31 August 2012

Copyedited by Tekno Books

by R.T. Lawton

Last month, I got an e-mail from Larry. Larry was writing to give me Tekno Book's copyedit of my story, "The Delivery," which will be published in MWA's 2013 anthology, The Mystery Box. Attached to his e-mail was a file containing five documents:
1) My story, naturally, with their edits, naturally
2) My bio, with their edits
3) The "front matter" consisting of the story copyright and the Table of Contents
4) A nine page pdf document with step-by-step instructions on how authors should use various forms of Word Track Changes to reply to the copy editor's editing
5) The Style Sheet

I poured a morning cup of coffee and hunked down for a long sit.

First, I read the step-by-step instructions all the way through. This should be a no-brainer for most of you, however some men have an inherent reflex to think they already know how to assemble a project or complete a task without messing with instructions. And yes, I have sometimes had a few extra pieces left over at the end of a project and then had to backtrack to find out where they should have gone the first time. Let's just say I'm learning. This time, as it turns out, I really did know how to do this part.

Next, I read the Style Sheet. This was a new one on me, having never seen one of these animals before. The first section was alphabetized for various words cropping up within the entire book. Words which the copyeditor thought needed to be determined in advance as to which way was the preferred spelling and/or usage according to certain references on the correct writing style. Webster's and The Chicago Manual of Style were references I was at least aware of, but I had never heard of Words Into Type. The rest of this document addressed each individual story and listed words within that story which the copyeditor had evidently researched for correct spelling and/or usage. Fascinating. I didn't truly appreciate this Style Sheet until after reading over the three other documents and seeing how it was applied.

Figuring the "front matter" would be an easy one, I tackled it next. Twenty seconds and there was nothing more for me to do here. No changes.

Okay, time to read the bio. Hey, I've been writing these short blurbs for years and nobody's ever said anything about them so what problems could there possibly be? Whoa! Turns out I capitalized some words I shouldn't have, and whereas it's long been decided there is no longer an 's after Hichcock in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, there is still some discussion as to an 's after Queen in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. These Teckno Book people as serious about getting everything right. Good for them, but now I can't help wondering how they even let me in.

Only document left to read is my copyedited story. Best get a second cup of coffee just in case the document is bleeding red ink. Turns out later, I'm gonna have coffee left over in the cup when I'm finished. Not that I'm good, mind you, but most of their copyedits are for words I didn't hyphenate when they evidently should have been. I know, I'm an anachronism and the world has changed during the last unpteen years, yet I sure don't remember so many hyphens being used for those words in the distant past. Rob's been trying to enlighten me, but that's part of my long learning process before it takes. (You'll probably find some words in this article which should have been hyphenated.)

It merely took a cup-and-a-half of coffee  (I assume those three hyphens belong there) before my copyediting was finished. I only had to make two edit changes on my own, but learned some new stuff from them guys. Hope it sticks. I still like the English spelling of grey instead of gray.
Bottom line: Those Tekno Book people sure make it easy to work with them on copyedit matter. I may have to try this MWA anthology thing again next year.


  1. RT, I found Tekno a pleasure to work with. In fact, I think I sent them more revisions than they sent me. A couple of years ago we didn't have those formalities you describe, but they made the experience painless.

    By the way, snag the audio recording when it comes out. There's nothing like hearing your story read by a professional.

  2. Congratulations on having a story in MWA!

    Hyphens seem to be sprouting like weeds, but I can assure you ordinary copy editing is nothing compared to the academic variety. That is serious nonsense.

  3. When I had a story in WMA's SHOW BUSINESS IS MURDER I don't remember getting any copy editing stuff; could be my memory or change over time.

    I hope R.T. doesn't mind but here is an example of a complaint I had about an excellent story he sent me to look at:

    A "broad brimmed hat" is a broad hat with a brim. A "broad-brimmed hat" is a hat with a broad brim. Makes a difference, doesn't it?

  4. R.T., congrats on your MWA story. That's always a huge achievement. Sure look forward to seeing the anthology.

    Gotta tell you, I like hyphens. I saw a manuscript the other day that mentioned a one horse town. The absence of the hyphen made the two-word adjective (because that's what "one horse" is, in this case) read too slowly, I thought, and it disrupted the flow of the whole sentence. Same thing goes for three alarm fire, out of control behavior, etc. etc. I probably use hyphens way more than I should, though. I-think-I'm-becoming-addicted.

  5. Congratulations on the story, R.T.!

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I worked with a developmental editor on my upcoming book and was stunned at how little I know. I learned a good deal along the way, however, and are now a much-better riter.

  6. Congrats, R. T., I'll look forward to reading your story.
    My most common mistake involves hyphens. Seems I confuse compound words whether they are open, closed, or hypenated. Sometimes I look them up, but being somewhat lazy, I tend to ask a good friend of mine who proof-reads for Penguin, Scholastic, and others.
    In the thriller published under the pen name, I made the wrong choice for a word I don't use as Fran writing cozies. I won't give it here, but it starts with an m and later has an f.
    I love style sheets, and am still using the style sheet for the first Callie book as I write the fifth one. I just add new proper nouns as characters are introduced and add other words that I look up as I proceed.

  7. In above comment,I meant proofreads.

  8. Congrats, buddy. Sorry they're a bit belated.

    Sounds like I'd better re-think my hyphenation.

  9. And here I've been using hyphens as punctuation for years! Oh, well. Congratulations and let us know the link to the audio version!


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