Copy editing will improve any manuscript. It improves the writing, it improves the writer’s own understanding of the structure of their book, and it makes it easier to publish the book. I know it is difficult to hand your masterpiece off to someone else and let them have their way with it. Before you go into a panic attack, there are a few things to point out.
A good editor will never just slash at your manuscript willy nilly. Certain changes for grammar, style and spelling may be automatic, but anything structural will be suggested first. Perhaps the editor will query you on a potential change or ask why you set it up in the order that it is in. These suggestions can not only tighten your writing, but improve the entire structure of your story.
What was that about making your story easier to publish? Well, like everyone else in this economy, publishers are being hit hard. They understand the reasoning for a high quality edit of every manuscript they set in print. But with costs being what they are, they may be more inclined to print a manuscript that has already had a lot of the editing done before they get it than one they need to spend a lot of time and money on to get it ready. In fact, many agents won’t even consider a book these days unless it is already polished and ready to go.
Yes, it’s true that writers can do editing themselves… to a point. You can go through it with a fine tooth comb and correct your spelling errors. However, and this is true of all writers, myself included, that after awhile, you just don’t see the errors. This is actually good if you’re a writer. You need to be so involved in your work that it becomes a part of you. But this is also why you need a fresh pair of eyes that are not attached to the material to really do a good edit for you.
So, you’ve decided to hand your manuscript off to Aunt Marge. She was a school librarian… she should be able to edit your book, right? Well, she may catch a few things, but professional editors are skilled in evaluating every sentence; every word. They know how to pay attention to detail as well as understand the structure of a book. They also understand how the publishing world works and how to help your book become more marketable. And finally, the best thing you get from a good editor is someone who can teach you. They won’t lecture you about how this, that and the other thing is all wrong; they will guide you and suggest how you can best improve your book.
Just remember that it is a collaboration. The editor is there to make you the best you can be; you will benefit as much as your book.