By Arlene Miller (@TheGrammarDiva)
There is often confusion about the role, and importance, of a copyeditor in the self-publishing process. Today, former English teacher and member of Bay Area Independent Publishing Association (BAIPA), Arlene Miller, explains what copyeditors do and why authors still need to be involved.
You have written a book. You have submitted your masterpiece to a copyeditor, who has returned it with comments and corrections. You have taken care of those comments and corrections. You are done. Ready for print! Not so fast.
What Copyeditors Look For
First of all, since this article is about “copyediting,” let’s review what copyeditors look for and how they are different from proofreaders. Copyeditors and proofreaders often get put into the same category. Although they can and do overlap, they are not the same thing.
Proofreading refers to checking actual proofs, which used to be called “galleys” or “blues” before everything became computerized. Now, authors get proofs from Amazon’s CreateSpace or Lightning Source or whatever printer they might be using. However, the proofs look just like the finished book. Back in the day, proofreaders looked mostly for printer errors—missing lines, faded print, missing page numbers or headers, or missing pages. The proofreader marked the errors with AE (author error, for example, typos) or PE (printer error). The author errors would cost money to fix because proofreading was actually too late to correct these errors. That was the job of the copyeditor. Today, authors can fix anything in the proofs and just reload the file.
The copyeditor can be the only editor to see the book—if no developmental editor has been used—and is generally the last person to see the book. So the copyeditor is quite significant to the quality of the book. Generally, the copyeditor corrects, comments, and questions.
Here are some of the things the copyeditor looks for:
- incorrect grammar and punctuation;
- unclear sentences;
- awkward writing;
- unclear words like which, that, he, or she when the reader can’t tell what the word refers to;
- inconsistency in format,
- hyphenation of words,
- proper nouns;
- and anything that doesn’t seem quite right, such as calling a character by a different name, or text that doesn’t make sense.
When You Get the Book Back from Editing
Now back to your manuscript, which has visited the copyeditor and is now ready for print. Hang on. Did the copyeditor receive the front matter and end matter or just the manuscript itself?
Some of the easiest places to miss errors are on:
- the cover,
- title page,
- copyright page,
- table of contents,
- and back cover.
Sometimes we just assume that whoever did the covers did them perfectly. And the copyright page is often mainly boilerplate. It is very difficult to see a mistake on the cover because our eyes want to see the cover as it should be.
A friend of mine told me her name was spelled incorrectly on the cover, and the book went to production that way. We just assume our name is going to be spelled correctly, right? And one of my previous books had a typo on the copyright page. But who reads that page anyway, you ask? Well, sometimes that is where our contact information is, so we want the page to be correct. My latest book had a typo right in the subtitle. It wasn’t the final cover, but I very well could have missed the typo, and it would have stayed right up until production. Good thing I posted the cover on Facebook, and someone caught the error and called my attention to it!
Whether or not you sent the covers, front matter, and end matter to your copyeditor, be sure to give them a final careful look before uploading your files for printing. And while you are checking out the cover, the title page, and the copyright page, don’t forget to look at the back cover carefully—and the spine, which probably has print on it as well. The table of contents is generally going to have correct page numbers because it is automated in InDesign, but it should have been copyedited to make sure that the chapter titles and sections exactly match those in the text in wording and capitalization.
And There Is Still More To Do!
Okay. Now you are really done and you are uploading your files—or having someone else upload for you. Done! Well, not quite . . .
You are a writer, an author, a professional.
- Do you have a blog?
- Do you use social media?
- Do you write news releases?
- Do you have a website?
- Do you write e-mails?
- Do you write promotional materials?
- Do you have bookmarks and business cards?
If you are like many of us (I admit my guilt), you do your best proofreading after you hit Send on your e-mails. Imagine how I feel, as The Grammar Diva, when I send out my blog posts with typos? I know; it is tedious to proofread everything we write ourselves. But we must. We are professionals, and everything we send out—from Tweets to press releases—must be free of mistakes. You can carefully look at everything yourself, but sometimes it is difficult to see your own mistakes, particularly a little word like it, which you have written as in. And while it is always wise to use a spell checker, we are also aware of its many shortcomings. You can have a friend or colleague look at your writing. You can use a copyeditor for everything, but that could be pricey and time-consuming. You can use an online grammar/writing checker. I have not used one, but apparently Grammarly has quite a good one for a small monthly fee.
Whatever you use, do something to make sure that all your writing is as wonderful as your book!
Arlene Miller, also known as The Grammar Diva, is a copyeditor and bestselling Amazon author of six grammar books, including The Best Little Grammar Book Ever, The Best Grammar Workbook Ever and her newest book, Fifty Shades of Grammar, a collection of fifty of her blog posts. For more information about Arlene, visit her website The Grammar Diva.
Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.