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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Denise Barker, Freelance Copy Editor, Calling All Self-Published Indie Authors

I'm a copy editor, which means I'm the spelling and grammar police, using Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (Web11) and The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition (16CMS) as my guidelines for US publications for fiction and nonfiction.

But I am so much more. I've expanded my list of writing criteria to become the Nine Cs of Effective Writing, which are:

  1. Continuity
  2. Clarity
  3. Conciseness
  4. Communication
  5. Consistency
  6. Coherence
  7. Correctness
  8. Chronology
  9. Credibility

I'll address each in my next post, as I'm looking at those eight elements in every manuscript I copyedit. But here, let me get into the details of why I am so good at what I do.

First, I am an Indie author too, so I know this biz basically from soups to nuts.

Second, I worked for patent and trademark attorneys in my first career, which knowledge is as helpful here in my second career as are my skills.

Third, I believe in teaching authors to become better authors. So my work serves as my platform to educate, to share. This makes for a more professional presentation of each book, even at the copy edit level and most assuredly after I've worked my magic and the book becomes ready to upload.

Remember, in the trad-pub world, submissions are returned in the blink of an eye based on any one of these snafus: poor knowledge of punctuation and grammar, messy presentation, incoherent writing, etc. Don't think that Indie authors aren't held to the same high writing standards that trad-pubbed authors are. It follows that a pristine draft with a coherent communication style was most likely done by an articulate author. Make sure you are making the proper presentation to represent you too.

Fourth, as authors, we all have our blind spots. When I copyedit a manuscript, most authors are surprised to find that their 50K WC baby needed 5K edits. And that's in what I consider a "clean" and well-written document. My authors tell me that they didn't know they were even doing "that" in their writing.

Fifth, I'm like the cleanup batter on a baseball diamond. I catch the errors (including plot holes) missed earlier, by the author himself/herself, by the beta readers, by the developmental editor.

Sixth, I look at every jot and tittle that makes up your MS (that means, all spaces, periods or semicolons or colons or commas or other punctuation marks), as well as watching on the individual word level, and graduating up to full sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, and the overall book itself. It's daunting. I'm not daydreaming while I do this. I don't have any background noise to disrupt me from my process, not even music playing.

Seventh, I have a real heart to make each Indie-pubbed book the best it can be. After all, each of you Indie authors represents me on my Indie trek as well.

Eighth, I have worked in both traditional publishing and Indie publishing, freelancing 5.5 years for Harlequin and the last 2.5 years for an Indie-author clearinghouse. I've seen the inside of both arenas. And the same thing rings true in both worlds: be a great writer to become a great author and write from your heart.

But remember to have fun while you are doing that too.

So, if you are interested in considering me as your copy editor, let's talk further via email to LivingTheDreamPublishing@gmail.com. I'll need a five-page excerpt of the story you need copyedited, showing some dialogue (as this can be the place where people do murderous things to dialogue punctuation) or of the nonfiction/white paper document you wish to have copyedited. This five-page preview is only for my benefit (not a sample copy edit), to assess the writing (newbie, intermediate, pro), before I settle on a fee. See my previous dialogue post here: http://livingthedreampublishing.blogspot.com/2015/12/dialogue-punctuation-examples.html.

I will consider doing a sample copy edit of one double-spaced page of 250 WC per Microsoft Word for authors who I have not worked for before. However, said samples are only done after all my paid jobs are completed first. And, with the fluid nature of my work, I cannot give a deadline for any such samples.

Two important things to share here: (1) I do two complete read-throughs for each manuscript to catch as many errors as humanly possible. (2) I reserve the right to refuse any project (and will return any money prepaid) if the dialogue punctuation is so massively wrong that it would entail a third read-through by me to fix it. I've done this once, and just to fix the mangled dialogue punctuation alone took fifteen hours. I'm not doing that again. Not even if paid $1 million. Whether in cash or gold or bearer bonds. Ha!

And, for God's sake, spell-check your document before you hand it off to anyone.  This includes your CPs, your beta-readers, and especially anybody you pay to help make your work even better. You are in the big leagues now, a professional. Act like it! You are no longer an amateur, a greenhorn hobbyist, like someone who writes only for your own enjoyment, maybe slipping a children's story or two into the kiddies' stockings at Christmastime.

Yes, I can tell if you spell-checked your doc or not. Even though Microsoft Word does not always follow the preferred spellings of Web11, spell-checking will reduce the overall misspellings. So if spell-check takes more than two minutes, I know you haven't spell-checked it yourself.

My new, improved 2016 rate is $0.011/word, but I'll consider counteroffers too. So a 50K WC manuscript (MS) would run $550, prepaid via PayPal before any work commences on my part. I work within Microsoft Word, using Track Changes. I'm not able to work on Mac docs. I'll share my special business PayPal address once we agree upon terms and your project is accepted.

At that time I can give you my estimated deadline for the return of my Track Changes document. I build in a day or two leeway for unexpected interruptions (like the Internet being out, getting sick, etc.). But I always prefer to turn in my work early, with only about four documents in the last eight years being turned in on the actual due date. And I do two complete read-throughs. That's just how I roll.

Also, if you wish for me to work on one book from an already on-going series (where I did not work on all previous books published in said series), please provide me with a bible for same.

I am efficient and reliable. I've never missed a MS deadline in the eight years I've been a copy editor. Whether you use me or another copy editor, I wish you all the best.

NOTE: I reserve the right to charge more (yes, more than $0.011/word) for a particular project that is in dire need of a developmental editor, a copy editor, and implementation of basic writing rules, so I'd be wearing three hats to work that document. That may sound harsh, but wouldn't you rather that we (just you and me), in private, catch these "newbie author" errors than for a world of Amazon reviewers to denigrate you in public? On the Internet, where everything lives forever?

I also reserve the right to reject any submission, due to the nature of the topic being written about, my work schedule, etc.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

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