FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

You've got questions; I've likely got answers

How much do your services cost?

Rates are incredibly dependent on project, package, timing, and more. Please get in touch to get an individualized quote. I intentionally keep my rates on the mid and low end of industry standards so that as many writers as possible have access. 

Do I have to hire a professional editor to pursue traditional publishing (i.e. to find an agent and have my book published by a major publisher)?

Absolutely not! I know countless writers who never worked with a freelance editor on any of their manuscripts, and have been published, including those who've found critical and financial success. Freelance editing is one option open to you, but it's not at all required or expected. If anyone pressures you to spend money pursuing traditional publishing, be wary. Freelance editing, like classes, workshops, and other opportunities that cost money, are simply methods some use.

What does "traditional publishing" mean?

By traditional publishing, I mean the process of signing with an agent, who is the one to submit your manuscript to publishing houses. (These publishing houses could be one of the "Big 5," a smaller publishing house, an indie upstart, or many things in between.) To generalize, typically the author is paid an advance, which they must then "earn out" via royalties and, potentially, sub rights deals (such as international translations, audio rights, etc.) before earning more money than that initial advance number. There are all sorts of exceptions in everything I've said here, but this is sort of the standard situation.

This is opposed to self-publishing, where the writer is taking on many of the tasks a publisher would, usually direct to readers. Many aspects of writing do not differ, regardless of publishing goals (after all, a good story is a good story!), but there are some nuances in addition to the myriad of ways the actual publication/promotion/distribution process can differ. Can I chat about all of this with you? Absolutely!

Is there a magic formula to writing a query letter that an agent can't say no to?

I'm sad to tell you that there is no magic formula. Every agent is different, the market is constantly shifting, and there's no book that's the right fit for every single agent--even books that go on to earn millions!

 

The good news is this means you are already empowered to write a query letter. There's no secret magic, and you'll find all sorts of great advice by searching for tips from agents and other writers.

When I review query letters and other materials, my goal is to be an impartial new reader who can provide a critical eye, nudge toward some structure, and flag anything that may deviate from industry norms. These tips are to help you make the best first impression possible, but are never cast in stone.

Remember: if you act professionally and follow each agent's directions, you're already on your way!

Have clients of yours gotten book deals?

Yes! This is nothing I guarantee, but it has absolutely happened. Take a look at my Testimonials page for more from writers I've worked with.

I'm interested in working with you, but I'm not sure my project is a good fit. Should I reach out?

For sure! I'll be honest with you and assess whether or not I think the project will be a good fit. This is less about you, and much more about me. If I don't think I'm the right person to help you elevate your work, I won't take on your project. However, if I know of anyone who might be a good fit, I'm also happy to connect you.

I'm interested in working with you, but I'm worried my manuscript is too rough/I'm too inexperienced as a writer. Should I reach out?

Please reach out! I've worked with writers who are just starting out, those who've been working for years on a manuscript, some who are already published, and just about everyone in between. My feedback is completely personalized for you and your project, so if you're a beginning writer, my notes will not look the same as I might give someone at a different point in their career. My goal is to help you where you are, right now, with an eye on how you level up to the next stage.

I feel like I need help, but I'm not even sure how or with what. Should I figure this out before contacting you?

Only if you want to! Feel free to reach out and just let me know the situation and what your goals are. I've worked with many writers who aren't quite sure what their next steps are, and we were able to come up with a plan that worked for them. I'm always happy to answer an email, even if nothing ends up being the right fit for you ultimately.

I've checked out all of your services, but none feel exactly like the right fit for me. Are there other options?

Yes, I list the most popular packages and services, but if you have something else in mind, drop me a line. I'm happy to price out something for you, or propose services based on your current goals.

What are the benefits to working with a freelance editor?

There are plenty of things I do that any great critique partner can do: suggest line edits, analyze text, provide recommendations for structural changes, advise ways to improve character, plot, storytelling, and more. 

However, many of the writers I work with have told me they appreciate knowing that, unlike friends and family, while I strive for kindness and empathy, I don't have an existing relationship pushing me away from giving tougher notes.

I'm also being paid, so I will give you a clear idea of how long the process will take, and you're allowed to nudge me about this if I don't meet the deadline. (I actually haven't missed a deadline in years, but I know it can be tricky sometimes asking a friend to read a 300-page manuscript in a limited window of time.)

Finally, I know there are times when I've had my critique partners read multiple drafts of a manuscript, and their eyes glazed over and they weren't sure they could help any further. I can be that pair of fresh, non-glazed eyes.

Again, none of this is required! I say this a lot because I like to keep it clear. But if you are interested in working with an editor, I'd love to hear from you.

Are there any resources for authors who want to level up, but can't afford editing services, workshops, or classes?

Yes! I first recommend to everyone to look for Facebook groups for the genre you're interested in. There you'll likely find other writers who are exactly where you are, and you may be able to find critique partners who'll assess your work for nothing more than returning the favor with their work. There will also be many discussions that may benefit you, and the opportunity to ask questions of others.

 

If you live near a bookstore, there may be great book clubs or writing groups that meet regularly; I met many of my first writer friends via a book club.

I also did an entire writing series on my author Instagram channel called Arts & Craft. There's a variety of topics I discussed, and then I interviewed multiple authors about their own work.

Finally: read. Read! Read a lot. Read a variety of genres. Read deeply in the genre you want to write, and make sure you're reading new titles in addition to any others that interest you. Staying current will help you inherently understand the current marketplace (as well as any of us can keep up on the current marketplace, at least!) and its norms and trends. I also like to subscribe to various Publishers Weekly newsletters to see what titles are selling to editors right now (for future release).

Do you have any standard general writing advice?

From working with many writers early in their careers, I do have some advice that seems to apply to many. If it helps you, wonderful!

First: if you want to write commercial fiction (i.e. not literary, not experimental), learn structure. There are many guides; I like Save the Cat Writes a Novel (see below) for all genres, and Romancing the Beat and Writing the Romantic Comedy for romance/romcoms, but if you connect with a different one, great. Yes, great writers bend and break structure all the time, but I highly recommend learning it, particularly how story builds on itself and how character drives story.

Speaking of character, remember that every moment in your book is a chance to develop character further. Description, setting, stray action lines, etc. Use these all as opportunities! It doesn't matter, for example, that a car is red, but it does matter that your character chose to drive a red car, or that your character thinks her sister's red car is tacky as hell.

Next, don't neglect what your POV character is thinking! I see many writers being careful to keep moving their story along, but, again, the story matters only as far as the people in it do. So let's make sure we know what that person is thinking.

Finally, as I say in many other answers here: read. Not just for joy and fun and inspiration (though those all matter, deeply), read in the genre you're writing. And not just those books that inspired you as a kid, etc. Learn what the genre you want to get into looks like, right now, and see what lessons you can draw from that.

Are there books you recommend that help writers improve their manuscripts?

I have several that I love recommending.

For big-picture story, and ways to generate your plot and work out how story works:

Wired for Story, Lisa Cron

Story Genius, Lisa Cron

For anyone struggling with structure, curious about structure, wanting to improve at structure, etc.:

Save the Cat Writes a Novel, Jessica Brody

For those in that same boat who also write romance!:

Romancing the Beat, Gwen Hayes

Writing the Romantic Comedy, Billy Mernit*

*This is a screenwriting guide, but its lessons are valuable for romcom writers of any form

For dismantling MFA-style thinking and disrupting how you approach craft:

Craft in the Real World, Matthew Salesses

For writers who want to draw from real life and feel limited by the demands of fiction:

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee

For anyone who is looking for new ways to be inspired:

How Music Works, David Byrne

Songteller, Dolly Parton

Your Art Will Save Your Life, Beth Pickens

Finishing the Hat, Stephen Sondheim

Look, I Made a Hat, Stephen Sondheim

Wonderbook, Jeff VanderMeer

I love the art on your site! Who drew it?

I purchased a bunch of beautiful designs by Big Barn Doodles! Support indie artists!

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