January 31, 2013

We Don’t Need No Stinking Copy Editors

Giacomo & Slick

Giacomo & Slick

I have been out of town attending a funeral and didn’t have time to write a post this week, so I thought I’d repeat one I did a guest post on. This is more for writers. I hope you enjoy.

I Don’t Have to Use Any Stinking Copy Editors.

There has been a lot of talk about Indie Authors lately, particularly about the mistakes found in Indie books. I have to admit, it bothers me as a reader to find errors in grammar, typos, and misspelled and misused words.

I asked quite a few authors who they used for their editing, and many of them said they did their own editing, or had friends look it over. The general consensus was that copy editing was expensive, and these authors felt they could get by without it.

This got me to thinking about all the money I could save if I cut out my copy editor. After all, what exactly does a copy editor do? I decided to make a list so that I could balance the need versus the cost. Here’s what I came up with.

What a good copy editor will do for you:

  • Tell you that you used “damn near” too damn many times.
  • Remind you that you have three characters that use the phrase “Morning, Darlin'” repeatedly.
  • Advise you that “grinned,” is not a dialogue tag, and neither is “smile, sighed, laughed, snarled, or offered.”
  • Suggest that you choose a name other than Mollie because four of your characters have names starting with the letter “M.”
  • Ask you politely if you meant for your detective to be carrying a Beretta…because in chapter four he was using a Smith & Wesson.
  • Direct you to a thesaurus, where you can find alternate ways to say “stare.”
  • Make a note that your protag has “smiled” 67 times. So far. And this is only chapter 17.
  • Fix your atrocious misuse of semicolons; even though you insist you know how to use them.
  • Remind you that “Dad” should be capitalized when your character is addressing “dad” in dialogue; also remind you that “captain, lieutenant, and sergeant” are all capitalized when addressed in dialogue.
  • Suggest you quit using semicolons; until you learn how to use them.
  • Tell you that you capitalized “Goddamn” in chapter six and did not capitalize “goddamn” in chapter 21. Goddamnit.
  • Point out that you have use “goddamn,” 89 times in the first half of the book.
  • A good-copy-editor will fix all the mistakes with your compound-adjectives.
  • Caution you that exclamation points are to be used sparingly!!!
  • Provide final warning that if you use semicolons again, she will quit as your copy editor.

We self-published authors have to make a lot of decisions, like which projects to do ourselves and which ones to sub-contract. It’s your decision, but if it were me, I’d hire a copy editor. A good one.

I know those differences I cited don’t seem like much, but for me, as a reader, it would be the difference between putting that book down or finishing it, and perhaps more importantly, between never reading that author again and picking up every book that author writes.

It takes a long time to write a book, polish it, and get it ready for publication. Why ruin that work by trying to save a few bucks on copy editing? Do yourself, and your readers, a favor. If you don’t know a good editor, get recommendations from people you trust. And once you find a good one, do what’s necessary to get that book in shape. Sell your soul if you have to, but don’t try doing it yourself.

I wrote this post for the rest of you writers. I don’t need a copy editor, because I intend to keep mine.

Ciao, and thanks for listening,



Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”

12 Responses to “We Don’t Need No Stinking Copy Editors”

  1. I’m the kind of editor who can spot typos in fast moving movie credits. But I would NEVER do a final edit without a professional editor. (I love mine too.)

    It’s the one expense where I won’t skimp.

  2. Agreed, Maria. A good copy editor is an absolute necessity.

  3. I paid a lot for editing when I published through createspace and my books are full of mistakes. It’s the authors responsibility to get it right, and when you’re just starting out, you don’t realize all the stuff that can creep right by you. So little by little, I’m spending more money to have books re-edited, which is not a cheap task. It seems like instead of bashing each other about getting it perfect, we should support each other. It grates on my nerves to read a poorly proofread manuscript, but when I review a book, it’s for the story line, not to try to make the writer feel like crap. So sorry, my vent about this issue. You may tell I have been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism.


  4. Suzanne: Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it. I know it’s tough to catch all the mistakes, and this post certainly isn’t about bashing authors or making them feel bad; it’s about what a good copy editor can do for you. As to the mistakes that might find their way into a book, that is the beauty of digital publishing. If someone points it out to you, you can fix it, although I recommend doing everything humanly possible to make sure there are no mistakes.

  5. Great job! keep it going!
    …e grazie…

  6. Prego, Gianfranco. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. The first Indie ebook I ever read was published by a retired psychologist, with a mega-genius level iq. Of course he didn’t need no stinking copy editor.

    The most glaring flaw in his novel, whose protagonist was (what else?) a psychologist, is how many seemingly dozens of times the main character uttered some variation of: “As a psychologist, I think…” “Speaking as a psychologist…” “Because I am a psychologist…” “In my career as a psychologist…”

    Oh boy. I (gently?!?) pointed this redundancy out to the author, and…. let’s just say that this particular psychologist does a much better job of dishing out advice, than he does with taking it. 😉

    Lady Q

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Lady Q. You had me laughing at this because it sounds so familiar. Far too many people don’t like hearing that there is anything wrong with their own work.

  9. I’ve certainly been guilty of that. However, I have found that an honest critique is the best gift a person can give me. When it comes to my writing, that is, I don’t necessarily want to be critiqued about my lifestyle or my beliefs.

  10. I’m with you on that, Lady Q.

  11. I agree, a good copy editor is a must!

  12. Yes Linda. If nothing else, a good copy editor is a requirement.

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