The Book of Revelations is my second book and will be coming out soon. It is a woman’s journey to self-acceptance. More details to follow.
For this month’s post, I am pleased to interview professional editor Kristen Tate. I hired Kristen for developmental editing, copy editing, and very soon, the interior formatting of my second novel. I am a pantser – that is, I plan very little as I write. This writing style most often requires many edits after the first draft is finished. In my case, I had great difficulty with both the characters and plot and was at a loss on how to refine and improve it. I needed help and was worried I would have to abandon the project if I couldn’t make it work. Fortunately, with Kristen’s guidance, direction, and tremendous patience, I was able to polish the writing into a finished manuscript that I am satisfied with. I asked Kristen to share her experiences and insights in the writing world in an interview and she agreed.
1. Q. Please tell me about your background and how you came to enter the field of freelance copyediting?
Reading has always been the thing I loved most, so I looked for a job that would pay me to read. At first, I thought I would be an academic and I got a PhD in English, which was a (mostly) wonderful experience. My job this week is to read Bleak House and Paradise Lost and write about them and show up in class and say smart things about them? Yes, please! But then I had to face the challenging realities of the academic job market. I had a toddler and a baby at that point, and it wasn’t going to be easy for me to relocate somewhere for a job. After a while, I started doing pro bono editing work and exploring jobs in publishing, as well as getting freelance work as a copywriter. I had a client who was self-publishing a book, and that was the first time I realized that I would be able to build a viable freelance career focused on book editing. I took some additional courses to hone my copyediting and developmental editing skills and started to build my business, little by little.
2. Q. I saw your name on Joanna Penn’s list of copyeditors. I hired you because I thought you did an excellent job on my manuscript’s sample edit and your price was reasonable. How do you stand out in the large field of copyediting freelancers?
I try to be authentic and relatable in all of my communications, whether that’s a blog post or an off-the-cuff tweet. We get so many generic marketing messages these days that simply sounding like a real human can help you stand out. I also draw from my training and experience as a teacher. My job is to help authors improve the book we are currently working on together, but my mission is to teach them skills they can use in every piece of writing they will do in the future. My clients learn to trust me, and at least half of my projects during any given year are from repeat clients or from client referrals.
3. Q. What do you enjoy most about your work? What do you dislike about it?
I love working with words and stories every day. My job is to make sure authors tell the best story they can and that readers have the best experience possible. What could be better than that? I love that I can set my own schedule and work processes. The downside will be familiar to anyone who freelances: I’m also in charge of invoicing, accounting, taxes, website maintenance, and all kinds of other boring things that just have to get done.
4. Q. I believe I speak for many writers when I say that I wish I could write full-time or have a job using my writing skills instead of writing whenever I have free time. What would you advise writers like myself?
This is something I have come to believe as I have gotten older: All of us have a vision of a perfect future life – if only I could do X, then I would be happy. The truth is, if you were doing X you would still have a lot of the same challenges, they would just take different forms. That said, it’s easier now than ever before to build a career around writing skills. But you’ve got to be self-disciplined and realistic and learn how to be a freelancer who can make an income. Those are different skills than writing skills, and not everyone wants to learn them.
5. Q. How did you receive training for copyediting?
I started by taking the professional editing certificate sequence at the University of California at Berkeley and then supplemented that with developmental editing courses offered by the Editorial Freelancers Association. I also learn a lot from my thousands of virtual editing colleagues, whom I’ve met in online forums, through professional associations like the Editorial Freelancers Association, and at editing conferences like ACES. And I read and read and read. Writing craft books, grammar books, novels, business books – all of it teaches you to be a better editor.
6. Q. Please tell me about the level of difficulty entering this field? Do many copyeditors work for publishing houses or other related companies full-time?
It’s not necessarily hard to enter the field as a freelancer, but it can take quite a while to find your footing. Many copyeditors do work full time in house, though a great deal of that work is outsourced to freelancers now. If you live in a place where there are publishing companies, getting some in-house experience can be really valuable, and you may find that you love the work and want to stay. I did an internship at Chronicle Books and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s exciting to walk into a bookstore and see a book you helped with on the shelf. I do occasional work for publishers, but most of my work is with independent authors, and I think that’s where the growth will be for freelance editors.
7. Q. How do you find the self-publishing field today? Is it flourishing? Are too many writers publishing their work unedited and thereby harming the reputation of those who choose to self-publish?
I think the self-publishing field is starting to mature. There is so much good information out there these days and a lot of tools and services that can help writers put out a professional product that is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. There are also a lot of authors who have had traditionally published books and are moving some or all of their work to self-publishing, which helps raise the bar and standards for everyone.
8. Q. Do you do other work besides copyediting?
I also do developmental editing (also called content editing), which involves helping authors fine-tune the big-picture aspects of their books like plot and character arcs and narration. But editing is my full-time job. I’m working on a novel manuscript as well, but it may never see the light of day. I see myself as an editor/reader first and a writer second.
9. Q. What books do you recommend for writers? For those interested in copyediting?
I spent 2019 reading a different writing craft book every week, so I have a lot of recommendations! Writers can check out my blog archive at https://www.thebluegarret.com/novel-study, and I’m also gathering the reviews into a little book called All the Words: A Year of Reading about Writing, which should be out in February 2020. For anyone interested in copyediting, I’d recommend The Copyeditor’s Handbook and Workbook by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz (look for the most recent edition, published in 2019), The Subversive Copyeditor by Carol Fisher Saller, and The Smooth-Sailing Freelancer by Jake Poinier.
10. Q. Are there writing organizations that you have had dealings with that you can recommend to writers who would like to improve their writing and/or marketing skills?
I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Writers are knowledgeable and generous with their knowledge, and you can learn so much from their experiences. My favorites are Write-Minded, with Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner; the Story Grid Editors Roundtable; the Editing Podcast; and, of course, Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn. Jane Friedman also has remarkable amount of well-organized, in-depth information for writers on her website.
For writers looking to build a virtual or in-person community, I think participating in one of the NaNoWriMo events and joining a writing circle there can be a great way to start. There are also so many fantastic regional writing conferences, where writers can learn about both the craft and business sides of being an author and can build connections with other writers. I’ll be attending the San Francisco Writers Conference in February on behalf of the Editorial Freelancers Association.
11. Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Whether you want to publish a novel or become a book editor, stick with it. Persistence in the face of difficulty, doubt, lack of time, imposter syndrome, and all the other ordinary demons is the thing that will get you where you want to be. You’ll learn along the way, and you won’t regret the time you spent pursuing your passion, whatever the outcome is. I love what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
Thank you, Kristen for your assistance and willingness to share your wealth of knowledge.
My second novel, The Book of Revelations, a women’s fiction and will hopefully be coming out soon.
I attended two BookBaby conferences in Philadelphia and heard author and marketing consultant Eva Lesko Natiello speak at both of them. I was so impressed, not only with the success of her best-selling self-published novel, The Memory Box, but also her generosity in giving other writers very practical and useful tips on book promotion. So I decided she would be a great person to interview for my website.
Q. Please tell me about your background and how you began your writing career.
A. My writing career actually started when I left my first career to start a family. I have always had a daily need to do something creative, and it has taken the shape of many things over the years from painting, singing, sewing, cooking, crafts, etc. I actually had never intended to write a book, but I had just moved to New Jersey from New York City where I was living and working. Moving to the suburbs with young children plopped me into a new social circle of suburban moms. There is a definite way things are done in the suburbs that’s different from the way they ‘re done in the city. When I started writing my novel, I knew instantly that I wanted to set this psychological suspense in a bucolic suburb where the community of stay-at-home moms, a sub-culture all its own, would help highlight the juxtaposition of conformity and deception.
Q. How long were you writing before you began your novel? Did you take classes to polish your writing skills?
A. I basically started writing when I was writing my novel—though I didn’t know I was writing a novel at the time! I actually did take a writing class at the New School when I was about halfway through my novel and needed direction. It was an invaluable experience.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, The Memory Box?
A. One day I read a story in The New York Times about people Googling themselves. It mentioned that a 17-year-old boy, who was living in Los Angeles, Googled himself and discovered he was on a missing persons list in Canada. He had no idea until he Googled himself, that he was a victim of parent abduction. The fact that someone could find out something so personal about himself from a Google search was a fascinating concept to me.
Q. You have spoken to audiences about your journey to becoming a self-published author. Please explain it here briefly because I know other writers will be inspired by your story.
A. To be honest, self-publishing was a back-up plan. I had hoped to be traditionally published. But after three years of querying agents and receiving 81 rejections, I had to make a decision: give up and tuck the manuscript away, or learn everything I could about self-publishing and publish on my own. I had no idea it was going to find so many readers and hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. So many wonderful things have happened along the way. None of which would have happened if that manuscript were still on my computer.
Q. How were you able to promote your self-published book so that it became a New York Times bestseller?
A. That took a lot of hard work! And a good deal of time. Building sales momentum takes time when you’re an indie and you’re wearing all the hats. I started marketing in my community where people want me to succeed and I received a ton of support. One of the things I did early on, in the first year especially, was to get book clubs excited about The Memory Box. It’s a great book club read and people love to talk about it—mostly because it has a shocking ending. I attended as many book club discussions as I could. To date, I’ve attended over 200!
Q. Do you think the publishing world is slowly beginning to accept self-published authors or is there still a great deal of bias?
A. Oh definitely! Every day you hear about another traditionally published author coming over to the indie side. That’s when you know there’s real value and power to self-publishing.
Q. You have your own business helping writers promote their work. What types of services do you offer?
A. I help authors prepare to self-publish and share everything I do with my own books. I also coach authors on book marketing—giving them the tips and tools they need to increase visibility for their books in order to find readers and sell books.
Q. What type of authors should consider investing in a publicist? Is a marketing strategy always needed?
A. There’s definitely a lot of value in publicity, whether that’s with traditional media, book bloggers, influencers, etc. Before hiring a publicist, an author should consider how commercial their book is, or if it has a unique hook, or perhaps, if writing non-fiction, if the topic is newsworthy.
I also want to add that whether an author hires a marketing consultant or not, every author needs a marketing strategy. It’s impossible for a book to find its readers, gain traction in regards to sales, and have any hope for visibility without marketing. There are just too many books published in any given year. And if you’re an indie author, it’s even harder for your book to get noticed. But once authors learn a few targeted marketing tools and strategies appropriate for their book, genre and for them as an author, it feels incredibly empowering to know that they are moving the sales needle.
Q. What common mistakes do you see beginning authors making that you would like to warn them about?
A. I recently published an article on Medium titled: (Mostly undiscussed) Advice for Beginning Authors. You can read it at https://writingcooperative.com/mostly-undiscussed-advice-for-beginning-authors-73f31e9e869d.
Q. Are there particular books you recommend to help writers develop their craft?
A. I really like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
Q. Please share some trends you are noticing in the book industry.
A. I see trade authors self-publishing and I see self-published authors publishing some trade books. So, what’s emerging is the hybrid author: someone who publishes in more than one way.
Recently, I had a phone consultation with Eva about a book cover design for my new novel. She provided me a wealth of tips and information. If you are a writer, I highly recommend her services and advice. To sign up for her newsletter, go to https://evanatiello.com/.
It has been over a month since I posted my last blog. I have been very busy with good things. One of them is I took my very first cruise. I never thought I would ever do it (Images of the movie The Poseidon Adventure, which I saw as a child, prevented me from ever considering a cruise), but a family wedding and the chance to see Europe overrode my fears of water. I am so glad because I will always look back on this trip as a truly wonderful experience. The past year and a half have been stressful for me and my family because my father-in-law was very sick. Unfortunately, he passed away in May. But this vacation cruise convinced me that this world is filled with so many wonders and experiences that a person should never give up hope that things can always turn around.
We traveled to Barcelona and Mallorca, Spain; Marseilles, France; and Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It was a trip of a lifetime!
The staff on the cruise were so accommodating and eager to help make the vacation as enjoyable as possible. I felt, “Yes! We deserve to be pampered after all our years of hard work and struggles. Why not enjoy it.”
Another reason to celebrate is my second novel is in the proofreading stage. Like True Mercy, my latest literary effort took about four years to write and edit. Now I have to find a cover designer and decide how to distribute the novel. Unlike the first, my second novel is women’s fiction and the main theme is self-acceptance.
Months ago, I posted a rough draft of my second novel on Wattpad, an online community for writers and readers, and when I returned from my trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find more followers.
Surely, life can turn around!
I am also happy to report that hard-working special-needs advocates are beginning to see progress in their ongoing battle to support the autism community. Whether you like President Trump or not, you have to give him credit for extending the Autism CARES (Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support) Act for five more years. The President reserved $1.8 billion dollars for this extension. In addition, the Autism CARES Act will require the Department of Health and Human Services to compile a report for Congress about the health and welfare of individuals in the autism community.
And that’s not all. Insurance companies in all fifty states are now required to cover on some level the treatment of autism that is deemed medically necessary, including ABA (applied behavior analysis).
I will most likely be only able to blog once a month from now on, but I am determined to write news of interest to my readers on a variety of topics, including the latest on autism, human trafficking prevention, inspirational stories, and book reviews.
I was an unusual kid in school – I loved English grammar. I still remember diagramming sentences to demonstrate my understanding of the different parts of speech. Reading Dreyer’s English brought me back to the days of my high school English classes.
Of course, reading an entire book about straight grammar, style, and punctuation would be dry and boring, even for me. But this book is anything but. Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief at Random House, gives entertaining and often humorous explanations and comments while writing about proper English usage and style. Dryer writes about words and rules in which people often make mistakes. Some examples include similarly-spelled words like aid and aide, which titles need quotation marks and which require italics, and the frequent mistake of using two words when one is sufficient (For example, the term “free gift” is a redundancy). Dreyer uses famous people, books, TV shows, and songs as examples. Together with his wit, Dreyer’s English a pleasure. While I was reading, I started wishing I became a copy editor myself because he made the rules so fascinating – I would love to work with words on an everyday basis. My only complaint is the footnote symbols are so tiny that I often missed them, so by the time I got to the bottom of the page, I didn’t know which section each footnote was referring to. Overall, it is a handy reference book for everyone.