What exactly are copy editors, and what do they do for writers, especially writers of dark fiction?
What copy editors are not
Copy editors are not writers (although I’m both a writer and an editor). They’re not rewriters. They’re not developmental editors, line editors, or proofreaders.
What copy editors do
Copy editors review an author’s text to do the following:
- Correct spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation errors
- Ensure that the writing adheres to the standards of their chosen (or assigned) stylebook
- Clarify the text by eliminating ambiguous or factually incorrect statements
- Produce a smooth reading experience
Copy editors correct mechanical errors
Copy editors must know how to spot and correct grammar and spelling errors as well as syntax and punctuation mistakes.
Copy editors adhere to style standards
Mastering grammar, syntax, and punctuation begins and continues with becoming thoroughly acquainted with the dictionary and the latest version of a style guide such as The Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press Stylebook. I use CMOS.
Copy editors check facts
Copy editors may also need to fact-check information in manuscripts. With a discriminating eye, they consider each statement and ask: is the information, as stated by the writer, factually correct? Some research may be required to determine accuracy.
If a fact—whether appearing in narrative or dialogue—is ambiguous, copy editors may contact the author with a polite note pointing out the issue and asking for clarification.
Correcting factual errors and ambiguities prevents misreading and misunderstanding, which could potentially prove disastrous to readers and consequently costly to the author and publisher.
The cost of copy editing
How much does third-party copy editing cost?
Editing businesses usually advertise set per-word rates, sometimes with different prices based on turnaround time. On average, expect to pay $0.02–$0.04 per word (around $5.00–$10.00 per page).
The editing and proofreading service, Scribendi, lets you calculate the cost of editing based on your word count. (They lump line and copy editing together.) For example, an 80,000-word novel takes two weeks and costs $1602.86 (as of the date of this post). That comes out to $0.02 per word, or $5.01 per 250-word page. A 4000-word short story with one-week turnaround time costs $129.33 ($0.032 per word, $8.08 per page). With 24-hour turnaround, cost increases to $163.17 ($0.041 per word, $10.20 per page).
With Reedsy, copy editing is lumped in with line editing and costs about $0.02 per word, or $5.00 per page.
I copy-edit for $0.012 per word, or $3.00 per page. If you contract for both line and copy editing or line, copy, and proofreading, I offer a discount. See Current dark fiction editing rates.
The goal of copy editing
The goal of careful copy editors is to produce clean, consistent, and correct manuscripts that fulfill the intentions of both writer and publisher. Attention to mechanics, style standards, accuracy, and readability is how copy editors achieve these ends.
Need a copy editor?
If you need any kind of editing, including copy editing, for your dark fiction manuscript, check out Dark Fiction Editing. I have decades of experience and can help you improve your writing.