Working With a Copy Editor to Polish a Book

What Self-Publishers Can Expect During the Copy Editing Process

The introduction of supported self-publishing has given authors more creative control over their books. They ultimately have the final say. But some fundamentals remain.

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The reality is, self-publishers’ books are competing in the marketplace with trade publishers’ books. Trade (traditional) publishers always have their books professionally edited. Always. This is why they can boast such high quality. In light of this, a qualified supportive self-publishing house like PPG will require all its authors to go through a professional copy edit in the very least. Here is what self-publishing authors can expect along the way:

The Modern Copy Editing Process

Book publishing is done electronically in this day and age, so it is important for authors to have access to a computer, the Internet, and email. They should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Word and use it to write the first draft of their manuscripts. Manuscripts should contain only basic formatting when they are submitted to the supportive self-publishing house for publication:

• Times New Roman font, 11 pt. size
• Left-aligned text
• Entire document double-spaced
• Only hard returns in this document should be at the end of chapter titles and paragraphs
• Insert a page break at the end of each section and/or chapter
• Insert an additional page break where you want blank pages to appear
• Type “Insert image file name here” wherever you wish to see your electronic photo files inserted.
• Italicize any words/phrases you wish to see italicized in the formatted version of your book
• Bold any words/phrases you wish to see bolded in the formatted version of your book
• Underline any words/phrases you wish to see underlined in the formatted version of your book

This clean format makes each paragraph easier for a copy editor to read and correct. The edited manuscript is then returned to the author, via email, in a similar format; however, it will contain highlighted editor’s notes that can be read and accepted or declined, one at a time, using Microsoft Word’s edit mode (a.k.a. “tracking mode” or “review mode”).

The Same Old Emotions

All authors can expect to go through a series of emotions during the copy editing process, both while they are waiting to receive the edited manuscript back and when they view it for the first time. It is the same whether those authors are working with a supportive self-publishing house or a traditional trade publisher. It is natural to feel some initial resistance to an editor’s recommendations, and it’s common to feel a bit emotional. After all, this isn’t a mere book—it is an author’s blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul.

Recognizing this, authors should read the edited manuscript over once, and then put it away for a couple of days to give their emotions time to settle. If they do this, it will be easier to read it over again a second time with a more objective mindset. In that objective state, they can then feel free to go through each change, one by one, and either accept or decline it using Microsoft Word’s edit mode. All authors make better decisions in the objective state than they do in that initial emotional state about which changes are valid and really should be retained.

The Final Word

As self-publishers are paying all their own production costs in order to retain 100% copyright ownership of their books, they ultimately have the final word on everything from editing to design to production … as they should! That said, with this level of creative control comes a higher level of responsibility. It is the self-publishers’ duty to review and approve their books at every stage along the way.

They, alone, are accountable for the final product; so it is important for self-publishers to go over everything themselves—in addition to the contributions of the copy editors, indexers, graphic designers, proofreaders, et cetera—before approving anything. This will ensure they produce a professional final product that can stand proudly beside its competitors.

This article was originally published at Suite101 in February 2010.

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