What You Can Expect from Your Copyeditor

In Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, I take authors through the complete publishing process. Each chapter includes a section on what you can expect and what is expected of you. The following excerpt is from the chapter “Cleaning Up Your Manuscript: Copyediting and Query Resolution.”

What You Can Expect from Your Copyeditor

Copyeditors tend to be practical, straightforward people, and that’s generally the approach they take to editing. Your CE will be reading the manuscript with the intent of cleaning up errors of punctuation, grammar, syntax, and word choice. That means cor­recting comma errors, fixing such problems as dangling or mis­placed modifiers, rewriting convoluted sentences, and replacing words that have been used incorrectly.

red penCEs also read for flow and style. Correcting flow means fix­ing or querying transition problems, rearranging paragraphs if needed, and adjusting sentences so that one thought flows natu­rally from the one before it. Style refers to either the house style, if the book is published through a press, or an agreed-on style for self-publishers. Quite often editing for style means selecting one of two equally valid options, and it ensures consistency through­out the manuscript. Most trade books follow The Chicago Manual of Style, although there are plenty of others to choose from. If you hire a copyeditor, be sure he or she is familiar with this style guide or the guide of your choice. Points of style to keep in mind include whether or not to spell out numbers between ten and one hundred, whether or not to use the serial comma (i.e., the comma before the conjunction in a list of three or more items), and the spelling or capitalization of specific terms related to your field or, in the case of fiction, created universe. Traditional pub­lishers will have a stable of freelancers who are familiar with their house style. Self-publishers should plan to discuss which style to use with their copyed­itor before editing begins.

Finally, CEs read for sense and consisten­cy. Sense, of course, means that what you are trying to say is what you actually are saying with the words you have chosen and that your plot or argument—whatever it may be—stands up to reasonable evaluation. Consis­tency covers a range of problem areas, from consistent spelling and treatment of special terms to consistent characterization and time line in a novel.

All of these changes, from grammar and punctuation to sense and consistency, are key in getting your book ready for publica­tion. To find out whether editing, or a lack of it, affects sales, you need only to read reviews on Amazon to see that readers do notice and will deter others from buying books that contain these basic errors. In your quest for a high-quality book that sells, copyediting is essential.

Your copyeditor will also be on the lookout for passages that may require permission. Ideally you have already secured permis­sion for long excerpts or any quotes from poetry and music. Those who worked with a developmental editor have probably at least begun this long process. If not, you will be asked to start now or else rework the text to eliminate the material requiring permission.

Writers of fiction and creative nonfiction may find the copyedit­ing they receive to be much lighter than what a business, sports, or self-help author may experience. This is due to the creative nature of the work. These writers will still find plenty of changes to gram­mar and punctuation when clarity is at stake, but allowances are made for the author’s voice and the voice of the characters. Some authors are concerned that a copyeditor will change dialogue from pidgin to standard English, for example, or otherwise take out the flavor of a character’s way of speaking. Generally, these fears are unfounded. Good copyeditors understand the difference between what is intentionally incorrect and what is a mistake on the part of the author. And if it is not apparent, the CE will ask for clarifi­cation. For those who are self-publishing, a sample edit from your prospective copyeditor will allow you to determine whether he or she will change the voice of your characters.

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettAs mentioned in the previous chapter, editing can be an emo­tional experience. Do your best not to take it personally when the CE changes your words. If you didn’t go through development, it’s possible that the CE has made significant changes: moving para­graphs, rewriting sentences, and adding transitions. If this gets your ire up, be sure to go through the manuscript a second time before returning it, so that you can temper your angry notes to the copyeditor. If you are working with a production editor, or PE, remember that the PE is not the person who made these changes and therefore should not be the target of your hurt feelings. All in all, publishing a book requires a thick skin; use yours now.

It bears noting that for traditionally published authors, the copyediting stage is often your last chance to make major changes to the manuscript. If you went through development already or per­formed the tasks outlined in the Potholes for Chapters 1–3, as well as the two at the end of this chapter, you should have a minimum of large changes to make. Even still, consider any global changes as well as the smaller points you want to fix when reviewing the copyedit­ing. As I told countless authors when I worked in-house, “Making changes later in the process is costly and time-consuming.” If you don’t make the changes now, they likely will not be made at all.

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, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.


Road to Publication: Page Proofs

What do you do when you get page proofs for your book from your designer? Quite a bit, actually. Here’s the rundown on all that happens when you have page proofs in hand, as I experienced it:

  • I received first page proofs for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro April 15 via e-mail. I immediately printed four sets. My husband and I each had a copy, and two copies  were sent out for advance reviews. I e-mailed the PDF to three more people, one of them being the proofreader and the other two being more reviewers.

    The page proofs have arrived!
  • While the proofreader was working away, my husband and I were each reviewing our sets of the pages. I read the book from beginning to end, then looked at some specific problem areas, such as the table of contents, the running heads, and page breaks. I followed my own advice, as set out in a previous blog post.
  • Two and a half weeks passed while the pages were being proofread and reviewed. Then, a few days before the proofreading due date, the proofreader scanned and e-mailed to me the pages with her corrections. I then compiled her edits as well as my husband’s onto my master set. I looked through everything once again, resolved the discrepancies that crept up among the three of us, and sent the entire set of pages back to the designer.

Because my copyeditor and I had done so much work early on to get the manuscript in shape, the proofreader had limited changes and was therefore able to (1) finish faster and (2) avoid shipping the complete set of page proofs, saving me time and money on both counts.

  • The designer had ten days to input the changes and get second proofs to me. While that was happening, even more exciting developments came my way, namely, I received reviews back from three of the five people I had approached. Two reviewers declined to review the pages, stating that the book was not appropriate for their audience. But that was OK. The three reviews I received were terrific, and I promptly added them to the front and back covers.

    The final front cover with endorsement
    The final front cover with endorsement
  • The second round of page proofs arrived a day early, which was great because that gave the indexer an extra day to complete the index. Time was getting short and I was anxious to make sure something as routine as an index didn’t cause us to miss our desired pub date. The indexer had asked for a week to complete the index, and that gave us only a few days for final revisions. If any major problems arose, we would miss the files-to-printer date. Turned out my worry was for naught: the indexer completed the index in three days!
  • While the index was being created, I checked corrections from first pages to second pages and then checked the table of contents and running heads again. I also spot-checked a few areas, reading all of the chapter-opening and -closing boxes and rereading the introduction and epilogue. As always, some small errors had slipped through. Good thing I took the time to review the pages again.

If you are self-publishing, be prepared to go through at least three rounds of page proofs. For whatever reason, it often takes until the third or fourth set of proofs for a person to notice an error in display text.

  • Corrections to the revised proofs and the edited index were e-mailed back to the designer (yes, you have to edit an index), and, lickety-split, we had third pages. We were getting close now. One more round of corrections and, as of yesterday, the interior has been finalized!

The pace of book production, once you receive those first page proofs, is mind-boggling. Just when it looks like you will never finish on time, the stars align, designers and indexers beat their deadlines, and you start to wonder why you ever doubted the outcome.

Final files go to the printer on Monday. Next up will be printer proofs. The end is in sight! The end of production, anyway. As the author, you’re never really done with a book, are you?

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

MS2BK: Copyediting

MS2BK: The Design Process

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, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Announcing the All-New Hop On Publishing Website!

Hop On Publishing LLC has just launched its website!

A division of POP Editorial Services LLC,  Hop On will be publishing my first book, Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, in September 2014.

The book is intended for aspiring authors of fiction and nonfiction who want to create a high-quality, highly marketable book. Both self-publishing and traditionally published authors who feel overwhelmed by the publishing process will gain the confidence they need to be successful when they learn what to expect, and what’s expected of them, on the road to publication.

So, hop on over to www.hoponpublishing.com to read more about Perfect Bound, watch a video, and learn about upcoming events. You’ll also find resources for writers and authors, plus a handy-dandy way to sign up for the Hop On e-mail newsletter.

And here is the new logo:


Now that I think about it, we really should have made our logo a bunny rabbit.

Road to Publication: Copyediting

Oh my! So much has happened in the life of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro in just the last four weeks.

For one thing, we have chosen the final title (see above). Phew! I’m happy to have that figured out.

More important, however, the manuscript has gone through the copyediting and design processes. I’ll tell you all about design in the next post. Continue reading below to find out what it’s like to have your manuscript professionally edited.

Everyone Needs an Editor

If you have good writing and editing skills, it’s tempting to think you don’t need a copyeditor. If you already know the rules, why not just do it yourself? I’ll tell you why: you are too close to your work to see all of the errors. As an editor with 15 years of experience, I have been around long enough to know everyone needs an editor, even editors.

I asked a former colleague of mine to do the editing for Perfect Bound, and she happily agreed. I was nervous to send the manuscript out into the world, even to someone I know and trust, so I did my best to clean up as many errors as I could. I gave myself a week to read the manuscript one last time, from beginning to end, then sent it off. My husband took photos to commemorate the momentous occasion.

I was nervous to send my manuscript to the copyeditor.
I was nervous to send my manuscript to the copyeditor.
But I knew it was what my book needed.
But I knew it was what my book needed.
And off it went!

Although we are friends, I knew from my time working with her that this copyeditor would pull no punches, and I was right. She did a terrific job, uncovering errors I would have sworn I had fixed, questioning places that didn’t make sense or were incomplete, and prompting me to revisit some sections. I laughed to see that she found every instance where I had rushed my writing or thought, “Oh, that’s good enough.”

In the end I was surprised that after all of my time with the manuscript, combing through it and making changes, I had left so much for her to catch. But she earned her paycheck and saved me loads of embarrassment and grief. I cannot imagine having moved forward with the project without the help of a professional.

Reviewing the Editing

My copyeditor asked for an extra week to complete the project, since she is not a full-time freelancer. To help keep the project moving forward, she returned the chapters in two batches. That way I could begin my review of the early portion of the book while she finished editing the later chapters. It worked out great.

The manuscript (as is industry standard now) was edited electronically in Microsoft Word using the Track Changes function. Queries were embedded in the text, which makes them easy to find and delete. I went through each chapter, reviewed all of the changes, and answered the queries. Sometimes my answer was a simple “yes, edits are correct” and I could delete the query. Other times I needed to add a few sentences or rewrite a paragraph to resolve the problem. I made my changes directly in the file, tracking them so that I could easily see my corrections and preserve a record of the changes the copyeditor had suggested.

It took me about ten days  to review the editing and answer all of the queries in the full 240-page manuscript.  With my husband’s help, I also fact-checked the manuscript one more time to ensure it was as accurate as it could be. Once those steps were completed, I commenced my final revision.

One More Pass Through the Manuscript

By this point it was difficult to begin reading the manuscript again. I lamented having to read pages of text that I had read and revised ten times already, but I knew it had to be done. The copyeditor, my husband, and I had made significant changes that I needed to review. And so I dove in.

As always, I found plenty I wanted to change. Now, at least, the changes were smaller and easier to implement. I did rearrange a paragraph or two, but most of the revising consisted of adjusting word choice, finessing a transition, or catching spelling errors that spell-check had missed. This was my last chance to make major changes before the book went into layout, and I took the opportunity to fix all of the needling problem areas I found.

When I had done as much as I could do, I ran spell-check one more time, removed any inadvertent double spaces between words, and sent it off to the designer for layout. That was Monday. Now I have a short break before page proofs come in and I have to read the book all over again.

Copyediting was a fun and stressful time. I am happy to have the safety net of a professional edit, and I know the book just keeps getting better. And I am one step closer to having my book.

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication


Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other retailers

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

My book project Perfect Bound: How to Publish a High-Quality Book That Sells (previously Manuscript to Book: How to Avoid the Potholes on the Road to Publication) has recently undergone a major shakeup. That is part and parcel for the manuscript development stage. It’s an exciting time! After taking the book apart and putting it back together in a new format, I now have a structure that is tight, dynamic, and compelling.

How did this happen?

After some consideration, I decided to enlist the help of beta readers. I could have hired a developmental editor and saved time. However, by using beta readers, I was able to save a fair amount of money. I felt this was the right option for me because I knew most of the pieces of the book were in good shape. As an editor and practiced workshop leader, I had a firm grasp on how I wanted to present my information, but I also wanted to hear from my target audience, others not so familiar with the publishing world, and someone who could vet my information. I found four people who fit those varied roles.

From all four beta readers I received excellent feedback on the quality of the information and the writing. Mostly the organization was also well liked. There were a couple of glitches — too many cross-references, a bit dense in parts — but nothing that required a full rewrite. And then one of the reviewers gave me the bad news: “This book needs a tighter focus.” That is one of the key evaluations that manuscript development entails and it is something that can’t be accomplished with a few recast sentences.

It was tough to hear, but if I was honest with myself, all of the criticisms were problems I had noticed at one point or another but had brushed aside. Now I needed to figure out a way to solve them.

How can I move forward?

After rereading my beta readers’ notes, I realized that by satisfying the larger criticism about focus, I could also resolve the minor points that were irking the other readers. I was invigorated by the prospect of making a better, more dynamic book and couldn’t wait to get started.

As part of my revisions, I shuffled and combined chapters, cut material that was too dense for the book I wanted to write, and avoided the numerous cross-references by placing like with like. The result: Eight chapters that describe the complete book production process, from deciding your route to publication all the way to printing and e-book conversion. Each chapter also contains a subchapter highlighting the relevant potholes that so often send a good book idea skidding off the road at that stage. Throughout the book, interviews with published authors and other industry professionals keep the book grounded with real-world advice. The new format is focused, compelling, and easy to read.

I continue to revise the manuscript to ensure I have resolved the types of problems that can arise after a major shakeup. Issues of flow, incomplete information, and duplicate material are all under scrutiny. When I have completed this revision, I will be ready to move on to copyediting.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

For the past year I have been writing a book about how to publish a book well. In Perfect Bound: How to Publish a High-Quality Book That Sells (formerly Manuscript to Book: How to Avoid the Potholes on the Road to Publication) I take the reader through the entire book publishing process, one step at a time, highlighting the common pitfalls that authors fall victim to at each stage and offering practical guidance on how to avoid them.

As I embark on this same path that the book describes, I invite you to share in the journey. At each phase of book production I will detail what is happening to the manuscript and where it is in its transformation into a book. If you, too, are hoping to publish a book, these updates will give you a glimpse of what you have to look forward to. As is one theme of Perfect Bound, knowing what to expect will save you time, money, and embarrassment throughout the book publishing endeavor.

First stop: Manuscript Development.

Next stop: Copyediting.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014

Quiz: 10 Questions to Help You Choose Your Route to Publication

As an aspiring author you have several options for how to get published. The two most popular are through a traditional publishing house and self-publishing.

Three other routes also offer viable ways to have your work published. You could partner with an organization or business, you could write on a work-for-hire basis, or you could use a publishing service, where you pay a company to shepherd your manuscript through the book production process.

Each of these paths comes with its own demands and requirements of the author. By assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, you can find the route to publication that fits you best. Take this 10-question quiz to get started.

  1. Do you have at least $5,000 that you can dedicate to your book project?
  2. Do you want complete creative control regarding the text, layout, and cover design of your book?
  3. Do you have unquestionable credentials in your field, such as a degree or many years of experience?
  4. Do you have a very narrow, targeted niche or cause?
  5. Are you willing to give up some creative control in order to make a living as a writer?
  6. Do you want a book under your name but would rather have someone else take care of the details of publication?
  7. Do you have the contacts, or are you willing to make contacts, with professionals who can help you publish a book on your own?
  8. Do you have a book idea with national appeal?
  9. Do you have a national marketing platform already in place?
  10. Do you want your book to be published in less than a year?

Now review the questions to which you answered yes. These are the assets you bring with you to the publishing endeavor. Use them to help you narrow your options.

  • If you answered yes to questions 1, 2, 7, 9, and 10, self-publishing may be right for you. Self-publishing offers the most creative control, but it also has up-front costs, such as editing, design, and marketing.
  • If you answered yes to questions 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9, traditional publishing may be right for you. It can be difficult to break into traditional publishing without a targeted marketing hook and a strong platform, but you do avoid much of the up-front expense.
  • If you answered yes to questions 3 and 4, collaboration with a nonprofit or business may be right for you. Collaborations work well when you can find an organization that targets your ideal readers. Exposure is sometimes limited, but you gain credibility.
  • If you answered yes to questions 5, 6, and 8, work-for-hire may be right for you. Although you lose some creative control in this situation, you gain experience and can create a steady income. For many writers, this is their bread and butter.
  • If you answered yes to questions 1, 6, and 10, a publishing service may be right for you. With the right company, this route generally offers a no-fuss, no-muss solution, wherein you retain complete creative control but also foot the bill. Ensuring quality is the hitch here.*

There are many viable paths to publication. The key to your success is  choosing the route that maximizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. With the results of this quiz in mind, explore your options until you find the one that’s best for you.

*I would be remiss if I did not mention that many of the publishing services now available have awful reputations for preying on uneducated authors. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know what you are getting before signing with a company and avoid any that try to pressure you into a decision.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014

Self-Publishing: How Much Will It Cost?

If you’re planning to self-publish a book, you need a budget. Without one, your project will stall as you realize this great, easy thing everyone keeps talking about actually takes some money. How much could it possibly cost? Well, $5,000-$7,500, in fact. For some, it could be much more.

You will soon discover the biggest expense you incur is the time you spend writing and marketing your book. Don’t discount the value of your time. You may be spending a couple hundred hours just on marketing, and that’s time you could be spending with family, friends, or a paying gig.

But what about monetary expenses? When self-publishing, the money you spend will largely be through the professionals you hire to assist you. From manuscript to book, you will require a variety of services to achieve a professional-looking, marketable product.

Here is a breakdown of some of the more common vendors you will use (fees based on Editorial Freelancers Association guidelines and my own research):

Book coach: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editor: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $65 an hour

Copyeditor: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $40 an hour

Proofreader: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $35 an hour


            Interior: $6 to $10 per page, plus setup fee of $100 to $200

            Cover: $800 to $1,200; more for complex designs or original artwork

Printer/Binder: These prices assume a black-and-white interior with a full-color cover. You’ll pay more for longer books, color interiors, and/or larger trim sizes.

            500 copies: $3.65 to $5.25 per unit, plus shipping

            1,000 copies: $2.35 to $3.50 per unit, plus shipping

E-books: Price structures vary. Some are free to start with a cut of the list price going to the company; others charge a setup fee, but you keep 100% of sales.

As you can see, copyediting and design alone could run you $2,000-$3,000. But don’t skimp here. Professional editing, and particularly professional design, are what allow self-published books to compete with the traditionally published. After all your hard work, do you really want to put out an inferior product? Don’t forget, this is your book; you deserve to make it the best it can be!