Tag Archives: choose wisely

#SaystheEditor: Experience Counts


Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about people — often without experience — now offering editing services.

I remember when I came out of retirement. I’d retired in 1999, and twelve years later, there I was, looking for work. People were slow to take a chance on me, and I was offering very low rates. Heck, in some instances, I was giving work away for free, just so that friends and authors I knew casually could tell their friends they’d seen my work and were happy with it.

But here’s the thing: I’d been editing professionally since the mid ’90s. I came back into this with experience. And even though I’d been officially retired, I really hadn’t stopped editing. Real editors never do, just as real writers never stop writing and real STEM geeks can’t turn off the STEM in their heads. Ever.

And that’s my point: Lately, I’ve been seeing lots of blog posts about people now offering editing services. Yes, their rates may be cheap. Yes, you may be like me and have a thing for the little guy. Support the underdog and all that. Help someone out, especially if it’s a woman-owned business… blah blah. I know all the reasons. I’ve used them to sell my own services.

Cheap or not, new or not, the FIRST question you should ask a potential editor, if you don’t already know the answer: how much experience do you have? I’ve seen folk who say, “I was good at editing a paper I had to write for history, so now I’m an editor.”


Or, “I’ve written ten books and they’ve all gotten five stars at Amazon, so now I’m an editor.”


Neither of those have anything to do with the price of beans, boys and girls. You want someone who has a relationship with language, whose mission is to bring out your best. That’s still my focus, and I still on occasion give freebies to friends and clients. While I used to do it as a way to build my client base, now I do it because it’s the right thing to do. I love what I do. I get up every morning raring to go, ready to dive in and play with words. So if my current crop of clients are all between projects, yeah, I’ll do a freebie. Lawyers call that work pro bono. I call it fun.

Good intentions are great to have. I wish all my fellow editors luck, and I wish all authors would spend the money and use our skills.

But know what I wish even more? That I’d stop finding new clients who say to me, “I wish I’d found you before I used my last editor.”

I wish clients would stop saying, “I threw my money away on that person. They didn’t know nearly as much as you do.”

I wish I’d stop hearing, “I went with them because they were cheap. I got what I paid for, and now I’ve got bad reviews next to my book and it’s stopped selling, so would you please re-edit this and maybe I can save it?”

Yeah, those are flattering comments and often, the clients who say those things to me become loyal clients. (Yes, sometimes, they move on, always in search of someone better, but do they ever find that person?)

But it also kills me to hear that. It means authors didn’t  use word of mouth. They didn’t carefully vet a variety of editors with samples. They didn’t talk to their friends. And usually, they made decisions with their bank accounts.

Yes, editing is expensive. I’m not the most expensive out there, by any means (the woman I use for content work is triple my own rates, and she does no language or grammar work like I do), and I get it when authors say they can’t afford me. But folks, it’s worth trying. And it’s worth hanging in there to find someone really good, really experienced. Who knows how to edit, how to value your work, how to preserve your voice.

I’ve said this before, and I know I’ll say it again. Make wise choices, choices that’ll bolster your career, not sink it. Take a risk on a really good editor, go ahead and build a relationship with him or her. And then hopefully you’ll be saying to your friends, “Go use my editor. She’s great.”

And hopefully I’ll get more e-mails that say, “I read a bunch of reviews of books written by your clients, and the reviews keep getting better and better. You’ve got to be good at what you do.”

Some of that is because the author’s skill is growing, but hopefully it’s because I’m helping them grow that skill.

Choose wisely. Look for experience.



#SaysTheEditor: Publish Me!


One in an occasional series

I am one of those editors who likes to support my clients even if what they need help with is beyond the range of editing. Because of this, I’ve now started such services as offering help writing book descriptions, a While You Write service where you cough up cash and I’m available seven days a week for brainstorming plot wrinkles and other problems, and more. I’ve even brought some e-book formatters into the fold, but more about that another day.

The Book Description and While You Write services are available only to my editing clients.

One other thing I like to do is talk about your options for publication. A number of you like to explore your options, and that’s great. I’m totally supportive of that. And… a lot of you have found small presses who’ve been interested in publishing your books. Sometimes, that makes me sad because it means you’re moving on to a new editor (and when that editor’s not as good as me, well, double sad!) — but that sadness is also tempered with excitement for you. I want only the best for my clients.

But sometimes, you find yourself someone who is well intentioned but … maybe isn’t ready for a writer of my clients’ caliber (do I think highly of you guys, or what?). And you ask me about this publisher.

I came across one of these small presses the other day. When I find them, I crawl all over their website, looking for certain criteria:
1. Is the site well written? Seems like a silly thing to look for, but if a publisher’s website is riddled with grammar errors, what will your book look like? (and yes, I do wish I had the cojones to send them a letter, offering my non-fiction department’s services!)

2. What can you offer my author that s/he can’t do by him/herself? The latest was a publisher who said they were working on a relationship that would get them into brick-and-mortar stores. Sounds great, but … they weren’t there yet. What could they offer my client NOW?

3. What do they publish, and how does your book fit into their list? One publisher I came across had both erotic lit and a book about Jesus on their front page. I’d be surprised if people aren’t offended by that one!

There’s a reason niche publishers do well, folks: they break into one market and do it well.

4. What’s the background of the principals involved? Even if it’s not a publishing background, I’m sorry, but someone with an MFA in painting and a partner with a PhD in history just doesn’t make me confident that you know how to run a business — even though I’ve learned that running a business isn’t rocket science. But I want to see that you’ve got a clue what you’re doing before I’ll express confidence in your business.

(Before you ask about my lack of business background, I spent 2013 enrolled in a year-long business class and worked with a fabulous mentor. Like I said, running a business isn’t rocket science.)

5. How excited by your book is this publisher? I thought this was a no-brainer, but when a client forwarded a mail that said, “I skimmed your book and think it’d be a good fit…” I realized that the siren’s song of “it’d be a good fit” drowned out the red flag. This acquiring editor SKIMMED the book? The book he’s worked on for years and years? Sweat, blood, tears, marriage, friends, and an editor are all in that book and this acquiring editor admitted to SKIMMING it?

To paraphrase uber agent Janet Reid: You want someone behind your book who’s as passionate as you are.

Yes, we all want to have a publisher’s name behind us (okay, not all of us anymore!) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let desire overrule your natural caution. I’ve seen too many small presses go under, heard too many stories about authors who have to go to court to have their rights reversed, seen what happens when expectations are crushed.

Don’t be that author.

But do be the author who is smart enough to reach out to people who can look past the emotional high of the offer and help you weigh your options with a clear mind. This is your business. It’s not rocket science, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart in the choices you make.