Molly Jo Realy is an award-winning writer, editor, social media ninja and author coach. Nicknamed the Bohemian Hurricane, she encourages people to embrace their unique talents and gifts to come alive and celebrate life every day. Recently rooted in South Carolina, she celebrates with her family, her cats, a good cup of coffee, and an addiction to pens. Visit her blog and author website!
Anna Floit, owner of The Peacock Quill, (sweetly named in honor of her grandmother) started with Tyndall Publishers, worked with Thomas Nelson (who is now with Harper Collins), and has continued to build her career with big name publishers and authors, as well as writers ready to indie publish.
She started working with Lifeway recently as an editor on one of their production magazines—the September issue of Home Life magazine. We’re thrilled to have her today on Writers Chat. Check out the replay, the links, and the paraphrased transcript below.
Macro vs Micro Viewpoints
Developmental substantive editing—“The Macro View” means making sure the work flows and makes sense, studying characters if it’s fiction, but that’s where the focus is on the editor’s end. Anna will also wordsmith it along the way to make it more clear.
Proofreading is “The Micro View,” which consists of grammar, punctuation, and line editing.
Fun fact: In her book Twirl, Patsy Clairmont credited Anna!
1. What sparks your eye in a pitch from a client?
Since I’m not an agent, acquisitions editor, or publisher, I’m not looking at a manuscript to see if it’s publish-worthy. My job is to make authors to look their best. At that point, it’s up to an agent or acquisitions team to see if the book is marketable. Whatever an author brings, I put it into shape.
If it’s a self-publishing author, I give suggestions from a reader’s perspective. I really believe everyone has a story and that every story matters. It’s my job to validate my authors. All I’m doing is spitting and polishing! I maintain my authors’ voices so it sounds like them and not me. If an author uses the same word over and over, I teach them lessons on the thesaurus.
Work that I turn down is against my value system.
A lot of work is done through referrals, so there’s a bridge there. I also have an inquiry page on my website to help understand the project better.
2. How should an author choose an editor?
Understand the value of a great editor.
Editing is really time-consuming. I don’t think a lot of people understand the methodology that goes into it. Grammar rules change all time, like the comma before the word “too.” She versus her…the world would be a better place if people used pronouns correctly! Often the price reflects the time and knowledge.
NYT Bestselling author Jon Acuff recommends to spend your money up front. “You have the rest of your life to market this book, so spend the money on an editor.”
A lot of editors do charge for sample edits because those are working hours. A friend’s grandfather always said, “If you hire your friends, pay them more.” It’s such a different opinion than what most people do.
Anna says, “I change passive voice into active voice a lot, and then let my writers know why I’m making the change. ‘As a child, my dad told me…’ That means it happened when the dad was a child. It should read, ‘When I was a child, my dad told me…'”
Question: How do you know when you can use passive voice? Sometimes it’s the only thing that works.
Anna: I try to change the verbs into active. Passive voice uses a lot of helping verbs and I try to get rid of them whenever possible. Sometimes they just work, though.
Know your audience, know the rules…but sometimes they can be bent to say something better.
3. If you’re working as an editor, how do you determine your rates?
Anna: Usually there is a range. A developmental edit with research is more expensive than a proofreading edit. I go by word count because fonts, margins, and font sizes are all different. On the low end, $8 for every 250 words. On the high end, it goes to $14 for every 250 words. I can often pick up through email communication if the person is a good writer, or if the project is going to take a long time. I’ll look at a sample chapter to get an idea of their writing style. There are a lot of factors.
Working with a bestseller changed my rate. Just like an actor gets paid more after they win a Grammy, this is our craft, and we have to do the same thing as we grow.
For someone starting out, you want to make sure you’re within the industry standard. Maybe start at the $4 per 250 word mark for proofreading to get some clients under your belt.
BONUS #1: Are there red flags that authors and writers should look out for when hiring an editor?
Someone who doesn’t:
Listen to what you want
Pay attention to your voice
Show interest in you, just interested in having work
Anna: I like to build relationships with my authors. I don’t use e-lance or sites where you’re someone behind a computer. I want to get to know the person I’m working with and be accessible. I do have guidelines in place. Even if I’m working around the clock, I don’t normally send emails outside of typical working hours so I don’t give the impression that I’m on call at all times. I don’t want to let anyone down if I’m not answering their emails at nine o’clock at night.
Expectations and communication are important, so if someone isn’t willing to do that for you, it could be a red flag.
BONUS #2: What is a blog editor and what do they do?
It’s typically around 500 words of copyediting—basically editing posts before they go live. It’s important to have a consistent voice and look polished. You may not be a writer but need to have content on your site. Having a professional editor look through your work can help clean up and find anything that’s missing.
Format: 12 point, Times New Roman, 1” margins, Full Justified
Certain Rules and Guidelines: how to use numbers in a document (written out one through one hundred. After that they can be numeric.)
Don’t use all caps to emphasis. Use italics.
The Oxford Comma — having a list of more than two things. The Oxford Comma goes after the last item in a list. It eliminates confusion by having it there. Also called the serial comma.
No double spaces after punctuation.
Reprinting and republishing is really expensive, so try to catch everything on the front end. Anna recommends her readers hiring a proofreader after her to sweep up.
Athena Dean Holtz is the co-founder of Redemption Press and host of Always Faithful Radio Group, mentions the book Nam Vet: Making Peace with your Past (paperback here | e-book here) and how it sold 10,000 copies before it got a press behind it and has gone on to sell hundreds of thousands. Self-publishing can be an incredible tool, especially if you have an already-built audience.
Athena’s Publishing Tips
Be teachable!!! Use an editor, and critique group!
Have someone critique who isn’t your “yes” person and doesn’t know your entire back story. Too much familiarity can cause your reader to subconsciously fill in the gaps.
A speaker (or anyone who has a built-in audience) may need product right away – and self-publishing is a great way to fill this need.
Recommends Lightning Source for Print on Demand
Take the Time to Set Up:
Editing & Critiquing
Walk around Barnes and Noble and check out what you like. Write down your themes and commonalities so you can get the branding you want.