Sunday, 4 September 2011

Why I'm going to get a copy editor.

In my last post I mentioned that my book is almost the best that it can be, and now I'm into seriously researching the Next Steps. I'm beginning to unpick this self-publishing business. And trying not to drown in conflicting messages.

For instance, the advice about finding a copy editor. I've read blogs telling me I must use one. It's not always clear why - some don't get far beyond the 'because I say so' message, which is guaranteed to send me into the opposing camp. I'm not good at being told what to do. Then there are those who insist that a copy editor will make my book 'better.' What does that mean? What does 'better' look like - and will I like it when I get there? They will, I am assured, go through it line by line, make sure I'm saying that I think I'm saying. That I've got my facts right. That my grammar isn't total rubbish and I can tell the difference between past and passed.

Then there are a core of self-publishers who insist that copy editors dilute the message. That the great strength of going it alone is doing without the trappings of conventional publishing and presenting material which is fresh and original, even though it may have occasional wobbles in the grammar or factual department. These books are not trying to be replicas of those conventionally published, but are different, exciting, immediate. Readers who enjoy these books know that, and enjoy it.

So what is a woman to do?

My book has already had some serious help. Paul (my mentor - you remember him?) took it by the short and curlies and threw common sense at it. (Sorry, mixed metaphor there.) He helped me look at it from a different perspective, give it a new shape. And it is, I know, a better book. And here I know what I mean by 'better.' It is more personal, funnier, and the tedious bits are in the bin. So - here I have some experience of what it means to have help with the book. Paul has, in effect, nudged me into a huge structural edit. And the book is significantly improved as a result.

Which makes the copy-editing decision so much easier.

Of course I'm going to get it copy-editied. Not because anyone has told me to, but because I have already seen the benefit of working with a mentor, and am now looking forward to someone else helping me make this book even 'better'. I still don't know what that will look like, but it will be exciting to find out.

But you - where do you turn to for advice? Who do you listen to? And who ignore? And why?


  1. I would find it hard to pay a copy editor. I know the rules. I make very sure that everything I write keeps to the rules or breaks them on purpose. That's another reason why I'm wary of trying self-publishing.

  2. Miriam - good for you. I believe I know the rules, and do my best to keep them. But still feel I need someone to check it all for me. And - since I am going to self-publish, it feels vital to get it all right.

  3. I can critique other people's work in minute detail, but when it comes to my own, I can miss the most stupid of typos. I think hiring a copy-editor is sensible.

  4. Thanks for your support, Allie. Not just me who needs someone to spot the wobbly bits!

  5. Hi there, I'm finally stopping by from the Writers' Campaign!

    Having someone to read over your work for a fresh perspective is so important, especially because I know how much I miss on my own.

    I have a few friends that I trust to read my early drafts. They know what my writing style is, and so they know what to critique and what not.

    As for who to listen to, ultimately, it's YOUR story. You know what it's supposed to be, and so listen to your gut. There's a difference between making something more readable, and completely changing the story.

    Good luck!

  6. Yes, friends are invaluable, but they generally know what I'm getting at, and are kind if I waffle. (Though one of my daughters is wonderfully brutal with mistakes!)

    But a copy editor does not know me, nor my work. He/she will spot things that friends won't, as he/she has no idea what I might be getting at. Yes, it's my story, but I want people to enjoy it without having to unpick convoluted sentences, or wade through serious drivel.

  7. Hi Jo,

    Nice to meet you. Happy Writers' Campaign.

    A copy editor sounds good to me. You're right, it's the fresh eye that can spot the things you can't, however good you are. Editors and copy editors are the mediators between the writer and our readers. I've learnt so much from working with an editor from the publishers interested in publishing my book - I'd definitely recommend the experience. There's a reason why these professionals are out there ...

    Good luck!


  8. Juliet - thanks for the support. I'm looking forward to working with an editor, but know not all self-publishers agree.