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Maximising your Copy Editor – By Philip Burrows

Let’s face some home truths from the outset. Being an indie author is expensive. Not having the backing of a large publishing house means we have to pay to hone our work and take it to print.

One of the early costs is your copy editor. You hire these after you have completed your manuscript, possibly after you have re-written your book, which should include a manuscript critique. A manuscript critique is not a standard service but one I have frequently benefitted from.

A copy editor will polish your work and correct any spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. But the main reason to use a copy editor is they will increase the readability of the text and ensure the sentences pour off the tongue with fluid grace, preventing any clunky sentences from tongue-tying your readers, causing them to cast your beloved masterpiece aside.

They will also ensure continuity throughout the book, correcting names and titles for characters and places. They’ll change repetitive words with alternatives, and it is surprising how many of us have a favourite word lingering in our subconscious. I used ‘traverse’ far too much in my first novel and didn’t realise it. I can tell you that a swift clout from my wife—my first beta reader—set that correct.

Copy editors are essential; proofreading is simply not enough. So how can you maximise the talents of such a person? Well, the first thing to do is not waste their time by making them perform trivial corrections. A copy editor will quote on how long it should take to clean up your manuscript based on the word count. They will allocate a set amount of hours for your book and bill you accordingly. If you use up some of that time with silly mistakes, you are not utilising the higher functions of the copy editor. They want to make your book shine, but sometimes we prevent that by being lazy.

Use a proper grammar checker. ‘Microsoft Word has a spelling and grammar checker built-in,’ I hear you cry. Well, yes, but it is the most basic and flimsy piece of software you can use, and don’t get me started with the ‘Why are you using Microsoft Word to write your novel?’ argument. Argh…

There are so many alternatives available, and by using a program that will assist your writing, you can easily remove the silly time-consuming errors. In my last critique for Vigilante’s Wrath (still unpublished), the editor praised my spelling and grammar. That was not me; my imagination far outweighed my ability to convey it correctly on paper. That praise should have been for the program that I used, which saved my critiquing editor time, so her efforts were 100% spent improving my manuscript.

I made a lot of mistakes writing the ‘Mineran Series’, and my last published book, ‘Jarrod and the Demon’s Knight’, benefitted a lot from the lessons learnt. The second Jarrod book, ‘Jarrod and the Dark Cardinal’ is due for a copy edit in October for a Christmas release. The copy edit will be worth every penny.

There are many tools to help you write more efficiently and hopefully save you money. For many, writing is a passion. For others, it is an expensive hobby, but we can write smarter, improve our books and save on the cost of production.

Guest blog by Philip Burrows

Philip Burrows writes under the pen name P N Burrows.

PN Burrows website has links to all of his books.

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