I’m glad so many people write for the love of storytelling and language. Editors are essential to make a book publishable and worth reading, but they can’t guarantee you sales or a profit.
The truth –and I’m not sure it’s a “sad truth”–is that most writers will not ultimately make money on their books.
So when you pay an editor, you are investing in yourself and the glorious enterprise of literature. You can think of your books as an entrepreneurial venture, with high odds to overcome, and see editing as part of the cost.
But it may not make sense to weigh the cost against a possible sale or profit some day. You will learn a great deal simply by seeing how another trained intelligent reader responds to your words.
I’d compare the cost to the price of paying for a therapist, a decorator, a tutor, a personal trainer, or anyone else who makes your life better.
Think about what you want. Do you want a directional edit–someone to look over the whole book at a high level and work with you on structure, pacing, plot, character (or authority and thoroughness for a non-fiction work)? Do you want a line-edit: an editor who will help you sentence by sentence, looking for readability, awkward phrasing, and consistency? A copy-editor to polish your manuscript before sending it to agents or self-publishing? Each of these types of edits will have a very different price attached.
The standard page is 250 words. Depending on what you’re looking for and how much work you need done, an editor could charge anywhere from $2 to $10 a page.
Remember that your friends and family can give you their reactions, which may be invaluable, but they already know you and will read the sound of your spoken voice and personality into the words on the page. Sometimes they’ll be too “nice” and hold back on negative feedback, or they’ll have their own ideas about what you should do and be too pushy. A professional editor is more objective. She will tell you frankly and clearly what she thinks but won’t overwhelm you. If she’s editing your sentences, she understands that you may accept some changes and not others. The process will bring you the sense that you’ve given your work your best shot, and have been heard and respected.
Also remember that everyone, including brilliant scholars, top journalists, literature professors and novelists with many books behind them, need an editor. If you’re a good writer, you need a better editor. The best writers need the best editors. I will do my best to live up to your work!