Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writing Wildly: An Interview with Editor and Author Genevieve Graham

Today we welcome editor and author Genevieve Graham as she tells us a bit about what it's like to on both sides of the industry and a peak into what an author should look for, when searching out an editor. Welcome Genevieve!

GG: Thanks for inviting me to be here today, MK!

MK: It's wonderful having you here with us Genevieve! So, please tell us a little about yourself and Wildly Writing. 

GG: I'm both an editor and an author, having been published three times by Penguin US. The first two books, Under the Same Sky and Sound of the Heart came out this year, and the third, Out of the Shadows, will be in stores summer 2013.

I've been running my editing business for two years and have had the privilege of working with three dozen books by authors worldwide, including a number of repeat customers. My favourite reaction from authors is that they've “learned so much” from what I did for them, and they are using those lessons on the next book they write. 

MK: Speaking to potential book tour authors, why should they hire a professional editor rather than attempting it on their own?

GG: An author labours over every word they've written, then labours over them a second, perhaps third time, making sure the manuscript is as polished as is possible. They read the book out loud, making sure it flows, and they use their red pen liberally … at least that's what an author should do.

At that point, the author is far too close to the manuscript to be objective. Sure, you can ask family and friends to read it over, but in most cases that won't be enough. Put yourself in your family member's position. How easy would it be for you to inform your brother/aunt/neighbour/best friend that their book is messy or dull or in great need of grammatical help? Beta readers can be excellent for reading books and pointing our potential problems, but unless they're editors they might not know the solutions.

Really, you have one chance to make a good impression. Too many books are put on the market without having been edited, and many are incredibly obvious. People may buy those books because they're inexpensive and might have a pretty cover, but according to a lot of reviews I've read of different books, many readers can't get past page two. And they're angry for being fooled into believing that book would be well-written. Readers/customers spend their cash and time choosing what book to read—especially if it's an author they haven't seen before. Give them a reason to look forward to your next book.

MK: Personality matters when it comes to working with an editor. What should an author look for in a long term editor-author relationship?

GG: Oh, yes. Personality is very important, and the editor-author relationship must be smooth. An editor is in a position of trust. Books are like our babies; we don't hand them over to just anyone. There must be a constant flow of communication between the editor and the author so there are no misunderstandings. If there is friction the problem either has to be sorted out immediately or the two must end the relationship. The book is the important thing, not the egos.

It can be difficult at times to accept an editor's suggestions/corrections. The editor has to be able to word it so the author isn't hurt; however, the author also has a responsibility. They must realize that the reason they hired an editor in the first place was to improve upon the book, and that will entail changes.

MK: Will you tell us about your process?  Do you offer a sample edit?

GG: I ask authors to e-mail me a few pages from anywhere in the book. From those I choose one page, make my suggestions, then email the page back.

MK: Self-Published authors usually can’t set a firm release date until they hear back from an editor, which can be inconvenient. How long can an author expect the editing process to generally take?

GG: It depends on a number of factors, the first of which is the novel's length. Obviously a novella of under 40,000 words will be edited more quickly than one of 120,000 words. Secondly, timing will depend upon how well the book has been written before the editor sees it. I have worked with books which need only a touch-up, and I have worked with books which require almost a total re-write (with the author's blessing). On average, I edit a novel within two weeks, but I'm usually booked up a couple of months in advance. Clients pay 50% of my quote up front in order to hold their place in the queue.

MK: I’ve discovered that not all editors are created equal. What’s sets Writing Wildly Editing Services apart from other editors?

GG: I think it really helps that I'm an author, and a relatively new one at that. When I thought my first novel was complete—I'd never written anything before 2007—I sent my queries out to probably a hundred agents without even thinking about it. Of course there was no interest, because I had no idea what I was doing. I spent the next three years digging in deep: learning about the process of writing, the “rules” (and when it's okay to break them), and the overall feel of successful writing. When I had finished editing that first book of mine, it was 50,000 words shorter than the first version, and every word was better.

The first publisher (Berkley Sensation / Penguin US) my agent approached with Under the Same Sky bought the novel within forty-eight hours (along with a second, unwritten novel). My editor at Penguin was very happy to inform me that she wouldn't be editing it at all because it was already exactly right.

I've always had a kind of “intuitive” approach to writing—since I was little I had a fascination with spelling, word choice, etc. Now I understand how I can use that gift, incorporate the technical aspects of writing, and create a novel people will enjoy reading. That's what I apply to my clients' work.

MK: What is one tip you could offer authors before they send their manuscript to the editor?

GG: Take a month or so off from the book. Separate yourself from those oh-so-familiar words. Then go back and read the entire thing out loud.

MK: What are some past projects you’ve enjoyed working on? 

GG: I worked with Mary Vensel White on “The Qualities of Wood” (published by Harper Collins in 2012) and Caroline Hartman on “The Heart of Camelann” (now agented by Jacques de Spoelberch). Mary's is “literary fiction”, Caroline's is historical fiction. I've worked with just about every genre there is, from violent, abusive memoirs to exciting science fiction and thrillers, to self-help and Christian books.

MK: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

GG: The most important thing for authors to remember is that they need to enjoy writing. Too many people get wrapped up in the frustrating search for agents, the torturous journey towards publication. Ask yourself why you started writing in the first place. If it's for money, let me inform you from experience: you're in the wrong business. Same goes for fame. But if you write for the love of it, if you feel transported by the experience, if you laugh and cry with your characters and wish the stories would never end, then keep on doing what you're doing. 

MK: It's been a pleasure having you with us today Genevieve. You've given authors a great deal to think about when they go to edit their next book. 

"Any editor can add a comma, or cut an unnecessary word.  
Genevieve helped me find my voice." 
Mark Johnston
"Oliver Swaine and the New World"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for joining us today Genevieve and sharing your wisdom!