Thursday, 23 May 2019

Publishing Process: Part 2: Copy-Edits by Sophie Claire

This is the second in my series of posts about the publishing process (you can read the first one here) with a traditional publisher. As I take you through my journey, I hope to demystify the process and give you an idea of the work which goes into getting a book ready to hit the shelves.

A few weeks after I’d completed the edits for my book, The Christmas Holiday, I received the copy-edits. These were totally new to me, and to be honest I wasn’t prepared for them. I'd heard writers talking about them, but what were they exactly? How did they differ from proofreading? I think I had expected a few scribbles here and there, pointing out repetition and the like, but not many; after all, the manuscript had been read in detail by four people now and, because I’ve done some proofreading in the past, I like to think my work is fairly polished. Oh how wrong I was!

Copy-edits involve so much more than just spotting repetition. ‘The copy-editor’s brief is to ensure the text is ready for publication in terms of grammar, syntax, readability and consistency,’ I was told. My copy-editor deserves a gold medal for how thoroughly she went through the manuscript. She had taken clumsy sentence structures and made them flow more smoothly, and removed unnecessary words (‘both’ and ‘suddenly’, for example).

She spotted that I overuse the word ‘shot’ (it’s not a crime novel, honest) and thinned these out, she also deleted a lot of raised eyebrows, and how had I never noticed that all my characters begin their sentences with ‘So’? These were pruned of course.

The eagle-eyed copy-editor also noticed inconsistencies. For example, my heroine Evie sometimes had two dimples when she smiled and elsewhere just one. I decided to make it consistent, and stick with two. In
one scene Evie lets the hero’s Dalmatian out into the garden, then in the next line the dog’s eating his breakfast in the kitchen: in the margin was a note saying ‘you didn’t let the dog back in!’ Evie then helped herself to tea, when the hero only had hot chocolate and coffee in the cupboard. All these tiny niggles were spotted and addressed so the book can flow smoothly and (hopefully) there’s nothing left in there to jolt the reader out of the story.

Of course, not everything was as straightforward as the examples above, and some amendments were a question of style or personal preference. Occasionally, I felt the suggested changes weren’t right for my book or my voice, and in these cases I wrote ‘stet’ in the margin so it would remain unchanged.

Because I was scared of falling behind on the novel I'm currently writing, I chose to do these edits in the evenings and weekends. It wasn’t as taxing as writing; in fact, I secretly enjoyed it. And by the end of the process I felt my novel had been checked so thoroughly that there couldn’t possibly be anything left for the proofreader to correct (ha!). Next month I’ll tell you about those proofs, and also how the artwork was developed for the cover.


The Christmas Holiday will be published 19th September 2019 and is available for pre-order here

Related posts:
The Publishing Process Part 1: Edits by Sophie Claire
Good Things Come by Sophie Claire