Is editing costly or cost effective? Part 1

Is editing costly or cost effective? Part 1

Is editing costly?

Is editing costly or cost effective is a series that attempts to address, not merely seek to answer the question, whether editing is cost effective or costly. I attempt to address this conceptually as well as through case studies from my experience and other editors’. This series also welcomes views from editors, authors, filmmakers or anyone associated with storytelling, arguing not just for or against but proposing a thoughtful and objective approach as long as it is not a rant. Please note that this series is not meant to calculate the ‘right’ price for any project or type of editing. The series does not address any one type of editing but looks at editing in general. This means it could be copy editing, line editing, content development, development or structural editing, manuscript assessment and also film editing. If you have questions regarding rates for a specific project, you may leave a comment.

In a tweet that caught my attention, author Kevin Barrick asked a question many writers can relate with.


He asked whether spending $1200 for line editing his novella that is 30k words was fair. His estimate that the book was unlikely to earn the money spent on editing was reasonable. If so, what were his options? Skip editing, ask a friend to edit or find the editor who charged the lowest? Most professionals will agree that the first is self-sabotage, the second and third a compromise that will affect your quality of sleep.

I can’t answer the right cost for this or any project, unless submitted to me. Instead, I want to begin by raising more important questions. What is editing, anyway? Who cares about it and why should anyone? To answer the first, let me share an analogy to show what daily life would be like without editing.

Imagine watching your favorite movie in the theatres. Everything, including the glorious surround sound system, the air conditioning, the dark hall and the smell of the popcorn make the movie worth every penny you spent. How about I retain everything, including the setting and ticket price except for one thing? You don’t get to watch the movie you love but its unedited version, which means you are likely watching hundreds of hours of footage.

Would you feel good about spending the same amount on this?

Since you pay for the final product, why should you suffer needlessly, right?

Now imagine another scenario. You watch the raw footage for a few minutes and then the edited version, i.e. the movie you came for. It is very likely that you will feel the price was worth it. According to research on consumer behaviour, emotions play a huge role in influencing how consumers respond to the price of a product or service and hence, its purchase.

95 per cent of all purchase decisions are made without conscious awareness.

Imagine a local brand is placed next to a premium and costlier brand of a medicine you wish to buy. Even though costlier products are not always proven to be better than cheaper ones, many prefer buying the higher priced label believing it to be better. Besides, it is a well known fact that companies research and target your emotions to double their profits and also retain their customers.

Although the viewer or reader pays for the whole product, I am sure you would agree that you would not enjoy the story the same way if it wasn’t for editing or  other equally important layers, such as visual effects, sound design, and typesetting.

Whether you are an author or publisher, the end product is made invaluable by editing. And, if it’s invaluable, the question changes from an unconcerned approach, ‘What is editing, anyway?’ to one of curiosity, ‘What is editing!’



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