Many authors consider copyediting to be an important component of their business model, and for good reason. Copyediting allows an author to present their best work to publishers and helps to increase the chances of their works being a success. If you're an author that's never hired a copyeditor, then now's a good time to consider just how your work would benefit from this service. Let's take a look at what copyediting is, how to tell if you need a copyeditor, and why it's so useful.
What is Copyediting?
As its name implies, copyediting is the editing of copy. However, there are many ways to edit copy such as simple proofreading, formatting, fact-checking, and line editing. Copyediting is a little different from these, and in some cases, may have some overlap with them, especially proofreading.
Copyediting is going over a work and not only checking for grammatical and spelling errors, but also other factors such as flow, tone, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and sometimes even fact-checking if the copyeditor is knowledgeable enough on the subject matter. Most of the time this will drastically improve the work.
In some cases a copyeditor may also make suggestions that could improve the work that fall outside of their scope. For example, if a copyeditor is editing a work of fiction and notices a plot hole or some other inconsistency, they may bring it to the author's attention. Likewise, in works of nonfiction copyeditors can spot contradictions or anything else that could undermine the work.
Do You Actually Need a Copyeditor?
As an author, you likely go over your own work many times to get everything just right, and in doing so you basically function as your own copyeditor. However, an author being their own editor is not optimal for several reasons including the fact that since you're so familiar your own writing your brain tends to read it less carefully, almost like you're on autopilot. This can lead to missing both errors, and opportunities for improvement.
On the other hand, a professional copyeditor is a brand new set of eyes, allowing for a fresh look at your work. And since two brains are better than one, they will in most cases pick up on things that you would miss if you were to copyedit your work yourself. On top of this is the fact that copyeditors specialize in edition, not writing. This means that they look at a work much differently than you the author would, and bring a more analytical approach to editing your drafts.
So, to answer the initial question, copyediting is not mandatory, but highly encouraged if you want your work to be the absolute best that it can be. Don't underestimate just how much a copyeditor can improve the quality of your work.
When Should You Hire a Copyeditor?
In most cases, an author should hire a copyeditor when they've gone over their work and feel that they've done all they can to make it the very best that it can possibly be. While this may make hiring a copyeditor feel redundant to those who have never done so before, there is still a ton of value in hiring one. That said, there may be exceptions to this rule in some cases.
For example, if your publisher has given you a very tight deadline, and the work you're writing is relatively lengthy, you may be better off hiring a copyeditor early so that they can go over your work as you complete it. While this strategy can save time, it does have the disadvantage of your copyeditor not being able to review the work as a whole. This can lead to them missing some inconsistencies that might be present across chapters.
Copyediting is an Investment
Authors who have never hired a copyeditor before may balk when considering whether or not the investment is worth it. The thing is, a document that has been copyedited by someone other than the author is almost certain to be of much higher quality than one that isn't. If an author isn't concerned about the quality of their work, then hiring a copyeditor may not be something they'd want to bother with. However, if an author does want their work to be of the highest quality to impress publishers and readers alike, then hiring a copyeditor is one of the smartest decisions they can make for their business.