In our continued focus on revision this month, we reached out to Regina Castillo, the Copy Chief at Dial Books for Young Readers, to get the scoop on all things related to the copyedit, an important part of the revision process, and one that I think many of us don't know much about. Regina has been at Dial BFYR for over twenty years, so we're in very good hands…Enjoy!
I think lots of us don't really understand the difference between an Editor and a Copyeditor. Can you explain that?
Editors acquire manuscripts and help develop stories. They work very closely with authors to get their manuscripts into great shape. The copyeditor then corrects grammar and spelling, and points out inconsistencies or plot issues. Because the editor and author go through multiple drafts and revisions, a fresh pair of eyes is quite useful!
Copy editors are grammar and usage mavens -- something I aspire to be! Have you always enjoyed that part of reading and writing?
I have always been sort of a grammar nerd! But I never actually thought of it as a career. It never occurred to me that it was a job I could do, and love.
How did you become a Copyeditor? What would you recommend for someone who wants to follow that path now?
I began in college doing freelance proofreading for a small publishing house. Someone interested in getting into copyediting might benefit from taking a course, and also becoming familiar with style guides. There are definitely entertaining grammar books on the market that a person can read before moving on to the drier style manuals.
I'd love to know about some entertaining grammar books and imagine that our readers will as well. The Elements of Style, with illustrations by Maira Kalman is one of my favorites. Which do you particularly like?
Woe Is I and Between You & Me, while not guides like the one Maira Kalman illustrated so brilliantly, are fun, entertaining books that people will learn things from without actually realizing they’re learning.
What's the best part of your job? the toughest?
The whole process of producing the books is wonderful—seeing something go from a few sheets of paper to a book in the bookstore is kind of amazing. The toughest part is the headache of deadlines. Sometimes a manuscript is a little late, or art is a little late, and that time has to be made up somewhere.
What do you think people don't know about copyediting?
A lot of people think it’s simply a matter of reading and finding misspellings. There is a lot more involved than that. Besides also needing a good grasp of grammar, a copyeditor needs to watch out for plot problems, timelines, consistency of characters, etc. Copyeditors also have to be fact checkers.
What's the best way to work with a Copyeditor?
The same as working with anyone else—respect on both sides always makes a working relationship better. And authors shouldn’t take their work being “corrected” personally. Everyone involved is only interested in the final product being the best it can possibly be.
Can you tell us about a particularly complicated issue that has arisen with a particular book? Or, a book that you're particularly proud of having worked on?
It always makes me proud when a book that I’ve worked on has gotten excellent reviews and has garnered awards. It makes all the complicated issues that arise from time to time just fade from memory!
Were you a reader as a child? Can you tell us about a favorite book?
We were all voracious readers as kids in my house. I always thought—and still do—that books are magical. It’s difficult to pick a favorite because there are so many that I love. When I was a child, my favorite book was a version of Thumbelina that had incredible art and an almost 3-D effect on the cover.