Welcome to the four hundred and sixty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Back on the 12th June I interviewed romance / erotica author and editor Sue Swift aka Suz deMello when we talked about her writing… today she returns, wearing her editor’s hat. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello again, Sue. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be an editor.
Sue: Morgen, thanks for the opportunity. I started writing in 1996, and the ideas and words flowed nicely for a number of years. Then writing became a chore akin to digging ditches with my teeth. Despite writers’ block, I can still use the information I learned while writing to help others. I’ve edited for Liquid Silver Books, Ai Press, Total-E-Bound and Etopia Press, where I was senior editor. At this point, I’m freelancing.
Morgen: Freelancing is tough but you clearly have the experience, and determination to help others – I know how grateful everyone is who have taken part in this blog, or even just enquired. Is there a format (novels, non-fiction…) / genre that you generally edit?
Sue: I’ve edited both, but prefer fiction, especially young adult paranormal.
Morgen: A rather global question, but are there common mistakes an author can make?
Sue: Yes, and I see the same errors over and over. Info dumps and bad dialog tags seem to be universal among new authors, as well as the heavy use of meaningless words and phrases like “it was,” “there was,” “somewhat” and the like.
In a story, every word should have meaning. No junk words, please, unless your character speaks or thinks in that manner.
Morgen: <going off to check my ‘it was’, ‘there was’, ‘somewhat’> Not sure I’ve used ‘somewhat’ very often. Do editors generally charge by the word or the hour?
Sue: I feel that charging by the hour is somewhat iffy. I charge by the word and most other editors do also.
Morgen: Mine does (as do I) and I think it’s the fairest way. How much notice do you get (would you like / need) for editing a project?
Sue: I actually don’t need much. When someone contacts me I assess what’s up with my life and how I can slot in a new project.
Morgen: Sounds like you have a good life. Do you have much dealing with publishers?
Sue: Yes, often. Both as a writer and as an editor.
Morgen: I’ve heard numerous authors say they can self-publish without an editor – what would you say to that?
Sue: Anyone can do anything they want, but it might not be a good idea. Unless an author is quite experienced, and has equally skilled and honest beta readers, I’d say that self-publishing without an editor is a very bad idea.
Morgen: I agree – there was someone on LinkedIn a while back who said he was going it alone and was suitably shot down in flames (as the cliché goes). How do you edit – on screen or on paper?
Sue: Mostly on screen, which was initially difficult. But as I’ve grown more conversant with MS Word, it’s become much easier and is my preference.
Morgen: I like paper but it’s quicker on the screen and find my thoughts more immediate that way. You’re a writer as well, does being a writer influence your editing at all?
Sue: I have written and edited for a long time, even contributing to and editing my high school literary magazine. Same with my law school’s journal. I started writing fiction in late 1996 and since then, have written and sold about fifteen novels. I’d say that as an editor, I have a greater and deeper understanding of craft plus more empathy toward writers than a non-writing editor would have.
Morgen: If someone wanted to become an editor, how would they go about it? Is there much competition to be an editor?
Sue: I’m not aware of the competition–I don’t worry too much about that. I’m an editor because I gained skills while writing novels that translated to editing. Others may go about this career via a more direct path; I’m sure that academic programs exist to train editors. But I didn’t go that route, so I don’t know much about that.
Morgen: I’m the same with my schooling; I’ve learned more from living life. These days an editor and agent are the key people in a writer’s life, do you think agents are vital to an author’s success?
Sue: With the growth of digital publishing, agents have become less relevant in that arena. But with the condensation of print publishing into perhaps six mega-corporations, an agent is more important than ever in that part of the writing business.
Morgen: And probably more difficult to get. What do you think of eBooks? Do you read them or is it paper all the way?
Sue: Both. I love my Kindle Touch.
Morgen: Me too… my Kindle Touch that is, not yours. Are you involved in any of the marketing for your clients?
Sue: To a certain degree. I also am busy marketing my own books, and there’s a delightful give-and-take—I blog with others and they blog with me. I am happy to push my authors’ books in my blog or Twitter feed or on Facebook. But this is voluntary—no one has ever paid me to do so and no publisher has ever asked me as an editor to push my authors’ books.
Morgen: That’s good because you’d think it would be tempting to put you in a perhaps tricky situation (if you disliked a particular book). Are there any books that you’ve edited that you remember for all the right / wrong reasons?
Sue: Oh, yeah. I’ve been lucky enough to edit some wonderful books by extremely gifted writers—too many to list here.
Morgen: How important do you think title / covers are?
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sue: I’m writing a vampire historical, the second book in a series. The first, Temptation in Tartan, was picked up by Ellora’s Cave and was published on June 1, 2012. I just finished editing a friend’s astrology column.
Morgen: Wow, that sounds like fun. Do you work every day? If there is such a thing, do you ever suffer from editor’s block?
Sue: I work just about every day and never suffer from editor’s block—thank heaven there’s no such thing! If I get bored or burned out, I play with my puppy or go on Facebook to reconnect with my friends for a few minutes.
Morgen: That would work for me (my dog’s nearly 12 although he still thinks he’s a puppy). Do you have to do much research for your job?
Sue: Not too much—I generally trust that the author has done that. I’m educated and experienced enough that I’ll research something if it jumps out at me.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sue: Study your craft, and don’t let enter the horse into the derby until she’s ready.
Morgen: I love that. What do you do when you’re not working?
Sue: My hobbies are yoga and world travel.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Sue: I am sure that I deserve royalties from Renni Browne and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
Morgen: It sounds like it does what it says on the ‘tin’. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Sue: I do the usual blogging, Facebooking, tweeting and so on and have no idea if they’re helping my sales. I hope so!
Morgen: I’m sure they can’t hurt. Where can we find out about you and your work? Do you take enquiries from authors directly?
Sue: I absolutely do take direct enquiries. I have a site, http://sueswifteditor.blogspot.com, which details my services and rates. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone interested in hiring me should write “looking for an editor” or some such in the subject line.
Morgen: Great to have you back. Thank you, Sue.
Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written over fifteen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica.
Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and reached the top ten on a bestseller list.
A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for months at a time. Right now, she’s working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.
Her blog is at http://www.fearlessfastpacedfiction.com. Find her reading picks at ReadThis4fun on Twitter, and befriend her on Facebook. You can also find Sue via: http://www.sue-swift.com, and http://www.suzdemello.com, and you can read our earlier interview about her writing.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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