Monday, February 8, 2016

Dos and Don't of Working with Editors and Publishers

By guest blogger, Ericka McIntyre

I have been working as an editor for over 15 years now, much of that time spent working for various publishers, and more recently as a full-time freelancer, for an even broader array of clients.

I get requests all the time for advice—how do I get published? Can’t I just proofread my book myself? Why won’t my publisher just use the title I gave my book? Why is 300k words too long? And over the years I have seen the best and worst examples of what authors can do when working either with an independent editor before being published, or with a publishing house once they have a contract.

So herein are some dos and don’ts, based on the hard-won wisdom of someone who has been in the writing and editing trenches for a while, from manuscript to proposal to published work.

Before you have a book contract—DO:

Hire someone to read your manuscript before you submit to publishers or agents. I cannot stress this enough—if I, who edit and proofread for a living, cannot edit and proof my own writing (and I can’t), neither can you.  It is well worth the expense (which you can even write off, hey!) to have a professional go through your manuscript. Nothing will make the typos and plot holes stand out quicker than a fresh set of eyes on your pages. And you do not want those typos and plot holes in there when you start sending out queries!  (More on that below.)

Put together a professional query/proposal. Manuscript readers and agents are busy, busy, busy. Your book proposal is make or break. You can have the best novel ever, but if you put together a sloppy proposal? In the immortal words of Tony Soprano, Fuhgeddaboutit

It may seem obvious, but you would not believe the messy proposals that have come across my desk over the years! What does a well-done proposal look like? This: A well-crafted cover letter, tailored to the recipient (if I feel like I have gotten a scattershot form letter? I don’t read any further.); A one-paragraph summary/elevator pitch—give your book to me in a very delicious nutshell; Your bio; A full synopsis of the book; The table of contents; the first chapter. (Oh and, I don’t have to tell you that you should have this proofread, too! )


Please do not send your whole manuscript unless you are asked to. I know it’s your baby. I know you have poured your blood and guts into it—but I do not have time to wade through 300+ manuscript pages so I can take your book to an editorial meeting and pitch it for publishing. I just don’t. If you send a proposal and I like what I see? Then I will ask you for the whole book. I promise.
Neglect the details. See above re: editing and proofing. I once got a proposal with Colombia misspelled throughout. Did the house I was working for at the time publish that book? Nope. It could have been a great book, but the minute I see a detail like that missed? It makes me wonder what you’ll be like to work with. And the wondering I am doing is not good. I am not saying that one typo will sink you—but the fact is, it might, so better safe than sorry!

Once you have a book contract, DO:

Accept changes to your manuscript. Whether they come from a developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader—your publisher has hired professionals to make your book the best it can be. If an editor requests a change, wants you to cut down your word count, or points out something you missed? Don’t let your ego overrule your sense. Take  the feedback, mull it over. If you argue over every jot and tittle? Guess what ? You get the label “difficult to work with” and when you want to publish your next book? Hoo buddy! Your first one better have been a best-seller, or you will have given a publishing staff great pause.  A good editor will always maintain your voice, and respect your work. You  can certainly go to the mats for something if you know beyond doubt you’re right. But chances are, you won’t have to. Editors are not here to make your life worse—we are here to make it (and your work) better!

Let go of the packaging. Your publisher has assumed the financial risk of getting your book out to the world, and in publishing, margins can be quite thin. I tell every author I work with: They may not like your title. You may not love your cover. But again, chances are, these decisions have been made based on years of market research. A good publishing house has a staff of people who live and breathe this stuff. They usually know what they are doing when they package your book. And they have just as much interest in your book being a success as you do!

Be ready to market your book yourself. The above said, marketing budgets are always tight, even at the biggest houses. Be prepared to sell your book yourself. Set up signings, write blogs, attend book clubs, go to conferences, Tweet, Facebook…put yourself and your work out there. You want the most people to read (ahem, buy) your book as possible, right? Your marketing folks will help you, but you need to be pushing that boulder, too!
Get discouraged if your first book isn’t the next Harry Potter. Most authors dream of being a huge success, selling millions of books, getting invited over for Sunday brunch at Oprah’s—but it may not happen. In fact, it probably won’t. Aim more for good storytelling, and be ready to work hard. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. If your sales aren’t blockbuster, don’t beat yourself up! If you get a bad review? Don’t take it personally. If you are fortunate enough to be published, it means your work has merit, and your voice is important. Don’t forget that when you get a weaker-than-expected sales report or a snarky review. Dust yourself off and keep going!

Ask me your questions—I am here to help!

Ruthy here! I've worked with Ericka on two books now, the widely celebrated "Refuge of the Heart" and the soon-to-be-released "More Than a Promise", and it's been a wonderful experience! She's open to questions, talking and her goal has been to put the best book forward, a goal we agree on 100%

I've got coffee brewing, and some of the biscotti that Mary Jane Hathaway had over at the Yankee Belle Cafe on the weekend, so come on and be brave enough and bold enough to ask questions. I've got a clean cat dish here... and one person is going to get a pre-sale copy of "More Than a Promise" (when they arrive in upstate!)  

What have you been wanting to ask an editor and didn't quite have the courage to do it, face to face? Here's your chance!


  1. It's great having you here, Ericka. I have a couple of questions. I'm sure you were a reader before you became an editor. Were you ever a proof reader and how did your enjoyment of reading change?
    Also, what is needed to become a proof reader?
    Thank you, Ruthy for inviting Ericka to Seekerville.

    1. Ooh I'd like to hear Ericka's answer to that question too, Marianne!

  2. Good points today! No author questions to ask, but as someone just dipping her feet into the editing waters, I'm grateful for the insight you've provided here :)

    As a reader, I really appreciate the work good editors do. I think that's partly why I gravitated toward editing in various forms professionally; I grew up reading books that clearly had - or didn't have - strong editorial input, and came to value those behind the books.

    Ruthy, BEAUTIFUL cover! Adding this to my TBR list. Would love to be added to the drawing!

  3. So many great points! At the moment I'm in the process of letting go of the packaging for my second book as we talk titles and covers. Like Ericka said, I just keep reminding myself that my team live and breathe this market and will have a much better sense for what works and what doesn't than I do :)

  4. Great post! No questions right now, but gorgeous cover, Ruthy. :-)

  5. Marianne, great question! I'm tossing your name into the cat dish right now, and yes, I love this cover.... The Franciscan Media Art team rocked it, didn't they?????

  6. Sarah, that's an interesting point. "I grew up reading books that clearly had... or didn't have... strong editorial input."

    Can you give an example, or was it simply that your internal editor jumped into gear?

    I've had that happen, and I've had to learn to take a writer's step back (kind of what Vince was saying last week about reviews) and remind myself that audiences vary...

    It's a tricky ridgepole to walk, for sure.

    1. Ruthy, nothing specific comes to mind, just some books that had no errors or holes, versus a few that REALLY should have had another read-through. Character names mixed up, questions never answered (and I don't mean unanswered for artistic effect), etc. Just things my young read-aholic mind noted. I was reading "grown-up" books by the beginning of 2nd grade, so maybe my internal editor was born early too.

  7. It's great to have you in Seekerville Erika. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

    Beautiful cover, Ruthy!

  8. Happy birthday, Rhonda!!!!! I brought a birthday cake with candles (I limited it to ten, can't be causing a fire hazard in Seekerville!!!!) :)

  9. Kara, words of wisdom! And sometimes these things are out of the editor's hands. I remember one meeting where she looked me in the eye and said, "You will hate this cover, and I apologize, I've done what I can, but it's not at all what we envisioned..."

    I loved that honesty, and the cover wasn't all we envisioned, LOL....

    But the book got great reviews and sold well, so we both breathed a sigh of relief... and moved on!

    Other than that one, my covers have exceeded expectations, and that's batting 96%. I'd take that batting average to the majors any day!

    Speaking of majors, baseball spring training starts in two weeks!!!!!!!!

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled program!

  10. Hi Ericka,

    Do you have a synopsis format you like best? I have one I use, but I'm not published and wonder if there's a better way. Thanks so much, and thanks for sharing these tips.

  11. Good morning Ericka and welcome to Seekerville. Thank you so much for the great tips and pointers for working with an editor. I find editors are worth their weight in gold because in my experience, they have always made the story so much better.

    Thanks again for joining us. I know that Ruthy is a blast to work with. Have a fun day.

  12. Do you agree that sending your work to a professional editor should be the very last thing you do before submitting? Or earlier in the project. What I learned in this experience is that an editor suggested some minor fixes, but then my story really needed those editorial eyes again to see if I had typos after tweaking. At that point, it is normal for the editor to charge additional costs to re-read for those ugly typos that might slip past my weary eyes? I understand why, but by then, my editing budget was spent.

    I was looking for both overall story edits (holes, questions, etc) and the word by word clean up needed just at the very end. What's the best way to address this?

  13. Welcome to Seekerville, Ericka! And thank you for sharing your pre- and post-submission tips!

  14. Ericka Thank you for your informative post. So much to learn. I understand the value of having someone read. Even blog posts can benefit from another pair of eyes, or print reading; even then things can slip by. My question is more about how to find trustworthy qualified people who have the time to take on newer writers? There are so many people advertising online. How can I tell who would be the right person to read something I have written? And being totally new to this side of things, what is a reasonable fee to expect to pay? I joined ACFW and they have great resources but I think, from reading what you wrote, a person probably has togo a little farther than that, yes? Personally I'm still at the stage that the thought of someone reading my work makes my hands sweat, but I'm pushing forward and will be ready soon.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  15. I am not published, but I have wondered what happens once a book is sold. I think of it like selling my car. Once it is sold, it is out of my hands and in the hands of someone who can do whatever they want with it. Do I have any choices, any opportunity to express my opinions about things such as changes, edits, covers, etc. How much input does an author have once their name goes on the spine of the book? Does it feel like selling out your children? (sorry - book babies)
    I had a book professionally edited and it was a great experience. It wasn't the full book critique I had feared (though the editor did offer some suggestions) but once it was done I could really see the improvements. The editor made my book better without changing my voice, my purpose or even my minor details. The expense is rather daunting, however.
    Please enter me for Ruthy's book.

  16. Thank you for this post. I know I need to find an editor but not sure how to go about it. I am working feverishly over my entry in a couple of contests. It does concern me that my eyes are the only ones who have seen this book.

    I don't want to put my friends on the spot by asking them to read it. I don't want to ask a family member because it could cause hard feelings. I find it more difficult to take criticism from a family member.

    I live on Social Security so do not have an abundance of money, yet I want to make sure that my manuscript is the best it can be.

    What are some guidelines in choosing someone to edit and what would be a fair price for the work they will need to do.

  17. Hi Ericka,
    As a reader I have enormous respect for the work of editors and proofreaders alike. I totally agree about the importance of having someone else proof a manuscript. Fresh eyes see things a writer may pass over a dozen times.

    Hi Ruthy,
    I can give you an example of the importance of editing that you addressed to Sarah. I've read many of one traditional published authors books (not to worry, not a Seekerville author) so when said author ventured into indie publishing, I had no qualms about read those books either. I was a bit shocked to discover the indie books didn't come close to repeating the quality of the traditionally published books. Not only were there many typos, which drew me out of the story, but the writing itself was choppy and somewhat disjointed. I can only attribute these differences to good proofreaders and editorial input. From now on I'll only read that trad. published works.

    I hope my observation doesn't seem overly critical, that's not my intent. More a word of encouragement to not try and pass by this very important step in the publishing process.

    I've read More than a Promise, the cover took on even more meaning once I got between the pages of the book. A five star read you won't want to miss, trust me. If you don't win it today, go pre-order it! So worthy of your reading time, slated to be on my 2016 favorite list and I'm only 14 books into the year.

  18. Welcome, Ericka! Like Ruthy, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with you! Your advice and suggestions for The Sweetest Rain were invaluable, and I'm eagerly (anxiously???) awaiting your edits on the next book in the series.

    It's so true that writers can be blind to their own manuscript mistakes, be they grammatical errors, spelling problems, research issues, or glaring plot holes. My husband is my first reader and often catches things I missed--but not everything! Example: He didn't notice in one of my mss. that my heroine's eyes mysteriously changed from brown to blue to brown again!

  19. Hi Ericka
    Thanks for the listing of DOs and DONTs. Ruthy sings your praises a lot, so you can be sure, I'm listening. I'm not close to publication, but it's nice to get the inside information that can help me when I'm ready. I would like to be one of those authors that editors LIKE to work with.

    Ruthy, your latest cover is awesome! You know I am always wanting any Ruthy book, so please put my name in the draw for that.

    oh, and p.s.
    Yay BRONCOS!!!!!
    apologies for the off topic outburst, but I'm a pretty happy camper. Glad to see a good guy like Peyton get his HEA.

  20. I'd love a chance to win a copy of Ruth's books. I love your books. I'm from NY State too. (Western NY)

  21. Good morning Seekervillians! Thanks so much for the warm welcome!

    In answer to the question, how to find a *good* independent editor--I am a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association--it is one of the best professional groups for people like us--writers, editors, etc. The fees to join are steep enough that only the serious take part (but again, a great tax deduction, and you definitely get a lot of professional benefits for the money). I always recommend it for a good first stop to find someone.

    MediaBistro is another. Freelancers have to pay to list themselves there (much less expensive than EFA--and you get what you pay for, but that's another blog for another day).

    Also, social media and your current contacts in the book world are always good places to start as well.

  22. In response to Marianne B--

    I started as a proofreader, just out of college (I got a literature and writing degree with a minor in journalism) and I still read at least a book a week for fun. One thing that has changed is that I do not like to read electronically after a whole day of editing on my computer screen--this is why print books will never die!

  23. In response to Jackie re: synopsis format--chapter by chapter works best, I think. No more than a paragraph or 2 on each.

  24. As to the cost, prices vary of course, but something to consider: Freelancers cover all their own overhead--self-employment tax, healthcare, technology, post-it notes...we have to charge what we do in many instances so that we can cover what an employee of a company doesn't have to. What I made an an employee to edit I cannot charge as freelancer--I will quickly go broke!

    That said, I never charge for proofreading what I charge for substantive manuscript review. And I don't charge for copyediting what I charge for proofing, etc. There is a fee structure, and a good freelancer will discuss with you what each tier costs, and what each task (DE, CE, or PR) will get you.

    I always do two rounds with my authors, and I never gouge in the second round. This is why tracking changes helps!

  25. By "gouge" of course I mean, lollygag just to run the bill up...I have laser focus at that stage. I don't in the first round, either, but I think you get what I mean--I focus on each level at each stage and never take more time for any of it than necessary! :)

  26. MYRA! :)

    Do not fret! You will have my work on your book very soon. I love working with both you and Ruthy! I feel very fortunate to get to do what I do.

  27. In answer to Wilani and Barbara F.--feel free to e-mail me! I would love to discuss your books with you and see what we could work out for a budget. I know other editors, too, so if I am not your Gal Friday, I can try to help find the person who would be!

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Debra M--yeah, that is a bummer. That is why discussing budgeting up front is so important. I don't want to blow an author's budget, and that is why I always do a detailed outline of stages and expectations and expenses first, and why you should always ask for one when working with an indie editor. I am sorry you had that experience!

  30. Cathy R--The publishers I work for always give authors cover and title review--a courtesy look, so to speak. If an author is seriously opposed to the cover and title, they do have an opportunity to say so. That said, you can still be overruled by the marketing folks in some cases. It's a tricky part of the process, which is why I always advise a more Zen approach to it!

  31. DEBH! Go Broncos, indeed :) Been cheering for Peyton since he was on the Colts team - Hoosier loyalty never quits! Not a huge football fan, but glad to see him get the win last night.

  32. Ericka, welcome! We're so glad to have you today. What a great post!

    I totally agree on making changes when suggested. I've always thought my books end up better after editing.

  33. Titles are very dependent on the publisher's pov. With Love Inspired I have input, but they like the "category" feel of titles, and they're publishing six titles/month in just the Love Inspired contemporaries, then six suspense and four historicals... so that's a lot of monthly and annual titles!

    They have to be careful of duplication via title/month/cover image, so their job is tricky.

    Refuge of the Heart was a slight variation of Refuge of His Heart and More Than a Promise was a conferenced change because I didn't like the original title and we wanted something reflecting the moral premise of the book and when that came to us it was perfect. The September book "The First Gift" was a Genesis general fiction overall winner when Genesis was "Noble Theme" and after looking at two dozen title possibilities, they stayed with "The First Gift"... It's a lovely novel of how it takes a village to look after kids if the parents fail in their task... And it has a smokin' hot doctor and an equally heart-throbbing deputy sheriff.... :)

    Random House kept all three titles for the Double S Series, "Back in the Saddle", "Home on the Range" and "Peace in the Valley" and each song title "title" is indicative of the hero's journey. So that's kind of fun, right???

  34. Ericka, we're delighted to have you in Seekerville today. Thanks for your excellent advice for working with an editors and publishers. My editors' suggestions have always made my books stronger and I'm grateful for their expertise.

    I'm impressed that you read a book a week outside of work. Any particular genres you're drawn to when you read for pleasure?


  35. Ruthy, I love your cover. Can't wait to read More than a Promise!


  36. Ericka, thanks for the tips. I am not at that stage yet, but appreciate hearing what I might need to do. I am wondering I there is a place to go with a good explanation and examples of how to write a proposal with synopsis, etc.

    Ruthy, please toss my name in the cat dish.

  37. You, Ericka. I'm with Sarah and Tracey...I find indie books just don't have the same flow....of course, that's depending on how much the author has invested him/herself into the novel. And whether the flow is disrupted by typos or holes, doesn't really matter. I want to send those over to Seekerville, but not sure if I could do it in a tactfull way.
    I have wondered how I would do as a proof reader though, but don't have any education or classes in that.
    Thank you, Ericka
    Happy Birthday, Rhonda

    1. Marianne, I hesitate on indie-pubbed books, too, but some of them are really excellent, like Julie's Isle of Hope. This is why I love Amazon's set-up; they let you sneak a peek inside the front cover of a book before you buy it.

  38. Hi Janet D!

    I am all over the place with my reading--I typically have a memoir, a short story collection, and a novel going at once. I fall into rabbit holes--I see a movie and realize it was based on a book, read that book, then read all that authors' books (e.g., Alice Hoffman, Elizabeth Strout, Anita Shreve).

    I am revisiting Kurt Vonnegut right now at the reco of a friend. I had tried to read him years ago and couldn't get into him, now I am hooked. Books have to hit you at the right time.

    I pretty much read tons and tons of historical fiction. It is probably the genre I read the most of.

  39. Hello Ericka! As a reader I'm amazed at the errors that I come across. I do appreciate those editors who bring their A-game.

    Ruthy, please put me in for the drawing.

  40. Hi Ericka! Welcome to Seekerville! What a thrill to have you with us.

    I've read more More Than a Promise and LOVED it!

    Kudos to editors for their hard work.


    And, WOW, what a WONDERFUL post -- one that is a must-read for every aspiring writer (and author), in my opinion, so THANK YOU!!

    You said: "Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. If your sales aren’t blockbuster, don’t beat yourself up! If you get a bad review? Don’t take it personally. If you are fortunate enough to be published, it means your work has merit, and your voice is important. Don’t forget that when you get a weaker-than-expected sales report or a snarky review. Dust yourself off and keep going!"

    AMEN AND AMEN!! I wish someone had told me this when I was starting out (or if they did, I wish I had listened!). This excellent advice sounds suspiciously like Ruthy philosophy, which double reinforces its truth as far as I am concerned, and again, something I am only now understanding. What can I say -- Ruthy's hard drive is a lot younger than mine and WAY more RAM, so to me she's a little bit like E.F. Hutton -- when she speaks, I listen! ;)


  42. Welcome, Ericka! Thanks so much for sharing these insider tips. I'm all about listening to my editor and making the changes because I know, in the end, she knows better. :)
    Happy Birthday Rhonda!
    I'd love to be entered in the drawing.

  43. Interesting post, Ericka - thank you!!

    As a reader, I can vouch that edits are important to us also. I tend to cringe when I find errors in books, they are distractions to my reading experience and take away from what may well be a wonderful story line otherwise. They discourage me from buying another book by the author.

    Loved "Refuge of the Heart" - the characters touched my heart and stayed with me - one of the best books I've read!! SO looking forward to reading "More Than a Promise"!!

    Please enter my name in the drawing - thank you!!

  44. Hi Ericka:

    Thanks for the tips. I have need of editors and I've been an adertising copy editor for years. However, there are many types of editors.

    What I'd like to know is:

    1) in what order should you hire editors (like line editors, content editors, etc.)

    2) is it best to use a series of specialty editors or try to find an all inclusive editor at one price rather than three or four specialty editors.

    Comment: as someone who has merchandised retail advertisements with many items in them, I know the importance that each individual item can contribute to the selling power of the ad as a whole. As such, it is very possible, if the publisher releases several books each month, that while the title or cover art the publisher selects is the best for the publisher when considered as part of the total marketing effort, it may not be the best for a specific book being marketed on its own.

    In this case an author just might find it best to 'take one for the team'. However, if an author can do way much better with her own title and cover art, then she might consider taking the book Indie.


  45. Hi Vince! Answers:

    1: Line Edit/Developmental/Content/Copyedit/Proofread is the order.
    2: I do all these edits, but I never proof something I copyedit, and I never copyedit something I content edit.

    It is probably easier to find a general proofreader than a seasoned editor for fiction. I know lots of proofers--I only know a couple of people who do what I do for development editing.

    Mind you now--I use line/dev/content fairly interchangeably. At the content edit stage, I am not so much looking for typos as I am to see that a story is fully cooked, a character necessary or not, etc.

    That said, I always catch the typos, at every stage, just because I am wired that way. I'm the person who proofs the menu at the restaurant. It's compulsive!

  46. To everyone who has said the errors distract from the story--yes, yes, and yes! We read fiction to be transported. We do not want to be transported to your desk, where you didn't catch the spelling errors, or where you changed a character's name and all of a sudden on page 222 she's "Margo" again instead of "Mitzy"--what?!

    And to everyone who has said they liked this post--thank you!

    And to Julie L, who said that when Ruthy talks, she listens--ditto! :)

  47. Good afternoon, Ericka! I have been blessed with my debut novel to have a great editor, a great title, and a great cover! :-) I appreciate your wisdom here as well as in the comments about hiring editors. I cannot imagine publishing anything without multiple eyes on it.

    Ruthy, I echo the comments about the beautiful cover!

  48. Ericka, wonderful post. Do you have a website?

  49. ERICKA said: "I'm the person who proofs the menu at the restaurant. It's compulsive!"

    Oh, sweetie, I know the feeling! I cannot read ANYTHING without proofing it. Menus, church bulletins, billboards, ad copy . . . and typos and bad grammar turn me off faster than anything.

  50. Hi Ericka! Great post here. I'm not a writer, but I appreciate all the work that goes behind the scenes of a great book. A good cover sure gets me interested, but with bad editing, it can off-put my interest very soon. So great thoughts here for aspiring authors!

    Ruthy, thanks for the giveaway! Would be happy to win. =)

  51. Thanks for this helpful post, Ericka. I've not worked with an editor yet, but I know it takes a degree of humility and teachability to truly benefit from the wisdom an editor offers. I appreciate your do's and don't's. :)

    And as for proofing? My eyes catch errors all the time. I was recently re-reading my first 50 pages before I submitted them to a contest, and I was mortified at some of the errors I caught. Ugh. I definitely see the value of having other sets of eyes on our manuscripts. :)

  52. Ericka,

    It's fun to see your diverse reading habits and the authors you've read. Thanks for sharing.

    I love history. As soon as my husband finishes my book--proof he's a good man ;-)--he'll delve into Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. I plan to read it, too, as later this year, we're going to see the musical based on the book. With the hip hop music, we'll need all the help we can get to understand what's going on.


  53. @ Myra--it fairly drives my husband nuts! ha!

    @ Terri: Yes! Places to get in touch and keep in touch with me: and

    @janet--I read as much history as I can, too. (And I cannot wait to see Hamilton!) I spend a lot of time too, trying to cover what I think are gaps in my reading and knowledge. I try to never stop learning!

  54. Welcome to Seekerville, Ericka ( a reader)
    Love your book cover, Ruthy, and am so looking forward to reading More Than A Promise. Thanks for entering me!

  55. Wonderful post, Ericka!!

    Vince asked my question: "in what order should you hire editors (like line editors, content editors, etc.)" I've asked several published friends, no one had a concise answer but you!! Thanks!

    I'll file this for future reference.

    Wishing all of you a lovely writing day!!

  56. Erika, thanks for being with us on Seekerville today. Loved your blog post...packed with great info!

    An editor is a writer's best friend, IMHO. When mine speaks, I listen. She's always right. Really! So savvy and with such an eye for story. So thanks for what you do.

    BTW, I wrote a short recommendation/review of REFUGE OF THE HEART for our local regional ladies' magazine, Fayette Woman, and selected the story as my book club's FEB read. We're meeting tomorrow night. A number of ladies have emailed to let me know how much they enjoyed the story. Ruthy's ears will be burning tomorrow, for sure! I'll plug your role as well so expect a little burn yourself. :)


  57. Rhonda, it's your birthday? How fun it that!!!

    Singing "Happy Birthday to You," from GA!

    Can you hear me now? :)

    Sending birthday blessings and lots of love. Cyber cake and ice cream too!

  58. @Debby G--the minute Refuge came across my desk, I knew we had to publish it (and that I really wanted to work on it!). I was drawn in right away. Writing and storytelling that good make my job easier! :) I still think of those characters often. They are that really drawn.

  59. Well, who knew that having Ericka here would get me so many nice comments???? Thank you to all of you, you know that touches my heart...

    And I laughed at the "when Ruthy talks, I listen..."! Ericka, Natasha (Natasha Kern, my amazing literary agent) and I all discussed each book, and they have such a great vision (those extra eyes we talked about!) that when I took their thoughts and comments and edited and revised, we deepened already lovely stories into what I hope are unforgettable stories.

    And I'm so thankful for Ericka's vision and Franciscan's latitude that lets me create characters of every color and creed, a wonderful cross-section of America. What an absolute privilege and delight!

  60. Hi, Ericka! Thanks for sharing your wisdom here. I have a question:

    What is the average condition (editing-wise) of books you're assigned work on? I know they must vary, but considering ones that have great potential but require a lot of work, and ones more ready to publish, what's the average starting point of the last few you've edited?

  61. *I say the last few, because I wasn't sure how many books editors usually work with in a year. Hey, I should ask that as a question as well. :) How many books is normal for an in-house editor to work on in a year?

  62. I love good covers, but boy, I've picked up some great-looking covers and found thin food for the soul inside.

    Vince, I think the old adage "You can't judge a book by its cover" is relevant for good reason.

    One of my favorite copies of Catherine Marshall's Christy had a nothing cover, but the amazing book inside went far beyond, and that story has become a worldwide bestseller.

    I love my indie work, but I'm totally blessed to be working with an amazing cross-section of editors and publishers.

  63. Hi Natalie!

    Great question. And it varies indeed. In the past year I have had books that merely needed a touch of polish to manuscripts that had to be 50% or more rewritten.

    It really is a matter of, what potential is there, did an author hit the mark of what we contracted for, etc.

    Usually though, 15-20% rewrites are the average. The biggest problem I encounter? A book that works well for the first 2/3rds or 3/4ths, and then falls apart at the end. The second biggest problem I encounter? Excess details that slow a narrative down. Do we really need every descriptive detail of Aunt Minnie's kitchen cabinets? Unless someone gets murdered with the handle of one at some point, usually not! Ha!

    Also, many authors have an instinct for when a scene or a passage isn't working--they will subconsciously point to it with something a character says! And this of course I flag.

    I average a manuscript a month at my busiest. I know that workloads can be heavier or lighter though--that varies, too!

  64. Ericka, thank you for all the information. You answered my questions about the synopsis format and the order of edits when you answered Jackie and Vince's questions. As a writer who misses her own typos, I do understand the value of editors. Thanks for these important reminders.

    Ruthy, thanks for the biscotti and for tossing my name in the cat dish for More Than a Promise! Beautiful cover!

  65. Ruthy! YES re: covers. They can be a great indicator, but they can also not point to a thing you will find inside.

    And this goes both ways--great books with not-great covers, not-great books with beautiful covers.

    An example of a book that hit it completely is The Blind Contessa's New Machine--stunning cover, beautiful gem of a story inside! If only they all could hit that high. Then, a writer like Simon Van Booy's covers have never fully indicated the beauty of the prose within, IMHO.

    Then you have the bad ones (the lame books with popping covers), which I won't list, cos if you don't have anything nice to say....

  66. I especially appreciated your comment about accepting changes to the manuscript. I have seen over and over again writers who can't seem to let go and, when it comes to manuscripts, that is one of the biggies. Writers tend to forget that publishing is a partnership. Every one has their area of expertise and their strengths. We need to trust that at each step of the way people know what they are doing and have a stake in making this book the best it can be! Thanks, Ericka, for the view from the other side of the desk.

  67. Loved this, ERICKA! Although I'm still in the "good-grief-is-this-ever-going-to-happen?" stage of my career I have been curious about a lot of the things you addressed here. Thank you so much for such an informative post!

  68. I totally agree with Ruthy.

    Wait--did I totally just say that????

    Well, I do agree about both Ericka and Natasha. Their insights about our stories are so right on!

  69. Which should come first a critique partner or an editor. Or does it matter. I am so trying to learn all of this. I also want to develop my story to its best.

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  71. Laughing about Myra agreeing!!!!! So funny!

    Debby Giusti, thank you so much for your shout out in Fayette Women magazine, and I'm thrilled to hear what the book club thinks of Refuge of the Heart tomorrow night! It's been chosen by a local book club here, too, and I'm doing a presentation in the beginning of May to the Sisters of St. Joseph friends at their motherhouse. I'm absolutely delighted that its finding its way into hearts and hands.

    Sarah, obviously my tough-as-nails reputation precedes me, LOL! :) laughing! I have to say that I've been blessed to work with nine distinctive editors so far, and my daughter Beth, and I'm absolutely better off for it. Those insights and extra eyes are clutch.

    I'm dropping off CHOCOLATE because someone just paid me a compliment of the highest order, they said my future book made them weep and shout for joy....

    Which absolutely and positively made my day!

  72. Carolyne! My buddy!!!!! I miss you so much when I don't see you, how's it goin', Toots?????

  73. WILANI, I would probably recommend going with a critique partner first. Use that feedback to hone your skills, and as your writing progresses, you'll have a better sense for when the right time is to invest in an editorial service.

  74. Thanks, Erika. It was a learning experience, and I'm glad I did it. My freelance edit or did a good job, and now I have a better understanding. Usually I have crit partners double as beta readers, and copy editors later, but everyone was so busy.

  75. Thanks Myra and Ruthy! I'm happy when you're happy!

    And Wilani--yes, what Myra said!

  76. Wilani, I agree with Myra. I worked with Sandra for years while entering contests, and she and I would then discuss the comments, what worked, what didn't and that helped us both to hone our work and get it ready.

    I've found recently that writers are trending toward hurry, hurry, hurry... and I think of the soccer players I coached for years, and how much better a player was in year five than year one.

    And not just skills, but the ability to oversee a game, assess the opponent, weigh their options and make quick decisions.

    Practice, practice, practice.... write, write, write! :) And finding a critique partner is fun. Before I found one, I used a local writing group, and that helped, too, but once I needed more, it was begging FH&L for a critique partner and Sandra jumped in!

  77. Hey Ruth, it's going well. Was trying to juggle so many things for a number of months! Love, love the cover of the new book and the story sounds intriguing!

  78. Ericka, Thank you for your post on what editors expect and look for.

    My question is this: for authors who are not published, are critique partners and beta readers enough or should we also pursue an editor before submitting the work?

    Also if an editor does review and work on a manuscript, does an author have to disclose that when entering contests such as ACFW's Genesis or RWA's Golden Heart?

    Thank you for any advice you may have.

  79. Coffee & Biscotti sound good as I read this post through. Looks like some great information for writers. Ericka seems to know what she's talking about :-) From a readers point of view, editors are important people, they make your manuscript better & can look with fresh eyes. And that makes a good book in my hand as I read your stories! Like I've said before....authors, editors and publishers, keep up the good work. You'll have an appreciative audience in all us readers :-)

    "More than a Promise" looks like another promising book by Ruthy....throw my name in the cat dish would ya?

  80. Ericka,

    Thanks for answering our questions. What a great day!

  81. A friend of mine once told me that once you sell your book, let the editors do what they want. I think the only problem i would have is if a change was historically inaccurate.

  82. Hi Ericka,
    Thanks for a great post! I hope I'm not too late for a question. I have a memoir at a self-publishing house - well-respected and well-known. The memoir is on a very sensitive subject and I used real names. The editorial committee has sent the memoir back to me saying that I must change the names of everyone involved, as well as my name as author. I realize they are doing this to protect themselves and me from being sued. But I feel that the memoir loses some of its effectiveness if the names are changed. Is there anything I can do to leave the names as is? I have asked for consent forms to be signed but the main person in the book has refused.

    Ruthy, thanks for inviting Ericka! Please put my name in the cat dish for the drawing!

  83. Hey all! Busy morning, but just wanted to remind you all, please stay in touch! My websites:

    Reach out anytime! Thank you all so much!

  84. I just finished a book last night that was sadly so full of mistakes that it kept me from enjoying the story. I'm thankful for good editors!

    Ruthy, please put my name in the cat dish and that is a pretty cover!

  85. Thanks for all the great thoughts here! I loved working with my editor and it's exciting when they come alive to your vision for the novel. A sense of humor helps a lot, too, I think. I am pre-published and my agent is looking for the right publisher right now. But I really like that they'll be reviewing my best efforts since I put it through that process first. When I was in corporate life, editing was so important, too.

    Editing is kind of like putting a gorgeous silver frame on a lovely photo. It's ready to stand out.

    Ruthy, beautiful cover for your book! Exciting. Can't wait to read it soon!

  86. How do you recommend a new writer/first time author approach an editor or find an agent?

  87. THis is great advice! I entered a contest for a short story and if I don't win, I'd really like to try and get it published! How exactly do you go about doing that? Like after you've had someone proofread it for you and all that?

  88. What an informative post . I know this will be so helpful to those just starting out. Could you recommend an online writing class to help me get started on my writing journey ? Please throw my name in the cat dish for the prize.

    Deanne P.