Imagine writing a book that spans hundreds of pages containing god knows how many sentences and a huge cauldron of words. Exhausting right?
Now, imagine yourself going back through every paragraph, sentence, and word, trying to perfect the entire thing’s tone, style, and cohesiveness. On top of that, you’ll also have to carefully scan the entire written material for grammatical mistakes.
Even we can hear your huffing and puffing from way over there after reading all this! However, that is an exact summary of the tasks required from a copy editor.
Intrigued yet? Good, because in this blog, we’ll be going through a bunch of useful information you’ll need if you actually decide to hire a copy editor to go through your written material. To be exact, we’ll be discussing:
- What a copy editor does exactly
- If your book requires copy editing
- How a copy editor improves upon your book’s message to the readers
- And finally, how do you need to go about hiring one
So, considering how much there is to discuss, we reckon we should stop dawdling and get into exactly why copy editors are so important to society and what their exact job description is.
What Does A Copy Editor Do?
To put it simply, the role of a copy editor is to run through the entire written material line by line, configuring and correcting any incoherencies or inconsistencies by tinkering with words and spotting mistakes in the overall language to improve the quality of the manuscript.
They’re also responsible for ensuring the entire text is as readable as possible and clearly communicates the writer’s intentions to his/her audience without worrying too much about the exact story structure or character development.
That in itself is the crux of what a copy editor is expected to do. But if you’re looking to hire one for your book or looking to find a job as a copy editor yourself, you’ll obviously need more detail than that.
Copy Editor Job Description
Depending on the type of services you’re expecting, a copy editor can also sometimes take liberties to ensure the entire structure of your copy is up to code and that it relays your basic vision as clearly and cohesively as possible. Some tasks that copy editors are expected to perform include:
- Improving word usage and removing any repetition or dialogue tags.
- Improving the overall quality by checking for any spelling, capitalization, and grammatical errors
- Revising the overall text formatting by correcting any incorrect usage of bold or italics
- Ensuring that the vocabulary used is appropriate and unoffensive
- Clarifying page layout (checking page breaks and line breaks)
- Keeping the material coherent by fixing any tense/POV mistakes
In addition to knowing what exactly a copy editor does, it’s also important to know the aspects of your manuscript that fall outside the job description of a copy editor.
For example, a copy editor cannot tinker around with the actual content of the story, nor can they influence where a specific character’s story goes.
Definition of Copy Editing
Knowing the specific tasks that a copy editor carries out is all well and good, but to properly understand what copy editors do to make your manuscript a written success, you’ll still need a proper definition in your mind at all times that you can use as a basis for your hunt for copy editors.
To that end, let us come up with a clear and concise copy editor definition that you can use whenever the word pops into your head.
Copy editing is a skill that entails checking the coherency, cohesiveness, and overall quality of a manuscript by clearing out any grammatical mistakes, revising the words and sentences used to improve readability, and ensuring that the tone and style remain uniform throughout the entire text.
Does Your Book Need Copy Editing?
If you’ve ever written a piece or article on any topic before, you’re probably aware of the raw gut feeling you get once you’ve completed the entire thing that tells you whether or not your content requires another look-through.
Even if you don’t, it’s still a good practice to give your work that final all-clear before you send it out for publishing.
During that look-through, though, if you find yourself picking out more than 10 grammatical mistakes or tone shifts in the first quarter of the manuscript, chances are that you may need a copy editor to look through it as well. That is a benchmark we’ve come up with ourselves.
But in case you’re not feeling confident enough that your book will succeed in transferring your message despite the fact that there aren’t many mistakes, consulting with a copy editor could prove beneficial in tweaking the overall quality of your copy.
Basically, our rule for identifying when copy editing is needed depends on a writer’s raw instinctual feeling about their content.
Which, in our experience, always proves quite beneficial when assessing our own copy.
The need for copy editing, in our opinion, also depends on how confident you are that the core message of your book will resonate with readers. Then, it becomes your responsibility to refine it to the extent that the message itself can be effectively absorbed by your audience.
How to Hire a Copy Editor
Before we actually get into the process of hiring a editor, we should warn you that you’ll need a full purse if you are going to ask a professional to do the job for you.
The reason is that even the most inexperienced copy editors charge around $35 an hour, whereas the more experienced ones rate their skills at about 50$-75$ per hour.
You’ve probably already come up with a rough estimate. But if, for example, your book contains a total of 500 pages (the average for a full book), then hiring even an inexperienced copy editor can cost you somewhere around $17,500! (Estimating that he/she takes one hour to go through a page).
However, instead of thinking about paying copy editors as a cost, we’d advise you to think of it as an investment.
A well-edited copy could do well in the submission process and net you 10x more than the money you spent on getting your content edited and revised when it actually becomes accessible out in the world.
With that said, let us get into the exact steps you should take when hiring a copy editor to go through your manuscript.
Go Through your Own Work At Least Twice
Reviewing the manuscript you want copy edited before you actually send it out is an incredibly good practice to get into and one that we highly recommend. Because, in the end, you don’t actually want to pay your copy editor to fix mistakes that you could’ve easily found on your own—especially if you’re thinking about opting for someone who charges per hour.
Thus, we advise going through your manuscript at least twice and cleaning it up to the best of your ability.
Preferably, it should be done to a point where they aren’t able to find any grammatical or vocabulary mistakes and can work on improving the readability, tone, and style of the text. Additionally, we’d also suggest cleaning up your footnotes, standardizing your references, and presenting them to the copy editor when ready.
Calculate the Exact Cost of Hiring Copy Editor
Once you’ve proofread your own article to the best of your ability, your next task is to calculate the number of pages in your book. According to our calculations, a one-inch margin, double-spaced, 12-point font page usually consists of an average of 250 words.
So, we’d advise using this statistic to count the number of pages in your manuscript. You can then multiply your pages with an average hourly rate of a copy editor (as it takes them one hour to go through a page on average).
We’d recommend estimating an hourly rate of 60$-75$ as well, even if you are thinking of picking out a 35$ per hour copy editor, as keeping your estimate way higher than the actual cost is a tried and true practice that helps you prepare for emergency expenses.
If you’re still looking to save up on costs without compromising on quality, looking for an editing or a full-service publishing agency might be a good option.
Companies like these offer package deals and can afford to give subsidized costs for tasks as they have in-house writers. It is also easier to find an editor who caters to your particular genre when you sign up with an organization.
Check if anyone you know has Previously Used the Services of a Copy Editor
Asking around your more professional gatherings if they’ve ever acquired the services of a good copy editor is always a winning practice to get into.
The seal of approval from a close friend or family member always means more than that of an unknown individual. You can also then opt to ask them to show the work that the copy editor worked on as an example of his/her skills.
Hire a Copy Editor to Work on Your Book
After completing all the necessary prep work prescribed in the sections above, you can then finally start the hiring process to find a copy editor that can elevate the quality of your book. Now, some guidelines for this step as well.
Make sure that during initial contact, you relay to every potential editor the exact work you need. For that, you’ll have to read up on the different types of copy editing that professionals are engaged in at the moment.
After that, you just need to come to an agreement about their actual pay, discuss the deadline for submitting the work and send them the copy that you need them to work on.
In our experience, every book that was ever written required a bit of copy editing to transform it into one that could provide value to its readers. Now, whether you decide to do that editing yourself or hire a professional is up to you.
Our job, though, was to explain to all of our readers the crux of what copy editing is, what is a copy editor, and how a copy editor shapes and molds your content, improving its quality in the process.
Before we leave you, though, we do think we should clarify that book proofreading is not the same as copy editing, as many writers tend to confuse the two.
Proofreading is actually a step that comes after book editing, where you or a professional takes one last look through the entire content to find any stylistic or clarity errors that they can send back to the copy editor.
With that cleared up, we hope that our explanation of copy editing was adequate enough and has rightfully explained the importance of the profession for writers who are looking to leave their mark on this world.