Copyedit 2

Today’s post continues an interview with Madeline Hopkins, who recently copyedited Touchstone.

Madeline Hopkins first entered the publishing world over a decade ago as a temp at a weekly thoroughbred racing magazine and worked her way through most of the facets of magazine and book publishing at a variety of companies in several different cities. For her thirtieth birthday, she decided to give herself the gift of a freelance career, so she left New York for Lexington, Kentucky, and the life of a copy editor and yoga teacher. She works out of her home and can’t start the day without her alligator coffee mug and faithful gray dog.

LRK: What’s the process for copyediting a novel? Do you go through it once, beginning to end, or return to places? Do you see the manuscript again after you’ve sent it off? And if so, what do you think when you find the author has stetted your corrections and ignored your queries?

MH: I receive a novel in manuscript form and usually have about three weeks with it. I immediately sit down and read through it as fast as I can. This allows me to check that no pages are missing (a very common occurrence) and gets me familiar with the basics of the plot and main characters. Then I do a more careful read out loud. Now I’m not in danger of getting too caught up in the plot and it also makes it easier to follow the events and ascertain everything leads to the climax since I already know how it ends. I don’t see the manuscript again after I return it to the publisher. My markings are only suggestions. Although I have, once or twice, picked up a book at the bookstore and checked to see if a particularly glaring (to me) oversight was corrected or if the author let it slide. But I try to avoid knowing for sure and just assume all my changes are incorporated without question.

LRK: When you returned Touchstone, you included a number of extra pages–usage sheets for vocabulary, spelling, and odd words, a list of characters, and a chronology of events. Do you always create these, or did Touchstone call for them?

MH: The vocabulary and style sheet is done for every book, but I only do a chronology or a list of characters for longer books with more complex plots, such as Touchstone. It helps to keep everything straight in my head and they make a great reference for queries about characters with changing hair color or inconsistencies in dates.

LRK: I’ve been fortunate with my publishers, who have been scrupulous about the editing and copyediting processes. Do you find that some houses are cutting corners, especially as publishing grows increasingly electronic?

MH: I think as publishing goes increasingly electronic the time it takes for a manuscript to travel from the author’s desk to the bookstore gets shorter and shorter. This leads to some houses cutting out copy editors or giving someone in-house a very brief amount of time to look over the book in the interest of saving a few weeks’ time, but usually at the cost of a thorough copyedit. It’s a lot harder to catch errors when the clock is ticking.

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  1. Teresa on October 10, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    So, it might be in an author’s interest to copyedit her own mss. before sending in the first place. Or have it done. I had wondered about the prevalence of typos etc. in books of late. Knowing about the shorter time between when the book is received by a house to when it is on the bookshelves explains a lot. I had not been aware of this. I am a poet, and poetry presses tend to be small, and my publisher calls me up on the phone when the mss. is in “final” form, and we go over every line.

    Is there a Part 3 to this interview?


  2. corgimom on October 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks so much for putting together this interview! I wish I could wander out of the practice of law and into something more like copy editing.

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