Game Design Occupations Explained: Editors (Pt. 2)

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Game Design Occupations Explained

This week we have three guest authors. Each is an editor with a lot of experience in the RPG industry, and they’re here to tell us a bit about what editors do for your manuscript. If you thought editing was just the process of finding typos (don’t worry, you wouldn’t be alone), you might want to pay attention.


Here’s a brief refresher about the types of editors you’ll commonly encounter in the RPG industry.

Types of Editors

Developmental editor: ER doc who can patch up the worst writing wounds and keep your manuscript alive; can also be a general practitioner who just checks to be sure that your ms doesn’t have lurking problems without symptoms

Copy editor: Specialist who can improve the health of your ms in specific, focused ways

Line editor: Surgeon who truly gets to the heart of your ms, fixes it, and leaves little scarring

Proofreader: Nurse who double checks that the ms is healthy and has no side effects from editing

How Much Will it Cost?

You probably know some people who think they can proofread or edit fairly well. (Maybe you count yourself among those folks, but refer back to rule #1 at the beginning of this article.) Perhaps you can trade favors with them. However, rule #2 is you usually get what you pay for. If you want to hire a pro but aren’t sure where to start, you can check out the Professional Editors page at Google Plus (, or feel free to contact any of the authors of this article, all of whom have game editing experience. (The Professional Editors page is not updated regularly. It’s primarily a central location to find a freelance editor. Click the About tab to see short bios of a number of editors available.)

How much should you expect to pay? Frankly, fees are all over the board. Some editors charge the rates suggested by the Editorial Freelancers Association (, though those tend to be out of reach for a lot of writers. Many editors who focus on the indie market (including the authors of this article) charge considerably less.

Of course, if an editor offers too-good-to-be-true prices, it might be too good to be . . . well, you know. It could mean the editor is new to the business and is looking to attract a client base with rock-bottom prices, or it could mean rule #2.

Pricing also depends on whether an editor charges by the word, by the page, by the hour, or by the job. Each approach has pros and cons (for both editor and client), but none of them is inherently good or bad.

By the Word or Page

Charging by the word or the page is easy for both parties. Your manuscript has a set number of words or pages, and you pay X amount per word or page. One benefit is that you always know exactly how much the job will cost before the editor starts. However, this method can be tricky for the editor because some jobs are harder than others. Editing 100 pages of dreck will take a lot longer than editing 100 well-written pages, and the editor gets paid the same either way. Editors who charge by the word or page might ask to look at a sample of your manuscript before agreeing to the work.

By the Hour

Charging by the hour offers a little more protection for the editor. If a job is more difficult, the editor will spend more time on it and be paid accordingly. But it can also benefit you because if your writing is polished, the editor can get through it quickly, which costs you less. Watch out, though, because if the editor works slowly, the job will cost you more than it should. Try to negotiate a cap—the editor will charge no more than X, regardless of how many hours the job takes.

By the Job

This method is simple: you agree to pay a set amount for the entire project, regardless of how many words it entails or how long it takes. It usually requires negotiation up front, since an editor will want to kick the tires on your manuscript to see what he’s getting into and to set a fair price for the work it will require. But as with charging by the word or the page, you’ll know how much you’ll owe at the end of the job, with no surprises.

Standard Page Specs

On average, a typically formatted page (meaning an 8.5 x 11 page with 1-inch margins, double spaced, set in a basic 12-point font) usually has about 250 words. That’s become an industry standard for measuring jobs, so if your formatting is different and you don’t want to change it, you can divide your total word count by 250 and know how many industry-standard pages your project has. This matters only if your editor charges by the page, but many do, so it’s helpful to know how they define “a page.”

OK, But Do I Really Need an Editor?

If you want to publish your writing and you’re not convinced of the need to hire an editor, just search online for a phrase like “why do I need an editor?” and you’ll find many, many testimonials espousing the benefits of hiring a professional. We won’t go into them all here. You’re smart enough to check out the opinions of your fellow writers and decide for yourself.

No matter what, good luck with your writing!

About the Authors

Ray Vallese is a freelance editor. You can reach him at rj*******@gm***.com or

Karen Conlin is a freelance editor. You can reach her at ka************@gm***.com.

Steven Schend is a freelance editor (sensing a theme yet?). You can reach him at st***********@gm***.com

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