Monday, January 9, 2012

Copyediting for Dummies

I recently downloaded ‘Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies.’ (Yes, I am that desperate.) And while most of the book is geared towards people who are looking for a career as a copyeditor, (SO not my case at the moment) there are already two major findings that have stuck out in my mind.

First, apparently every publishing house has their own style guide—a guide to the house’s policies on grammar, punctuation and the rules of writing. I did NOT know this!  How could I not know this?  Looking up punctuation usage (hyphens anyone?) or spelling/grammar/capitalization rules on the internet can sometimes deliver confusing results. It would be nice to have ONE tried-and-true rule book I could go by.  It looks like Random House has published one so I’m going to check into it.

Secondly- the author of CAPFD goes into the publishing process in great detail- naming all the possible people who could be working on your book before a contract is even proposed.

Here's the breakdown: An agent sends the manuscript to the acquisitions editor. If the acquisitions editor likes it, they might work with the author to prepare the book for acceptance by the publishing house. (aka revisions)

Then the manuscript goes to an internal editorial committee or board.  The acquisitions editor makes a case for the book. If the board agrees, the book might be pushed on to a second internal/external group who dissect the work and decide if it’s ideal for their house list.

If they give the book the thumbs up, the acquisitions editor brings it back to the author who revises it according to the board’s wishes in order to prepare a final proposal.

They finally offer a contract.

The editor and author begin further revisions.

The book goes from the acquisitions editor to a managing editor who chooses a production editor—who begins the process of creating a print-ready book.

The production editor gives it to a copyeditor and a designer.

When the copyeditor is done it goes back to the acquisitions editor and author for further revisions.

Conclusion— If I’m expecting to ever make it as a published author, learning to look at my work subjectively and make real (as opposed to tweaking, rereading, adjusting, pruning, adding a little of this here- a little of that there) in depth, intelligent revisions that follow and effectively incorporate professional feedback is a must.  Nobody is going to do it for me–no matter what step of the game I’m at. And it’s definitely, in my case, a skill that is being learned and honed over time.

I can’t imagine how hard it must be for authors that finally make it to that stage in the game and are confronted with having to change, re-write and resubmit their manuscript upteen times before the house makes it to a final product. Preeessuuure.

Of course, we’d all love to be there:)

35 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

Yikes! This is just scary and may have pushed others toward self publishing. Lol

Editors are necessary, but it is a very scary and daunting process. It's work, of course.

Sarah said...

You're absolutely right--flexibility is a must if you want to have your book published like this. I've learned that you make your ms as perfect as you can, and then don't worry about it anymore. There will always be little grammar/punctuation/format details you don't know about, and no one expects you to, as long as your work is well-written and competently presented. Very informative post, Katie!

Natalie Aguirre said...

You're right. We have to do more than tweek when we revise to get a polished manuscript to just get in the door. Thanks for sharing about the book. It sounds good.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have several friends who've gone several rounds with the acquisitions editor, only for the ms to be turned down by the acquisition committee. I've been at conferences where they've had members of the committee discuss the process. It's scary. Sales and marketing are also involved to discuss if they think the book will sell.

There are a few large houses that don't have the committee. The acquiring editors make the decision.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess I'm glad I'm with a small publisher and didn't have to go through that many rounds of edits. Three was enough!

Laura Pauling said...

Great research, Katie. Wow. It certainly is quite a process. and I agree, learning to take beta feedback and re-envision our manuscript, thus rewriting is a crucial element of growing as a writer!

Ricky Bush said...

There was a time that I thought that my writing missteps were minimal. that was until an editor got a hold of my manuscript and found all my stupid mistakes. I know now that I'm a crummy self-editor/copy reader.

salarsenッ said...

And we will get there!
This is a fantastic breakdown. Don't feel bad about downloading that copy. You've motivated me to do the same. lol Off to download...

April Plummer said...

Sheesh, I agree with Miranda. Makes me wonder how much I'm going to miss, and my friend/editor will miss before I self-publish my novel. Which will be soon. Hopefully, not too much!

Slamdunk said...

Good review CQG. I am with you and the grammar rules would be enough in itself to read that one.

Susan R. Mills said...

So overwhelming! But as you said, who wouldn't want to be in that predicament? :)

Nike Chillemi said...

Glad you put this up.

So important to know and keep in mind. :)

LTM said...

yeah, having worked as an editor for a long long long long long long time, I've found there's only one thing people underestimate as much as writing. Editing. :D

But good for you! Hope that book helps you. Dig in there~ :o) <3

Meredith said...

I might need this book--I seem to have forgotten so many of the punctuation rules I learned in seventh grade!

Tamara Narayan said...

This is great information, yet daunting. Shall we all sing in our best 'Dory' voices: "Just keep writing, just keep writing, . . ."

Tonja said...

I've read that it's not necessarily a bad sign if it takes a long time for a publisher to reject your manuscript (not that any of us are going to be rejected) - it may mean it got to the higher level editors. Tough business for sure.

Colene Murphy said...

Oh yes. We would all love to be there, as hard as doing those changes and being flexible may sound. But you're right! You have to bend sometimes or be prepared to be disappointed.

Talli Roland said...

Oh, flexibility, tell me about it!

I find copy-editing hard because when I was a journalist, I followed Canadian Press style. In England, I usually follow Cambridge Press, but it's much different. It does my head in!

Old Kitty said...

It's amazing how a book is processed from acceptance to publication. I say the journey is so worth it though - and it looks like so much care and thought are involved too!! You will get there one day lovely Creepy!!! Take care
x

Lindsay said...

Fantastic breakdown. It's amazing to see what goes into acceptance to publication.

And I'm with Old Kitty, I know you'll get there one day! <3

Angela Brown said...

WOW! I wasn't aware it took that many editors with different titles to edit, re-edit, re-evaluate, edit some more then pray to the publishing gods that the planets have aligned and your story is ready.

Dear me...

The Phoenix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Noel said...

I'm there right now. Writing re-submitting, getting feedback.

And finding typos or other mistakes is the easy part.

I just re-wrote two entire chapters yesterday. This is deconstruction and rebuilding time. Lots of hands in the pot, trying to make my work the best it can be.

And writers have to be willing to get their egos shoved aside to let this happen.

Connie Keller said...

I was just talking to a friend who has been published by Random House for years about how the in-house style guides have changed over the years. Just when she had learned it all, it got changed again.

Grammar/punctuation isn't that fixed star in the universe after all. Sad.

Cherie Reich said...

I'm totally with you that they should adopt one style guide and stick to it. It's exhausting to know every single one of them. This sounds like a great book, though. I probably should get it since I kinda do copyediting. *laughs*

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Yes, acceptable punctuation and dialogue tags tends to change with the agency/publishing house.

I say, just write what you write, sticking to the grammar rules you know work. If the story is good, the pub. houses/editors can adjust the rest as needed. At least that's what I'm finding, in this seemingly never-ending journey to publication.

And I agree with Ricky, above. There was a time when I thought my self-editing caught every possible mistake. Boy, was I deluded. It's more about pleasing your editor/publisher than using all the rules you grew up with--they change quickly!

Helena said...

Been there, done it years ago with my first novel, and yes it's a daunting experience. When I self-published my current novel (The Compass Master) I was paranoid about proofing and editing and making it as good as I could because I didn't have all that back-up help, but then that's where having a few readers made a big difference in the quality of the manuscript. But no matter how you publish, the proofing and final editing is the most tedious stage.

C D Meetens said...

Just reading the many "editors" that made it into that post made me swallow nervously. That's a LOT of editors! Interesting to know the process though.

Nicole Zoltack said...

You're right - each publishing house as their own set of rules. This didn't really sink in for me until I was sent the list for one of the publishing houses that I edit for.

Alleged Author said...

I didn't know every publishing house has their own guide. Whew. Those are a lot of guides!

prerna pickett said...

scary! And also, like you said, it's a learning process...I'm getting better at it.

Rick said...

It's what happens when you let MBA's into the publishing houses!

Jennifer said...

Very interesting......I think I will pick a copy up myself. It sounds like another good resource to have on hand. Thanks for sharing.

Elana Johnson said...

Dude, you could've asked me! I knew all that. When I got my first edit letter, and one of the items was, "This is how we do things at Simon & Schuster," I was like, "NOTED." (It had to do with serial commas, BTW.)

And yes. It's a miracle how many people see and touch and work on your book. From the art department (who also reads it) to the sales team (who also reads it so they can pitch it to bookstores and merchants) to copyeditors to production editors to design editors to vice-presidents to the marketing team (who has to read it so they can purchase advertising and make book trailers) and and AND.

There are literally dozens and dozens of people working on any given title at any given time.

(And now you know why our books aren't 99 cents, too. There's too much work that goes into perfecting them to sell them for that cheap.)

Whoa. Longer comment than I intended. Sorry!

Vicki Rocho said...

Not only are they revising their work umpteen times, but doing it on a DEADLINE too. I can feel the stress mounting already...

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