Friday, September 10, 2010

In Praise of Copy Editors

by Raelene Gorlinsky

There are all kinds of editors, and their responsibilities and duties vary depending on the publisher's definition of their job. The editor you work with on your book is variously called a developmental editor, book editor, content editor, or just "editor". But after you and your editor have made your book as perfect as you think possible, then it goes off to the final pair of eyes to check it before publication. The last chance to catch errors--the copy editor. Far, far more than just a proofreader.

Here is the definition of the final copy editor job at EC:

The final copy editor reads the story with a fresh and critical eye to the text and basic content issues, double-checking things such as:

• Consistency (names, words, timeline, and physical descriptions).
• Coherence and choreography of physical actions.
• Correctness of facts; i.e., double-checking the editor/author on information and factual details, historical accuracy, copyright and trademark issues.
• Sentence structure, proper word usage, effective writing, clarity, point of view.
• Typos, misspellings, grammar, punctuation.
• Proper formatting per our standard Word template.
• Conformance with EC’s style and standards and with our story guidelines (taboos, inappropriate subjects, etc.)
• Appropriate assignment of genre and themes to the story.
• Appropriateness, correctness and appeal of the story blurb.

Not a simple or easy job! Every book editor has said "she saved my butt" many, many times, when the copy editor catches things the book editor and author both missed.

Publishers Weekly, Aug. 30, 2010: "A Prayer of Thanks for a Guardian Angel: From an appreciative author" by Roy Peter Clark--some quotes from his article:

"As an author, I've always felt the need for guardian angels, and these days her name is Marie Salter, an ace copyeditor [...] Marie played many roles: spell checker, style maven, syntax straighten-outer, fact checker, reader channeler, and pruner of dead words. [...] her job was not to seize control of the text, but to help me reach its unrealized potential."

"Thankfully, I am the happy beneficiary of an enlightened publisher who supports my work with a team of accomplished editors--or as I like to think of them, guardian angels."

So appreciate your copy editor--praise her, thank her, understand the tough job she has to do, and remember that she is there to guard you and your book and help present its best face to the world.


KB Alan said...

I don't always know who all of my editors are, but I appreciate the hell out of them!

Fran Lee said...

Jilly told us all to come you thing she is hinting? LOL! And I haven't even turned anything it to her yet... :P

Annabel Joseph said...

I'm always shocked at what the copy editor finds even when I'm SURE my MS must be perfect by that point. Heh. In my last MS, two pairs of hands turned into four pairs of hands during one of the menages, and me and my editor both missed it. Ooops! Good thing she caught it, lol.

JM Madden said...

I think you guys have some of the best in the business. It's so frustrating, as an aspiring author, to see typos in something you've bought. Especially if you are considering submitting there. I would die of mortification if something of mine came out with mistakes like that.
Keep up the good work!

Alisha (MyNeedToRead) said...

As an avid reader and aspiring copy editor, this post makes me proud. Rock on, editors. ^_^