising their fees to make the yearly income they desire.
What Does a Salaried Editor Earn?
According to Salary.com, as of January 2, 2018, a salaried editor (one who has the title of “editor” within the company where they work) often earns anywhere from $56,950 to $74,792 annually, with the average being around $66,035.
That’s a higher average than was reported at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2016, which showed an average of $57,210 for an editor.
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So, What is a Book Editor’s Salary?
Let’s go back to Sally Smith and her desire to become a book editor.
If working from home is her biggest goal, she may want to start as a freelance editor, setting her own rates and building up her own clientele. Or, she could take a job at a publishing company with the intent to work remotely after she’s established herself.
Whatever she chooses to do, it is entirely possible for her to replace her current income (and exceed it) with a book editor’s salary. The key to her earnings lies in her education, skill set, and experience.