I format a lot of books – more than I find time to post about here on the blog (although I’m trying to catch up). And I’ve had the pleasure of reading a lot of interesting stuff. I’ve also had the pleasure of having to slog through some uninteresting stuff. And one thing I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt: nothing hurts a book more than bad spelling, obvious bad grammar, and – as my husband puts it – trying to beat the reader to death with your sentences. If you are committing any one of these three errors, you may need to hire a copy-editor.
Why a copy-editor?
Many of my clients turn to me with this problem and ask me to correct such and such a sentence please, or could I just check the spelling as I read their book? And by the way, what did I think of the book? And well: I’m a formatter, not a copy-editor. If you’re confused, think of the copy-editor as your college literature professor grading (and correcting) your paper and me as the little guy in the printing press that sets the book out for printing. I do my best not to read the book at all while I’m putting it together, otherwise formatting would take me forever, and I’m going to try to keep it exact word for word.
Do you think you need a copy-editor?
If you feel the urge to ask your formatter to correct anything in your book that has to do with the way it’s written, then yes. You may need a copy-editor.
If your formatter has the fortitude to tell you about more than three spelling errors in your book, then you probably need a copy-editor.
If a friend comes to you and asks you, “Just what does this sentence mean exactly?” you definitely need a copy-editor. (Unless your book is in French and they only speak English.)
If you’re using misspelled words “for effect” or can’t let that paragraph go because “it’s just so cool”.
You may need a ghost writer when…
Your work is far far worse than described above.
When you don’t need a copy-editor.
You don’t need a copy-editor, IMHO, when your language is beautiful and you have very very few misspelled words in your document. A common mistake I see in self-publishing is when the writer decides their book isn’t good enough because their writing doesn’t adhere to the professional format 100%. In a legal document or technical paper, this is a valid concern. In nonfiction or even some fiction, it’s bullocks.
Take Mark Twain for example: his writing flowed because he wrote how he thought. His grammar was great while not strictly adhering to the rules, he was not afraid to use contractions such as y’all and ain’t, and my gods. He’s a legend. Take his example with your work: don’t be afraid to write as though you’re really there talking.
So the writer hires a copy-editor, their work gets tweaked and changed, and suddenly their particular style is gone because “the rules” put the book in a little suit and tie and renamed it Bob. If you’re a good writer, don’t be afraid to be a good writer. The rest will follow.
So you need a copy-editor. Now what?
First, go to your copy-editor BEFORE you go to your formatter. Otherwise, your formatting fees might get charged twice when your formatter formats the book and then has to format it yet again after you’ve made changes. Book writing is an artform but publication is a step for step process. 1. You write the book. 2. You correct the book. 3. You copyedit the book. 4. You format the book. 5. You publish the book.
So if you come to step 3 and can’t do it yourself, I recommend the list of copy-editors I have begun to compile at the end of this article. Go. Get your book prepared. Polish it and make it gleam. And then, only then, come to me and I’ll set to work to get you ready to go.
List of copy-editors
Did you like this article or do you appreciate the list of copy-editors? Then please buy me a soda by sending me a donation to death @ apocalypsewriters.com or kausha @ hotmail.com