7 Hard Truths of Working as a Professional Writer

By SUE COLETTA

When we first begin our writing journey, our dreams often overshadow the realities of working as a professional writer.

Which publishing path we chose (self-publishing or traditional) doesn’t make a difference. The products we produce do.

For those of you who are at the early stages of your career, let’s take a look at 7 Hard Truths of Working as a Professional Writer.

For the professional writers in our TKZ family, please add your truths.

Truth #1:

Writing consumes us. We decline more offers for lunch than we accept. We could analyze one sentence ad nauseum, and still not be happy with it. To an outsider, at times we may look like we’re staring into space, but our mind is whirling with ten different scenarios after a character did something unexpected or our storyline banged a hard right instead of a left, even though we’d planned the milestones in advance.

Truth #2:

When you work from home, friends and family assume you have time to chitchat. No matter how many times you mention your deadline, book launch, or any “author” subject, many will breeze right over it with, “Yeah, so, anyway …”

I’ve tried using signs or mugs as a clear signal not to interrupt me (see above pic), but there are those who still barge right in, whether by phone, text, or (gasp!) in person. Not in a callous way; it’s because they don’t understand the amount of brain-power required to plot and successfully execute a novel.

Writers always have multiple balls in the air at once. Yet, from the intruder’s perspective, they think there’s no harm in breaking our concentration for a minute or two (or five or ten), that we can simply return to where we left off as though the disruption never took place.

Easy-peasy, right? Wrong. Interrupting a writer should be punishable by death! At least fictionally. 😉

Truth #3:

Writers spend hours alone in our fictional worlds, and we like it that way. To write professionally, we must be comfortable behind the keyboard. Buy a nice comfy chair; you’re gonna need it. Many professional writers work six or seven days per week, and some hold down full-time day jobs as well. Not everyone has a supportive spouse or makes enough money to write full-time yet.

Truth #4:

Our writing process won’t make sense to anyone but other writers. Don’t even try to explain how a certain song transports you to fictional place or why you have two tiny squares (no more, no less) of chocolate every day as your reward while you read your new favorite thriller.

Writers, did you know daily chocolate* is good for your health? It certainly is, and here’s why:

  • Flavonoids, found in many plant-based foods, including cocoa, can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain, and make blood platelets less sticky and less likely to clot and cause a stroke.
  • Flavonoids can lower cholesterol.
  • Quality dark chocolate with a high-cocoa content is nutritious, contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, and is loaded with minerals.
  • The fatty acids profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturated fat.
  • Chocolate contains a stimulant like caffeine and theobromine but is unlikely to keep you awake at night.
  • Chocolate is a powerful antioxidant. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavonoids than any other fruits tested, including blueberries!
  • Consuming dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease by significantly decreasing oxidized LDL cholesterol in men. It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL for those with high cholesterol.
  • Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
  • A study showed that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57%.

*I’m referring to a small amount of daily chocolate. Everything in moderation. Too much of anything is never a good idea.

Truth #5:

Our debut is just that, a starting point. It’s where our publishing journey begins. For the first time, the public will read our words, and it’s a terrifying experience akin to standing naked for all to judge. I’d love to say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. I’m as nervous for my thirteenth book to release as I was for my debut. Maybe more so, because the dream of becoming the next “overnight success” isn’t still obscuring reality.

Truth #6:

Many professional writers have health problems. Our bodies weren’t meant to hunch over a keyboard all day, every day. This position can lead to slipped discs, narrowing of nerves in the neck and back, joint issues, carpel tunnel … the list goes on and on.

Remember to take good of yourself! Buy the proper tools of the trade, like an ergonomic chair, a keyboard and/or mouse with wrist support, a sit/stand desk or have the option of switching from the desktop computer to a laptop. Exercise breaks help, too.

Truth #7:

Write for love, not money. The sad truth is, until we build a backlist, writers can’t survive on royalties alone. We can supplement our income in a variety of ways. Some writers coach, some appear on panels or do guest speaking, others offer online courses or webinars. My favorite is mingling with readers at book signings. I make most of my income from May to December. Memorial Day through Labor Day are my busiest time of year, with book signings every weekend.

By studying my area, which is a hotspot for vacationers, I’ve learned where I should appear and when. Year after year, I return to the same venues around the same date. Gone are days of sitting around an empty library, hoping for reader to approach my table, but it took time, consistency, and patience.

There are no shortcuts. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying to you.

***

I haven’t even broached the subject of marketing, piracy, or endless “buy my book!” emails from total strangers who expect you to promote “the book that’ll change the world!” to your audience. You might be surprised by how many new writers believe that, and I seem to attract all of them.

All that said, I love this profession. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

What are some other hard truths of working as a professional writer? If you’re beginning your writing journey, is there something you’ve wondered about but never had the chance to ask? Now’s the time.

13+

Do you Have a Business Model?

Recent blog posts by Laura Benedict and Jordan Dane here at TKZ on backlists and embracing new writing challenges, got me thinking about how writers approach the business side of being a writer. Indeed, I just finished Jane Friedman’s recent book entitled ‘The Business of Being a Writer’ (which is excellent BTW) so I’ve been ruminating on this for a few weeks.

At the moment, I am in the thick of trying to finish the first draft of my current WIP before summer hits and my boys are home from school (which, no surprise, tends to make it harder to get writing done!). My agent already has quite a few projects to juggle, but one element I’ve really not been focusing on is the business model for my writing. My principal aim over the last few years has been to focus solely on my writing (with just a bit of social media thrown in) as I’ve been exploring YA, MG as well as adult historical fiction. In doing so, however, I haven’t really been exploring new opportunities for my writing (such as Radish) or adhering to any real kind business plan or looking to save on my expenditure by looking into utility saving sites like usave.co.uk.

Now, I feel at some point I need to take a step back and evaluate issues such as author platform, branding, backlist, and identifying new opportunities as part of a longer term strategic plan. However, just thinking about it all is making me anxious as I realize how far behind I’ve probably fallen. So TKZers, perhaps you can help.

How are you approaching the business side of your writing career? How do you view author platform and branding? Do you have a long term strategic plan? How are you identifying new opportunities and outlets for your writing?

3+

What’s your Mindset?

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

On Friday night I heard a great presentation from our school district’s differentiation coach about fixed versus growth mindset and how research into this relates to how our children learn and succeed at school. Although I haven’t read the work by Carol Dweck (who pioneered much of this research) I was intrigued enough to watch her in a TED speech online (click to see here) and to place her book ‘Mindset, the New Psychology of Success’ on hold at our local library. Initially the concept of a fixed versus growth mindset didn’t seem all the radical, but when I thought a little more closely I realized it highlights many of ‘mindset’ issues we face as writers.

A fixed mindset is one which regards intelligence, talent or ability as static and innate – meaning we are either intelligent, smart, good at creative writing or we aren’t (and I guess if we aren’t we just have to accept our fate!). Scientific research over the last few decades reveals, however,  that our brains are much more flexible and fluid than that and, like any muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets.

At some time in our lives, I’m sure many of us have been caught within the fixed mindset trap (“I’m not good at math”; “I’m a hopeless athlete…”), or may have  had a fixed mindset imposed on us by our teachers or our peers  (“You can’t write!”; “You’ll never be able to do that!” ). Research shows that children start out in kindergarten believing they can do anything (just think of how many of us wanted to be astronauts!) but as we mature, many of us shift from a growth mindset to a fixed one. At that point we no longer want to face the possibility of failure and remain firmly entrenched in our ‘comfort zone’ of abilities.

Someone with a fixed mindset will most likely avoid challenges; give up easily; ignore feedback and feel threatened by other people’s success. Unfortunately, writing is by its very nature an ongoing challenge that more often than not results in failure – writers face a constant learning curve, which (I would argue at least) requires us to move to a growth mindset in order to succeed (or at least not go insane!)

Someone with a growth mindset embraces challenges, gives everything their best shot, learns from feedback and is inspired by others’ success. More importantly, they accept failure as a necessary part of the growth process (an admittedly difficult lesson for any of us to learn).

As both a writer and a parent, I got a great deal out of Friday’s presentation.  It made me think more closely about my own mindset and whether it was fixed or growth focused when it came to my writing, and how I can embrace  the challenges as well as the failures as I continue to grow as a writer.

So TKZers, how would you categorize your mindset when it comes to your writing?

0

Value of Listserves

I just learned this tip from one of my listserves: Bowker is running a 20% off discount in honor of family history month. The code is Family20 that you apply at checkout. I don’t know how long this discount lasts, so I jumped on it. It’s Sunday morning. I saved $59.00. While on site, I also saw you could buy 10 ISBNs and get a deal to purchase another 10 with it for 50% off the second batch.

This tip came from the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance loop that I belong to with my RWA membership. I’m not too active there now since I am working only on my Bad Hair Day mysteries at this time, but gems like this one make it worthwhile to keep my membership.

A post on the FRW (Florida Romance Writers) listserve is how I learned about TweetJukebox (http://www.tweetjukebox.com/ ). This site has saved me a considerable amount of time.

What is a listserve? (Note: The trademarked term is LISTSERV) It’s a group email list that you join, usually through yahoo groups. You can choose to receive individual emails or a Daily Digest. The latter allows you to scan the topics and jump to the ones that interest you by clicking on a link.

Much of what I’ve learned about self-publishing, promotion, and business of writing tips has come from the listserves where I belong. I mine them for jewels of information. When I see something relevant, even if it’s not info I need immediately, I copy and paste it into a file. Thus when I am ready to venture out—like into audio books through ACX—I have a complete file with tips and instructions I’ve gleaned from various listserves.

Some of these groups require you to be a member to join. Others are available to all writers. In my view, they might be time-consuming emails but they’re worth their weight in gold—or in this case, in dollars saved. It’s writers helping writers. or writers connecting with readers.

book club

So here are the listserves where I belong. I’ve included the link if it’s open to the public. DorothyL is the only one that is not a yahoo group.

Mystery
Cozy Armchair Group (Readers): cozyarmchairgroup@yahoogroups.com
Crime Scene Writer (Research Questions): crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com
Dorothy L (Readers): Mystery Literature E-conference DOROTHYL@LISTSERV.KENT.EDU
International Thriller Writers (members only)
Murder Must Advertise (Writers on Marketing) MurderMustAdvertise@yahoogroups.com
Mystery Buffs (Writers & Readers) https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/mysterybuffs/info
Mystery Writers of America: (members only): EMWA, MWA-Breakout, MWA-Self-Publishing
Mystery Writers Promo (private group)
Sisters in Crime: (members only)
Sleuthmail: (Florida Chapter MWA members only)

Romance
Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal RWA chapter: (members only)
Florida Romance Writers: (members only)
Marketing for Romance Writers: MarketingForRomanceWriters@yahoogroups.com
Romance Writers of America: (members only) PAN, Tech, Industry, News
Southwest Florida Romance Writers: (members only)

Other
ELoop: Eloop@yahoogroups.com
Lifeboat Team: Private group – Booklover’s Bench writers
Novelists, Inc: (members only)
Self-Publish: selfpublish-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Publishers
Five Star: (FS authors only)
The Wild Rose Press: (WRP authors only)
The Wild Rose Press (readers) TheWildRosePress@yahoogroups.com

Do you have any other recommendations?

4+

Aftermath of a Writers Conference

Nancy J. Cohen

Recovering from a conference can take as much time or more as preparing for one. When you get home and unpack, you’ll likely have a collection of promo items from other authors to sort through. It’s good to keep some of these, as they can inspire ideas for your swag in the future. I keep swag from other authors in a small shopping bag designated for this purpose. It helps to have samples if you’re thinking of ordering a similar item.

What impressed me at Bouchercon this year? I always like Door Hangers. I did one myself for Hanging by a Hair. I liked the little bags of chocolate covered mints. I don’t remember the author’s name engraved on the M&M sized candies, but I do remember her book title as House of Homicide. One author gave out tape measures. My Bad Hair Day combs were popular, and every one that I put out got taken. As usual, the tables were a mess with print materials, but I picked up bookmarks for titles that interested me. And coasters are always useful. I keep them on my computer desk.

Swag

It helps to sort through the business cards we receive and add relevant contact info to our address books. I’d also suggest marking the date and place where you met the person for easy recall later. You might dash off a note to people you’d met or to booksellers who carried your titles. Uploading your photos and blogging about your experience will keep the memories fresh.

NanPanel1      DonConSandy

IMG_1735

IMG_1745

I’m still recovering from Boucheron, held in Raleigh. Here you’ll meet fans as well as other authors, plus a conglomeration of industry personnel. I have piles of materials to sort out and notes from panels attended to write up. But since I’m on the road again for another book event, these tasks will have to wait. This means I won’t be around today to answer comments, but please leave any tips you’d like to share.

 

0

Paid Book Reviews

Nancy J. Cohen

There’s a disturbing trend toward paid reviews. Indie authors may have a difficult time getting their books reviewed, so this is an option for them. But it’s an issue for any traditionally published author who wishes to get more critical reviews for their new release, aside from the places where their publisher has sent advance reading copies. Here are some sites I’ve heard of but am by no means recommending. Do the research on your own.

books2

Kirkus Indie Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/author-services/indie/ costs $425. You can submit 2 print copies or a digital submission.

Publishers Weekly: At a site called Book Life, you can register your title and decide what services you want, i.e. getting your book reviewed or help with marketing. http://booklife.com/ It appears to be free, but marketing services are available. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/diy/index.html

RT Book Reviews: This magazine offers a paid service for $425 through RT Review Source: http://www.rtreviewsource.com/

Net Galley: $399 for a six month title listing, or $599 for a listing along with a spot in their newsletter. https://netgalley.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/105722-do-you-work-with-individual-authors . Here your book might attract the attention of librarians, booksellers, reviewers and bloggers.

Edelweiss: If you’re traditionally published, ask if your book is listed at Edelweiss. This is where booksellers and librarians go to browse and place orders. Reviewers can request digital ARCs there too. Publishers pay for listings. The pricing for the catalog is based on the number of titles the publisher plans to feature in a year. An administrative fee is also charged annually for this service. In addition, there’s a digital review service that publishers can participate in either separately or along with the catalog listing. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/HomePage.aspx

Choosy Bookworm: http://authors.choosybookworm.com/book-reviews/ . For $99, they hint you might get 30 interested readers who will post reviews but no guarantees.

Nerdy Girls Book Reviews: http://nerdygirlbookreviews.com/authors/ Their basic package is $49 for 30-35 reader reviews.

Chanticleer Book Reviews cost $325: http://www.chantireviews.com/book-reviews/

Of course, you have many other options. Go on a blog tour where the hosts offer reviews. Do giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing and hope that the winners post their consumer reviews. Or buy inexpensive ads where a review might be part of the package. It’s not easy to attract the big guns but you can still get bloggers on your side.

How do you feel about paid reviews?

7+

Bookus Interruptus

Nancy J. Cohen

You’ve all heard of another type of interruption in the middle of a certain act which I’d rather not mention here, yes? Consider this one similar, except we’re talking about interrupting your writing process when you’re in the frenzy of storytelling. How disconcerting when you’re working on book number 14 in your series, and you get an email announcing that edits for number 13 have arrived. You have to disrupt your train of thought and put aside the current WIP to go back to the previous book. Two weeks are gone to the winds while you answer your editor’s notes, polish each scene, and perfect each sentence for the umpteenth time. This book takes over, and you think of nothing else until the job is done. With a sense of relief, you send this version back across cyberspace, aware that you still have rereads of the copy edits and page proofs further down the line.

writing

Nudging at the edges of your mind is the reminder that you have blogs to write and interviews to do for your upcoming new release of book number 12. Have you ordered swag yet to promote this title? Designed your contests, newsletter, Facebook launch party, and other activities as the release date nears?

Book number 14 calls to you. It’s sitting front and center on your desk, and you yearn to get back to the story. But your mind tells you to get these other tasks done, and only then will you be free to resume the joy of storytelling. When you’re finally able to return to writing, you face the blank page with a blank look on your face. You’ve lost your train of thought and your place in the story. So how do you get your head back in the game?

Hopefully, you’ve made detailed notes on where you left off in your WIP and what comes next. Review these plot points when it’s time to resume the story. Line edit what you’ve already written. This will save you time later and reacquaint you with what’s come before in the story. Then set a date when you must begin your writing schedule again.

It’s hard when you have interruptions, whether for edits of other works or for conferences and events that you have to attend. Prepare for your departure as best you can by noting the next scene and any surprises you have planned along the way. It helps to have a synopsis. Then you can see where you left off and continue from that point onward. What technique do you use to get your mind back in the story?

Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. http://bit.ly/15SmIi0

4+

Playing with Pinterest

Nancy J. Cohen

Pinterest might be the third most popular social network after Facebook and Twitter. It’s an online pin board where you post photos along with a description. The photos link back to the source. Go here to set up a free account: https://www.pinterest.com/

To find people you know, go to your friends’ sites and search through their followers. Follow any familiar names. Or on the left, click on Find Friends or Invite Friends to Pinterest. If you don’t see these features, click on the gear shift arrow in the upper right corner and then on Find Friends.

Go here to Follow me: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/

 

Pinterest3

To gain followers, follow other people’s boards and repin their photos. If you click on the little heart by the photo, it means you Like their photo. Clicking on a photo brings up a comment box.

Create your boards. Suggestions for topics can include My Books, Books by Friends, Coming Next (your WIP), Favorite Places, The Writing Life, Book Tours, Books I’ve Read, Food, Hobbies, Travels, Crafts. Browse by Category to get ideas. On the right of the search bar, click on the arrow beside the three lines. A category list will pop up. Or see what your favorite authors feature and copy their topics.

Pinterest1

I like to do storyboards for my books. Check out my boards, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a fun activity. It gives me and my fans a visual reference for my books. I’ll use some of the same photos I buy from royalty free sites for my video trailers and mix them with photos I’ve taken personally or that others have pinned.

Pinterest2

To get to your Boards, click on your name in the upper right corner. Find the Board you want to change and click Edit. Here you can add a description to the board.

To access the photos, double click on a board. You can add a pin to this board or edit the photos that are there. When you add a pin, you can also post it to Facebook or Twitter. Click on the pencil on the upper right corner of a pin to edit. If you upload your own photo, go in and edit it to add a description and website link. When you want to post your own book cover, do it from an online bookstore so the source leads back there.

Get the PinIt badge to put on your toolbar. Use it to pin photos from around the Web. On the right of the search bar in Pinterest, click on the arrow beside the three lines. Choose About, and then Browser Button. Also make sure the photos on your sites are pinnable by having the Pinterest share option appear on each post or website page. Get Share buttons at http://www.sharethis.com or http://www.addthis.com

Caution: Do not pin copyrighted material. Make sure the source is listed. Upload your own photos or Repin someone else’s, or buy royalty free images. If in doubt, refrain from pinning.

Manage your pins if you wish on Tailwind: http://www.tailwindapp.com/pinreach

Pinterest can be fun once you start playing with images. It can also be so much fun looking at the pictures on display that you lose all sense of time. So be sure to do your workload for the day first, and plug in Pinterest along with your other social networking. I hope to see you there!

6+

Submission Protocol

Nancy J. Cohen

Last week, I sent a submission via snail mail. “What’s that?” you ask. It’s almost a forgotten art. I hadn’t sent out a physical manuscript in so long that I’d forgotten the specifics. I think it’s been at least five years, likely longer, since I last had to send anything from the post office. This submission went to a niche market and was another of my father’s travel journals.

So what was involved? After reading the online submission guidelines, I reviewed my manuscript. Oops, I’d forgotten all about headers and footers with the book title, author name, and page number. Having formatted for ebook requirements, I added those back in.

writing

Since this book is nonfiction, I had to include a Table of Contents. No problem. I know how to do this in Word. Oh, wait. I forgot to write a Foreword like I did with my father’s other journal, Thumbs Up, that I’d indie published. So I added the TOC. Then I deleted some of the book buy hyperlinks in the back. I shouldn’t include those for this type of submission.

A query letter topped it all off. I polished mine once more before adding it to the pile of papers. It’s also been ages since I’d had to write one of these things. It’s never easy, is it?

Now what? I printed out the whole work, since it is short and about equivalent to a normal book proposal in page count. Next came the SASE. How do you do this again? If you want the manuscript back, you have to put actual postage stamps on a suitably sized manila envelope. This means you have to weigh the envelope for return postage with the manuscript inside, affix the stamps, remove the pages and stuff them into the outer envelope along with the folded SASE. A complicated business, isn’t it? Or you can just include a stamped and self-addressed #10 business envelope for the form rejection letter you’re sure to get.

envelopes

And then comes the great sigh of relief when you send your baby off at the post office. This generates a more visceral response than sending a book into cyberspace. Somehow the physical manuscript seems more a part of you.

Weeks pass and then months. You watch the mail for the return envelope. Once you see it, gloom sets in. You’ve been rejected. And you start the process all over again.

At least that’s how it used to be done in the old days. Do you remember those times? Do you miss them?

6+

What A Freelance Editor Brings to the Table

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

Matrice

Editor: Mary-Theresa Hussey

My guest today is my favorite editor (for my Young Adult books at Harlequin Teen), Mary-Theresa Hussey. Her passion for books shows in everything she does. I love collaborating with her. She has a meticulous eye for detail, but her true strength lies in her realistic understanding of character motivation and the emotion of a story. I’m proud to have her as my guest today at TKZ. Welcome, Matrice!

***

So you’ve written your book shared it with a critique partner, revised it, set it aside for a bit, revised it once more and are ready for the next step. Your mother, friend and sister love it and think it’s perfect.

What’s next? Well, it does depend on your goals for that novel. Do you want to find an agent? A publisher? Self-publish it? Go Indy? Do you want to share it with a few people or the wider world?

If you’re aiming at an agent or publisher, you might feel it’s in solid shape and you’ll wait for those professionals to give feedback and direction. That can be the right route if your project fits in with their goals as well.

However, if you haven’t gotten many bites, or you want to go indy, then you might want to investigate working with a freelance editor. The editor might help pinpoint some areas that will capture that agent/publisher or else give you the confidence to self-publish yourself. Freelancing can be hard for anyone who decides they are interested in going down that path. But knowing that various aspects like the finances can be handled with a simple invoice template, this means one less aspect to think about. You’ll have more time to focus on what you love to do, which is writing.

Luckily there are some places where you might be able to get the resources you need to help you along with your freelance career, for example, using an invoice template could be a good way of keeping on top of your clients.

So what does the freelance editor bring to the table?
She represents the reader in the bookstore or booksite, the ones who will pay to read your book—and hopefully all the ones after that!
She is not your friend or critique partner who listened to you talk about all the characters and plot and goals. If it’s not on the page for her, she’s going to question it and ask why—or why not.
She has not been in your mind to understand the motivations or conflict or themes. Though you don’t need to hit the reader over the head, sometimes you’ve got to explain the elements that you know but the reader doesn’t have a clue about.
She doesn’t love your darlings in the same way, and will tell you to cut or trim or toss as needed.
She’s caring but dispassionate. She’s looking for what will make the best story and draw that reader to the end. She won’t aim to hurt your feelings, but will challenge you on what makes a better novel.
She should be reading the manuscript that you’ve polished, gotten feedback on and are confident is ready to go, not the first draft. Have it in as strong as possible a shape so it’s better for both of you.
She should also have a knowledge of and appreciation for the genre you’re writing in so that the notes are targeted to your goals, not her own ideal book.
She has a strong sense of grammar, of rules, and knowing what to encourage as your voice and when to rein in flights of fancy.
She may, depending on the agreement, be able to give you feedback on titling, copy and other material. But that can be an editor specific element.
Most important, depending on your needs, you might want a development editor, line editor or copy editor. Make sure you know what you want and hire the right person at the right stage! Some editors are especially talented in one area or another. Make sure you’re getting the right person for you at the right time.
The Developmental Editor is looking at the big picture of pacing and structure and characterization and plot. She’s not going to focus on grammar or eye color or such, but is looking at the overall goals of your story and how you are achieving them.
The Line Editor will probably note specific areas where pacing or structure or characterization needs to be tweaked, but hopefully all those elements will have been addressed. She’s going to be looking at the specifics of reading the manuscript, looking for errors in fact and name and restructuring sentences. She does read it line by line to see if the author has expressed herself as clearly as she could.
The Copy Editor focuses on the details. She will know what all the characters names are, and their relation to each other and probably hair and eye color, but isn’t going to ask if the pacing is too slow. She’ll fix all the grammar issues and typos, but won’t comment on inconsistent characterization—unless the character is misstating facts between chapters. She’ll find the typos but won’t question the plot (unless you have your character walking out of the room twice—that she’ll notice!).

An editor—freelancer or not—will wear many hats, but there are some things she probably won’t do.

She’s not a writing teacher. She won’t teach you the ins and outs about craft. She should be able to point out the errors and why something would be better in another form, but it probably won’t lead to hours of one-on-one discussions about the reasons behind your choices and her corrections.
Since she probably won’t take the time to teach you how to write a better story, she’s also not going to (depending on the agreement) rewrite the book. She’s working with your words and making suggestions, not rewriting everything herself. She’s certainly planning on helping improve the story, but it’s your writing that is the base of it all.
Along those lines, she may or may not be a writer herself. If it’s important to you one way or the other, check that out first! It can be incredibly helpful at times to have an editor who is a writer, but sometimes not.
The freelance editor is not a publisher. She probably knows a bit about self-publishing and has picked up information on metadata and ISBNS, but it will be the author’s responsibility to work through the process.
She’s also not likely to be a miracle worker. No editor can guarantee the book will be picked up by an agent or publisher or become number one on the bestseller list. What she can strive for to the best of her knowledge and ability is that all the elements that make a stronger story have been reviewed and addressed and there are minimal errors of grammar and typos in the story.
Naturally, I think a good editor brings a lot to the table, but the author has to do the work first and understand her own goals for the project. It’s best if you are both on the same page going in, so you end up in the strongest possible position at the end of the revision/edit. In the end, it’s the author’s name on the book, and the author who stands behind her words.
So what are you looking for in an editor? Any good or bad experiences? Do share what you can.
Matrice

After a long editorial career at Harlequin, Mary-Theresa Hussey is now offering her years of experience to authors and industry professionals as a freelance editor. She’s passionate about books and good stories–and she wants to be sure that they are well told. Check out her site at www.GoodStoriesWellTold.com

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