How your copy editor can save the day: Part 2
Today you hear once again from our behind-the-scene folks–our copy editors. Many authors see our copy editors as superheroes who swoop in and save the day–or at least save the manuscript. In Part 2, the eFrog Press copy editors share their experiences over their long careers in publishing. Learn how copyediting can lead to publishing success or, at least, prevent publishing disasters!
Missed Part 1? Read What copy editors want writers to know to learn how a professional copy editor can add value to your book.
“A reader is just like an editor/agent; they will not take your work seriously if you don’t.” JP
“The goal of a copy editor is to make the writing seamless, NOT to change the writing or the words!” SC
How can copyediting lead to publishing success?
JP: For traditional publishing (i.e., not ebooks) through a traditional publishing house or agency, most editors and agents will usually only read the first few pages of a manuscript to determine if they are interested in pursuing it further. If the writing is sloppy and there are obvious errors, typos, and misspellings, most editors/agents will dismiss the manuscript immediately. A clean copy shows that you are serious about your work and dedicated to making it the best it can possibly be. A good editor will recognize this and know a good working relationship can be forged with the writer for future edits and revisions.
When it comes to ebooks, the editor/agent is usually not in the picture, so a skilled copy editor is even more important to bridge that critical—and hopefully permanent—relationship between author and reader. A reader is just like an editor/agent; they will not take your work seriously if you don’t.
SC: Readers will be drawn to typos and badly constructed sentences! They will remember being stopped by an awkward sentence rather than remembering the plot or a very good moment in the book. If the manuscript is full of grammatical errors, some might not even finish it. Grammar and punctuation should be flowing and insignificant in the reader’s mind; if punctuation or grammar causes pause or confusion, the manuscript has not been copyedited properly. The goal of a copy editor is to make the writing seamless, NOT to change the writing or the words!
There is also the issue of plot inconsistencies. Because the author is so close the work, and has been toiling away on the manuscript for a great deal of time, they oftentimes simply do not see when things don’t add up. A fresh set of professional eyes is necessary to find those things and bring them to the author’s attention.
Thinking back over your career, what error have you corrected that made a big difference in the manuscript? Or what disaster did you prevent?
JP: So many to choose from! One of the biggest areas most authors forget to have proofread or copy edited is the book’s cover, title page, and dedication. The last thing you want is your name misspelled on the book’s cover!
SC: I recently copyedited a manuscript that introduced a twin sibling toward the end of the book. The main character’s paternity had been in question earlier, and there was no mention of the twin then. The writer had forgotten to add the twin’s name at the beginning! Because the plot evolved as the author wrote, that major oversight could have been in the published book, had it not been copyedited.
Another example was a manuscript that was diary-like in structure. The date was at the top of each entry. Halfway through, one date was written incorrectly, so each date following was off in comparison to what was being said in the text. That would have been terribly confusing to any reader, and thankfully corrected during the copyediting process.
MA: I have found that one of the most valuable contributions I make to fictional manuscripts is the ability to clearly and objectively see the timeline of the story. If one plot point, date, or name is changed in any part of the book, it has to be changed in every instance. With multiple rewrites, it’s easy to overlook instances that need to be revised for sense. Inconsistency and confusion can damage the entire story. Correcting these oversights is not only essential, but quite rewarding.
What experiences have you had with editing? Did an editor ever save the day for you? Please share.