It can take weeks or even months to have a book edited. I’ve been surprised that this can come as a shock to many new independent authors. Many believe that editors just run through the book looking for punctuation, and call it a day. Editing runs so much deeper than that. It takes considerable time to give each book feedback that aligns it with reader expectations and marketability. So, to help you estimate how long you can expect your book to be in editing. Check out the below factors that contribute to editing times.
Things that change editing times
- Larger word counts: Genres like fantasy or sci-fi typically have higher word counts. There is nothing wrong with this, but it takes an editor longer to go through 120,000 words of text than 80,000 words.
- Depth of the editing: Different types of editing take different amounts of time. Developmental editing can take months depending on the state of your writing. On the other hand, if your book has gone through previous editing, proofreading could take only a few days. This is because the more complete your manuscript is the less work it needs. Developmental editors help you make your rough draft a complete draft. But proofreaders are only trying to catch mistakes that may have made it through other rounds of editing.
- Not having self-edited or used feedback partners: Editing your book yourself and getting free or low-cost feedback from critique partners or beta readers can be a great way to move away from the roughest version of your book. Filling plot holes and fixing awkward scenes or sentences makes it easier for an editor to make the edits you hired them to do. Therein, the amount of work you do before an editor directly affects the time it takes them to do the edits.
- Target audience: Books marketed toward adults take longer to edit than books marketed toward a younger audience. Partially due to the size and complexity of what is included in the book. This is not to say the difficulty is different, but in adult books, there is usually more complex grammar, vocabulary, and themes than in books geared towards a younger audience. Not to mention the word count of adult books means they take editors longer to edit.
- Your editor’s schedule and pace: This is the only factor that authors don’t have a direct impact on. Editors work at different paces as well as they have different schedules and availabilities. Some authors work part-time, some work full-time, and some work on multiple projects at a time. Each editor should be able to provide an estimate of what a realistic timeline for them looks like.
What’s a realistic expectation for a book edit?
I can only speak for myself since mine is the only editing business I’m familiar with as an insider. For a standard line and copyedit of a 90,000-word book, you’re likely looking at about 3-4 weeks. An editor could give a more accurate estimate after a sample edit and intake assessment.
A rule of thumb is that most editors can edit at a rate of about 3-5 pages per hour. But even if they’re full-time editors, most editors can’t edit for 8 hours a day because of accuracy reduction and fatigue. So you’ll have to factor in extra time in your publishing schedule to account for that.
Why does it take so long?
First, remember that it took you weeks at a minimum to write this book, but in most cases, it’s taken months if not years. Good work takes time, and your work deserves a careful eye, not a rushed edit.
Second, your line editors and copyeditors are looking not only at every word you wrote, but every mark you’ve made in the manuscript. They’re checking the word against reference texts, creating a style sheet to apply consistency, and trying to make sure nothing gets missed as they edit. They’re doing all of that to ensure your book is market ready.
Third, the industry standard is to go through the manuscript two times. The second time is to double-check that all rules were adhered to and that no errors were introduced in the first-round edit.
So, Now What?
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