September 1, 2012

Carolyn M. Pinard: Copyediting 101

Carolyn M. Pinard, Copyeditor

Hello, All! My name is Carolyn and I’m a copyeditor. First I’ll start by telling you a little about myself, then I’ll get into what I do.

I’ve been doing copyediting for self-published e-books for over a year now.  I’ve got three authors I work for right now, Tim O’Rourke, C.K. Farrell, and LR Potter.  I’ve done single jobs for a handful of other authors, too. Copyediting is my part-time job. I have a full-time job doing administrative duties for the government. I like my full-time job, but I LOVE my part-time job. I got started doing copyediting after reading countless self-published e-books and realizing there is a huge need for copyeditors. With self-publishing, the editing step is a lot of the time skipped, and that is a crying shame, let me tell you.

Let me explain what a copyeditor does: Some call us glorified proofreaders…and that is true to an extent. We are not full-blown editors. When a book is picked up by a professional publisher, those editors will take out sentences and even paragraphs or just re-arrange them to sound better. They will change words or uses of words, and sometimes the storyline itself!  I do not do those things. It’s my job to check for errors and fix them, or highlight them so the author can fix them. I do not write FOR the author, and I don’t change their writing style, or the voices of the characters. So if you are reading a self-published book and you see that it’s been edited, but it still doesn’t sound quite right, that’s the author’s way of writing, not an editing error. As one of my authors put it, I’m a necessary evil…sad, but true! (Don’t worry; I still love him, even though he called me that!)

Authors really benefit from hiring a copyeditor. I did a job once where the story had been looked at by the author’s high school English teacher and two friends…and it was still riddled with typos, grammar problems, and spelling errors. Spellcheck will only take you so far. If you use the wrong form of the word (hoarse vs horse, their vs there, etc.), Spellcheck isn’t going to help you. I’ve been contacted by authors who have released a book, only to have it receive 1- and 2-star reviews on Amazon and B&N because it wasn’t edited – the damage was done. It’s so much easier to be proactive and have it looked at before you release it! I’m sure all the readers here will agree with me that there’s nothing worse than being really into a story, feverishly pressing next on their Kindle or Nook, just to have to stop the momentum to re-read the sentence three times because the author left out a word or used the wrong word, etc., and you’re trying to understand what they’re saying.  It’s maddening, isn’t it? Bad reviews will KILL sales. I have seen some authors’ sales literally go up after having the book edited because even in the free preview it’s error-free, and people decide they will spend a few bucks on the book.

Also, part of my job is checking for holes in the story. For instance, in one story I edited, it said the guy was wearing a tuxedo, but two paragraphs later, he’s “wiping his hands on his jeans”? Did he change? Or maybe a character has been described as being a blonde, but then it mentions her pulling her “dark hair into a ponytail” later on. I would point this out to the author and let him/her decide how to fix it.

If you feel you have that supernatural sense in seeing typos, and that you would make a good copyeditor, I can suggest a few books to pick up and read. One is Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. Another is Copyediting for Dummies by Susan Gilad (laugh if you will – it’s a good book!).  Those two are my favorites. If you are interested in the self-publishing industry in general, Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran is a most excellent read!

Here’s my list of 5 do’s/don’ts: 


  1. DO always a second read-through after you’ve edited the book. I ALWAYS find errors I missed doing a second read-through. Time consuming – but so, so worth it.
  2. DO utilize the spellcheck and thesaurus feature in Word. If someone uses the wrong word, (such as reign vs rein or wretch vs retch), the thesaurus is an invaluable tool.
  3. DO read slowly. Enjoy the story while you read! Tell the author how much you liked their story.
  4. DO highlight your changes so the author knows what you changed. Take notes to explain the changes, if necessary.
  5. DO keep your work confidential. The author trusts you to keep the story a secret until the book is released.


  1. Don’t rush through the document, take your time.
  2. Don’t criticize or judge the author’s work or story.
  3. Don’t cut corners. Utilize the tools you have at your disposal. Look up words you’re unsure of. And when it doubt, ask.
  4. Don’t go over your deadline. If you give the author a date you’ll be done by, stick to it. There’s nothing more frustrating for an author than to be waiting on edits.
  5. Don’t take on more jobs than you have time for. Each author deserves for you to take your time with their story.

Feel free to check out my website if you want more information:

Happy editing!



Everybody needs a little editing and Carolyn has done a great job with Tim O'Rourke's books. It never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes look into one's work before setting it free on Amazon, Smashwords, or B&N. A lot of lukewarm/negative reviews could've avoided those critical star deduction/s if only they hired a good editor to look at their babies. 

So don't gamble your ratings, your book might be the next USA Today or NYT Bestseller. A little editing can mean the difference between average and excellent. I say go for the latter!

Thanks for stopping by, Carolyn!


  1. Loved this post. I think the stages and effort that it take to publish a book are so interesting and I always wondered exactly what the copyeditor role is to a book. Thanks for the post!

    Lee @shewolfreads

    1. Glad to have given you an idea, I myself wondered and it's a good thing we're acquainted with Carolyn, I know this post can shed light on several questions.

      Thanks for stopping by Lee!

  2. Hugs and kisses and high-fives for copyeditors. Nothing turns me off from a book more than many mistakes that could have been avoided with the copyeditor's skills!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake


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