Q and A with Professional Editor Claire Baldwin

My first dalliance in publishing was a self-pub offering during a foolish time in my life when I under appreciated the difference a professional editor could make in the assembly of my manuscript.

Yeah. That was dumb.

So when it came time to getting feedback from a pro on my latest project, I was super nervous.

It was going to be her job to point out my sagging middles and cavernous plot holes.

And I knew quite well that before she was done, I was going to be one of many authors who can relate to a meme remarkably like this:

Editor pic i.jpg

The professional editor I chose was a lady from the UK named Claire Baldwin, and she ended up being a joy to work with.

She caught mistakes that went unheeded by multiple beta readers as well as the customary grammar correction gadgets.

She also helped me break through my word count barriers. Before Claire, my book was a paltry 28,000 words, and I believed in my heart and soul I could add no more. I now have 33,000 and I’m only half way through my largest round of re-writes.

Claire was also kind enough to answer some interview-style questions for a nosy author with a blog (below).

So for readers and writers who are curious about the editorial side of publishing, here’s a wee glimpse of what it all looks like from an editor’s point of view:

Q: Does your job as an editor make you happy, or does it make you look forward to retirement?

A: It makes me very happy. Like most editors, I’ve been a bookworm since childhood, and I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to turn that into a career. Of course, there are ups and downs, as with any job, but on the whole, I’m not sure when I’ll ever retire.

Q: After working with books for profit, do you still read for fun?

A: Yes, definitely, and I would say it’s impossible to do the job if you don’t always enjoy reading for pleasure. Every book an editor reads contributes to their knowledge of the market, even if they’re not strictly ‘for work’, so the lines are blurred about what constitutes reading for fun anyway. Time pressure from the sheer volume of manuscripts can get overwhelming, though, and when the submissions pile up, the bedside reading pile also starts to teeter at dangerous heights.

Q: Have you edited any books so good, you get distracted from the edits and found yourself reading it to learn what happens?

A: On my first read of a novel, I always immerse myself in the story to find out what happens, and writing a few notes and thoughts along the way doesn’t distract me from that. It’s on the second read that I go through a manuscript in more detail, dissecting and checking over things more slowly and carefully, making notes and editorial suggestions.

Q: How does working with British authors differ from working with American authors?

A: In terms of the editorial process, there isn’t a noticeable difference between British and American authors (apart from a character walking along the ‘sidewalk’ rather than the ‘pavement’ etc). Individual authors all have different quirks and approaches, and often different needs from an editor, and that varies regardless of where they’re from.

Q: Is there any genre you despise so completely you would neither edit nor read it?

A: No, good writing and story-telling will always draw me in (and sometimes the weirder the better – I was enjoying reading some spoetry the other day). And the delineation of what lies in which sub-genre can often be quite arbitrary. But for editing, my experience and focus have always been on fiction, particularly historicals and fantasy, so that is what I’m best placed to work on.

Note from Nosy Author: I was not hip enough to know what “spoetry” is before I Ms. Baldwin mentioned it, so I looked it up. The internet says spoetry is “poetic verse composed primarily from the subject lines or content of spam e-mail messages.”  Isn’t learning fun? I think it’s fun!

Q: Do editors tend to be writers as well, or can the skills of writing and editing be exclusive from one another?

A: Yes, there is lots of obvious crossover, and many editors are writers as well. In the UK at the moment there seem to be a particular raft of editors turning their hand successfully to novel writing. But being a brilliant editor doesn’t necessarily mean someone will be a good writer, and vice versa. There are different skills necessary which make each exclusive from the other too.

Q: Are there editors with so distinct a style, you can tell when he or she has worked on a manuscript, or is the idea to be the unheeded force that makes a novel extra lovely, like great bass lines in a rock song or subtle makeup on a beautiful woman?

A: The idea is definitely to be the unheeded force, the great bass lines in a rock song J. A good editor should never impose any personal style on an author and their manuscript, but work with that author to bring out their voice and the full potential of their book.

On the commissioning side, though, editors are recognized by the types of books they acquire for a publisher, with their taste and style coming through in the list they build up. There also used to be a trend (not as common now) of imprints being named after the editor who ran them, whose stamp of approval was enough to convince the trade that a book that editor had selected was one worth really getting behind.

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Many thanks to Claire Baldwin for making this post possible (and more interesting. I’ve interviewed myself before. Reviews were less than favorable). If you’re inclined to seek out her expertise in handling your next novel, you can send her a proposal / request for a quote on https://reedsy.com/#/freelancers

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