indiebrag would like to welcome back Jennifer Quinlan today to talk about her editing business. Jennifer, aka Jenny Q, owner of Historical Editorial, is an editor and cover designer specializing in historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. A member of the Historical Novel Society, the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, the American Historical Association, and various local and regional historical organizations, she lives in Virginia with her husband, a Civil War re-enactor and fellow history buff.
Jenny, what is your editing business called?
How did you get into editing?
I was having a bit of a professional crisis in the corporate world, unsatisfied with my job, but in a down economy, there were not a lot of appealing options available. So I asked myself: If you could do whatever you wanted to do, what would it be? And I said: Well, I want to read books all day, but who’s gonna pay me to do that? At that point, I had an established book review blog and a growing network of readers and writers. So I started doing a little research and discovered there was a market for editors in the booming business of self-publishing. But not coming from a publishing background, I didn’t have the credentials to properly get started, so I enrolled in the Copyediting Certificate Program at the University of California San Diego and spent the next eighteen months getting valuable, intensive training in the art of copyediting. And as a book reviewer, I felt I had a pretty good eye for determining what did and did not work in the books I read, so I decided to offer developmental editing as well. I have been so very fortunate in that I was well received from the very beginning and had a great network of friends in the industry to refer clients to me. I have been editing full-time since 2011.
What is the importance of writers having their work edited?
If a writer is serious about their craft and wants to have a long and successful career in publishing, it’s so important to enlist the help of professionals. If you’re going to query agents and publishers in the hopes of a traditional publishing contract, you have to do everything in your power to stand out against the competition, and that often means getting a lot of feedback before you’re ready to hit the send button with that final draft. A professional editor can offer objective advice based on years of experience and market knowledge that critique partners often can’t provide on their own. And if you’re self-publishing, you owe it to your readers to provide them with the best possible reading experience. I can’t speak for all readers, but I know when I’ve purchased a book only to discover that it’s full of errors that could easily have been corrected in a copyedit, I feel like that author was just after my money and not invested in establishing a lasting relationship with me as a fan of their books. In self-publishing, that old adage has never been more true—you only get one chance to make a first impression.
What are your goals as an editor?
My goal is always to help an author put out the best book they possibly can and to support them however I can, whether they’re self-publishing or seeking traditional publication.
What are the different types of editing you do?
Copyediting and developmental editing. Some editors also offer a third level of editing most commonly known as “line editing,” but I do a little bit of that in a developmental edit and a lot of it in a copyedit, so that eliminates the need for another edit in between them.
What can make it difficult to work with an author?
Most of the authors who seek me out are eager for feedback and are very receptive, but occasionally an issue will arise. Some authors are stuck in the “old-school” style of writing and editing, and it can be hard to get them to conform to modern standards (like using less commas and only one space after a period instead of two). And sometimes an author is so close to their work that they get very defensive when I make suggestions for improvement. But again, these issues don’t pop up very often.
What are the biggest mistakes you see writers make?
I don’t fault writers for making technical or grammatical mistakes—after all, it’s my job to come behind them and clean them up, and if they weren’t making mistakes, I’d be out of a job! But when it comes to story editing, the biggest mistake I see newer writers make is not using point of view as the powerful storytelling tool it can be. Too often I see indiscriminate head-hopping with not a lot of thought put into choosing the appropriate characters to tell the story in the most effective and compelling manner. So I spend a lot of time talking to new writers about the nuances of point of view. Unfortunately, point of view mistakes often necessitate extensive revisions, sometimes approaching the story from completely different angles, but that extra effort is worth it. Ask a prolific reader what their biggest pet peeve is and they’re likely to say head-hopping. Most of us have very strong opinions on the proper way to use point of view.
What are the lessons you have learned honing in your editing skills?
Mainly I’ve learned that I’m always learning! And I’ve learned how to determine when to leave grammatical mistakes or structural errors alone as part of the author’s style or a character’s voice. And though I have always been a straight shooter, and I warn my clients up front that I’m not going to mince words when I’m making 400 comments on a manuscript, I have learned that it’s still important to go back through my comments and view them from the other side of the pen to make sure I’m conveying what I need to say in the most diplomatic and effective manner.
What are some of the corrections writers can make before sending you their manuscript to cut cost and editing time?
I think it’s very important for writers to attempt to self-edit before sending their manuscript out for copyediting. Correcting obvious typos, punctuation errors, and inconsistencies allows me to concentrate on the more difficult aspects of copyediting, like varying sentence structures, paying attention to the rhythm of the text, correcting those harder-to-find grammatical errors, and spotting anachronisms and factual errors. Plus it really does save the writer money. I base my rate on how much editing a manuscript needs, so the less it needs, the less I charge.
What is your criteria for taking an editing job?
Right now I’m pretty much only working with my favorite genres: historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. I will take on manuscripts in other genres from my clients that also write in one of the genres listed, but if someone new approaches me about a manuscript outside those genres, I’m likely to refer them to someone else. It’s really important that an author work with an editor who is knowledgeable in their genre. Other than that, the only criteria I have is that the author keep an open mind, be willing to thoughtfully consider my suggestions, and come prepared to do some work.
Do you read over the work first before starting to edit?
No. Editors who work for the big houses have the luxury of reading a manuscript first before they even begin to make edits, but those of us working on our own and trying to keep our rates reasonable for indie authors do not have that luxury. I would have to charge for the time it would take me to read it twice, and I honestly don’t even find it necessary. Now I will often reread a manuscript after it has undergone extensive revisions from a developmental edit, but that’s a different scenario.
How can writers get in touch with you?
Email is best: email@example.com. But I also spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter.
Be sure to check out indieBRAG’s interview with Jenny about her graphic design business HERE
Thank you so much for having me!
A pleasure, Jenny! And thank you! This interview is so insightful and I have learned a lot from it.