Tag Archives: success

Lessons Learned!


Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilHere’s a good one for you. At least, it’s a story that ends with me grinning in pride at my clients. It’s a story of lessons learned.

There’s a tendency among writers to basically disembody a character’s parts from the whole. He reached with his hand. Or Her eyes ran across the faces of the people in front of her.

It’s a problem on many fronts. And it’s one I always ask my clients to be aware of. The body works as a whole, after all. And eyes don’t run or slip or do many things other than see. (Note the many other here, as I know a couple of those legit other things personally.)

While working on a manuscript a few weeks ago, my client left me a note. I know this disembodies his hand, but I didn’t know any other way to word it. Help?

I… jumped for joy. I did! THIS is what makes the editor-client relationship so amazing. When I can say, “Lessons learned.” When I know my clients listen to my words of (hopeful) wisdom and realize they’re there to help improve your craft. Because really? That’s the best part for me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s gratifying when clients come back with manuscript after manuscript. Bring it. I love long-term clients maybe a little more than I love one-book wonders. I love the chance to get to know an author’s writing (and, often, the writer themselves, but that’s up to the writer), and the chance to go deeper in my work with it.

Lessons learned with this one.

Don’t disembody your characters. But most of all?

Ask for help when you need it. This is what I’m here for, after all. To be your helper, your ally, the one you can show your uncertainty to. I’m here to help you work through it, grow, improve, excel.

Lessons learned?

Hope so!


#SaystheEditor: Some Things Never Get Old



It’s been awhile since my editor self came out on these pages, but here she is. She’s got a serious case of the warm fuzzies, too.

First came news last week that one of my clients had made the USA Today and New York Times best seller lists for an anthology he’s in. What exciting news! More people who get to share the vision of a West of Mars client. I can’t speak for the rest of the anthology, of course, but this guy deserves the accolades and success.

Yeah, I love hearing those tales. I have a number of clients who routinely make best seller lists, but these two? That’s pretty rare, and it’s so exciting to see. I love it.

The other thing that never gets old is smaller, but it’s an important step on the path to getting the sort of notice that’ll land an author on those best seller lists. Call it a blog tour, call it networking, call it what you will, but I always get a thrill out of seeing books I’ve worked on show up on blogs I read or follow.

It may not feel like it, but writing truly is a community. My readership may overlap with yours, and there may be overlap with authors C, D, E, and beyond. When we can help each other and support each other, the entire community as a whole benefits.

Seeing my authors grow more and more successful is a real thrill. Being able to continue to work on their books and help them produce such good stuff is truly an honor. It really does never get old.

Keep sending your manuscripts may way. Let me help you realize your dreams.


An Editor’s Life: Conference Textures


I do it every other year, and every other year, it’s completely different.

I’m talking about the Pennwriters Annual Conference. Every other year, it’s held in my backyard of Pittsburgh. I get to sleep at home, escape early from the chaos, and have some good decompression time. And I drive a lot. Half hour each way, but so totally worth it. Plus, driving down on Saturday, Octane was rocking hard and the music was blasting and it was a super way to start the day.

Anyone who’s been a repeat offender at Pennwriters (or any other convention, I’m sure) will agree with this: even when the faces are mostly the same, the conference experience never is. There’s always something new to explore, someone new who makes a difference.

Two years ago, I spent most of the conference sitting in a hallway, wrangling authors who were going to pitch agents and acquiring editors. I had a ball, don’t get me wrong, and not just because a number of my conference buddies amused me by telling me that they hadn’t realized I was even in attendance. And, as always, I learned a lot.

This year, it was totally different. I couldn’t deliver the SIX baskets I’d collected for the Chinese Auction until Friday morning, so as soon as I tossed kids out the door and onto the school bus, it was into the car to get the baskets set up.

I spent the morning doing that, helping my friend and subcontractor Mary get all the baskets together. We had another Susan helping us and it was friendly and companionable and comfortable. What a super way to ease into the event.

A month out, I’d planned to skip the two lunches the conference offered: one for only those who’ve achieved Published status and the other was for the unwashed masses. I hate class structure like that, and I think that in this age of transparency and a changed publishing model, the need for this structure is over. So I’d expected to have a quiet lunch by myself in the hotel restaurant.

But I mentioned that I was skipping the organized lunches and talks to a friend I meet with monthly. And suddenly, I had a lunch date.

Fast forward to the conference. I’m sitting in a chair, waiting for my friend, and … someone walks up. She’s going to have lunch by herself. Or… she was. She joins me.

A minute later, there’s still no sign of my friend. Good thing because Mary shows up with a buddy, one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met.

And lunch for one became five. It was not a quiet lunch. Not even close.

That’s how the weekend went. Good people around me at all times. Some were new faces. Some were old. Some were connections I’d made over ten years ago in an entirely different venue. But I never felt alone, never felt lonely or lost or ignored, even when I was sitting by myself.

I gave my first workshop. It needs some tweaking and probably broken into two different sessions altogether. But I’m also booked for next month to give it again. I was asked to do an online workshop and while I think that may not come to be — my credentials seemed to ultimately be disappointing, since I’m not an acquiring editor — at least I was asked.

Someone asked me where I see myself in five years. I’ve been thinking about that. I see myself doing more of this. More talks. More networking. More editing. More success.

That was the texture of this year’s conference. Last time, it was about helping others calm their nerves, about finding them time for expanded opportunities. This time, it felt like I’ve been waiting for it to feel.

My favorite line of the weekend? “I’ve been seeing this West of Mars everywhere, it feels like.”

YES. Hey, did I tell you I have editing dates open this summer?


Why West of Mars Clients are the Best


It seems that lately, my inbox has been filled with good news. I am so not complaining, as good news is a precious commodity, meant to be handled with kid gloves lest it dissolve into ephemera. And it’s pretty. Full of warm fuzzies and all those other good things that we need to balance out the bad.

Yeah, you know where this is leading. To an e-mail I got the other night while waiting for my kids (what? You don’t work when you’re waiting for your kids?). One of my authors had gotten twenty-eight reviews on her newest release, which I’d proofed for her. Twenty-eight five star reviews. Not one was solicited. And before you pooh-pooh the paltry number, let me add this: they’d all happened within three weeks of release.

Now, this was the seventh book in a series. I came onto the team with book six, so she’s had plenty of time to build a readership and garner success before this seventh book came out. And she’s also had plenty of time to grow as a writer, as well.

But her e-mail made it pretty clear: Look what we did. Yay, us.

See those possessives here?

I’ve said before that I don’t work for royalties because it’s a project and when I finish it, I move on to the next. That’s true. No matter how proud of my authors I become and how many times they use plural possessives, the simple fact is that I have less at stake in this than my authors do.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t burst with pride with every success. With every story that a novella trilogy I edited went from earning $10 a month before the edit to earning $6000 this year alone. With every story of authors who are starting to win awards. Okay, the last person only won an honorable mention, but before we’d started working together, honorable mention was a far-off dream. And with every story of authors whose latest book hit a best-seller list or two.

This one, this seventh in the series, also hit a best-seller list, according to Amazon. So did one of my fantasy authors. And a thriller author before that.

It’s not all due to me, of course not. These men and women have a fantastic vision and a dedication to putting in the hard work required of best-selling authors.

But I’d like to think I played a role in the ultimate success. In helping them put their best word forward. That, my friends, is what a really good independent editor does.

And yes, I’m taking new clients.


#SaystheEditor June, oh June


It’s the second week of June. I think we can all agree to that.

But here’s where it gets weird. It’s the second week of June.


So what, I hear you saying. Or, Good for you. You can read a calendar.

Know what else I can read? The balance sheet at West of Mars.

It’s the second week of June and already, it’s the  most lucrative June I’ve had since I came out of retirement a few years ago. And we’re not even halfway through. And there’s more client work lined up, more manuscripts to work on.


Gratitude doesn’t even begin to touch how I feel when I look at simple facts like that. I have said it before: I have the best clients anywhere. They are funny, they are (mostly) loyal, they are smart and they are oh, so creative, I routinely sit back to savor and appreciate what they come up with. Scenarios, characters, alternate worlds, plot twists… all of it. As a writer, I pale beside them.

But I’m glad to be the proverbial red pen who helps make their brilliance shine.

I have openings in July still. Not many, but there’s space. Let’s join forces and let me bring out your best while you dazzle me with your raw talent.

No wonder I love my job.

And it’s only the second week in June.