I stumbled upon a great blog post by Scott Berkun, "How copyediting looks and feels."
This post was especially timely for me. A potential client found me on LinkedIn.
Talk about global business! This guy is halfway around the world, but we've "linked" and now we're "friends" on Facebook. Though English is not his first language, we're talking, and as an ESL tutor, I truly appreciate his ability to communicate in a non-native language.
Anyway, in his first message, he asked me what I "charge for writing editing in books."
I replied and told him that as a copyeditor, I usually charge by the word or by the page. I offered to send him my Rate Sheet.
He kindly responded and asked me to send the Rate Sheet. He also wrote,
I am told that there are people like your self, who take over book drafts and under an agreement edit/rewrite etc and get the book published and marketed and receive their fees/publishers costs etc out of the sale proceeds and pay little share to the author. I do not know how correct is this. I have no experience. I will be happy to consider any such proposal/suggestion etc.
Well, I was not the person this gentleman was looking for.
There is a difference between an "editor" and a "copyeditor." And there is a difference between a "copyeditor" and "proofreader."
Bill Walsh, over at The Slot, wrote a good piece describing what a copyeditor does. (You'll notice he uses the two-word "copy editor" spelling; I prefer one word, "copyeditor." And the war of words rages on.)
Keep in mind that Bill is generally writing from a journalist's point of view (newspapers, periodicals, and such). Most of the work I copyedit is for books--nonfiction and some fiction. In Bill's words, copyeditors
check written material, usually as the final step before it is set into type, to correct errors in grammar, spelling, usage and style (in this case, style refers to a given publication's guidelines for consistency in how words, phrases, typographical elements, etc., are to be used -- or not used).
And that is, more or less, what I do. I review what's written and do my best to make it perfect. I check and correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage, and style. Unless a title calls for a "heavy" copyedit, I rarely rewrite what an author has written.
An "editor," on the other hand, is more of a coach, a guide. In addition to overseeing copyediting and proofreading, the editor is generally responsible for assisting the writer in developing content, developing the story line, or creating an outline or synopsis. She can provide the writer with a realistic assessment of the writer's skills. She may be involved with preparing book proposals. She also provides critique and direction during the writing phase. She can assist the writer with query letters and packages. And, during the production phase, she may oversee design, packaging, and marketing.
I guess another way to look at it is that the editor is usually the whole package; the copyeditor is just a part of the package--an integral and indispensable part of the package.
If you want a perfect package, hire a copyeditor.