Many authors often ask us, “Why do editors charge per word for their services?” This is a valid question with an answer that may come as a surprise.

I’ll do my best to explain this without getting too complicated. Editors charge per word because any time an editor edits a manuscript they read every word. Regardless of whether they end up making a correction to it or not.

It’s more than just reading.

They don’t just stop there. The editor does a lot more than just read every word. Every word is interpreted and dissected within the sentence to analyze what the author is trying to communicate. Then they determine if each word is the right word for what the editor interprets as the author’s intention for the book.

Authors may often think paying per word is too much, but each and every word in your manuscript (including all of the small “a’s”, “of’s”, and “I’s”) has three purposes behind it:

  • Syntax Purpose: the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences.
  • Mechanical Purpose: the correct spelling and grammatical use of the word.
  • Placement Purpose: focuses on the overall flow of the manuscript; does it fit well with the tone? Does it communicate the theme correctly and consistently?

Editing often goes deeper than the surface.

Furthermore, editors sometimes, in higher levels of editing will have better ways to say things than what the author has already written. So, by paying per word, you’re paying for the editor to make that judgment call on what is the best way to say and communicate your intention to best suit the reader.

Remember: an editor oftentimes reads your book not only as an editor, thus looking for the things mentioned above, but they read your book as a reader. So if they’re fixing something, or perhaps asking you to fix something and further elaborate, it’s for the purpose of your readers.