Why Are Writers and Editors So Expensive?

Have you ever wondered why writers and editors are so expensive?

The answer is illustrated by a 1958 Rolls Royce ad. Iconic copywriter David Ogilvy had studied the technical manual for weeks before stumbling on a fact that became a best-selling headline:

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

Writers and editors are expensive because thoughtful work takes more time than most people realize.

It takes:

▪ Career-long professional skill development
▪ Research, research, research
▪ Insightful client conversations
▪ First, second, and third drafts
▪ Coordination with graphic designers and proofreaders
▪ Reviews and revisions

When hiring editors or writers, it helps to ask about their processes and understand all that is involved in their rates. For example, here’s what’s involved in the editing steps in our nonfiction publishing process (from a previous post, “What is Content Development — and Why Do You Need It For Your Book?”)

Developmental Editing

The first step is developmental editing. Developmental editing is not about making revisions but about reading and considering the big picture. Your editor will considers aspects like organization, flow, pacing, chapter titles, and marketability. Our developmental editing process involves having an initial conversation about your goals, reading the manuscript, taking detailed notes, forming an editing plan, providing written recommendations, and discussing it all by phone or in person.

I believe developmental editing is the most critical step for you and your editor. It’s about considering new ideas and possibilities for a manuscript. It’s also an opportunity to discern whether an editor is a good fit for you and your book before collaborating on next steps.

Line Editing and Copy Editing

With a developmental plan in place, the next steps are line editing and copy editing, which we often combine into one step. This is where the bulk of the work happens. Your editor works line by line, chapter by chapter, emailing chapters as they are completed for your review, feedback, and approval. The revisions focus on aspects like sentence and paragraph structure, transitions, clarity, repetitiveness, vocabulary level, grammar, and punctuation.

During this step, the front and back matter are carefully crafted for best marketing impact, including ghostwriting as needed, which can be repurposed later in the process as cover content.


Proofreading is the final step in editing and typically occurs later in the publishing process. I recommend waiting until the book is in the formatting stage to perform final proofreading. Depending on the budget, one or two proofreaders are involved in this step.

If content development seems like a lot of effort, it is. Editing is arguably the most challenging part of publishing a nonfiction book. It can feel like a bit of mountain to climb. But with a good editor to guide you, you’ll find it a worthy climb. And you’ll love the view from the top!

Thanks to Alan Sharpe for his 20-Hour Copywriting Masterclass — and to the editors and writers who work hard behind the scenes to perfect each author’s vision!


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