Many writers are unclear about what a copyeditor can do for them, and that’s a long list. Copyeditors correct your grammar and punctuation, ensure consistency, and help eliminate repetition. They highlight plot holes, lapses in time line or characterization, and areas where your meaning is not clear. Most copyeditors will also offer input on your book’s organization and other content issues and are happy to answer your questions about the editing and publishing process. All of these varied tasks fall under the purview of a copyeditor.
However, there are some jobs you should not expect your copyeditor to perform. Consider these four things copyeditors are not:
- Copyeditors are not fact-checkers. Although your CE may do some fact-checking for you, especially if obvious factual errors are uncovered, you should not assume that your copyeditor is going to do a complete fact-check. There are people out there who hold the title of fact-checker or researcher, and if you do not want to do the fact-checking yourself, you are well advised to hire one of these angels. Most likely, your copyeditor does not have the time or the resources required to do the best, most efficient job. Both LinkedIn and MediaBistro give you access to qualified fact-checkers.
- Copyeditors are not book coaches. A book coach is someone who will see you through the entire publishing process. He or she will work with you from conception to completion with as much input as you request and require. Book coaches will help you determine your marketing niche and may assist you in researching your audience, helping you to write the best possible book. Copyeditors do none of these things. By the time you get to copyediting, the majority of this work should already be done. In general, CEs work with you for a limited amount of time, after your manuscript has been completed and before it has been sent to a typesetter or e-book company. If you are looking for a book coach, don’t be afraid to ask your copyeditor for a referral or find out if he or she also offers this service.
- Copyeditors are not agents. There is no need to send your copyeditor your proposal. You do not need to go into detail regarding your marketing plans or your author platform. Although a little bit of this information is helpful to let the CE know what your goals are for the book, there isn’t much more he or she will do with the information. Your CE also won’t be able to place your project with a publishing company or guarantee that someone will buy your book once the editing is complete. If you are looking for help contacting publishing houses, your best bet is to sign with an agent. AgentQuery.com, Writer’s Market, Literary Market Place, and Publishers Marketplace are all excellent resources for finding an agent.
- Copyeditors are not publishers. Your copyeditor is most concerned with making your writing as clean and clear as possible. He or she is not in a position to publish your book. Some editors, like me, use “editorial services” in their company names. This refers specifically to editing, not publishing. You can turn to publishing services companies, traditional publishing houses, or agents to liaise with a publishing house to help you publish your book. Try Literary Market Place and Publishers Marketplace for lists of publishers and their submission requirements.
It’s important to know what you’re getting when you go to hire a copyeditor. Miscommunication and wrong expectations make for a bad editing experience. Bottom line: Always ask your vendor — of whatever stripe — what services are included. You are less likely to be disappointed.
Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other retailers