May Your Daughter Marry A Copy Editor

The curse in publishing is: “May your daughter marry a copy editor.” Copy editors are the last in line, certainly the least paid, (and with the smallest office) but perhaps the most important person for a writer who needs ‘fresh eyes’ on his or her prose to pick up the mistakes everyone else has missed.

For example, her eyes were hazel on page 56 and then written as green on 213. That sort of editing. Copy editors are like blood hounds; they focus in on the kill, or in this case, the change in eye color.

The world at large lumps all editors as one, but editors break down into several categories. Someone asked what an Acquisition Editor does. Well, they buy books to publish! They are the key people for a writer. They might also ‘edit’ if they are not too busy going to lunch with literary agents. They are the ‘decider’ (you know, like Bush). They call up your agent and make an offer to buy your book. They can change your life as a writer.

There are different kinds of  ‘editors,’ or styles of editors. My agent, for example, is great on ‘the large picture’ talking about the book as a whole, seeing the book in broad strokes. He is great on concepts, but not a line editor.

My wife, a magazine editor, is a wonderful line editor. She goes over my books sentence by sentence and improves them. She also gives criticism and suggestions on the overall plot, as well as ideas on character development. In other words, she does it all.

Sara Nelson, former editor of the book industry’s Publishers Weekly, wrote in her column about editors, “There is not a writer alive (or perhaps even some dead) whose work doesn’t need another pair of eyes. Sure, editors also need marketing acumen–and maybe a genius for flap copy. But let’s not diminish the value of a sharp mind and sometimes, an even sharper pencil.”

I believe that it is foolish to publish a book–especially a self-published book, or a Print On Demand Book, that hasn’t been carefully read by someone who can edit a text. It is worth the money and the time to you to get it right on the page. Once your book is published, you’ll find to your regret that the mistakes jump off the page and slap you in the face.

Then there is my writer friend whose wife edits his fiction and I asked him once, “Your wife edits your sex scenes?” And he replied, “Are you kidding, she edits the real sex!”

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