Monday, March 4, 2013

Publishing 101 - Copyedits

Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.

My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher.  It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.

Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. 

So. It's pretty shocking how few rules of grammar I know.

I'm not kidding.  I mean, this manuscript went through three revisions, got polished up to send to editors in big publishing houses, went through intense line edits with Jamie. I was all confident in its perfection when I sent it to my fabulous copyeditor Becca Weston.

This'll be no problem for her, I thought. She'll have it done in no time, because it's so close to perfect. 


I was hilarious.

Every page was FILLED with the red of the track-changes path. Seriously. Once there was like half a page with no corrections and I did a little victory dance in my chair.

Here are some of the grammar and formatting issues that were running rampant through my perfectly shiny and polished manuscript before I sent it to my copyeditor:

  • Endash vs. Emdash (I didn't even know there was a difference. Truth.)
  • lie vs. lay vs. laid (No, I don't really know the difference between all of them. No, I don't think it makes me a bad writer.)
  • When to spell out numbers and when to use numerals (Pretty sure I missed this in high school.)
  • Caps vs. Italics vs. Caps AND Italics (When it comes to titles and names of buildings? I'm lost on this stuff.)
  • who vs. that (At the beginning of a clause. Don't tell me you know without a doubt when one is right.)

Not to mention, she had even MORE line editing suggestions that made the MS even shinier! In addition to eliminating a bunch of run-on sentences and cutting down significantly on the sentences that I had started with "Then," or "And then," she cleaned up a TON. Check it out:

"The sound of a metal stools’ legs scraping against the floor makes me cringe. I whip my head around and that blond boy from the hallway scoots his stool a little closer to my desk.
 Well, ‘boy’ isn’t an accurate term. It’s even clearer now, without the hustle and confusion of the hallway, and with him sitting right next to me, that he’s a giant."

The sound of metal legs scraping against the floor makes me cringe. I whip my head around, and that blond boy from the hallway scoots his stool a little closer to my desk.
 Well, “boy” isn’t an accurate term. It’s even clearer now — with him sitting right next to me outside of the hustle and confusion of the hallway — that he’s a giant.

Here's one where Becks eliminated a weird repetition of words (which, duh, how did I NOT think of this:)

I sit there, gnawing on the candy and pretending I don’t notice Mom raising her eyes from the feed. Her eyes are sad. 

I sit there, gnawing on the candy and pretending I don’t notice Mom raising her eyes from the feed. She looks sad. 

There was also some plain-old ridiculousness in there. 

  • ONE takes place in the near future, but Becks found references to boom boxes AND drive-in movies in there. Yeesh. 
  • Elias's house - I described a route for the two of them to take through the halls and rooms that didn't accord with a previous description. Rebecca seemed to have a map of the house in her head, and corrected me. 
  • Anatomical impossibilities - I don't know why I described Merrin standing this one way I did, but it was literally not possible if she has a normal human anatomy. Which she does.

 One last thing:  I have a confession. I hadn't read ONE all the way through for a long time until I went through to approve each of Beck's copyedits.  It was a good thing I had to, because I fell in love with my characters and story all over again.

To make a long story short, if you are indie publishing, hire a copyeditor. This second round of close edits is super indispensable - even if you think your MS is as shiny as possible already. 


  1. Love it!

    I am a copyeditor by evening (Marketer by day, writer by night), and it's such an awesome job to have!

    It's amazing how much you can learn when you start getting to the nitty-gritty of the book and the language. Thanks for posting this! <3 to all copyeditors out there.

    1. I LOVE MY COPYEDITOR. She's worth her weight in gold, and then some. Thank you for doing what you do. <3

  2. Loved this! My ms was on rev 24 when it went to copy edits. And except for that pesky lie vs. lay vs. laid thing (which usually I just get around having to know by rewording the sentence entirely), I was pretty darn confident in my knowledge of grammar and the sparklingness of my ms.

    Yeah. I was hilarious, too.

    I totally second the need for copy editors! They're a godsend, and worth their weight in gold.

    1. Hahahhahahahahahah revision 24. Why wouldn't it be PERFECT, right?

      So glad we have professionals for this. I'd be lost.

      (((hugs)))) to you friend!

  3. Thanks for sharing about this process. I'm still in the query stages, but I'm open to self-publishing in the future. :)

    1. No prob! It's long and complicated and definitely worth it. Good luck!

  4. There's a drive-in movie theater half an hour from my house. I'm not sure quite how far in the future you set this, but it's plausible.

    Thanks for sharing about your copyediting situation. I hope to be a fiction editor one day (not necessarily a copyeditor though).

    1. Hahahah I guess that's what I was subconsciously thinking, but this is 100 years in the future.

      Good luck with the editing! I hear people who do it love it. <3

  5. it's amazing how much grammar i have forgotten. luckily i have a few english teachers in my critique group who won't hesitate to remind me. i love becks. i'm sure she did an excellent job with that red pen of hers. good luck with your book!

  6. Wow, it definitely seems like those tiny changes are what really "polish" the manuscript, and it seems completely worthwhile for those that are self-pubbing, and probably couldn't hurt even if you're trying to shiny it up for an agent (though I admit I am probably not in a situation to pay for it at the moment, I can certainly appreciate its value.) Thanks for the examples, I really loved seeing the difference!

  7. Congrats on ONE! Can't wait to buy it.

    Thought you might find this interesting because of your current publishing path:

    I promise that it isn't a spam link!

  8. I just commented above forgetting that I changed my blogger name. I'm Heidi--used to blog at Then She Writes a long time ago. :) I'm re-commenting with that information because throwing up a random link seems a little creepy otherwise.

    1. *tacklehugs* ZOMG HI HEIDI!!!!!!!!!! I'VE MISSED YOU!!!!!!!!!!!