Do I Need a Copyeditor?
So you’ve finished writing your business book, and now you’re ready to self-publish or find a publisher.
But are you really?
If you’ve simply put everything you can think of into the book as the ideas occurred to you – if you haven’t gone back over the pages, reassessing, revising and rewriting the book at least once ¬– you probably have some work to do before you are ready for publication. Your book may need an organizational structure. You may have repeated some points or left out some important explanatory steps. If this sounds like your book, I suggest seeking the services of a developmental editor. A developmental editor’s job is to help you make the content clear, articulate, and engaging. A developmental editor focuses on the big picture, the structure, and the overall clarity and presentation of the content.
Now, if you’ve submitted your business book to a slew of beta readers and have revised it according to their comments, you’re infinitely closer to your goal of holding that finished book in your hands.
But before you hit the “publish” button, take the next step: Pay a professional copyeditor to polish the text for you.
Yes, we understand that you’ve been over the copy again and again, reassessing, revising and rewriting. We concede that you know the material intimately. That’s part of the problem.
You can’t conjure up a fresh perspective. You won’t see the quick fix to the awkward sentence. You’ll glide right past the compound sentence that needs to be split in two. You’ll see what you intended to write, and skip over the words you left out. A good copyeditor is almost congenitally disposed to see and correct those types of errors.
A professional copyeditor offers a look at your book from the viewpoint of the reader. So if the copyeditor questions you about something that isn’t clear, at least some of your readers are likely to wonder about it, too.
Copyeditors notice when you’ve used the same word twice in close proximity and will insert an alternative. They will eliminate unnecessary words such as “very” and “actually,” which add nothing to your content. A good copyeditor won’t let you attribute a quote like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” to Mahatma Gandhi – because he never said it. Copyeditors are skeptical by nature – so yes, they will check.
Copyeditors prevent you from repeating a point multiple times – or adding too much detail, thereby slowing down the story. If you’re writing a murder mystery that took place during the Vietnam War, that two-page comparison of the M-14 and the M-16 rifle has to go.
It can be painful having a copyeditor tear into the words you’ve worked so hard on getting exactly right. But trust me. It is well worth the time and expense to give your product that final polish.
After all, your “beta readers” – especially if they are your spouse and your friends – might be reluctant to tell you about potential problems with the work. Will they know how to correct misspelled words, ungrammatical content and incorrect punctuation? Will they recognize a misplaced modifier or a dangling participle? Will they recast awkward sentences? Will they catch errors of fact? Will they even think about checking the facts?
Are you worried that the copyeditor will alter or mangle your voice so the book no longer sounds like you? A skilled copyeditor won’t let that happen. He or she knows that this is your book, and it needs to remain in your voice. The copyeditor isn’t your enemy: He or she is your partner. Ultimately, the goal is to help you produce a quality book you can be proud of.
About Your Columnist
Eve Gumpel is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers topics related to writing and editing. As the owner of Good Writing Matters, she writes and edits marketing content for businesses, and edits and ghostwrites books.