How to survive being copy edited

For those of you who are familiar with the publishing process, you will know that copy editing is the first step in production. It has also been called ‘line editing’ because of the detailed nature of this stage. Much like the editor, the copy editor must know what the book is about and make sure that things are in the right place, but this is done on a more microscopic level. For example, while an editor will look at a chapter and make sure it’s in the right place, the copy editor will look at a sentence or a word. This can involve something as specific as grammar changes to something as big as inconsistent concepts in the paragraph. (To learn more about this process, download the free book in our library: How to Survive Publishing a Book.)

Like the editing stage, this can often become a moment of clashing egos. What you want to say in one line might not read right for the copy editor. Just like an editor, the copy editor is your own professional reader. Often a line that reads perfectly well to you, the author, doesn’t read as well to the reader. So, the copy editor flags it up for a possible rewrite. At this point, compromises might be involved. The author wants to make sure what he or she wants to say is being said, but the copy editor wants to make sure the reader understands it.

The first thing to remember when this happens is that the copy editor isn’t making the changes as some sort of personal grudge. In fact, many of the questions might seem odd or self-explanatory, but the copy editor is reading with the market’s mindset and making sure it is accessible. While you may or may not always accept the changes (as an author you have a right to make sure your book says what it’s supposed to) just keep an open mind when reading suggestions from the copy editor.

Like any relationship, talking things through and coming up with a solution that is right for the both of you will help you survive this stage of the production process. Copy editors are often willing to speak to the authors directly in order to make sure the changes they make are in accordance to the voice and concepts in the book. They’re there to help! An author is never alone in book production so good teamwork goes a long way.

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