Tina here: I've been a contest diva for many years. Too many years in fact. Sometimes when you get to that point in your career where you have plateaued, winning contests, but not selling books, you might want to consider as I did, talking to a freelance book editor. I asked Caroline Tolley to stop by Seekerville to share a little bit of what she does for both unpublished and published clients. So here in her own words is a glimpse into what this freelance book editor does.
I’d like to preface by saying two things. First, that hiring a freelance book editor is not going to guarantee you will get published. Second, there are no hard and fast rules about how an editor should edit. I am sure that all editors work in different ways. To be clear, the information that I am sharing applies to me and only me. I am not speaking for other professionals in the freelance editing business.
I am a large canvas editor. I read with two hats on; my reader hat and my editor hat. I use my reactions on both levels to form suggestions for clients. I work only on hard copy with a regular blue pen. I react as I read and clients can often find scribbles in the margins. I do not censor these comments or try to sugar-coat a reaction if it happens to be negative. I do not believe that it makes sense to wear kid gloves while working for a client.
As any reader can tell you, I am looking for a great story. Something that hooks me, holds me and lures/lulls me, to a satisfying ending. I don’t follow a formula or have a checklist. I focus on the main characters; are they likable; are they believable; are the circumstances believable. I have no problem with an old plot with a new twist. I look for pacing. I hate clichés. I hate cop-outs. I focus on tense. I focus a lot on point of view. Are there too many at one time? Is reading like watching a tennis match? Am I with one character enough to get a grasp on that character or being moved onto someone else too quickly? Conflict is always a big issue for writers and seems to come up a lot in conversation. Does one character have something another character wants? If I am reading a love story, is there an obstacle that needs to be overcome? Does Life throw a believable curve ball at these folks?
Sometimes I do edit toward the market. Is it funny enough? Is it sexy enough? Is the police procedure creative? Is the puzzle hard to solve? Do I feel the jeopardy the character is in? Does the writer know where she/he would like this manuscript to end up? Is there an audience out there that might be the right one?
I prefer to complete two edits. The first is the big edit; the broad strokes. Once revisions have been done, I read again. Most times it is here that I focus on the nuts and bolts of grammar and such, though that is really not something I pay that much attention to. I don’t know how many freelancers offer two reads as part of their package. But I can’t see how one can consider a job finished without editing again.
I am not a writer. I do not have books on my desk about style and rules. I don’t pick up on dangling participles or esoteric rules.
I don’t focus on margin size, font size, etc. While I do always ask that manuscripts be double-spaced, the rest just isn’t on my radar. That all comes much later.
My job is to fix, enhance, suggest, support, listen, bring to light what may be hidden. Oftentimes, a bad idea can spark a better idea. Try this; how about that; move this here; make this person funnier. It’s the larger stuff that I focus on first. I don’t make big “x’s” through sections unless totally necessary. I like to have a free-flowing style…talk off the top of my head; listen to my initial reactions. I am not a creative writing teacher. I don’t offer classes. I fix books to the best of my ability and use my 20 years in the commercial fiction business to aid clients in any way I can.
I can and do consult on career paths. I can and do consult on agents. I try to steer clients in the right direction so they aren’t wasting valuable time. Sometimes I say, “you should put this one away and start a new one.” I’ve worked with a ton of authors at all different levels of experience. Most appreciate the honest and straightforward approach which is a signature of mine. I am not a hand-holder as anyone who knows me will tell you! Although any time a client needs to talk, I try to make myself available.
A freelance job for me is not a quick thing. It takes time. I try to work quickly as I know there is an anxiousness to get results and move forward. But sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. I fly by the seat of my pants a lot. I listen to my immediate reactions a lot, both positive and negative. I think of myself as an author’s editor rather than a company person (so to speak). Editing for me is a truly enjoyable thing. It was always the favorite part about my job when I was in Corporate America. I think of my work as entering into short-term partnerships; helping to create something, making it great and then patting it on the head and sending it on its way.
Caroline Tolley was an editor at Pocket Books from 1989-2002. In that time, she advanced to the Executive Editor level, having worked with numerous New York Times bestselling authors including Karen Robards, Andrea Kane and Carla Neggers. Her list of authors included many romance writers who made appearances on the the USA TODAY and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY bestseller lists. In 2002, Caroline launched her own freelance editing business, The Book Editor 4 U. In this capacity, she works with authors of all genres of popular fiction, YA and Literary Fiction. She utilizes her many years in the publishing industry to offer a complete package to clients which includes editing, consulting, market analysis and career planning.
Today in Seekerville we are giving away a $20 Amazon gift card to one commenter. Winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition.
If you would like to send Caroline a message to discuss projects and rates, please send us a note through the Seekerville email address and we are happy to forward it along.