Copyediting compliments from Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One

I’m incredibly fortunate in having a job I truly enjoy, and I never feel more so than when I get to copyedit a book that is exciting and touches on my interests and that I find difficult to put down, even though I’m working. When the author of such a book appreciates my work and takes the time to tell me so, it makes me happier than I can describe.

As a wonderful way to round out 2010 and begin 2011, author Ernest Cline, whose first novel Ready Player One I got to copyedit, sent me such an e-mail, which he has given me permission to quote here:

I finished going over your copyedits today and am writing to tell you how much I appreciate the work you did on my book!

In addition to finding a gazillion typos and grammatical errors that everyone else had missed, your notes and queries were fantastic! They raised all sorts of logical questions that had never occurred to me, and I’m very thankful to you for pointing them out, so that I could address them before the book goes out to the world. I feel incredibly lucky to have had someone with a gamer’s eye for detail copyedit my book. You really did an amazing job, and I hope that I’m lucky enough to work with you again in future.

I honestly loved Ready Player One and encourage you to check it out when you can. (The book is due out from Crown in summer 2011, and the movie rights have sold to Warner Brothers.) It’s a futuristic science fiction novel that’s also chock-full of awesome old-school geekery and was a pleasure to work on.

Author thanks

I just got a thank-you note from Matt Sturges for the copyediting I did on his wonderful book Office of Shadow, forthcoming from Pyr, and thought I’d share:

Just finished reviewing your edit and wanted to tell you thanks for doing such a fine job. You made some really clever catches there, such as noticing that Silverdun’s alias changed from one place to the next. I never would have caught that in a million years. Great work. Thanks!

Matt’s was one of my first copyedits of 2010, and this is a lovely way to start the year. :)

Author thanks and an author/copyeditor link

The past week has been lovely for me, with wonderful words from authors whose books I’ve worked on. Michael and Kathleen Gear, whom I’ve copyedited for many years now, told me that I’d done a wonderful job on their latest book and said that they told their editor they “cherish” me as a copyeditor. They’re fantastic people, and I cherish my working relationship with them, too.

Then Jon Sprunk, whose first novel Shadow’s Son is coming out from Pyr in 2010, received his copyedits and wrote me with the following:

Just received the copyedits today. Wow! I mean, Lou was singing your praises, but… wow! You caught things I would have never seen. The book is going to be a great deal better for it. Thank you SO much!

Copyeditors and authors don’t always get the opportunity to work together, so the relationship can sometimes seem antagonistic to new authors. Truthfully, too, not every copyeditor has the ability to work well with authors. When the relationship does work, however, everyone is happier and the book benefits.

If you’d like to see a wonderful recounting of how an author works with his longtime copyeditor, please check out the entries from November 25 and December 2 of 2009 on Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven journal. I’m not Guy’s copyeditor, but I’m not the only good one out there. :-)

Public thank-yous are always lovely

I got a wonderfully nice letter from Allen Steele today. He noted that he had accepted China Miéville’s Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel for Un Lun Dun for him at the Locus Awards this year, and he sent me along a copy of what China asked him to read, since it mentioned me by name:

I am more honoured than I can say. This is a wonderful time for YA fiction, and it has been incredibly exciting to be part of that scene: to receive this is really humbling. My huge thanks to everyone who worked on Un Lun Dun–especially Chris Schluep, Harriet Wilson, Lauren Buckland, Deanna Hoak, Mic Cheetham, and Simon Kavanagh–and to all the authors to whom this book is a homage. I want to dedicate this award to the memory of my mother, Claudia Lightfoot, who gave me books, and would be unspeakably proud today. Thank you all so much again.

It’s rare for copyeditors to get that kind of thanks, and I’m always elated when authors are so happy with my work that they think I deserve it.

Author praise

Alexis Glynn Latner was nice enough to contact me through my website last week to let me know how much she appreciated the job I did on her novel Hurricane Moon (which is wonderful hard SF with a romantic twist):

I e-mailed the MSS back today, much improved, thanks to you! I attached a cover letter reiterating important changes I made in response to your excellent questions. Thank you again! Great information about copyediting here under Best Of, and I plan to direct students’ attention to the URL this spring when I teach an editing class.

When I wrote back to thank her for the kind words, she shared that she had also written the following to the editor:

Deanna has done marvelous, meticulous, astute work and I’m so glad she’s in the process. It’s like a safety net so a whole raft of glitches, typos and murky sentences are not going to be out there for the world to see.

And she had written to the production editor about the job, as well:

Deanna caught tons of glitches and asked many questions that made me clarify things. And she really has an ear for clear, flowing prose. I’m extremely glad to be working with such an astute copyeditor.

It’s really wonderful when authors take the time to let you and others know they’re happy with your work. Thanks, Alexis!

ETA: Oh, and she also has nice things to say about me on her shared blog, No Fear of the Future.

Fiona Avery made me cry

In a very good way.

I’ve been very lucky in having a lot of authors express their thanks to me for my work on their books, but Fiona’s is particularly wonderful for suggesting that copyeditors and other “invisibles” in the process deserve recognition for their contributions. For those who don’t click links, here’s some of what she said:

I also wanted to say, in all seriousness, that copy-editors like Deanna are rare and appreciated by their authors. I strongly feel there should be some professional recognition of copy-editing and other technical work offered at awards like the Hugos and Nebulas, and at World Fantasy Convention where professionals gather annually to discuss the year’s business. There is no reason under the sky why a copy-editor should not be singled out for meticulous attention to detail, and going above and beyond the call of duty. And there are other technical staff who also deserve recognition, but at the moment I especially want to point out that a good copy-editor deserves notice.

Deanna would be someone I’d vote for every year for her work on manuscripts. Now, let me explain the extent to which she cares about the work in front of her. Without Deanna, my novel would have contained more historical mistakes, because not only did she review my spelling and punctuation, but she looked up every calendar date, recorded battle, all castle specs, every city, each plausible distance in kilometers, and every important person throughout several encyclopedias. We were in constant contact, and as I had lost my novel notes from five years prior, she made the work shine with her attention to detail — where I simply could not. It was Deanna’s work with my novel that rebuilt my missing notes file from five years before. This is not an exception to the rule; this is how Deanna works. On everything.

I appreciate this enormously, because I’ve honestly always tried to do my very best on every project I take, and it becomes difficult after so many years in the same job to stay motivated sometimes. Thank-yous from authors are always wonderful, but recognition from the industry as a whole–this industry I’ve been involved in so deeply for the last decade and a half–would be…well, it makes me tear up to think about it. It would mean more to me than I could say.

So that was a wonderful way to start off the day.

Be sure to check out Fiona’s wonderful historical novel The Crown Rose. It’s gotten wonderful reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and I think you’ll enjoy it.


I just got a phone call from an author whose books I normally copyedit but whose latest novel I had to turn down. He said that he’s going to request in his contract for all future books that I be hired if I’m available.

I don’t know what emotion to write about that. Proud? Touched? Happy? All those, really. I’ve never heard of that happening before.

A very nice thank-you

I was contacted this week by Josh Conviser, whose novel Echelon I copyedited. He said he hoped Del Rey had told me how happy he was with the copyedit, and he passed along a note I’d actually never received:


I wanted to thank you for all your work on Echelon. Your notes were fantastic, really helping me clarify the story. I think this version is far cleaner, tighter and more fun to read. The majority of that improvement comes from your copyedits and queries. So, again, thank you.

All the best,

Josh is an executive consultant for the HBO series Rome and does most of his writing for Hollywood. He clearly has a bright future in science fiction, too. Be sure to check out his website, which will be up in full sometime in May; the description of his novel gives me chills every time I read it. Clicking on the cover takes you to the Amazon order page.


I got nice notes from Liz Gorinsky and Cherie Priest this week about my copyedit of Cherie’s book Wings to the Kingdom. Cherie (who had to review copyedits the week before her wedding!) had these complimentary things to say:

Thank you–in a big and loud way–for handling Wings to the Kingdom with such panache. I loved the way you knew what to leave alone, and stopped me when I tried to do dumb things. :-)

(She didn’t actually try to do anything dumb that I remember, but the thought is nice anyway. :-))

She ended by telling me I’m fabulous, which, hey, who doesn’t love to hear that?

Being able to analyze each book individually and decide what to leave alone in that particular text (it was important to maintain the Southern flavor of the narrative in Cherie’s book, for instance) is a higher-level skill than simply applying the same set of rules to every book one handles. I know it’s one of the things that editors and authors really appreciate about my work, and it’s always nice when they tell me so. :-)

Etiquette for requesting a particular copyeditor

Someone asked in the comment thread: I wondered about that–what is the etiquette. I think it’s possible a huge project of mine is at last going to get read and a pub date…and if so, I was wondered this past week, as I wait to find out, if I could request you or if the editor in question would be upset and insist they have inhouse folks. I do NOT want to step astray of etiquette, yet if you were willing to take that thing on, I know I’d be the the one benefitting!

I suppose this depends on your relationship with your editor. Your editor wants you to be happy with your book, though, and I’ve met very few who have a problem with trying out (or hiring again) a copyeditor the author wants. However, the publisher is not in any way obligated to provide a particular copyeditor, so it’s a polite request on the author’s part, not a demand.

I’d love to hear from authors and editors on this, though. If you’re an author who’s requested a particular copyeditor, how did you do so, and what was your editor’s reaction? If you’re an editor, what etiquette do you like to see in a request like this, and what are your feelings about it?