Copyediting is what people generally think of when they hear “editing”. Falling under the umbrella of “technical editing”, copyediting doesn’t care about the story itself. Rather, it focuses on a magnified view of the document. A copyeditor doesn’t look at your characters, your plot, or any of your world-building (other than for the reasons of consistency). They will correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax. They will provide a style sheet and provide fact-checking, but they will not comment on what makes the story better. They may comment on sentences for clarity, but they most likely will not offer rewrites.
What you can expect is attention to detail. A copyeditor will go through your manuscript page by page, line by line, word by word, to catch errors. Of course, the fewer errors there are, the easier it is for them [see my Self-Editing article here].
I find it easiest to receive and work on an MS Word document using Track Changes, but other options include Google Docs and using stamps in a PDF document.
FAQ—What is a Style Sheet?
A style sheet, as the name implies, deals with the style of the manuscript. Some publishing houses have a House Style, and the editor will follow that, but they can also create one for individual clients. This sheet details everything from the formatting of the headers to the dictionary used (I mainly work in Canadian English but have also adjusted for American and British dictionaries), to the individual unique words used in the manuscript (such as names, locations, and specific spellings). This is all used for consistency—to make sure your book follows a pattern and that there are no details that bother the reader.
For example, in one book I read, there was an angel character, and throughout the book, the colour of his wings kept changing. First, they were black, then white, then black, then by the end, it said that his wings changed from black to white as symbolism for the cleansing of his soul. This is considered a plot hole. Other examples from this same book include the colours and makes of cars changing from chapter to chapter, inconsistent spelling of characters’ names, inconsistent descriptions of characters, and the changing of powers held by different characters of supernatural origin. These are all problems that a copyeditor would catch. Not included in their work would be inconsistencies of character motivation, which was another issue in the same text (which will not be named for privacy reasons).
A style sheet will also detail how numbers, abbreviations, italic, caps, hyphens, and more will be used in the manuscript.
What will copyediting cost?
Copyediting is on the cheaper end of the editing spectrum, usually right above proofreading (only because proofreading comes after copyediting and is thus assumed to have fewer problems to catch). A typical copyeditor on Reedsy will cost you about $21.00/1000 words, and on Fiverr it’s much more competitive. Other copyeditors will charge between $20.00–$40.00/1000 words, as this work is very detail-oriented, and copyeditors will typically go through your manuscript more than once for the sake of quality. Good copyeditors, at least—which leads me into warnings.
Many authors on a budget will be looking for a cheap copyeditor because they’re nearing the end of their money and don’t have much to spend. This is where scammers come in. They’ll promise cheap, fast service, which you will get, but as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. Most of the time, these “affordable” editors are simply running your manuscript through an editing program like Grammarly and making changes that way. This only catches superficial errors most of the time, and they may even introduce errors into your work if they aren’t professionally trained. A real copyeditor will be going through your manuscript themselves, and while yes, they may have the added help of an editing program, they know which flagged errors must be fixed and which are being misunderstood by the program. They will also catch errors that the program will not. This is worth the cost.
The other reason for a copyeditor’s price being lower is if they have less experience or are building up their reputation—like I am. I only recently graduated from university with my diploma in Writing and Publishing and opened my freelancing business this January, so of course, I will keep my prices low and competitive to build up my reputation for quality editing. Currently, I charge between $6.00–$16.00/1000 words (depending on the level of editing your want/need) because it helps me get noticed by potential clients. That said, according to the triangle of economy, good and cheap will not be fast. For context, I calculate 1 hour for every 1000 words for highly detailed editing, and thus a 50,000-word manuscript will take me 50 hours to complete (breaks taken in between editing for other work and/or refreshing). That means, if I do 4 hours a day, an estimate can be made for a 10–14-day delivery (weekends not included). Rushing a project will be more expensive, obviously.
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