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Three Great Reasons to Hire a Copy Editor

Updated on April 16, 2018
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

You want to self-publish a book. Do you need a copy editor?

You've worked hard on your writing project. Perhaps you've spent weeks, months, or years bringing your creative vision to life. Don't let your project go to press without investing in a qualified copy editor. Learn more about why even the best writers need professional editors, proofreaders, and fact-checkers.

Before you send your manuscript to the printers, it's a good idea to get a second set of eyes on your work. A copy editor can do that for you.
Before you send your manuscript to the printers, it's a good idea to get a second set of eyes on your work. A copy editor can do that for you.

Hiring a copy editor is a wise investment if you plan on publishing your book on your own. Today, publishing your own novel, how-to guide, or memoir has never been easier. There are hundreds of self-publishing companies that will gladly publish your manuscript. No agents needed. No query letters required. No book proposals to send in.

If you're willing to pay to have your book published and then hope to recover your money by marketing and selling your book by yourself, then self-publishing may be a great way for you to live out your dream of being a published book author.

If a full-blown book seems a little daunting, there are also plenty of options for writing and publishing a smaller e-book and then listing it on Amazon or selling it on your own website.

Whatever self-publishing route you choose, you need someone working alongside you to make sure your manuscript is in tip-top shape before it goes to print or gets launched as an e-book.

What is copy editing?

Copy editing ensures that your manuscript is clear, concise, and grammatically and factually correct. It involves checking spelling, grammar, proper word usage, and consistency in style.

A freelance copy editor can work with you one-to-one to review your manuscript, mark it for errors, and flag any concerns she or he has about problem areas and potential legal issues. Here’s a list of additional things that you can expect from a professional copy editor:

  • Checking for consistency in tone, terminology, and reading level
  • Reviewing headings, captions, hierarchical lists, and the placement of photographs, art, and graphics
  • Checking facts and conducting light background research
  • Checking the spelling and grammar in footnotes, and ensuring that the footnotes are numbered properly
  • Watching for consistency in English usage: Are you using Canadian, American, or British English, and have you used it consistently throughout your manuscript?
  • Querying any permissions that might be needed: Do you have permission from the artists, photographers, or writers whose work you have included in your manuscript?
  • Alerting you to any potential copyright violations, acts of libel, or invasions of privacy.

This is a big list of editorial tasks and one that should not be left to your best friend, your writers group acquaintance, or your neighbor, even if she is a retired high school English teacher. You need someone who has a solid understanding of book publishing standards and ethics.

A good copy editor is one of the best publishing partners you could ever have.

Don't be discouraged if a copy editor finds errors in your manuscript. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone is smart enough, or confident enough, to seek the services of a professional copy editor.
Don't be discouraged if a copy editor finds errors in your manuscript. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone is smart enough, or confident enough, to seek the services of a professional copy editor.

Three reasons to hire a copy editor:

  • You want your book to get positive reviews. The chances of your self-published book being reviewed in the New York Times or any other major media outlet are slim. Many book reporters won’t review books that are not associated with a major publisher. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get testimonials and reviews from other sources such as bloggers and Amazon reviewers. People who review books on Amazon or on their own blogs take the role very seriously. And these days, anyone with access to the internet can look up facts and challenge you on your accuracy. A copy editor will give you the edge among the fussiest of reviewers, amateur or otherwise.
  • You want your book to sell. Don’t assume that just because you can market your e-book at a lower price, readers will settle for a poorly edited book. Consumers still demand quality and substance from the books they buy. Reading is a treasured leisure activity for millions of people. Don’t waste their time and money by selling a book that could have been vastly improved had you only hired a qualified copy editor.
  • You want to gain credibility as a writer and perhaps catch the attention of a literary agent or traditional publishing house. There’s already a tremendous amount of skepticism among mainstream book reviewers about the quality and credibility of self-published books. Writers who self-publish their first books in hopes of catching the eye of a major publisher should not skimp on working with a freelance copy editor. This is your one chance to audition your writing talent. Now is not the time to forgo professional editing.

Can you afford to hire a copy editor?

A better question is: 'Can you afford to not hire one?' (Not of you want to be taken seriously!) The cost of hiring a copy editor can vary. Many copy editors charge by the hour, somewhere on average between $35.00 - $45.00 per hour, depending on the depth of editing you need done. Ask anyone you're considering hiring to give you a detailed quote. On average, experienced copy editors can get through about 8-12 pages per hour.

Smart writers know that working with a copy editor is a must if they want to be taken seriously!
Smart writers know that working with a copy editor is a must if they want to be taken seriously!

Here are some humorous thoughts on editing and proofreading:

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor willdelete it and the writing will be just as it should be. -- Mark Twain

Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs. -- John Osborne

Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
Don’t use no double negative.
Don’t write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
Its important to use your apostrophe’s correctly.
Proofread your writing to see if you any words out.
Correct spelling is esential.
-- William Safire

At a glance: What's the difference between copy editing and proofreading?

Have you ever self-published a book?

See results

You've worked hard on your manuscript. Perhaps you've spent weeks, months or years bringing your creative vision to life. Don't let your project go to press without investing in a qualified copy editor.

© 2012 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • MelChi profile image

    Melanie Chisnall 

    7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

    Great advice here, thanks! I'm still in the process of writing my first book and haven't explored publishing options yet, but now you've given me something to think about (and probably save toward!)

  • SMD2012 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sally Hayes 

    7 years ago

    Thannks @PDXKaraokeGuy! I imagine that with more and more people having access to self-publishing tools, you copy editing folks are going to be getting lots of work. I think that writers who want self-published books to be regarded as a reputable genre need to hold themselves to the highest standards and hire a professional editor to assist them.

  • SMD2012 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sally Hayes 

    7 years ago

    @Emer420 Good luck with your book! It wasn't until I took a course on copy editing that I realized how easy it is for even good writers to make mistakes.

  • SMD2012 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sally Hayes 

    7 years ago

    @carol777 Yes, it is worth every penny to hire a copy editor. I think that writers (and that includes me) fool themselves into thinking that if they are good writers then they should be able to edit their own work. But I really think that is a myth. Even the best writers in the world are smart enough to know that they need a good editor standing beside them!

  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 

    7 years ago from Arizona

    When I wrote a book four years ago I hired a copywriter and it was woth every penny. Even if you are a copywriter yourself you need a different eye to view your work. Great hub.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    This is a very helpful hub. I am glad I had a chance to read this. I even bookmarked it for future reference, because I plan on publishing a book or two in the future but don't know how I want to do it yet. Voted up!

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 

    7 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    This is great. As a copy editor, I'll be sure to share this :-)

  • self-experiment profile image


    8 years ago from Berlin, Germany

    I've just started doing freelance copy editing, so it was interesting to see some of your advice here. If you have more tips about pay scales, contracts, tips and concerns on both sides (for writer and for editor), I'd love to see more!

  • SMD2012 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sally Hayes 

    8 years ago

    Yes ytsenoh, another pair of eyes really helps . We just get too close to our own work and so having someone review it for us always helps. Plus having someone point out potential legal hazards is a good idea too. Thanks for stopping by!

  • ytsenoh profile image


    8 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Good hub with good advice. I'm self-published and even though I edit material where I work routinely, I think getting another pair of eyes on your manuscript is a great idea. Thanks for your hub.


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