You’re a freelance editor who has been building up your business for two years now. You’ve taken a few webinars related to copy editing, you consult the Chicago Manual of Style as needed and you’ve invested in PerfectIt.
You’re excited because a prospective client has asked you to copy edit the detective novel he’s written. He’s ambitious about its potential for success, and he plans to go the indie route for publication. Like most people, you’ve read a few detective novels, and, as soon as the manuscript arrives, you skim through it, curious to find out what happens. Almost immediately, though, you realize something is wrong — the story lags, the writing is turgid and you don’t care about the characters.
The easy route is to fulfill your agreement with the author and copy edit the text: you need the money, and you want to add more titles to your CV. But if a manuscript is seriously flawed structurally and stylistically, what’s the point of correcting spelling and grammar and making sure everything is consistent? The novel will still have little chance of success.
You worry that the author does not realize there are different kinds of editing, so his request for “copy editing” may not be what he intends.
Should you try to explain the problem to him? You have no training or experience with content editing, so you could not take on these additional passes yourself, even if the author agreed to the additional fees that content editing would warrant. Besides, structural and stylistic editing have to be done before the copy edit, so your role in the project would be delayed at best — or you might lose the client altogether, simply because of your professional advice.
What should you do?
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