I just finished one of the many responsibilities authors have that aren’t writing: copyedits. Specifically, copyedits on The Way We Fall.
Copyedits is a sort of mysterious step in the publishing process that occurs between the author finishing revisions with his or her editor and the manuscript being laid out with the final page design, which will appear in the advance copies and often the final book as well. It frequently involves looking up lists of marks that to the unfamiliar can seem like a secret code, and reading and making notes in various colors of pencil — I use green, my copyeditor for TWWF used purple — on a hard copy of the manuscript. (I know a few authors who get their copyedits electronically, but both times I’ve done it, it’s been on paper.)
One of the more marked-up pages from TWWF’s copyedits (apologies for the poor lighting)
The copyeditor is an expert at proper grammar and punctuation, and marks corrections on the manuscript accordingly. S/He will also point out typos and inconsistencies in the story (especially in details and timeline) that both author and editor have missed, as well as sentences that s/he finds unclear, sometimes suggesting alternate wording.
All of this is very, very useful. So how exactly is it work for the author? Well, it makes sense for all changes to the manuscript to be checked by its creator, just in case. Certain elements, like comma placement, can be very subjective and authors may decide their preferences in some cases are different from the copyeditor’s.
Plus, especially when it comes to novels, what the copyeditor notes as being technically correct is not always how the author wants the story to read. The copyeditor’s job is to point out what would be correct in formal prose; the author’s job is to veto any corrections to “mistakes” made purposely as part of the writing style or the character’s voice.
This stage also gives authors one last chance to make other changes to the manuscript, if they notice parts they feel need a little more work, before the book is produced in a form that will be sent to reviewers.
What comes next? In varying order, page proofs, a cover, and ARCs (advance review copies). Whichever I get first, I’ll share here!