Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Anyone looking for an editor?

For those of us who are considering self-publishing, besides perfecting our manuscripts, passing it through critique partners, and all the other hullabaloo, one very important step in the game is selecting an editor.  I realize this may not be for everyone since we're not all swimming in a sea of excess dough, but if you're really serious about producing your best quality work before presenting it to the world, perhaps it's a step that shouldn't be overlooked.

After interviewing Jamie Tingen (one of my new favourite authors, author of Butterfly Messages), I came into contact with her editor and I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to offer self-published writers (or those considering it) a glimpse into the mind of someone who could become one of your best friends...Annette Mardis.

How long have you been an editor?
I've only edited a few books so far, but I started editing newspaper stories in the late 1980s.

That's a long time, which is great because you definitely want someone with a lot of experience!

How did you get into editing?
I started out in journalism as a features writer for the Clearwater Sun in January 1980 and transferred over to news writing a few years later. I was promoted to my first editing job with that same newspaper. I edited stories written by news reporters who I supervised. The job also involved planning, assigning and directing news coverage.

As a reader, what's your favourite book?
Answering that question is a lot like eating only one cashew. But if I had to choose just one book, I'd say it was "To Kill a Mockingbird."

I know for anyone with a love of books, this is THE hardest question, but I love her response.  To me this shows she also has a sense of humour, which is something I personally like to find in everyone I interact with, business or personal.

As an editor, what was your favourite project?
I've been involved in a lot of memorable news stories, including hurricanes, high-profile criminal trials, the execution of serial killer Ted Bundy, local reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush's re-election campaign visit to New Port Richey and, most recently, the Republican National Convention in Tampa, just to name a few.

Some other books you've edited that we can find?
Before "Butterfly messages" by Jamie Tingen, I edited "Secrets of Havenridge" by Chris Coad Taylor, another self-published author. I just finished a book by a third self-published author and have started editing the manuscript for a fourth self-published novelist.

I haven't read 'Secrets of Havenridge', but having read Butterfly Messages, I can vouch for the excellent editing because not only was it a fantastic read, but it was also hard to find an error in this book.

Have you worked with published authors? Or just self-published?
Just self-published so far. I'm editing on a freelance basis.

Can you edit something you don't enjoy? Or do you have to be invested in the story?
It's certainly a lot more fun to edit something that's well-written and captures my interest, but it's not a prerequisite. Editing is work; it's not like reading for pleasure, although I find myself mentally editing everything I read, from books to street signs.

Do you encourage revisions and suggest certain changes, or do you simply edit for grammar? Basically what's your style of editing?
One of the most challenging things for an editor is to preserve the writer's voice. That means avoiding making changes just because I would have written it differently if I were the author. As a newspaper editor, I took responsibility for the story once the reporter turned it in. I tried to work with a reporter to come up with a finished product we were both happy with. But because of deadline pressures, I sometimes didn't have time for such give and take. And I had the authority, and the duty, to overrule reporters when we disagreed.
Working with self-published authors, though, requires a different approach because, ultimately, it's their book and their money. The author can accept my suggestions, or not. Some changes are no-brainers, such as misspellings and grammatical and factual errors. But I also make sure that the writing flows well, sentences are well-constructed, the plot doesn't have holes or inconsistencies, the characters are well-developed and the dialogue is crisp and realistic.

I found her response very encouraging, you definitely want an editor that understands the importance of the writer preserving their voice.  It's also great to see that she looks for so many things some of us writers struggle with, like the character development, dialogue, and plot holes.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see in writing?
I see a lot of misspellings and punctuation errors, misuse of words and imprecise word choices. I'm really amazed that I see so many mistakes in books by best-selling authors. It seems as though books by big publishing houses aren't as well-edited as they used to be. And it's amazing how many people who become professional writers are not good stewards of the language.

I have to agree with this, it always surprises me when I find an error in a book.  With the reputation self-publishing has, we might be a little more lenient on such things, but in a book that's been picked up by one of the big publishing houses...  However, I do remember reading somewhere that some people intentionally inject errors into their work so they don't come across as so 'perfect'.

Any tips or advice you could give to writers?
Find your voice; don't try to write like anybody else. Read a lot and pay attention to how other writers put words together and structure their work. Use active verbs. Don't just string adjectives together when describing something. Include details and anecdotes that help the reader form a mental picture. Proofread your work and always use spellcheck. Have a dictionary handy -- and use it! Build your vocabulary, but don't use words just to show off. Take responsibility for making your writing as clear, concise and error-free as you can possibly make it.

That's a lot of great advice!

Annette Mardis has also written book reviews for The Tampa Tribune and for  She has a lot of experience with editing and I've heard nothing but good things about her from her client (Jamie Tingen).  If anyone would like to get in touch with Annette, you can contact her through email  You can also check out her Facebook page called PostHereReaders, it is open to anyone who wants to visit and discuss books, articles, etc. they have read or written.

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