I had heard through the grape vine that copy editing was essential but I knew that my English skills were so good that I didn’t need no stinkin’ copy editor.
After all those rewrites, I did recall some errors I had made but had not immediately corrected. I could do another rewrite (groan), or I could test my skills by sending my manuscript out to a copy editor, just to prove how good I really am.
I researched copy editing and, invariably, the advice was always the same. Do not think you can copy edit yourself. Do not let your girl/boy friend, husband/wife, significant other, do it for you. Do not allow that uncle, the one who “writes” for the local newspaper, edit it. Do not expect some college professor you know, to do the editing. Copy editing is essential. Hire a stranger. Hire a professional. Hire a strange professional.
I started a discussion on the Book Marketing Group on LinkedIn to which I belong, looking for copy editors. Of the ten, or so, replies I received, four asked me to send them 5–10 pages of my manuscript so they could see how much help I needed. They would correct what I sent them and tell me what their fee was depending on how much work was required to make it right.
I made the mistake of sending each of them a different segment of my work. In retrospect, it would have been wiser to send them all the same segment so I could compare their efforts.
After another week or so, I received all their replies. Even though I had only sent out a few pages they found many mistakes. It looked like I would need a copy editor after all.
Their fees varied from several hundred dollars up to well over $1000 dollars.
One of the editors, by the name of Jeni Chappelle, included a comment that my work reminded her of a writer by the name of Neil Gaiman. I am a fantasy writer but I had never heard of this guy. Please do not laugh
The book that she mentioned was called The Graveyard Book. I borrowed a copy from my local library and enjoyed it immensely even though our subject matters differed greatly. If you have never read Neil Gaiman, and enjoy fantasy, I recommend you give him a go.
The fact that Jeni had gone out of her way to recommend a book she thought I might enjoy sold me on her services.
She had my manuscript for about two weeks as I recall, and when I got it back I was happy that I had heeded all the advice I researched. My English skills were not as expert as I thought. It seems that I have the bad habit of starting sentences with clauses. I also have a bad habit of using the passive voice. I never even heard of em dashes, and my use of italics was pitiful. I will not mention how bad my punctuation is. Gulp…I am not the scholar I thought I was.
In addition to pointing out my mistakes Jeni also made some recommendations about my consistency, ideas that I had not considered. She actually improved my content.
Then it was time to fix my mistakes. I corrected most of Jeni’s suggestions but there were a few instances where I preferred my style to hers.
Another step completed.
A copy editor is essential. Do not make the mistake of neglecting this vital step.