I’ve posted about why we need good copy editors…as authors and readers…a few times before, but something interesting came up earlier this week and I wanted to post about it before I forget.
First, a good copy editor to a writer is one of the most essential elements in the process of creating a book. Those authors who work with publishers, either large or small, probably already know this, so this post is more geared toward self-published authors right now. It’s not always a magical experience, working with a copy editor. I always know immediately if I’m going to get along with him/her the minute I start reading copy edits. You can tell by the little things. Like when the copy editor questions something in erotic romance such as the “lips” of an anus and he/she suggests you change it to something like “ring” or “rosebud.” Neither of those two words work for me, so I reply in the comments. Sometimes I do it with a smile face and reply with humor: “Rings are for fingers and rosebuds are for vases. I’ll stick with lips on this one, thanks.”
But even in cases where I’m not always on the same page, so to speak, with the copy editor, I’ve still found that it’s better than not having one at all. And that’s because the copy editor picks up the little issues in a book that authors often overlook. Issues like spelling, grammar, and whether or not certain things in the book are consistent. And this past week something interesting happened that I would have overlooked completely had it not been for my wonderful copy editor, Jen Safrey, at Ravenous Romance. The issue she caught in my recent Bad Boy Billionaire book, The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal, could have been embarrassing for me. And I honestly would NOT have known this until a reader or reviewer pointed it out after publication.
Toward the end of The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal, there’s a scene where the main character, bad boy Shannon, is all alone at work and he’s reflecting on his life. The original scene read like this:
It always reminded Shannon of something his grandmother had once told him. “No one’s going to remember your name, your clothes, or the kind of car you drive. Most don’t care about how much money you have or what kind of luggage you carry. They won’t remember your phone number or where you live. They might not even remember what you look like half the time. But they’ll always remember the way you made them feel.
That looks fine on the surface, and it actually is something my own grandmother used to say. However, the copy editor pointed out that author Maya Angelou had once made a quote just like this. So I checked that out and this is the quote Maya Angelou once made:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Now that’s just too close for comfort for me. And if my wonderful copy editor had not caught this, I’m sure someone else would have and it could have been extremely embarrassing. Although I had no intention of using a quote from Maya Angelou without giving her full credit, there are people out there who don’t know that and don’t care about that and I would have been slammed for it, and probably with an epic shitstorm.
So I immediately revised that scene to read this way:
It always reminded him of something his grandmother had once told him. “No one’s going to remember your name, your clothes, or the kind of car you drive. Most don’t care about how much money you have or what kind of luggage you carry. They won’t remember your phone number or where you live. They might not even remember what you look like half the time. But they’ll always remember the way you treated them.
It really was something my grandmother used to say, and she’d never even heard of Maya Angelou, trust me on that. But, just to play it safe, I even added this next paragraph in case someone decided to question it:
His grandmother wasn’t the most prolific woman, nor was she the wisest he’d ever met. She was no Maya Angelou, with tons of prolific quotes about life. But on occasion she came up with words of wisdom. Unfortunately, he hadn’t always listened.
So you see what I’m talking about with copy editors. Even though my quote in the book wasn’t exactly like Maya Angelou’s quote, I figured that if the copy editor felt it resembled Angelou’s quote that much so would someone else. And I changed it immediately.
If you are a self-published author and you have a small budget, I think the one thing I would suggest more than anything would be to hire a copy editor. You could get lucky and nothing huge could be wrong. I’ve had books come back from copy edits with nothing but spelling and grammatical errors. But you could also be taking a huge chance with something embarrassing.
Here’s the blurb for The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal It’s not on sale yet anywhere, but I’ll post more when it is. This one was fun to write because I get into some interesting current issues, like catfishing and sockpuppetry with a made up web site called Lovemetender.com.