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Different Kinds Of Editing, And How To Find An Editor With Kristen Tate

    Categories: Writing

What are the different types of editing? How can you find and work effectively with the best editor for your book? What are some editing tips to watch out for in your fiction or non-fiction manuscript? With Kristen Tate from The Blue Garret.

In the intro, hiring virtual assistants [ALLi]; and I'm recording my audiobook of How to Write a Novel, launching in the next few weeks.

Do you need a professional editor for your book? Check out my list of recommended editors and proofreaders here.

Kristen Tate is an editor and founder of The Blue Garret, which offers editing services and advice for authors. She has a Ph.D. in English, from Columbia University, focusing on novels and publishing history. And she's the author of All The Words: A Year of Reading About Writing.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • The three phases of editing and when an author would use them
  • With AI tools available, why do we need human editors?
  • Common issues that editors find in fiction and non-fiction
  • When to consider rewriting or re-editing a book
  • Tips for how to approach a rewrite and re-edit
  • How to find an editor who’s a good fit for you

You can find Kristen Tate at TheBlueGarret.com and on Twitter @KristenTateSF

Transcript of Interview with Kristen Tate

Joanna: Kristen Tate is an editor and founder of The Blue Garret, which offers editing services and advice for authors. She has a Ph.D. in English, from Columbia University, focusing on novels and publishing history. And she's the author of All The Words: A Year of Reading About Writing. Kristen is also my editor mostly for fiction, but also for my recent, How To Write a Novel book. Welcome to the show, Kristen.

Kristen: Thanks, Joanna. It's so great to be having a real-life conversation with you, not just in the Microsoft Word comments. I'm thrilled to be here.

Joanna: That is funny. And maybe we'll come back to this, but you and I have never spoken before today, which is brilliant. And of course, introvert writers, introvert editors. I mean, why do we need to speak? It's just not necessary!

Kristen: We communicate very well in those document comments.

Joanna: Exactly, in writing.

Before we get into that, tell us a bit more about you and why you chose to become an editor?

Kristen: I think as is the case for many of us, this was very much a winding path for me. But when I look back and I follow all the threads, I can see that really what I was trying to do all along was find a job that would allow me to spend most of my time reading and thinking about words.

As you said, I have a Ph.D. in English from Columbia, and I thought at one point I was going to become an English professor and I did love being a graduate student. I really did get to spend the bulk of my time reading and thinking, and also starting to teach, which I realized that I loved doing too.

But then there were a lot of other things about the academic life that didn't match up with the life I wanted to lead and how I wanted to spend my time.

So at the point, I made the decision, I was going to step away from academia. I also had two tiny human children and was spending a lot of time with them and gradually trying to, figure out other things, to find my next steps.

I knew I could write and I could edit. I started doing some freelance copywriting and copy editing. And I also did an internship with a wonderful local publisher here in San Francisco, Chronicle Books, to see if publishing would be a good fit.

TI loved my time there, but also found that much like in academia, there was a lot of talking about books and meetings about books, but not a lot of time really sitting and working with words. So I realized that was not going to be the path for me and continued on with the freelance copywriting and copy editing.

Then in 2015, I worked with, a copywriting client on a business book he was self-publishing and this was the first I had heard of any such thing. And that just opened up a whole new world for me. And I realized that this was something I could specialize in. So I started doing a lot of learning.

That's about the time I found your podcast and just soaked it all in. I went back and did some more retraining and made sure that I had the skills I needed to work on both fiction and nonfiction, and then I've never looked back. And now it feels like this is the thing I was always meant to do.

I really do get to spend the bulk of my working day, sitting quietly and as an introvert, reading books and thinking about words and I'm thrilled that I found, my place, my spot.

Joan: I love that. I love that you identified the things you didn't want as well in the career. I think that's so important.

I also want to say that you said you love teaching, and we'll talk about how you do editing, but I love the little comments you leave for me sometimes. I've talked openly on this show that I have some blind spots and you put a little comment and you'll say, ‘This is the reason I've made this change.' And you try your best to educate me in things that, I just can't see it.

Of course, I just love to know these little bits and bobs, even though I might not remember them. So I feel like you still do a bit of teaching.

Also, you do still have courses, and you try and educate through your site.

Kristen: I do. That's a big part of what I do. A lot of that is editing is expensive. Especially for folks starting out who don't have book sales to fund the editing of the next book, it's really important to me that some of this be accessible. So you get my teaching in the comments, but I share a lot of stuff on my website.

There's a lot of blog posts there. I do have a course that's specifically targeted for indie authors that's about the whole copyediting process and will teach you everything that you don't know and might be worried about.

And I've mentioned to you, I do teach, I try to teach in my edits. I try to explain what I'm doing. Because I think I want to demystify the process for authors.

It can feel scary to be handing over your labor of love to someone else and let them into your manuscript.

It's important to me for authors to know why I'm making the suggestions I'm making. Now, whether you remember it or not, that doesn't matter. I really see myself, I'm the comma expert. You don't have to be the comma expert. That's exactly why you're hiring me.

I think writers sometimes feel like they're supposed to know more than they do. And I really see authors, you are the idea specialist, you're the creative person bringing these ideas to life through your words.

My job is just to make them better, to make sure they're clean and correct. And to improve anything I can see could be improved.

It's definitely it's not a gotcha thing. Like, ‘Oh, Joanna, I told you about this comma and here you are using again.' That literally, never crosses my mind. And I don't think it crosses the mind of other editors. We're really oriented towards, ‘Oh, here's a comma I can fix.' Like, ‘Here's a way I can improve this.' We really are helpers, you know.

Joanna: Helpers; that's exactly right. But of course, we're using the word editing. You've mentioned copyediting. I mean, we use this one word, editing, but I feel like it's not one thing. And there are different phases, there are different types, and it depends on so many things.

Can you briefly outline the different types of editing, phases of editing, and what authors might expect?

Kristen: Let's break that down. I think that's another thing that many writers don't know going into the process and like everything else, knowledge is power. So I really break this down into three stages.

First is content editing, which is sometimes also called developmental editing or structural editing. And not all writers and not all books need this step. But I think especially for newer writers, it can be a great way to get feedback on how the story is working and on things that you might not have seen in your work.

This is really a time for an editor to look at big picture issues. Does the plot hold together? Does your protagonist have a defined character arc? How is the pacing across the course of a novel?

You can hire an editor for this, but you can also get feedback from critique groups or beta readers. It just might not be as thorough and they might not be able to tell you how to fix any problems they find. An editor ideally will give you some ideas about how you might make changes to your manuscript. So that's content editing, that's stage one.

Second is copyediting. And really that's what we've been talking about so far. This is really at the polishing stage. This is the one step that I think every author should try to hire a professional editor for if it's at all possible for you.

The goal at this stage is to end up with a manuscript that is correct, consistent, clear, and stylish.

Those first three are really the heart of copyediting. It's aboutT making sure things like grammar and mechanics are correct. All those commas are where they're supposed to be. But it's also about making your book look like any other book a reader might pick up off their shelf. 

Traditional publishers use style guides. Here in the U.S., that means Chicago Manual style. In the UK, that's usually the New Oxford Style Manual. And those rules, they're conventions. And they're different from what you see in journalism or web copy.

They're small things. Like writing out numbers up to a hundred. A reader's not going to misunderstand it, but it sends a subtle cue that this book is slightly different from other books. That's when I'm working with indie authors, in particular, my goal absolutely is to make sure that their book looks indistinguishable from something that Harper Collins or another publisher is putting out.

The last piece of that, that second stage, is style. Once you've made sure all the mechanics and all of that are correct, spelling's right, you're left with style. Some editors call this line editing. I think of it really as part of copy editing, but this is where an editor's going to be thinking through every sentence and asking, ‘Can this be improved in any way. Would a different verb be more effective or what if the last clause came first?' That's the second stage, that polishing stage.

The last stage is proofreading. At this point, one of the things I always remind people I work with is to really stop fussing with the book after the copyediting process, because once you're in proofreading, you're really just trying to catch those final pesky typos or any tiny consistency errors. It's really a cleanup round.

It also means doing things like ordering a print proof and paging through it and looking at your e-book files in an e-reader or an app, and making sure there aren't any weird little line breaks or something. It's just doing all those final checks.

So trying to be a stand-in for the reader and making sure you catch any problems before it's your reader who's catching that. Those are the three stages, content editing, copyediting, and proofreading.

Again, you don't need to pay for professional editing for all three of these stages for every book. That is the gold standard, but it's also, it's expensive, as I've said.

So you really need to think through your goals for the book that you're working on right now and what your overall budget for that book is.

And where you are as a writer in terms of experience and what kinds of outside resources like critique groups you might have access to.

Joanna: That's great. What a great overview. I've used all different kinds at different stages. I'm a fan of editors. I think that a human editor is so important and I say, human, because, of course, there's lots of tools now.

I use ProWritingAid, there's Grammarly. There are more tools emerging all the time that can help authors with editing.

How can we use these tools in the best way to help bring down the cost or at least get rid of some of the most basic issues in order that the edit, perhaps the human can focus on what humans do?

And why do we still need a human editor?

Kristen: This is such an interesting question, and I think we are going to be thinking and talking about this for years to come. This is the future that is in front of us.

I live in a household with a couple of pretty serious computer geeks. This is a dinner table conversation for us. So I tend to be maybe more open-minded than some other editors about how we can use these things.

I do think that there are editors out there who are fearful of software and AI tools in the same way that some writers are fearful of them. I think the fear is that these things are going to eliminate our jobs. I just don't see that happening.

I really see these as tools that we can use to make our work as writers and editors both faster and better. Editors are already using some of these tools. I also use ProWritingAid as a check. I don't run it on your manuscripts because I know you do it, but for other clients, I will run that through because it does flag things that I could easily miss.

So I think it's good to talk about what a program like that is good at and then what it misses. It's excellent obviously at catching mechanical problems like missing punctuation or something like that. I think it's also really good at flagging things like cliched phrases and repetition and lack of sentence variety.

Those are things that I often will catch, but they won't always rise to the surface for me, especially if one of those things pops up in a passage where I'm really spending a lot of time fussing over a sentence. So I just like knowing that I don't need to think so much about cliches because ProWritingAid is going to flag those for me, and then I can pass along that feedback to a writer. So those are the good things about a program like that.

I think it's important to note that they do sometimes get things wrong. And I think this is especially important in fiction because there are so few absolute rules. Even common rules are a little bit bendier I think than many writers think.

But one thing that I think ProWriting Aid is very good at flagging is passive voice. And this is something that we've talked about in our comment conversation.

Joanna: I have overcorrected and then you have put them back.

Kristen: Yes. That is a demonstration of exactly why you need a human editor. I think the thing to know there is that sometimes you really do need passive voice. There's a reason that we have this construction.

A good example might be a sentence like, ‘A red Maserati was parked in the driveway. So if I'm a character and I'm pulling up to my home and there's this red Maserati I've never seen before parked in my driveway, I don't know who parked it there. And that's actually part of the mystery of the sentence.

So that sentence really does need to be in passive voice because the important information there is the red Maserati and we've got it upfront. So there are things like that, that you don't want to change.

I think to take away, I think the fear around these tools is to remember that you, as a writer are writing books for human readers. And you need a human editor to be a stand-in for your readers. That's really one of my jobs. So when I'm editing, I think of myself first and foremost as a reader.

I'm paying attention to things like, where am I confused or where does something seem slow? Where do I stumble over a sentence? And we might see an AI program get to that level of nuance and analysis in our lifetimes, but we're definitely not there now.

I think too, that an AI is never going to be able to give the kind of personal warm feedback that a human editor can give. And that's part of what you're getting. You're hiring someone who's going to know your book almost as well as you do and can encourage you. And remind you of the good things about it when you are stuck in that inevitable cycle of, ‘Oh, this is all terrible. And I am so bored with it and I wanted to quit it.' I just don't think an AI is ever going to be able to provide that encouragement to keep going.

Joanna: I think at the end of the day, like you said, there's going to be a human reader. So you need a human perspective and absolutely everyone knows on this show that I'm positive about AI tools, but I absolutely want to use human editors.

Let's get into some of the common issues. Of course, one of the great things I feel about editors is you've read so many manuscripts. And even though as writers, we've read a lot of books, we read books that are finished. We read the final product. We never read those early manuscripts. Lots of people send me them, but I never read them because that's not what I do, I'm not an editor.

What are some of the most common issues you see in fiction in particular?

Kristen: That's such a good point. I think that's something to remember too, if you are an early-stage writer, do you remember that you are seeing finished books, and many times those books have been worked on by editors. So you don't need to be performing up to that level yet. And that's fine.

In terms of content editing, that first stage that we talked about, I would say the number one issue I talk about with writers is point of view. So for beginning writers, this often means deciding which character or characters is going to tell a story, making sure they aren't hopping from one character's point of view to another, in a way that's going to confuse readers.

For more experienced writers, what we're often doing is working on deepening point of view. So using various tricks, like weaving in little glimpses of interiority. Thoughts and feelings and memories into spots like dialogue exchanges, or any other place we can kind of fit them in to add some extra texture, or cutting out things, what are called filter words.

So if you have a sentence, like, ‘I saw the leaves on the trees shiver in the breeze.' That ‘I saw,' if you're deep in that first-person narrator's perspective, the reader doesn't even need that, ‘I saw.' They're going to understand intuitively that this is the narrator character seeing those leaves shivering. And then you can just cut that out.

The important verb in that sentence is the shivered. That's a great verb. And so we want to put it in the starring spot. So using tricks like that.

The other really big issue I find many writers struggle with is the opening of a novel.

This is a hard balance to pull off. Because you want to get the story started. Because seeing a character in a scene and facing some kind of conflict, that's what's going to pull the reader in, but at the same time, you need to show the reader what this character is all about.

Often that involves bringing in some backstory. I work with writers a lot about getting that balance correct. At the beginning of the novel, I see a lot of manuscripts come into me with a big long prologue that's often about a really important event. Like maybe the kind of key backstory event of their main character's life.

That material absolutely has a place in the novel. But often that place is woven in in different chunks over the course of the early chapters. Readers can really get invested in the life story that's happening. So those are all content editing issues.

From a copyediting standpoint, the number one issue I spend time on is probably dialogue.

I'm always thinking about, ‘Does something sound like dialogue for this character? Is it in their voice?' And again, this is another skill that I think writers develop over time, and it's a little bit hard to pull off.

To find that balance; we're not trying to duplicate real speech. Because that would be full of misdirections and hesitations and ums and all of that. But we also don't want it to sound just like the narrative.

Finding that balance can be tricky. I spend a lot of time helping writers think about things like word usage and formality and informality and what's right for each character.

And then I spend a lot of time on dialogue tags. So your dialogue tag is that little bit that identifies who says a sentence. If you have a line, like, ‘Give me back that book, Kristen said.' That Kristen said is the dialogue tag. This is something I think we're going to talk about the revisions that you did for your first books in the ‘ARKANE' series. I know this is one thing that you focused on, and I think this is such a great tip.

A lot of those dialogue tags you can actually convert into what's called an action tag.

So you would give the dialogue line, ‘Give me back that book,' and then add something like this. ‘Kristen knew she'd never be able to find another copy just like this one.'

It identifies the dialogue, the speaker of the dialogue line, but also adds a little introspection. We get a sense of what Kristen is thinking about this book and why it's important to her. So it's a little bit of a two for one.

There are little tricks like that, that when I'm copy editing, I try to weave into my edit. They seem small, but they can actually be quite powerful.

Joanna: This is another reason why we work with editors, is because you are just blind to your own work and to have someone else's brain… That's basically, what we're doing. We're hiring someone else's brain when you hire an editor. That's how I think.

And someone who is probably more obsessed. No, definitely more obsessed with words. I love words. I use words all the time, but I am not as obsessed with the rules, like, you mentioned the style and all of these things. My brain just doesn't think that way. And I am sure some writers do, but I feel like this is a huge difference.

An editor's brain just sees all these things that I can't even see in my work.

Kristen: Yes, absolutely. We're trained to do that. That is part of your training is to have that reflex step in. Again, as you said, as a writer, you're working on your own books.

I read dozens of manuscripts every year. So I'm seeing different writers tackle these things in different ways and stumble across these problems in different ways. And so I just am more alert and able to pick them out. I generally know what the solution is as well because I've helped another writer solve that.

Joanna: Yeah, exactly. So let's just talk about non-fiction because you do also edit non-fiction as well.

What are some of the common issues with nonfiction?

Kristen: It's actually quite different in a lot of ways. The copyediting is not so different, but when you're, again, stepping back to that first stage of content editing.

For fiction, a writer will generally come to me and they have their characters and their plot mapped out. We don't think about nonfiction books having a plot, but really they do. This is especially true if you think about creative nonfiction, like memoirs and travel writing writers have so much material.

If it's based on your own experience, you have just this wealth of stuff to draw on. So even if you're writing a book, say about a week-long trip, you can imagine how much you have to work with there. So for those kinds of books, I'm really working with an author on finding that kind of narrative spine.

You need to find a way to tell the story of the experience. And show how it shaped you and changed you. Just like in a good novel, your protagonist is going have a character arc. You want that in your creative nonfiction as well.

For something more straightforward like a self-help book or an instructional book, it's about helping that author really zero in on their specific expertise and experience or on a concrete idea or, or argument. I think this is something you really nailed for your forthcoming How to Write a Novel book.

This is a huge topic with lots of books on the subject. And you zeroed in on the discovery writer angle, and also brought in a lot of experience about writing for audio, which we all need to be thinking about. Finding that angle was very smart. Because most writing craft books assume that writers are advanced planners when that doesn't work for everyone. So that's a great example of you zeroed in on that specific hook for your non-fiction book.

Beyond the plot of the book, for non-fiction, I'm paying a lot of attention to structure and organization. I always pull out the whole outline and look at that separately and holistically. And there again, I'm trying to put myself in the place of the reader.

Is the reader going to get confused at any point. Are these sections in the right order?

Maybe there's something that's later in the book that actually would be more beneficial if it came earlier. So I'm really trying to step back and think about those things.

And then I think, from a copyeditor standpoint, I also look for opportunities to add internal references and links back to different places in the book. So this is a great example of something that someone who's spent months writing a non-fiction book is not going to be able to see those connections always. But I'm reading through the whole book in a short window of time, usually like a week or two weeks.

So I have a chance to hold the whole book in my mind and I can see a place where, ‘Okay, well, you talked about point of view in chapter 12, and there's a short discussion in chapter five. So we should also mention that there's going to be a longer discussion in chapter 12.'

Many times an author is just not going to see that opportunity at all. But those are great signposts for readers.

Joanna: Brilliant. I treat you as like a first reader as well because some people use beta readers, some people have other writer-friends, whatever, who read their book first and give other feedback like that. But I don't use writing groups.

I do a lot of self-editing, but then you are also seeing it, like you said there, you're seeing it as the whole thing. You're seeing the whole book. And so whether it hangs together.

This goes back to the what's human and what's human about the editing; does this thing hang together and progress in your mind from beginning to end, whatever type of book it is, it's a journey for the reader.

Kristen: Absolutely. The thing that the editor can do that the writer can no longer do is we can see it fresh. I approach it, especially if this is my first read, I've obviously never stepped into the manuscript before. You're hiring someone to get that fresh pair of eyes that you just cannot have yourself any longer.

Joanna: Absolutely.

Let's just also talk about rewriting older books, because the first books we've worked on together are my first three thrillers, which you edited these 2022 editions of Stone of Fire, Crypt of Bone, and Arc of Blood.

It was 10 years after I first published them, and I've learned a lot. And yet I learned a lot, but you still did a plum and a good edit on them as well. So I feel like this kind of rewriting I'm really happy I did it. I'm really happy we went through that process, but I also know that it's a big deal for people.

When should people consider rewriting, re-editing, and what should they watch out for?

Kristen: Great question. It really depends on your overall goals for your author career and then where those books that you're considering rewriting or re-editing fit into the picture.

If it's an early standalone novel, then I would likely leave it alone. I think readers do understand that you learn and evolve as a writer and someone who is a super fan might go back and find that much earlier book. And even if your craft isn't at the level that it is with later books, they can still enjoy it because they can see the seeds of where you're going or have a chance to see you tackling a theme that you often return to in a different way in an early book.

Unless you have a lot of very low reviews or comments about things like grammar mistakes, I just leave that be.

I would say the same if you have a limited series, something that's just three or four books, and then you're done. So I think rather than going back and re-editing and revising that I'd focus on putting the financial and time resources into the next series and making that as good as it can be.

Now, where I do think it makes sense is if you have a long-running series, that is the centerpiece for your author brand, as ARKANE is for yours. So this is a series that's going to run for many, many future books. And especially, if you are going to be investing advertising dollars into getting folks to start with the first book, then it might make sense to work with an editor on that first book, or to do your own kind of revision of that, to make sure that your advertising investment is going to pay off.

Here I'd really look at the numbers. I think authors have so many emotions around your books, and that makes absolute sense, but if you can decide some of these things just really based on the numbers, and I think here, I'd look at your read through. If you are seeing a lot of people reading book one, and then there's a big drop-off for book two, that might be a sign that some additional work could be helpful.

In terms of how to approach this, I would encourage folks to start with some research. So you might read a couple of advanced writing craft books, even if you feel like you've done that work in the past, find some new ones, you're always going to learn some new tips.

I would also really sit down and read very closely and carefully and with a pencil or highlighting in your Kindle, some recent popular books in your genre, and really be looking for those things.

Things like the dialogue tags, we just talked about, look for technical things that you can see these writers doing and make a list of those things. And then go back to your novels and see if you can find places where you can apply those.

Obviously, you don't want to change your character arcs or your plot or anything like that. You don't want to make those books unfamiliar to readers who have already read them and have an attachment to them. But you're just trying to elevate them a little bit.

I have a client who used the term ‘upwriting' for this kind of work, and I really love it. I think it's a good term. You're looking for opportunities to make what's already on the page better.

Joanna: Upwriting. That's a good one. I like that.

Kristen: Isn't that great? Yeah.

Joanna: That's excellent. We've talked a lot about craft, but I also think working relationships are just so important. And I was thinking back, and you did some checking of, I think my Valley Of Dry Bones years ago.

Kristen: That's right.

Joanna: About San Francisco and at the time, and I think you were in the acknowledgments of that book as checking that bit about San Francisco. It literally, wasn't an edit thing. It was more, like, a sort of local beta reader or something.

Kristen: Yeah, exactly.

Joanna: And then when my previous editor moved on and inevitably people move into other things and I was like, ‘I really need a new editor.' And I remembered our conversation.

Then we connected by email and social media. I feel like, in that way, I was aware of you and then, but then obviously, when we were, like, ‘Oh, are you available?' And then we looked at a contract and we were like, ‘Well, I'm not sure if this is going to work for me.' And you were like, ‘Yeah, let's just see what happens because it felt like we were doing the project to see if we could actually work together.'

I'm just so happy with our editorial relationship and you really match what I'm looking for at my stage of my writing career, both for my writing and personality-wise. But I totally get that everyone wants different things.

How can authors find an editor who matches with them for their book for the time of their career, for their personality?

Kristen: That's a really good question.

First of all, thank you. That's an editor's dream always is to hear, ‘Oh, you are a great match for me, and that people appreciate your work.' So that's so lovely to hear.

I think the personality thing is a really big deal. And again, this comes back to we're humans. And so I think so much of it is about communication style. That's one thing I always advise folks who are looking for an editor to pay a lot of attention to. So if you're the kind of person who only wants to communicate over email, make sure that's what your editor does.

Or if you're someone who wants to get on a Zoom call to go over the feedback or kick around ideas after you've gotten a content edit back again, make sure you're working with an editor who is happy to do that.

So it's about that. And then I think it's also about how do you like to receive feedback. Do some kind of self-reflection and think about your favorite teachers. Again, editing is closely related to teaching, and think about how you like to receive feedback.

Some folks want an editor who is just super direct, who makes the changes right in their manuscript. Maybe doesn't do a whole lot of explanation, and it's just very straightforward. And as you know, I'm a little more talky in my editing. I leave a lot of comments and I give a lot of explanations, all of which take more time for you also to work through.

It takes more time for me to do, which makes me a little bit more expensive, but that's just how I do things. I think as an author, looking for an editor and especially if you're looking for someone who's going to be with you through several books, I think it's really worth taking your time with that process.

So many editors offer a sample edit, and that's what we did with those first thrillers, really. We agreed we were going to work together on those few books and then see where we were. But a sample edit is a great way to get a feel for exactly the way an editor is going to treat your words and exactly the kind of comments you're going to get and all of that.

Take the time to talk to a few people, and rely on your intuition here. It's okay to go with your gut. I think that's going to lead you to a better fit.

Joanna: A lot of people email me because I have a list of editors, thecreativepenn.com/editors. And of course, you are on that list. And there are lots of other people on that list. People always email me and say, ‘Hey, you've got a big list, but can you just recommend someone who would be the right editor for me?' And I'm, like, ‘No, I can't, I literally can't do that.'

It's like dating, everyone's got a different match.

Kristen: That is the correct analogy. I think it's important. And I would say, your list is really great. I would also say another good place to look is there are a lot of editing organizations.

Here in the U.S., there's The Editorial Freelancers Association. In the UK, there's the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders, and they have directories and they also have a job list. So you can talk a little bit about your book and you'll get literally dozens of editors emailing you if they think that they're going to be a good fit.

There are a lot of folks out there. You have a lot of choices. So take the time and do some research, look at people's websites, look at how they conduct themselves on social media, and find someone who you just feel like you vibe with. Like that's the good way to do it.

Joanna: And trust is such a big deal. Actually, let's just answer this question because people do ask it as new writers with trust. People say, ‘If I send my manuscript to an editor, what if they steal it or publish it or other things.'

How do you answer it when people worry about that trust issue of actually sending a manuscript?

Kristen: I get that question all the time.

First there are a couple of practical answers. You don't have to register your copyright in a work in order for you to have copyright over it. Once it's in a fixed form, which means wherever it is on a legal pad or in a Microsoft word document, you have copyright. So it actually would be illegal for me to do that.

And then just had a practical sense I think writers when they're just starting out, they don't realize just how heavy a lift it is to put a book out there and actually sell it. So, it doesn't make any sense for me to spend the time doing that.

In a practical sense, I use a contract with everyone. You refer to that and the contract specifies that this is your work and actually also assigns the copyright of any edits I make to the writer. So that's something to pay attention to.

Do work with an editor who uses a contract and read that contract, and if there's something that you want to have added or changed ask for that change, and most folks are willing to do that. We do understand, it's not just even about are you going to seal my manuscript? I think it's a vulnerable thing to send a piece of writing to someone to have them evaluate it. And I think we do know that as editors and take that trust seriously and try to honor and respect that leap of faith that writers are making.

Joanna: Absolutely. And then also a good business relationship goes both ways. And basically, as soon as you invoice me, I pay it. I'm like, ‘I gotta pay you.'

Kristen: It's amazing how fast it is. Like sometimes less than a minute goes by.

Joanna: I'm just waiting to pay you. To me, this is really important. I do this with my book cover designer. I do this with any people I value in my business I need to pay. And I think this is a really important thing.

You've mentioned expensive, but it's about value to me. And that's what I'm paying for. I'm paying for your brain and it's valuable. But of course, it goes both ways because you only have one brain and so you can't just help everybody. So it's also important for you to have a sustainable business.

How do you make sure you get the right clients and who are your ideal clients in case people listening, inundate you?

Kristen: For me, it's really about building those long-term relationships and I love working with clients on multiple books. I love people who are writing series. I think for me, the key thing is I love working with writers who really want to do the work. Who are ready to geek out with me about a detail.

This week I'm working with a fantasy author and we're going back and forth about, ‘Are we going to capitalize the term lore keepers?' And she is just as invested in this as I am and we've talked about, ‘Okay, well, what else have we capitalized across the course of these novels and how does this suit?'

I really love people who want to really think in that deep and very detailed way about their books.

I love working with newer writers, but I especially like newer writers who understand that likely their first book is going to need a substantial amount of work and that's okay. That's a very usual normal thing. But also I want to work with folks who are prepared to do it.

It's heartbreaking for me to spend a lot of time on a manuscript evaluation and send it off. And then the writer just is overwhelmed and puts it in a drawer. So I do spend a lot of time to try to build in kind of touch points. I go back and talk to people and try to give the kind of constructive feedback in a manuscript evaluation that will help them take those next steps. I also recognize that's hard. So that's something I like people to understand.

I also love working with more experienced writers like yourself because it challenges me to dig a little bit deeper. I have to look harder. There's always the commas. But if I'm working on a manuscript that's technically very clean I have to challenge myself to look a little bit harder to find improvements. That helps me challenge myself and keep learning advanced skills and keep learning and studying and thinking. And that's really kind of all my favorite things.

Joanna: Oh, fantastic.

Tell us what you have for writers over at Blue Garret and where people can find you online.

Kristen: Everything is on my website. So that's the Blue Garret with two Rs and one T, which, I spend a lot of time saying that just like your creative Penn with two Ns, but I love the name and have a personal connection with it. So it's worth it. So everything really is there.

The biggest thing I do every week, I send a weekly newsletter that usually has a very in-depth piece about writing craft. Right now, I am doing a series where I've picked one bestseller a month and I'm analyzing it in very granular detail to pull out techniques that writers can take away and try out with their own writing.

As you know, we talked about before, I also have a short class for indie authors about how to find an editor and how to work with someone. And what does the copy-editing process look like?

If you're feeling overwhelmed by that process, or just don't feel like you don't have a good grasp of what it is, this course has a lot of good videos and visuals, and we'll really walk you through the process of finding an editor who will be a good fit for you.

And then in addition to my website, you can find me on Twitter @KristenTateSF as in San Francisco. And then I'm also on Instagram @BlueGarret.

Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Kristen. That was great.

Kristen: I loved it.

Joanna Penn:

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