Book editing services in India: Are you paying too much?

Freelance book editors provide services to authors before literary agents or publishers come into the picture. The assumption here is that the original manuscript has potential that can be accentuated with a little help.

There are many subjective and commercial aspects you need to consider before you decide to hire a book editor. Some of the subjective elements were covered in an earlier post titled ‘Hiring a freelance editor for proofreading & editing your book’. This one focuses on the commercial perspective.

Life as a struggling author can be tough and complex. So rather than focussing on too many parameters, I’m going to keep it simple here and just talk about one – Breakeven point. This would be the number of copies you need to sell just to recoup the money you have invested in your book before it gets published and hits the shelves.

Of course, the line of thinking outlined here (and the broader definition of the breakeven point) has different connotations if your primary motivation to get published is non-commercial. But if you want to make some real money from your efforts (whatever little that might be), then you might want to spend some time thinking about the following rationale.

Here’s the logic. If you spend X thousand Rupees on a book, then your income (from book royalty) should exceed this amount before you make any profit from the project.

Let’s put some numbers in there to understand what that means. For each of the scenarios, let’s assume a royalty rate of 10% and the book sells for Rupees 100 (typical pricing of most mass market novels that are coming out nowadays)

Scenario 1: Zero investment from your side (i.e. X = Rs 0)

In this case, your breakeven point is 0 copies. This means, you start making money right from the first book sale.

Scenario 2: You pay Rupees 10,000 for book editing services (i.e. X = Rs 10,000)

Now, each book you sell will fetch you 10 Rupees. So your breakeven point is:

10,000 / 10 = 1,000 copies

This means you need to sell thousand copies of your book before your bank balance is no longer in the red.

Scenario 3: You pay Rupees 20,000 to book editors, cover designers, others

The breakeven point now jumps up to 2,000 copies. You’d need to be in the top 10% of all books sold to cross that mark.

An estimated 90% percent (God only knows who makes those estimates, but anyway we need a number so we’ll take it and move on) of the novels hitting the market each will struggle to come even close to that number.

You know the drill now. For every additional 10,000 Rupees you spend on getting the book to the market, the breakeven point gets pushed further. If you are comfortable with this basic math, change some parameters like the royalty rate or book price to see how that impacts your breakeven point.

Do keep in mind that there are interdependencies. For instance, if you increase the book price to 200 Rupees, the breakeven points falls to half, but the book may also sell lesser copies.

Book editing isn’t the only expense you need to keep a tab on. Marketing expenses are another category where going overboard won’t help you. Read the post ‘Book promotion celebrity book launches’ where break-even point gets another mention.

Decide how you want to define your parameters for success as an author and then take a call on whether the expenses are justified.

36 Comments

  1. Nethra says:

    Those are facts from grave reality you have pointed out Sameer. For a budding author the critical factor is connecting with the audience and developing a reader base. Until then, these factors are inevitably going to fuel many a night’s insomnia! The trick is to hang in there and keep trying.

  2. Sameer says:

    True, Nethra.

    I guess the long stint I’ve had in the corporate world has made me (relatively) emotionally de-linked about the ‘products’ I create (including books) – not during the creation process, but after. I like to discover (or build) processes that are not one-off, but sustainable.

    For instance, in case of books that are aimed at the general reader (as opposed to relatives and friends), I think it’s hara-kiri to invest a lot of money without knowing whether you are getting something equally valuable in return.

    For many authors, there’s a deeper emotional connect with the books they write, even when they move into the post-writing phase. The bigger picture becomes a little hazy.

    I think there has to be a balance between the two. Creating a ‘product’ purely based on market & commercial potential will come across as being cold, dry and business-like. And readers might reject that.

    On the other hand, approaching the publishing process purely from an emotional angle makes authors susceptible to many unwanted influences.

    Rather than recommending what’s right or wrong, I’m hoping my posts will give new authors enough knowledge to decide the route that’s best for them. Let me know if that’s happening or if the posts on this blog need a course correction.

  3. Ashish Sahasrabudhe says:

    Hello Sameer,

    Firstly I would like to thank you for the massive amount of information you have posted in regards to the publishing of a book. I can dare say that it was by far the best information I have found on the internet when it comes to the literary industry in India. I have completed writing a fiction novel recently and have been given a reasonable amount of positive feedback from the few people who have proof-read it. However Being a layman in this industry, when I try to search for some reliable literary agents on the internet I cant help but feel like a ‘Baby in a topless bar’ as Mr Navjyot Singh Sidhu would call it.

    Hence I would be obliged if you could take some time out and if possible help me with some literary agents looking for a fiction novel.

    P.S: I am definitely a very paranoid author as you mentioned in one of your blogs

  4. Sameer says:

    Ashish,

    First of all, I’d like to know how you managed to trick the bar bouncers into letting you in. They have strict instructions to keep babies and anyone under 18 outside the sinful doors.

    On your info request about literary agents, apart from the list of Literary agents in India, at this stage there’s not much help I’d be able to offer.

  5. Ashish Sahasrabudhe says:

    Dear Sameer,

    In a country where people get their driving license issued before they complete 18 years, anything is possible. Its isn’t a question of what you know that matters nowadays, its just who you know that counts. 🙂

    And Thanks a ton for the information provided (Both from your blogs as well as the list of literary agents provided). In a world where ‘something is better than nothing’, its great to find a person who provides information which exceeds the definition of the word ‘something’ by a fair margin.

    Thanks again. 🙂

    Ashish Sahasrabudhe

  6. Ankita Shrivastava says:

    Respected Sir,
    I’ve heard about people liking their work more than anything in this world, the self appreciation state? But when I at a state of total disgust and vexation came across your blog, I was hands down bowled! There is sincerity and passion in your work, moreover I like the way you deal with every not so humble comments maturely and help to the very extreme you can. Last night while I was to devote time in finding more names in the known list of publishers surprisingly I sat back and read your website.
    Wish you all the Best !
    Great Job!

  7. Arvind Madhavan says:

    Hi, I’m in an unique dilemma. I have almost completed the second draft of my book, But I have no idea of its potential. I need to get my story and writing style evaluated objective in a cost effective manner. Can someone tell me where or to whom should I go for such a service in India?

    In short, I want someone who shall evaluate my plot, characters, story elements, writing style before I begin writing my final manuscript. I’m not looking for proof reading or copy editing, just evaluation whether the novel will be worthwhile in a short and concise manner. Can someone help me with this?

  8. Sameer says:

    Arvind,

    I sent you an email several days back, but there’s been no response.

    Good luck with your novel, buddy.

  9. K.D. Heidari says:

    I have questions regarding my book to be edited.
    regards
    K.D.Heidari

  10. Sameer says:

    @Heidari: You can post your questions here. Happy to answer them.

  11. Shashank Shah says:

    Just as another writer, i’ve also been working on a book. And as i come from middle class family can you suggest me any low expensive editor and publisher….it would be divine if you reply me ASAP …

  12. Sameer says:

    Shashank,

    Fortunately, your destiny in the publishing world has little to do with your family background and economic status. If you have the talent and the tenacity to be in it for the long run, you will succeed.

    Never use the middle class argument to compete in this industry. At best, it’ll get you sympathy, not respect for your work.

    For your editing request, send an email with details of your manuscript to: info [at] booksoarus [dot] com

    We’ll see what we can do.

  13. Mayank says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I sincerely like to thank you for your posts and suggestions.I don’t know, how you sense the needs of first time writers and translate them so precisely in form of your info/opinions. Let me know the secret of your magic wands!Your latest service http://www.booksoarus.com/ is one of the best example. The reason I am saying all this is out of all googling and research I did as a help to a first time author, I could only find your blog and site to have a emotional and sensible connect. Do use tags to top your website in any search for known keywords. I am sure it will touch million hearts in a time to come by.

    Sameer,I need few more tips/info which I couldn`t trace from your blog:

    1. Suppose I have a good story in mind or say I am good in churning creatives and trendy/oob scripts, what are the ways to find a co-author. Reason I am saying this, you only mention there is no scope of error allowed in manuscript and I would expect my co-author to pen down my thoughts from the readers/market point of view, rather than me writing and editing own piece of work numerous times or facing the multiple rejections.

    Is there any forum which unites the aspiring authors! Even if it is what should be the way to share your thoughts without a misuse of your write-up. The slight difference to literary agents for their role comes in after you have pen down, not before. If in case I can get the co-author I can also save the money on agents and improve my ROI…Need your viewpoint and Help on this!

    2. Also I took out ren and martin, the grammar book. It seem too boring again. Is there any quick guide especially or tailor made grammatical tricks for a first time author.

    My questions/writing may sound childish but still I think its good to prepare for ground work so not to face rejection/frustrations later.

    Your thoughts are welcome!

    Thanks

  14. Sameer says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Mayank.

    You’ve just given me an idea for the next blog post on Booksoarus – ‘Should you consider the Coauthors approach?’

    Some quick answers to your queries before that post comes out.

    1. It’s incorrect that there’s no scope for error in manuscripts. No author is perfect. I’m not referring to hygiene issues like typos, formatting. The errors (if you can categorise them as such) would be more in the area of content, structuring, narrative etc.

    It wouldn’t make sense to work with a coauthor who’ll iron out either of these. Even worse (not to mention the risk involved) if you are hoping to find a coauthor on a public forum.

    Why do you want to share the credit, royalty and all the limelight with someone who’s there just to polish your work? You’d be better of with approaching an editor.

    2. You don’t need a Wren & Martin to brush up on grammar. Overkill, I think. But do focus on how sentences are constructed, the use of articles. It won’t help your vocabulary, spellings or creativity. Tools like MS Word should help to an extent.

    Don’t send a crude manuscript to editors hoping they’ll fix everything for you. Even if they do, it’ll be an expensive affair.

    There’s a lot that you can manage independently. Consider external help only after that.

  15. Satyabodha Katti says:

    Dear Sameer,

    Thanks for your advice on book editing & publishing. I have written almost 80000 words novel and looking for good editing such as vocabulary, grammer and proof reading. Please contact me as I want to give my assignment to your company.

    Thanks

  16. Sameer says:

    Satya,

    Send across an email with details about your book to:
    info [at] booksoarus [dot] com

  17. Shahid says:

    Dear Sameer,
    11 years back I had written a book in Urdu which is my native language. Its about Judaism. But it does not have any comment on the said faith. It only provides the history, tenets and practices about it. The book was published and was a success.
    Later, a number of people requested me to get the book translated into English and published. I gave the book to a translator. But the translation is not at par. So I need some editor. Kindly guide me. I am based in India.
    Thanks

  18. Sameer says:

    Shahid, congrats on the success of your book. Send across the details to: info at booksoarus dot com

  19. Sri Neni says:

    Hi Sameer:
    My biggest problem is I don’t know if I can even call myself a writer! No, I am not joking. I have written for more than I can remember. It started with my journal, essay writing competitions, to blurbs on all and every topic I could think of (or found interesting)to Novellas.
    I write because I like writing and can’t stop myself from doing it.
    However, now at 45, I want to be more realistic in life and see if I can make money from my writing (Darn! it took me 45 yrs to learn that).
    Like many here I too am not sure if I can call myself a “writer.”
    I need an honest and unbiased opinion on both the content and style of my writing. Any help in this regard will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance for your time and concern. Appreciated the effort.

  20. Sameer says:

    Sri,

    You aren’t the only one out there with that lingering question.

    After writing and getting a book published, I still don’t think I can call myself as the traditional writer. I’ve never attended any writing events (heck, there haven’t been any book events of my own, not even a book launch!).

    I realise there are much better writers out there. But that doesn’t stop me from writing blogs, books or even doling out advice for free (as on this blog) so other doubtful-writers-like-me can benefit 🙂

    So, keep plugging away.

    On your request for an honest & unbiased opinion on the content/style, Lavanya (Booksoarus) has been mentoring a few folks just like and they’ve found the experience to be very useful.

    Drop her an email [info at booksoarus dot com].

  21. Sri says:

    Hi Sameer,
    Thanks a lot for your prompt reply and all your invaluable suggestions to many writers tugging along in their journey.

    Kudos for that.

    Will let you know how everything spans out… Soon I hope..
    Cheers n tc..

    Sri

  22. mustafa says:

    Sameer sir,can i send you my short novel for your valuable feedback ?

  23. AKM Shamsur Rahman says:

    I want to publish a book. How can you help me? Please contact me. Thanks.

  24. Rizwan Rehmani says:

    Dear sameer,
    I rely obliged to read your side. I am finding an editor for my novel.
    Thanks

  25. Sorry folks, with my current commitments, I am not able to help out at a personal level.

    I’ve also put a freeze on editing requests via my other venture – Booksoarus.

    If you have specific questions for me on the blog posts, I’d be happy to share my two cents.

  26. esh says:

    If we are confident of the language used in the manuscript, we don’t need the editorial services? I am just thinking of asking few of my friends who are enthusiastic about books to read about manuscript and suggest me corrections, if any.
    And what are the disadvantages of contacting the publisher directly?

  27. Hi Sameer, i have written a novel and sent it to a lot of publishers but no takers. I need an evaluation of the story and editing to know where exactly do i stand and should i even continue writing. I have a lot of plots and they may be fresh but i am disheartened with the response that i have got. Need a harsh rather brutal feedback to re-ignite or blow out whatever little that i have. Would you please do me this favour? I really wanna see my book getting published.

  28. Vinay Aggrwal says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am Vinay Aggrwal from Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) I am writing a novel and I would like to get it edited by professional and hence I need your services in this regard.

    Please send me detail of your charges as applicable for consideration.

    Thanks and Regards
    Vinay Aggrwal

  29. Nishant dutt says:

    Hi sameer,

    I am an ex banker turned write now. Writing a fiction, hv planned to release it on kindle.

    Pls tel me, is it possible that I release the digital copy on kindle and paper back with some other publisher. Or the kindle possesses the whole and sole rights for the content.
    Rgds

    Writer.nishantdutt@gmail.com

  30. @Esh: Here are 6 benefits of approaching publishers directly.

    @Saurabh and Vinay: Read my response 2 comments above yours.

    @Nishant: Sure, in theory it’s possible for you to segregate the ebook rights from the paperback rights. However, in practice, publishers will try to arm-twist (new) authors into giving them all rights. Be ready to fight that battle.

    The bigger risk you face while going down that route is that many traditional publishers will not touch a manuscript after it has been self-published.

  31. Deepak S says:

    Hi Sameer

    I have been following this site for some time. There is such a lot of advice for beginners online that it is mind boggling. I mean we see, some guys saying dont use adverbs, dont use adjectives etc. It really scares people. My gut feeling is just write and see how it goes. Also what are your thoughts on Scrivener and Y writer kind of stuff. I tried to use it but for some reason I cant figure out how to. I am technically quite savvy but the above mention software dont make sense to me at all.

    Regards
    Deepak

  32. Geetha Krishnan says:

    Hi

    Can you point me to some good editors so that I can get an unbiased opinion on my book

    Geetha

  33. Orville Brown says:

    I’m a Jamaican teacher living and working in New York. I have written a book to mark the 500th anniversary of The Reformation. I don’t believe Americans can edit the Queen’s English and I have been told that Indian editors are inexpensive. Can you recommend anyone?

  34. @Deepak: If you are just starting out, don’t get dependent on software to do what the human mind is capable of doing. Develop your natural writing instincts first and then decide (for future projects) if you want to use writing tools to enhance the impact.

    @Geetha & Orville: I’m sorry, I can’t make any recommendations. It’s best that you do your independent research and find someone who’s got good and credible references from folks that you know directly.

  35. Hey Sameer, It’s a delight to come across your website. It’s the place for aspiring writers. I read that you are no longer accepting manuscripts for editing, but would it be too much to ask if I would request you to go through my work and give an honest feedback, if that’s not suitable then would you suggest someone for the same? Thank you for your time and consideration in advance.

  36. Isaac says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am currently using FastPencil to write my book. I need an Indian Editor because I prefer to infuse an Indian aroma.
    If you or anyone can help me out that would be much appreciated. Email me if u want isaacpv@yahoo.com

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