Want readers? Hire a copy editor!

By Steph VanderMeulen

When writers self-publish, they usually choose services based on their budget. Often, these budgets are limited, and thus some services, like copy editing, are passed over. But copy editing is one of the most important elements in your book publishing process, and fitting it into your expenses should be a priority.

For one thing, self-publishing means you have to price your book in order to cover your costs and make a profit, and too often the price doesn’t reflect the quality of the book. In turn, this discourages readers, who are hoping for and deserve value, which is produced not by how thick the book is but by its quality.

Below are reasons why hiring a professional copy editor is a good idea and why you can’t afford not to have one.

1. Professional copy editors are not out to change your style or rewrite your book or adopt the spotlight. Their job is to polish what you wrote for the sole intention of making you shine. They often have years of training in this. They correct grammar, syntax, and style errors, examine flow, consistency, tense and narrative perspective, character development and plot, and flag anything in the manuscript that could be improved, such as reshaping or tightening the text, based on a careful reading of your story.

2. Copy editors can look at your story objectively and thus are able to see things you are unable to recognize because you are so close to the material. Fresh eyes mean a fresh perspective and because they’ve not gone over and over your manuscript as you have, they can pinpoint matters of clarity, conciseness, and repetitive writing tics.

3. Copy editors allow you to have the competitive edge in a crowded book market: with a professionally edited manuscript, your story has a better chance of being accepted in bookshops and bought by readers.

4. Copy editors are not afraid to tell you how it is. This doesn’t mean they lack tact or are cruel. It simply means that while your friends and family may find it difficult to offer criticism for fear of offending, a copy editor’s job is to offer you the objective, constructive criticism your book will benefit from.

5. Copy editors save you time. You don’t have to read and re-read your story until you can no longer stand to look at it, until you can’t see the forest for the trees.

6. Copy editors are your friends: they are here to help you hone your skills as a writer, to be the best you can be. Through your relationship, you will learn how to identify bad habits, avoid errors, and develop a solid story with believable characters and an intriguing plot.

7. Copy editors are far better than any downloadable editing program. Those programs are automated and limited and the job is far more complex than simply catching typos or sentence fragments. Editing programs also do not care about whether your book is the best it can be. English teacher grandmas or aunts are also not qualified to properly edit your book.

8. Copy editors are always on the lookout for confusing sentences, missing punctuation, and wrong word use so that you’re not mortified when a character in your novel says that she took the time to medicate instead of meditate. Or she threw the towel in when she meant threw in the towel. Or when the young boy in your story says, “Let’s eat Grandpa!” instead of “Let’s eat, Grandpa!”

9. Copy editors check facts. They make sure your place names are correct, your dates make sense, your details about Washington in your spy novel are true, and that the events in your story are plausible given the setting and time. A copy editor helps you make your story accurate and believable while leaving room for imagination and fantasy.

10. Copy editors help you gain credibility as a writer. And if you decide one day to try a more traditional route and submit your book to an agent or your story to a journal or magazine, copy editing will make a world of difference in consideration. Copy editors can’t guarantee your manuscript will be accepted, but they can certainly give you a far better chance than if you hand in an unedited piece of work.

In short, a copy editor’s sole goal is to help you make your book or story the very best it can be, and you the best author you can be. This is precisely what readers want. And without readers, where would you be?

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About the Author

steph vandermeulenSteph VanderMeulen is a freelance copy editor, proofreader, and writer for Canadian publishers, an editing company, and independent writers. She also writes the book blog Bella’s Bookshelves.

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