editing and copyediting for the self-publisher or independent publisher

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Small Publishers Association of North America

Issue 2/2006

Editing and Copyediting

Some of you may have already done this. Good. For those of you who haven’t, read on. Of the two, the latter, copyediting, is probably the one you should most concern yourself with. The reason: You have revised and studied and revised some more. Your research is right on. You know a twelfth-century Scotsman did not eat scrambled eggs for breakfast and that a U.S. Navy Lieutenant’s permanent record is kept in Washington D.C., not with his current command. You’ve had other writers read this baby and could probably find another in a heartbeat to double check POV, pacing, telling, making sure those loose-ends are all wrapped up, etc. In your community, you probably have a multitude of knowledgeable associates who will screen your work for nothing more than a return favor—or lunch.

However, unless you are a curmudgeon of English grammar, usage, and spelling you need someone to take a close look at your manuscript line by line—a capable copyeditor. Not necessarily a pro—they can get expensive very fast. Perhaps an English teacher at your son’s school who will work for a quarter a page? Or a friend—someone you respect when it comes to the language itself, someone who will work for nothing. (But keep in mind, if you have more than one book, you might be taxing that friendship). This person does not need to be a writer, but he/she does need to be a grammarian. Having a second pair of eyes copyedit your book is, in my opinion, one of the most important things you can do. Grammar and word usage are basic to writing, and they are the first things critics and reviewers of self-published works pounce on to put down your work. That is one of the great disadvantages of being a self-published author—you miss out on the editorial services that come free with the big houses. Don’t give potential detractors that chance.

Compose your story in a word processing program. Do your revisions while you are still in that program. Leave your manuscript in the word processing program while the copyeditor makes his/her suggested changes and make you input those changes in the word processor.

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