My blog has moved!

Greetings, writers and friends!

As of April 2016, my blog has moved to FictionEdit.com. Previous blog posts appear on both sites, but new articles will only be published on the Fiction Edit website.

The blog will continue to answer the many questions writers have about writing, editing, and publishing, but will be updated more regularly and include other helpful industry news and insights.

You can read the first post – a feature on author Carmen Goldthwaite – here. Learn more about Carmen and read her advice to authors of historical fiction.

See you there!

Warmly, -MJ

Five Things All Writers Must Know About Editing

Editing is objective

Unlike peer-critiquing and beta reading, an editor’s job is not to express her opinion about what “feels” right or what “seems” like the best solution to a particular problem. An editor’s job is to spot errors and fix them. It is her job to know the rules and know how to break them; to stay up-to-speed with both the literary market and any significant changes to style guides like APA and The Chicago Manual of Style.

How does she do this? By attending writers’ conferences and professional networking events; by reading articles from sources like PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and WRITERS DIGEST; through her experience working with dynamic authors (like you!) on a wide variety of projects; finally, she keeps herself professionally sharp by testing and honing her craft.

Today’s literary market is saturated, competitive, and unforgiving. There is no room for error, so an editor must continually work to develop her professional skills.

Editing is subjective

But…you just said…

Yeah, I know. While an editor must remain objective in order to ensure your manuscript is error-free and marketable, there will be times when she is approached with a project that’s so outside-the-box, she simply can’t resist it. If editors turned down every project that strayed from the “norm,” nothing original would ever get published.

When making decisions on a subjective basis, an editor must tread with caution. As an artist herself, she must see the value in “breaking the rules,” and she should be completely transparent with the author before doing so. No editor should wish to dampen a writer’s creativity or artistic integrity, nor should an editor lead you astray. If what you’re doing is deliciously risky, but doesn’t necessarily follow today’s literary conventions, you should know.

Additionally, her intention for taking on such projects, or for offering her subjective opinion when faced with problems in your manuscript, should be based on reason—not a feeling. Talk to your editor. Make sure you’re speaking with someone whose intelligence matches or exceeds your own. Otherwise, why bother?

You need to self-edit

Let’s face it: you have an emotional bond with your manuscript. You’ve spent months or even years envisioning it as a whole and laboring over the smallest details. It’s your “baby,” isn’t it?

STANDING BACK and looking at your work from an objective viewpoint is a practice that will not only make your editor like you more (self-edited manuscripts are a professional editor’s dream!), it will also develop a skill that will help you in writing and in life. If you can objectively evaluate your manuscript’s pacing and structure, recognize issues with plot, character, theme, etc., polish your prose and re-work your dialogue so it flows more naturally, you will have a much better command over your own writing—which should be one of a career writer’s major goals.

Need a quicker reward for learning to self-edit effectively? The better condition your manuscript is in when your editor receives it, the less substantive editing will be required, which means lower editing costs for you—and a better working relationship with your (hopefully) long-term editor. Win-win!

You need a professional edit

Ideally, your manuscript has already been critiqued/beta read and self-edited before it arrives in your editor’s inbox. It has been torn apart and put back together based off of mostly subjective feedback. Unless you have formal training of your own–and you keep up with the market and continuously hone the editing skills of a professional–you cannot be objective enough to identify and fix the problems with your manuscript.

That doesn’t mean you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars on a professional edit. If your budget is tight, find an editor who’s just starting out. She’ll typically work for a smaller fee in order to build her professional portfolio. Or enlist a friend (one who isn’t too worried about hurting your feelings). You know that “Grammar Nazi” or “Lit Nerd” you’re friends with? What about your writer/agent/publishing friend who’s relatively in-touch with the market? See if they’d willing to edit your manuscript at a discounted rate.

Note: If your editor is the first person (besides you) to evaluate your manuscript, she is essentially a beta reader to start, meaning your manuscript could be in store for some serious revising. If you’ve already been critiqued—and have consequently revised your manuscript to the point of exhaustion—then your editor’s job is to make your manuscript more perfectly itself, and not necessarily to suggest major structural or developmental changes. Your manuscript has been through that already (that is, if your beta readers are any good). This is one of the major differences between a critique and a professional edit.

Writing is a solitary endeavor; editing is collaborative

Because certain elements of your novel will likely require a subjective opinion—either yours or your editor’s—it’s imperative that you work together to discuss these elements as objectively as possible. But let’s face it: hearing someone’s objective reasoning as to why something is or isn’t “working” requires a great deal of respect for that person. Your editor must be a good listener, someone who respects and admires your work, and who seeks to understand you and to help you achieve your literary goals. Likewise, you must find yourself working with an editor whose opinion you respect, too. Your manuscript may be shared between the two of you for several weeks or even months. You may exchange countless emails and telephone calls. Not all manuscripts require as much intensive collaboration, but for those that do, you should find an editor you “jive” well with on multiple levels: namely personality, work ethic, and creative vision.

If you’re ready for a professional edit, or you’d like more direction about what to do next with your manuscript, send me an email! I’d love to hear about your writing endeavors, as well as offer my professional guidance: michelle@mjbookeditor.com.

Happy Writing!

MJ

How I Became An Editor

happiness

From about mid-November through the first week of January, a freelance editor in her first few years of business can expect a bit of a slowdown, one she should relish in, using the time to relax and reflect on the year. This year, the transition from feast to famine was hardest on my heart. It wasn’t a matter of finances; I’ve learned to  save up for slower times. It was hard because I wasn’t doing the thing I loved most: partnering with new authors to transform their books into engaging, publishable works. The lack of purpose felt boring at best, but was often depressing. Now, as business picks up again, I feel whole. This is the thing that makes me happy. A life of reading and coffee shops and mingling with authors. Helping others – sometimes by taking a knife to their manuscript. It’s no wonder so many people ask how I got here, whether they’re curious about my background or they’re trying to find the thing that makes them happy. Either way, it’s my pleasure to share it with you.

It started in high school, where I was a staff writer on my high school newspaper, The Colonels’ Journal, during my sophomore and junior years. I was promoted to News Editor as a senior. After requesting full creative control from both the Editor-in-Chief and my teacher, I completely revamped the front page and interior news section of the paper, for which I earned a nomination for the Sun-Sentinel Best Editorial award. I had always loved to write, and I learned in high school that I also loved the design and editing aspects of running a newspaper. I applied to the University of Central Florida and was readily accepted to its Nicholson School of Communication for the Fall semester.

At UCF, I volunteered as a writing tutor at the University Writing Center—which I loved. My peers were so appreciative of me, not just for catching errors in their work before they turned it in, but for guiding them toward becoming better writers in general. The experience was beyond fulfilling, and helped me grow as both a writer and editor. To this day I am a strong advocate of mutually beneficial peer-critiquing.

Admittedly, during my attendance at UCF I also changed my major seven times. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I loved writing, but was convinced journalism was a dying field. I majored in English at one point, but was worried about career prospects with that degree, too. Did I really want to be an English teacher? Finally I settled on Communication. I still wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do, but I loved learning about human interests and relationship dynamics—both in a professional sphere and a personal one. And during my time at UCF, that was enough.

I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Interpersonal & Organizational Communication. After graduating, I moved to Texas and landed a “great job” I had little interest in, but which allowed me time to write. I eventually transitioned from Sales to an admin role, where my primary task was to proofread all documents, reports and correspondence before anything was transmitted to a client. Finally! It was my actual job to be a perfectionist!

While I do have a natural desire to help others, I didn’t realize I could have such an enormous impact on other writers until I became a member of peer-critiquing groups. For years I was proofreading for my friends and suggesting big story-level changes for their writing, and they started taking my advice! When some of those friends actually published their books – successfully! – I knew I’d found my calling. I stopped critiquing for “free” and became a freelancer in August of 2012, eventually quitting my 8-to-5 so I could edit full time. The best part is: some of those friends I critiqued for are now coming back to me, on their second or third or fourth books, and hiring me to provide the same service I had offered for free the first time—which feels, well, totally cool.

Now I’m here. I’m an editor! It’s who I am, it’s what I do. When I’m not editing, I’m learning how to do it better through reading, “testing” myself with online skills tests, attending conferences, and networking with fellow professionals in my field. I keep a close eye on the publishing industry—both indie and traditional—and learn from every client I work with.

Are you ready to hire an exceptional editor? Peruse my website, and if you like what you see, send me an email: michelle@mjbookeditor.com. If you’re seeking an editor who loves what she does and feels proud of her work, I just might be your girl.

Happy Writing!

MJ

Updates to My Website

Hi writers! 2014 was an exciting year for us. The self-publishing industry experienced explosive growth, creating more opportunities than ever for authors, editors, book cover designers, and PR/marketing professionals. I was able to publish my first YA novel, and I began partnering with Stephany Renfrow to provide additional proofreading and formatting services. I also proudly partnered with Frac Media to create stunning cover designs for the talented authors I work with.

In anticipation of an even more exciting 2015, I’ve made a few revisions to my website – which will hopefully make things even more transparent and easier to navigate. Specifically, I’ve updated the following tabs: The Team, Services, Portfolio, My Books, and FAQ. I’ve also added a new video! I hope you can check it out, and I look forward to reading your stories in 2015.

Thank you for a wonderful year, and best of luck to all of you.

Happy Writing! 🙂

MJ

 

 

Understanding the Author-Editor Relationship: Part 2

The ink hardly dried on my last post before I began receiving inquiries about the specifics of where to find a freelance editor to champion your work, how to approach her, and what to expect as the two of you start working together. As requested, I’ll try to keep this one brief and straight to the point.

Where should I look for a freelance book editor?

  1. The best way to find editors to interview is through word of mouth. Ask your author friends who edited their work, how much they enjoyed working with her, and if their editor actually helped them achieve success with their book. Don’t have any author friends? Join author discussions on social networks like Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In addition, always ask to see testimonials from freelance editors, or even better, ask each prospective editor for a couple of referrals.
  2. Browse qualified professionals on the Editorial Freelancers Association website: http://www.the-efa.org/. The EFA boasts a huge directory of freelance professionals, making it easy to browse editors by experience, specialty, and location. The EFA is an excellent resource for industry-specific questions, webinars, and learning industry standards. You can also post your job on the site and allow freelancers to email you directly.
  3. Writer.ly is a fantastic new platform for finding editors, book cover designers, formatting help, and marketing/advertising professionals. Simply set up your profile and browse freelancers, or create a detailed, thoughtful post about your project which editors can respond to.
  4. Similarly, oDesk is a great place to look, but there are pros and cons when using oDesk versus Writer.ly. Yes, there are many more freelancers on oDesk—but with that comes a large pool of unqualified “professionals”—many of whom are overseas or may not speak English as their primary language. You could receive dozens of replies when you post a job on oDesk, and will be required to sort through the “slush” to find the right editor for you. This process can be time-consuming and discouraging, but the site is reputable; I have formed great working relationships with new authors through oDesk. If you decide to use oDesk, insist on some back-and-forth correspondence up front—or better yet, a phone call—and always ask for a sample edit.

(Note: oDesk and Elance are joining forces, so it may no longer be necessary to post information about your project on both sites.)

  1. Use Google to search for editors. Most book editors have a website (like this one!) and/or a blog. Some editors are more active on their sites than others. Either way, a website allows you to see information about the editor, her services and pricing, testimonials, etc., without having to ask so many questions up front. Websites should give you a great idea of the editor’s experience and personality, as well as general guidelines for how to inquire about her services. If you find an editor’s website lacks transparency or is difficult to navigate, that could be an indication of her editing style, level of professionalism, and personality—and she is probably not the right editor for you.

How should I approach a freelance book editor?  

If she’s responded to a job you posted, reply with a friendly note detailing why you liked her application and how you think she can help you with your book. If the details of your job post (and thus, her response) were vague, ask for further clarification.

Check to see if she has specific instructions to inquire about her editing services. What details about your project does she want you to include in your email to her? Does she ask you to attach a sample of your writing? Approach an editor just like you would a literary agent: with the information she’s specified, and detailed in a professional, friendly manner. This will ensure your working relationship with her starts off on the right foot. (If she hasn’t outlined a specific inquiry process, simply send her an email introducing yourself and detailing your needs, and ask questions if you have any.)

The “interview” process—which I often discuss in great detail—follows the initial correspondence. This is where you ask clarifying questions, read testimonials and/or referrals, and gauge her level of interest in your project. Ask for a sample edit or a consultation phone call to start, keeping in mind that some editors do charge for this time up front. That’s pretty standard, but up-front costs should be low. I have found the fairest way to charge for this time is to make all up-front costs refundable; that is, my fee for a sample edit is deducted from the author’s final bill if they choose me to edit their full manuscript.

Once you’ve decided on an editor, it’s time to iron out the details. Agree on payment terms and a deadline, and set clear expectations (and understand hers) regarding communication, correspondence, and the level of editing required. If the two of you are a good fit, this process should be painless—and even enjoyable. After all, you’ve written a book and now you’re ready for a professional edit! How exciting!

A final note: it’s important to remember that editing practices do vary. The editor you’ve chosen may be booked months in advance, or she might be able to begin right away. Similarly, your editor may require months to edit your manuscript, or just a couple of weeks. She may use “track changes” in Microsoft Word, or prefer to share the manuscript with you in Google Docs. Style guides may also vary. She might refer to the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook, among others. All of this depends on her editing style, the level of correspondence required between the two of you, and how full she keeps her schedule. An editor is not “good” or “bad” based on these practices, but you should discuss your preferences with her (if you have some) to see if she’ll be a good fit.

If you have additional questions about finding an editor, or you wish to contact me about your project, I’d be more than happy to help! Send an email to michelle@mjbookeditor.com, and I will respond promptly.

Happy Writing!

MJ

Understanding the Author-Editor Relationship: How to find a fantastic editor—and keep her!

It’s a recurring theme throughout all of my posts, and something you will hear time and again during your journey from first draft to published piece: the process of finding a great editor (that is, the right editor for you) should not be taken lightly. It’s important that she not only be skilled—educated, experienced, and continually fine-tuning her craft—but that the two of you work well together. Will she champion your work, and yourself as an author? Will she offer ideas for improvement that make sense, and actually help improve your manuscript? Do you feel empowered to ask her questions and seek her counsel—or do you dread pressing “send” with questions she may not respond kindly to, or in a timely manner? It’s important for both your success and hers that you find an editor you click with, and establish a solid working relationship from the get-go.

Establishing an Author-Editor Relationship

The amount of time you spend recruiting an editor depends largely on your needs as a writer. If your manuscript has been heavily self-edited and beta read by eagle-eyed readers, you may only need a proofread, or a copyedit at most. In addition, perhaps this is the only book you’re trying to publish. You may not be too concerned about how well you and your editor “jive” together, because your time with her will be short. It will still behoove you to do your homework—make sure she has the skills and experience required to properly edit your manuscript—and correspond with her or ask to speak on the phone to make sure you enjoy her personality. Ask for a short sample edit or a list of books she’s worked on. You may also ask for references or to see a list of testimonials. Even for “smaller” jobs like yours, your editor should be qualified, pleasant, and willing to communicate with you in detail about your project.

You may need to spend more time recruiting—that is, researching your editor, asking her questions, and having longer or more frequent meetings up front—if you need more substantive or long-term editing. Ask yourself the following:

  • Will I need help on multiple books?
  • Do I need assistance with publishing, formatting, and cover design in addition to editing?
  • Before editing, has my manuscript been translated from a language other than English?
  • Do I believe I have a good story, but don’t necessarily consider myself a great writer?
  • Will I seek ghostwriting in addition to editing for some parts of my book?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, it is even more important that you establish a healthy and productive relationship with an editor who will advocate for you in the long-term.

Maintaining a Great Relationship with Your Editor

So, you’ve found an editor. How do you ensure the two of you will continue working well together? Not just pleasantly, but efficiently. Good author/editor relationships can make for clean, publishable manuscripts, but a GREAT relationship can help take your book—and by proxy, your career—to the next level. Don’t just enlist a so-so editor; partner with someone who “gets you” and is willing to go the extra mile for your work—then do your part to keep her cheering you on. Here are some ways to ensure your editor will love working with you.

  • Communicate your goals. Sure, she’s the expert, but no one knows your manuscript better than you. Tell her what you’re trying to say, so she can inform you if that vision is clear to readers. Tell her about your publishing goals, so she can cater her editing to ensure those goals are met. Maybe you’re a busy professional and would rather she didn’t email too much. Or perhaps you’d like updates from her after every chapter. Let her know! A good editor is flexible, and will cater to your needs in order to achieve mutual success.
  • Ask for clarification. Your editor is going to change some things. These could range from little tweaks to mile-high revisions. A good editor will stay in constant communication with you—if you want her to—and will know your comfort level as far as revisions (because you’ve communicated as much to her). She’ll keep you posted. During this time, don’t let anything stew. If you’re unsure of something she’s suggested, speak up! She will not be offended.
  • Demand mutual respect. How much you can respect your editor, and how much respect she has for you, should be evident from the very beginning. But if you’ve been working with her for a long time, one or both of you may start to feel too comfortable. A slip in respect from either party can damage the relationship and your work. If she doesn’t listen authentically to your concerns, it may be time to start looking for a new editor.
  • Be open. You might have been working on your project for several months or several years and may be reluctant to “kill your darlings.” A good editor knows the market—she knows what sells, what readers demand. She’s seen authors succeed, and authors fail. Leverage her expertise, and be open to the idea that some things in your manuscript may need to change in order for you to be successful.
  • Stand your ground. Every writer has a few things they just aren’t willing to compromise for the sake of “what’s hot” in the market, and that’s okay—fantastic, even! While it’s healthy to be open to new ideas for your manuscript, sweeping changes that compromise your artistic integrity should not be taken lightly. Take some time to mull over what your editor is saying. If you come to the conclusion that you aren’t comfortable making one or a few of her suggested changes, then stand your ground. She’s heard “no” before, and she respects you for it.

Are you ready for a professional edit? Are you unsure about how to find an editor, or have questions about the level of editing your manuscript requires? Send me an email and I’d be more than happy to discuss your project with you: michelle@mjbookeditor.com.

I wish you all a healthy and productive 2015. 🙂

Happy Writing!

MJ

Tips for Self-Published Authors

I typically encourage skilled authors with engaging, timely stories to seek representation for their novels in order to publish the traditional way. Getting a reputable press to publish your work likely means lower costs for you, larger audiences, and greater earnings from your books. Sometimes, though, traditional publishing just isn’t meant to be and the author must recognize that self-publishing is the most viable route for them. Perhaps the story’s scope is too narrow. Or maybe the writing needs some work because the author is just starting to get their feet wet. This should by no means be seen as a “concession” as self-publishing definitely has its perks – like more creative control and higher royalties. Not to mention the time it takes to publish your work is significantly less.

Are self-published novels worse than those published traditionally? Not always. In fact, sometimes indie authors do a far better job at crafting their novel and marketing it to readers than even some of the most reputable presses. There is a wealth of information for self-published authors on the Internet and in books. Don’t be overwhelmed! Even the most successful self-published authors have had to start somewhere. But where, you ask? I’ve compiled a short list of three things you MUST know before you self-publish your novel. It is by no means all-inclusive, but a great place to start.

1. Take Your Time – Traditional publishing can take several months to more than a year from the time your book is “done” to the time it goes to market. Because of the nature of self-publishing, it doesn’t have to take nearly as long. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take time. Self-published authors should never upload first drafts of their work. Not second drafts either. Put your novel through the wringer before calling it done: that means three writing drafts at least, two or three rounds of beta reading, and at least one round of professional editing.

What about when the writing is done? Or while it’s being professionally edited? Do your research! Read books from successful self-published authors. Find your target audience. Make friends with other authors and readers. Develop the cover, blurb, and synopsis. Research keywords and how to properly price your novel. Create and polish your author website. Most importantly, spread the word! Start marketing your book and your author brand months prior to hitting “publish.”

2. Spend Money – Enlisting industry professionals can add credibility to your name and separate your book from the thousands of self-published books sloppily put together and uploaded by amateur writers.

You’ll need money for a professional editor (like yours truly), properly formatting your book for e-readers and print-on-demand (if you’re unwilling to learn these things or you don’t have time to), designing the cover for your book, and marketing (again, if you don’t have time to do it yourself). These services can add up to thousands of dollars. So…what if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on your book? Be resourceful! Find skilled beta readers (and I stress the word skilled) to exchange editing services with you. Barter with a friend who happens to be a talented digital artist. Extend your network through blogging, social media, interviews, and book tours (virtual or in-person).

Still struggling with high costs? Consider developing a crowdfunding campaign for your book. There are thousands of people willing and anxious to support up-and-coming indie authors. In fact, authors who have sought my editing services have raised over ten thousand dollars through crowdfunding alone! I recommend pubslush.com.

Like all things with self-publishing, it doesn’t just happen. If you’re serious about funding your self-published novel, take your time to create a truly compelling campaign for your book, and TELL EVERYONE.

3. Practice the Art of Begging Know that self-published authors have time, money (or both), patience and resilience. They are talented and resourceful writers!

I talk a lot about enlisting, partnering, bartering, finding… I use these words intentionally to tell you that you must be resourceful when finding people to support/buy/download your work. Tell your family and friends about your project. ASK for beta readers and reviewers. Not sure where to find reviewers? Either hire a PR company to develop a marketing campaign for your book, or contact “top reviewers” on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Trade reviews with fellow authors and run promotions to get more clicks.

In short, a writer who asks (ahem, begs) has a much better shot at “making it” in this new world of self publishing. You won’t get what you don’t ask for, but the opposite is also true. 🙂 

Happy Writing (and Publishing)!

-MJ

“The only way to avoid being miserable is not to have enough leisure to wonder whether you are happy or not.” | George Bernard Shaw

How to Query Literary Agents

writer

1. Know your market.

Writing is, first and foremost, an art—but when you start talking about “selling” and “distributing” your books (ie: publishing), you must start thinking like a businessperson. Decide who will want to read your work, and market your book accordingly. Is it a romance novel? Mention the love interest in the book blurb. Is it an epic fantasy? Consider the names of the characters and places. Whatever you’re writing, if you want people to read it you must know who your target audience is. Figure out what they want, and don’t disappoint them. I’m not suggesting you forsake the “artistic” aspect of your work, and I definitely don’t believe in abiding by every convention of your genre. What I am suggesting is that there is an audience for everything, even for cookie-cutter novels. If yours veers too far off course, be clear and intentional about where you’re going with it—and who is going to meet you there.

2. Research literary agents.

It’s important to gather enough information about prospective agents before you start asking them to represent you. Think of it like a job interview: what are your skills, and how can you benefit the company? Doesn’t it help to know a little about the company you’re interviewing for, as well? Just like finding an editor, be as thorough as you can. It will save time in the long run for both you AND your representation. The most important thing to find out is: Are they currently accepting queries for books in your genre? If they are, find out what format they want your query letter and what to include in your query. Agents receive far too many queries to willingly spend time on ones that are incomplete or improperly formatted. If you want to be seen and respected as a talented writer—NOT an amateur—you must show up as one!

Not sure who to query? Start by browsing literary agents listed on agentquery.com and querytracker.net, or simply do a Google search for literary agents; you can narrow them down by location, genre, or some other factor specific to you and your work.

3. Write your letter.

The query letter lets agents know you’ve done your research. It tells them who you are, what your book is about, and who your target audience is. It is not only their first impression of YOU, but of your book, and is sometimes even harder to write than the book itself! Spend as much time as you need to craft and polish the perfect query letter for your book.

THE ANATOMY OF A QUERY LETTER

Let’s take a look at this query letter by one of my clients and first-time author of “The Storm” which is currently in contract with a respectable literary agent in New York.

(Click the image for a larger view.)

query letter anatomy

4. Track the responses.

Can’t remember who or when you queried, or if/how they responded? It’s important to stay organized, even if just for your own sanity. This is as easy as creating an Excel spreadsheet with columns for the date you submitted your query, the agent’s name, the date of their response, and any follow-up required.

If an agent rejects your query, it is not necessary to reply.

5. Don’t lose heart.

So, let’s be realistic. You are going to send out a TON of query letters and you might not get many responses at all. From the responses you do receive, most of them will be rejections. That’s OK! Any well-respected author today has been rejected by SOMEONE. There could be a number of reasons why an agent might reject your work—the least of all being that it just wasn’t “good enough.” My advice for you is to 1) just keep querying, 2) take a writing class or join a critique group to hone your writing skills, or 3) consider self-publishing your book instead.

If you need more direction or would like individualized help with your query letter, send me an email at michelle@mjbookeditor.com. I would be happy to see how I can help you.

Not sure you want to publish traditionally? Check back here for my next blog, Tips for Self-Published Authors.

Happy Writing!

MJ

“Writing is not like a painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” | Elie Wiesel

Are you asking your editor the right questions?

A potential client sent me an email this morning, after about a week of emails back and forth, and asked me the best question I’ve been asked so far in my career as a professional editor:

What do you love about editing? 

My reaction was something like: Yes! Finally! While I’m usually the one to ask my clients, What do you love about writing?, I was so excited to be on the receiving end of a similar question. I then returned with a (likely) too-long response, but he could not have been more appreciative. Why? Because we had just found a common denominator: we have a passion for our craft. Since we’re about to be working together for the next six to eight weeks, I couldn’t ask for a better start to our working relationship.

Before he asked me this question though, we had to take care of the basics first. When would I be available? How long would it take? How much would it cost? Could I help him with his query letter, too? These are great questions to ask your editor, but don’t stop there. Here are three important follow-up questions you should ask before signing on with any editor:

How can you help me?

No two projects are the same. You have your own style, your own “voice”. Your writing is unique, and your story fits into its genre in a way no other story has – or will. You may need help with a query letter and finding an agent, or you may be more interested in self-publishing. You might expect your editor to know about KDP and CreateSpace and Smashwords, or not. Ask your editor to read some of your work first, and tell her about your specific publishing and/or marketing goals. How many books has she edited in your genre, and does she enjoy it? Can she still help you? HOW?

What are your credentials?

Ask about her education and experience. How long has she been in business for, and who has she worked with? Ask for references or testimonials from her previous clients. Remember that it goes beyond what she looks like on “paper” though; when a good editor isn’t editing, she’s learning how to do it better. Ask her what she does as far as continued education. What books does she read? You can also test her skills by asking for a sample edit or requesting she pass a proofreading test, which are easily accessible online.

And my new favorite: What do you love about editing?

In case you’re wondering, here’s a snippet of how I responded to that one: 

“While I consider myself as having a ‘natural’ desire to help others, I didn’t realize I could have such an enormous impact on other writers until I became a member of peer critiquing groups. For years I was proofreading for my friends and suggesting big story-level changes for their writing, and they started taking my advice! When some of those friends actually published their books – successfully! – I knew I’d found my niche. I stopped critiquing for ‘free’ and officially became a freelancer. The best part is: some of those friends are now coming back to me, on their second or third or fourth books, and hiring me to provide the same service I had offered for free the first time. Pretty cool, huh?”

In addition to asking the right questions, pay attention to the questions your editor asks you as well. Building a solid foundation is key to any working relationship, but especially between authors and editors. Look for an editor who is collaborative and responsive, and remember to set clear expectations – or to ask for hers. Open communication is hugely important, and it starts with the interview.

If and when you are ready to start shopping around for an editor, I’d love to hear from you. Just send an email to michelle@mjbookeditor.com, and ask away! I’m an open “book”. 🙂

And now, I leave you with this:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” | Ralph Waldo Emerson

Common Questions for Fiction Book Editors

book4At the risk of re-hashing some of the same information from my earlier blogs, I thought it would be helpful to answer a few of the most common questions I get asked as a fiction book editor. Here’s a quick “FAQ” for your easy reference. If you find this list helpful or you have additional questions, leave a comment or send me an email. I’m always happy to help!

  • How much will it cost to edit my book?

There are a number of factors that affect the cost of a manuscript edit, including the length of the manuscript, the quality and style of writing, the formatting of the text, and the amount of structural (developmental) work that is needed. Standard industry rates range from $35 per hour to $100 per hour. Check out the pricing schedule put forth by the Editorial Freelancers Association, or visit the “Services” page of my website for more detailed information.

Always request a sample edit to ensure an accurate quote from your prospective editor.

  • How long will it take to have my book edited?

Like cost, the length of time to complete a thorough edit may vary as well, and for many of the same reasons that cost varies – quality, length, etc. Efficient, deadline-driven editors may take one week to one month to edit your novel.

It’s important to start shopping for editors as early as possible, as sought-after fiction editors may be booked weeks or even months ahead of time. 

  • Where can I find a fiction book editor?

There are countless ways to find a professional editor, from freelance websites like oDesk and Elance, to author recommendations, or even a quick Google search. Be sure to do your research and have more than one prospective editor lined up to “interview”. What are their qualifications? Do they have samples of their recent work? What about testimonials from their clients?

Ask every prospective editor about their work history, and what they can do for your manuscript.

  • Do I have to accept changes from an editor?

It’s a good idea to take all edits and suggestions from your book editor very seriously before deciding to decline their edits, but in the end it’s up to you. Many editors use Tracking Changes in MS Word to keep track of edits, making it easy for you to see what they’ve changed and to decide which edits you’d like to accept or decline. There’s also an “Accept All” option.

A good book editor is a collaborative consultant, helping you transform your novel into something that’s ready for publication – always with your permission, of course.

  • Can an editor ensure my book will be published?

Now more than ever, publishing companies want to keep their cost low. If your book is selected for publication, your publisher will put it through the editorial process before they put their name on it. If your manuscript needs substantial developmental edits, they may not be willing to take on the task – or foot the bill.

Submitting a professionally edited manuscript will set your book apart from the countless unedited, unsolicited manuscripts a publishing company receives, greatly increasing your chances of publication.

What other questions do you have? How can I help you? Leave me a comment or send an email to michelle@mjbookeditor.com. I’m happy to discuss your particular project in more detail with you. You can also view my previous blogs for other related information.

Happy writing!

-MJ

“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” | Michael Crichton