17 Hiring Editors

An open textbook needs most of the types of editing described in our Editing Overview. However, depending on the authors’ and project leads’ expertise, some editorial functions may be combined, expanded, or compressed. For example, a book authored by an English professor might need less copyediting than one by someone in another discipline (or maybe not!). In other cases, the project leads may be able to double as content (subject-matter) editors, by providing input during the project scoping and outline creation stages.

Whether you rely on volunteers from your team or pay professional editors during this phase, the process allows you to incorporate external and/or non-expert feedback, making the book more accessible for all kinds of readers.

Regardless of the project leads’ areas of expertise, however, we advise bringing in an outside copyeditor and developmental editor if you have the funding to do so. The developmental editor will help with the structure and presentation of content, and the copyeditor adds professional objectivity and fresh eyes. Content editors and substantive editors are likely more willing to volunteer their time (although we encourage you to pay them too, if possible), so focus your hiring efforts where they are most needed.

If you have the resources to outsource all the editing on your project, remember that you may need to bring in more than one person. Most editors don’t provide (or excel at) a full spectrum of editing services, so it’s worth being specific when you ask about their experience.  We suggest looking at editorial associations such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and the  American Copy Editors Society, or freelancing sites such as Upwork. It’s also good to ask around in your professional networks, and perhaps ask for referrals for editors who might have worked on similar projects in your field. Note that costs will vary according to the type of work being done, the editor’s experience level, and other factors, such as subject matter or technical expertise required. Be prepared for a  range of hourly rates, anywhere from $25 to $125 (or more). The EFA has a helpful list of rates for freelancers, so we encourage you to take a look at them while carefully considering your project’s editorial needs.

For those looking for the least expensive path, we recommend that the project leads do a first round of subject matter and content editing. After that, they can hand the book off to a developmental editor to look at as a whole, and finally to a versatile copyeditor who is familiar with your style guide.

Need Further Assistance?

We hope these suggestions will help you hire external help during the editing phases of your project. We’ll continue to add to this guide as we work with more projects, and we welcome your ideas on what else we could add, or your feedback on how these approaches have worked (or not!) for you.

If you have questions, or anything to add, please let us know in the Rebus Community project home.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) Copyright © 2019 by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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