Why you should hire a good Copy Editor (and why it shouldn’t be me)

by | Mar 25, 2015

I am a continuity editor and proofreader. I fully recognize that I’m not an adequate copyeditor. This is an explanation of why you don’t want to hire me for copyediting. HOWEVER, as of May 2019, I brought on a team member who is a great copy editor. You can check out Tricia’s profile here. -Adriel Wiggins

I work with a couple of different authors on series that they’re currently writing and publishing. Often, as I’m editing a later work, they’re doing the finishing touches on an earlier work. But because part of what I do is compare the current work with all the “officially published” earlier works, I often ask for a mobi version of a not-yet-published work.

The author whose book I’m working on this week sent me the mobi version of book one as part of my work on book two. She is an incredible author who is superb at plot structure, characterization, and dialogue. But she frequently skips over details when writing. Which is why she hires editors. Within moments of opening the mobi version, I was messaging her. This one wasn’t copy edited by your normal copyeditor, was it? (This is not the first series I’ve worked on with her.) No, she’d used someone else recommended to her, but hadn’t been super confident in what was returned to her. And there was a reason why.

Within the first chapter, I found close to fifty typos that I had seen earlier in the process, but I had left for the copyeditor to deal with. But they hadn’t been fixed. “The second and third chapters are okay, but the first is so bad, it looks like you’re trying to chase readers away.” Which no author truly wants. The author and I discussed what she wanted to do to move forward. This was the book she was going to release to the public within the next couple of weeks. It was supposed to be done. But the copyeditor hadn’t done due diligence.

When you are ready to hire a copyeditor, I highly suggest you speak with several. Have each of them give you a sample edit along with their normal terms and conditions. Then, you’ll be able to spot which editor will be the best fit for you, and which one will actually complete the job to your satisfaction. Then, repeat the process with each book. If your preferred editor isn’t available when you need them for a particular book (as often happens with great copyeditors), then you have a couple back-up copyeditors. And then, double check their work when they send you the edited version. Don’t saddle yourself with an editor who can’t bother to correct “were” to “we’re” when necessary. Because that just adds more work to your plate, or gets your excellent book sent out in shoddy form.

I’ll be adding proofreading to my work this week, but I’m only doing so because I’m confident in this author’s writing. She doesn’t need an editor who will analyse every word, like great copyeditors do. She just needs someone to point out that the wrong “your” was used. That I can do. But if her sentence structure needed reworking for every single sentence, I would definitely not be the one to do that. If her dialogue were stilted and unnatural, I would not be the one to do that either. I’m great at telling her, “The flight attendant’s name was Laura, not Laurel” or “In book two, this character was reading Shakespeare, but in book four you’ve got her learning how to read…”

Writers of series need both kinds of editors: continuity and copyediting. But what no author needs is a copyeditor that isn’t sure if “allusion” or “illusion” is correct.

To see a list of copy editors that I’ve worked with before who are truly excellent, check out my list of author services vendors.

Adriel was a pleasure to work with, helping to make the tedious novel-editing process a breeze. Recommended.

R.J. Blain

Author, the Witch & Wolf fantasy series

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