My masterpiece is done. Months of labor have gone into telling the most wonderful story I can, and now I’m ready to share that story with the entire world. I’ve gotten it back from two editors, one for line editing and the other for copyediting, BUT, just to be safe, I’m going to go through it and copyedit it myself. End. Me. Now. Copyediting is by far one of my least favorite processes in fiction writing, but it is absolutely one of the most important. Like how my mom always told me to eat my broccoli. Oh, wait. I love broccoli.
How do I copyedit my book?
Copyediting is simple with different types of software. Copyediting is the most mechanical part of the writing process and should always be done with either the aid of an editor or a copyediting software. Never attempt to copyedit your work with your own eyes. ABORT. You’ve seen your novel a thousand times. You’re most likely not going to find the one time you used too accidentally instead of to because you have butterfingers. Everyone does it. Nothing looks more unprofessional than sending your book in for review and then regretting everything, feeling the pit inside you open up because you misspelled a character’s name. You can instantly elevate your credibility from “amateur author” to “up and coming superstar” just by copyediting.
What is copyediting?
Sit down, kiddies. Time to talk about editing. In writing, there are a few categories of editing that you should know about: manuscript or developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading.
- Developmental Editing: Is my plot good?
- Line editing: Are my sentences good?
- Copyediting: Are there any mistakes in my manuscript?
- Proofreading: Does my manuscript look ugly?
Copyediting is the last stage of editing before a book goes to a proofreader. Someone who is a copyeditor combs through manuscripts finding typos and other formatting errors, such as curly quotes versus straight quotes. Professionally, editors in publishing houses use software and macros (a fancy word for code) to find these issues. Editors run manuscripts through software like Editorium or PerfectIt to find all of those would-be errors in the script. As a self-published author, you may not have access to professional grade software, nor the knowledge of how to use it. When you know you need to check for typos before sending your book to print, it’s time to contact a copyeditor. What copyediting is NOT: edits to character development, plot, style, diction, and syntax. If you’re sending your work off to a copyeditor, do not expect them to find plot holes in your work. They are there to find typos and spelling mistakes only.
Who should I get to copyedit my book?
You should never copyedit your own book. You should never edit your own book in general. Why? You’ve seen the manuscript about four thousand times and are going to miss most of the major errors. How do I know this? I edited the first book that I ever self-published by myself. I was eighteen, naïve, and completely unaware of the requirements necessary to produce a high-quality book. When I went back to re-read it and give it a tune-up, I was mortified. Everything was a disaster, from the formatting to the typos. This happened to me because I did not hire an editor.
While robot editors are great, a human one is always better, especially someone who knows your work. They will be able to look at your style and work with you to make your book sparkle in the early stages of editing (developmental and line editing). But this isn’t about the early stage. Editors are essential in the copyediting stage as well. How many times have you been reading a pamphlet in the doctor’s office because you’re bored and waiting for the doctor to come back, only to find a glaring typo? You’ve never seen the pamphlet before, so your eyes instantly pick up on the error. The same goes for a copyeditor. They’ve never seen your book before and are going to find every missing period, every straight quote, and every misspelled word. They’re expensive but invaluable. Again, for the people in the back! Editors. Are. Invaluable.
I tend to do a second round of copyediting after I get my work back from an editor, and this is where I employ a robot. I personally use software like ProWritingAid to comb my manuscript for any underlying errors. Typically, if I do miss something, this is why it happens: I’ve gotten my manuscript back from my copyeditor. It is now up to me to manually go through my manuscript and fix all of the errors they suggested. I do, I feel really great about my book, and I think to myself, do I need to go back and run this through ProWritingAid? Nah. Haha. My book’s perfect and I’m perfect so why would I need to do that?
BEHOLD THE DOWNFALL OF MAN.
That last stage of copyediting in ProWritingAid saves me so much pain in the future. Putting my manuscript through software allows me to make doubly sure that my work is in tip top shape before I order a proof. While this step is not necessary, going through my piece with a fine-toothed comb makes me feel a lot better about it when it’s on shelves. Don’t forget to copyedit your back of book copy as well!
When should I copyedit my book?
I cannot stress this enough. You do not want to copyedit your book before the other two stages are COMPLETELY DONE. Read my lips. COMPLETELYYYYY DONE. Manuscript editing and line editing always come first. You should have no more sections to add, no more grammar to fix, no more plot holes to fill. Never ask a copyeditor to edit your work unless all other stages are done. Not only will this save you time and money, but also a lot of heartache. How disappointing would it be to fix all of the typos in your manuscript, only to have to go back in and add an entirely new chapter? Then you have to pay the copyeditor AGAIN! Save yourself the hassle. Trust me.
What software should I use to copyedit my book?
Many professional editors have their own slew of software, but as a self-published author, I have a few pieces of software that I would recommend to everyone.
The first is Grammarly. Grammarly is a free app that you can download onto your desktop or as an extension onto your browser. Grammarly is a quick, easy way to search your manuscript for spelling errors, word confusion, and basic grammar. This is a good initial step to take before sending your work off to a line editor. By making sure your work is as crisp as possible before passing it on to someone else, you are saving them time and yourself money. Grammarly also has a paid version, but I find there are better brands of editing software out there that include more functionality for around the same price.
ProWritingAid is my next go to. This includes a lot of tools and, if your manuscript is small enough, is entirely free. You can only put so many words into the free web editor and then ProWritingAid wants you to purchase a subscription. You can be like me and slowly copy 1000 words at a time into the editor, or you could purchase the subscription to unlock the extra tools. I am considering purchasing a subscription soon because I love this software so much! It makes it so easy to make sure my book has the readability I’m aiming for, as well as cleaning up all of my little mistakes.
Anything is better than nothing. Ask around in local author communities to find an editor that’s right for you. Many people (including myself) offer freelance editing services of all types to help authors get their books to shelves. Nothing pleases me more than to see a sexy, polished self-published book in a local bookstore. That means that the bookstore thought the book was good enough to include on their shelves with professionally published books! That’s a HUGE achievement! I know you want your book done and you want it done NOW. You’ve put in so much effort after all, but trust me. Copyediting is the last bit of edible glitter on a cake. Your book is going to look as good as it tastes. Wait. That’s not right.
Value your editors. I cannot tell you how many indie authors I’ve heard say, “I don’t need an editor! My book’s THAT good!” Everyone in the publishing industry is laughing. No one is perfect. Typos happen. Mistakes happen. Publishing a book is not a solo endeavor. That’s why publishing houses have hundreds of editors under their employ. Find a good editor, establish a reputation, and work together to build the best book you can!