The Importance of Copyediting
By Mick Spillane
What will be gained by enhancing a manuscript? Will it increase sales, your standing in the literary world, the good of the manuscript?
As a copy editor, I can easily show the ministrations will improve your manuscript, make them grammatically correct, easier to read, clearer, concise, and possibly increase sales.
Not that long ago, publishers supplied guidelines, a house style guide to copy
editors—in a sense, it dictated how much editing is practical—of course, affordable—in relation to the probable sales of a book. The more sales, the more money for editing. It was the lucky publisher
who possessed a popular book that required very little editing.
What happens when a worthy project appears and requires line editing or substantive editing yet will not reward the publisher with great sales? It is the copy editors task to make the manuscript passable; however, that time costs money. It is not the easiest editorial project; judgement must continuously be exercised.
With the advent of the e-reader, self-publishing, none of this really matters. I recently read an article on Mediabistro.com’s “Galley Cat,” about a self-published author. The article was entitled something akin to “Using Craigslist as an Editing Tool.” I was confused as to what they could possibly mean. What the article detailed was putting an ad on Craigslist, not for a copy editor (they are too expensive according to the article) and instead looking for an English major. I was shocked that Galley Cat published such an article. But independent, self-publishing authors do not know anything about the publishing process, that copyediting is a skill. This is the decline of literature. It seems as if anyone publishing these days, in the vein of self-publishing or paying to have your book published, does not seem to care how their book will read, and they do not care about grammar, typos, syntax. Everyone is a writer today, thank you e-readers and self-publishing houses.
E-readers, self-publishing could these be a lineament of a coming
Copy editors do their best to improve the manuscript, but “authors,” and I use that
term loosely, do not understand that we do not work for free. Who gains in this situation?
What author and their book could possibly be respected if it contains misspellings, grammatical errors, incomprehensible passages, or ideas? How does that author protect their reputation or to be taken seriously? The copy editor saves the authors from their own shortcomings and flaws. The author’s reputation is enhanced, perhaps learns something about the editing and writing process. Perhaps the next book they write will be better.
This only helps the reader: they are not distracted by horrible text and misspellings or confused by muddled passages. In fact, they may be delighted in a propos expressions and cultivated by sapient ideas.
Getting paid for this work; for improving these manuscripts, is great. But I am also awarded by the knowledge that something mediocre was made acceptable, something good was made better, something great was made extraordinary. This is satisfying. To this end, I, as an editor may achieve an appropriate, optimistic attitude toward new projects that land on my desk (well, really in my e-mail inbox, for this day and age).