Editing and proofreading

The services I assessed are content editing, line-editing and proofreading.

Let me define what these services are and what they do to boost your book’s quality

  • content editing
    • looking at your book as a whole and checking that it is clear, concise, complete and logical and appealing to readers
    • checking that the tone-of-voice is suitable for your target audience
  • line-editing (also known as copy editing)
    • a more detailed line-by-line assessment of each paragraph and sentence to improve the flow, clarity, consistency and accuracy
  • proofreading
    • a very detailed check on a character-by-character basis, flushing out spelling, grammar and punctuation errors

Sometimes services overlap but not always. Some proofreaders will tidy up the occasional awkward sentence. Others will only do pure proofreading and nothing else. Double check what you are paying for to make sure you only order what you need.

This research revealed a range of prices from the most expensive to the cheapest to give you an idea of the budget.

Most companies and freelancers bill you per 1000 words. I used that to set the price. I modelled this based on a 50,000-word book. I chose the standard turnaround time rather than the highly priced express options.

To work out the total for your book use this formula

total price  = (total number of words you’ve written / 1000) x unit price

Content editing prices

Content editing book self-publishing cost

  • Average: £25.77 per 1000 words
  • Prices: £55.00 (includes proof and edit), £31.10, £25.00, £18.00, £17.52, £8.00
  • Suppliers: 5 online teams, 1 freelancer (cheapest)

Tip: speak to freelancers in good time to schedule in your work. They are often busy with other client projects and won’t be able to do yours at the drop of a hat.

Combined line-editing and proofreading prices

Combined edit-and-proof book self-publishing cost

  • Average: £16.87 per 1000 words
  • Prices: £20.00, £19.58, £18.00, £13.78, £13.00
  • Suppliers: 5 online teams

Line-editing only prices

Line-editing-per-1000-Words-book self-publishing cost

  • Average: £10.73 per 1000 words
  • Prices: £19.21, £14.54, £8.50, £7.60, £7.50, £7.00
  • Suppliers: 5 online teams, 1 freelancer (cheapest)

Proofreading only prices


  • Average: £9.69 per 1000 words
  • Prices: £13.02, £15.20, £12.77, £7.60, £7.50, £6.75, £5.00
  • Suppliers: 5 online teams, 1 freelancer (cheapest)

Editing and proofreading is something I strongly recommend you outsource. This is one of the biggest influencers in quality. It is very time-consuming and difficult to do yourself.

The benefits of paid content editing

Your content editor will assess your book as a whole. They will check the sequence of your material to make sure it is clear, concise, complete and logical.

They will remove any “filler.” That could be for example

  • information that’s not relevant to your audience (too basic or advanced or off-topic)
  • cases where you repeated yourself
  • case studies that don’t make a point
  • examples that don’t deepen the reader’s understanding

Readers find books full of padding very dull to read, so you need to make sure that’s taken out.

Content editors will also reorganise your material so that

  • it flows well
  • the ideas build in a logical way

If your information is disorganised, it can confuse your reader. When it’s confusing

  • at the best they put your book down
  • at the worst, they think you are a bad teacher

It’s not good if you’re using your book to position yourself as an expert and readers think you are a dull and disorganised teacher! Brace yourself for harsh 1-star reviews and no one forming a queue to join your workshops or sign up for your courses!

Content editors make sure the way you present your material is engaging and inspiring to readers. They help project your expertise in the best possible light.

Often, content editing services don’t include proofreading so double check what you’re paying for. Make sure you know exactly what you will get for the money invested and be confident it will fix all the weaknesses that might still lurk in your book.

The benefits of paid line-editing and proofreading


Line-editors look at your paragraphs and sentences to check the quality and clarity of your writing. They also check the factual accuracy. Finally, they check the consistency. For example: should it be “email” or “e-mail” or “11 July” or “11th July” throughout your book, by applying a style guide.


Pure proofreaders tend to only focus on typos, grammatical and punctuation errors and not the clarity or the accuracy of your material.

Again, double check what you’re paying for, and make sure you’re getting the coverage you need.

Check out my other proofreading and editing tips on my blog if you need to do this yourself

How to save time, money and hassle with content editing

I mentioned in the overview, authors have different time and money constraints

  • if they’ve got no money, they’re willing to put in extra hours to save money – unfortunately, this eats up a lot of free time, life-force and patience which weakens their eye for detail and means credibility-killing mistakes might linger
    • watching your social life vanish as you go through your pages with a fine-tooth comb, time-and-time again… for hour after hour… trying to flush out mistakes is not fun-– ARGH!
  • if they’re very busy people they will pay because they want to outsource the boring, difficult repetitive work – they don’t have the time to do the work themselves nor spend the time to master the required skills
    • remember this involves spending money to get help and spending time explaining what you want (sometimes more than once)

You can minimise these hassles by following these tips.

Create a solid book outline at the start

The best way to avoid extensive content editing is to create a solid book outline and check that what you plan to cover is of genuine value to readers.

I recommend that you use a mind-mapping tool  to plan and organise your information. Once you’ve settled on your outline in your own mind, it’s time make sure your outline is

  • clear
  • concise
  • complete
  • logical
  • valuable
  • pitched at the right level of understanding for your reader

It’s much easier (and far less painful) to drop a few irrelevant points from your outline. The alternative is to ditch 15,000 words you sweated over –which is something no one wants to do! It hurts to get large chunks wrenched out of your book because it’s “padding” after you’ve taken the time write it!

Get beta-reader feedback

Even when you double check your outline, it makes sense to get 5 to 10 people to read your finished draft and give you feedback on your draft book before you get it line-edited and proofread. Just like blockbuster films have preview showings to refine the storyline, you can get reviews of your book to make sure it’s a solid read.

In my experience, people love to help their friends with books. It’s exciting and a new challenge to be part of, so finding beta-readers is relatively easy. I recommend you offer an incentive for them to read it… just in case it slips down their priority list. Give a firm deadline to aim for.

If you have no budget, you could do someone a favour in return. With a modest budget, perhaps send them a small Amazon gift token as a reward.

It will

  • work out a lot less expensive than shelling out for professional content editing, line-editing and proofreading.
  • definitely improve the quality of your book

To get the best results, give them a feedback form to complete, so they share the information needed to highlight the problems.

Once you settle on your outline, you need to expand on it. There is another big opportunity to save yourself some hassle. Here’s how.

How to save time, money and hassle with line-editing

It makes sense to spend a short session learning how to write clearly and concisely before you write in earnest. This helps to avoid heaps of tedious rework later (for you or your editor). Just 10 minutes up front can yield big quality gains.

Apply plain-English rules

I recommend your learn the 14 plain English rules and apply them as you expand on your outline. Download my checklist. Applying these rules improves the readability of your writing.

Test your readability

Readability measures how easy (or difficult) it is to understand a piece of text. Your writing gets a score based on the required reading age to understand it. The lower the reading age the easier it is to understand. The easiest way to boost readability is to always write using short words and short sentences.

You can test your writing by pasting in some test text on the www.read-able.com website.

Get an add-in for Word

You can also buy some add-in tools for Microsoft Word, which cost around $60. These tools automate some of the work a line-editor would do, for example checking for repeated words and long, awkward sentences. Check out the tools by Grammarly and ProWriting Aid.

The add-on means you need to find a bit more money up front, but all your future writing projects can be checked for free.

Low budget tip: Grammarly and ProWriting Aid offer a free, online service for checking text. It would be too awkward to check your whole book this way. However, you could test to see what your bad habits are. Once they are identified, make a conscious effort to improve those aspects of your writing style going forward.

Avoid express services to half the service cost

All these companies offer express services with a quick and expensive turnaround. You can half the cost of the work by choosing the slowest delivery date. Typically, this is still less than a week, so not a major burden, but a big boost for your funds!

Note: I used these slower times for my pricing estimates.

So that’s covered how much it costs to self-publish a book from an editing and proofreading angle. Let’s now turn to formatting.




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