Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grammar Lesson - Money Well Spent

I'm going to tell you a story. There once was a writer who had a college degree in Creative Writing. She was pretty good at English grammar. Even so, before she ever published a story, she always had is proofed by her family or professionals: her husband, an English teacher, and her parents, both retired English teachers. She figured that between 4 sets of professional eyes, her stories would be free of grammatical mistakes.

Flash forward to 2008. This writer decided to self-publish her first book. She knew all pros selling books to big NY publishers had copy editors. Still, she was on the fence about hiring a professional editor. It cost money, and her budget has already been stretched pretty thin. Between her own English background and that of her family's, she figured her work is clean.

But there's a nagging voice in the back of her mind. The sort of voice that kept her up late at night fretting. In the end she  decided it's better to be safe than sorry. With that, she set out to find a copy editor. A reference from a fellow writer put her in contact with Erin Wilcox, owner of Wilcox Editing Services. Erin has a BA from UC Berkley and an MFA from University of Alaska.

The write shipped off her manuscript and was shocked when it came back full of red marks. Spelling mistakes, punctuation mistakes, etc. -- Erin found it all. Next to each red mark was a citation that tied back to the Chicago Manual of Style, in case the writer needed further clarification.

As the writer carefully combed through Erin's edits, one thing became abundantly clear: Erin made the work better. She took homemade chocolate cake and added triple fudge topping.

The writer learned that a copyeditor is essential in the self-publishing process. No story of hers would ever see the light of day until it first passed through the hands of Erin Wilcox.

I'm sure it's obvious, but this is a story about me and the publication of my first book, Raggedy Chan.

This isn't just a plug for Erin Wilcox. (Although I hope it's obvious that I'd rather throw myself in front of a moving train than publish any of my work she hasn't edited.) It's a story to show other self-publishers out there the importance of hiring a copy editor. For me, it was about learning that it doesn't matter how good I am at English, or about how good my mom or my grandma or my cat is as English--it was about finding a pro editor. And a copy editor doesn't just mean someone who has an English degree. It means finding someone who sleeps with the Chicago Manual of Style under their pillow every night, someone who lives and breaths gerunds and dangling participles and comma splices. Someone like Erin. (And I'm sure if she reads this blog, she'll find dozens of mistakes.)

Copy editing might be pricey, but the way I figure it, you can't NOT afford it. Your book deserves a chance to put it's best foot forward, and the only way to do that is with a good copyeditor. So if you haven't found one yet, start looking.

And of course I highly reccomend Erin Wilcox.

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