Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Other Side of the Words II: An Editor's POV
A Few Words with Geoff Brown and Theresa Derwin
Compiled by Anthony Servante

Introduction by Anthony Servante:

The Other Side of the Words is a column about Editors. I invite professionals and freelancers to discuss their craft and to share with new and upcoming authors of self-published works and ebooks the importance of hiring savvy proofreading and editing experts. This is my second outing covering the topic, and today I welcome Geoff Brown and Theresa Derwin to talk about their services. 

We begin with Geoff.

Geoff Brown (on the left).

1. What is editing to you? Break down how you define it in your services. For instance, what is the difference between proofreading and editing?

Geoff: Editing is, before anything, about clarity while preserving the author’s unique voice and narrative structure. Conciseness and clarity is the aim, yet to preserve the unique voice of the piece is the game. Both hold similar importance. Both are essential to the process, for the sake of the manuscript.
Manuscript assessment/appraisal is the first thing I recommend. This offers an overall (personalised) assessment/critique of a manuscript, looking at: strengths, weaknesses, structural issues, and necessary changes for submission to agent or publisher. Includes some line notes and a full written report, and can take out many of the problems encountered and reported in a structural (mechanical) edit.
Structural edits look at similar things to appraisal, but is a more hands-on-manuscript service rather than giving you most of the info in a written report (although you still get a written report). For fiction, plot elements will be checked to make sure everything is consistent – including character behaviour and appearance, tracking for plot holes, story arc, character development, etc. For non-fiction, we look at whether there is a need for additional material such as a glossary, illustrations, map or index. We also assess whether the document is user-friendly and easy to navigate and whether the structure itself is functional or whether the content needs rearranging into more logical order or into another form such as a table or illustration.
Copy-editing is very deep line-by-line work to remove the mistakes, inconsistencies or other infelicities of expression that could irritate or confuse readers—or embarrass the author. At the copy editing stage, the editor therefore concentrates on the details of language, spelling and punctuation, on achieving consistency of style and layout, fact-checking, and checking references, illustrations, tables, headings, sequences, links, and preliminary matter and end matter.
This brings us to the proofing stage. This is always the last part of the process, as it is no use proofing if new content is to be added. Proofing looks at removing the bottom-level errors of spelling, punctuation, missing or incorrect words, and tensing, other grammar, and layout issues. Proofing is not the time to make big changes, as that should have been done in the earlier stages of editing.

2. Tell us your experience in editing. Give some background how you got started, how long you’ve been doing it, etc.

Geoff: I studied full-time for two years at college level, gaining a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, and upon graduation was awarded two ‘Student of the Year’ awards. I opened my own editing business halfway through the course, and it has built up to the point where I subcontract to a number of highly-skilled professionals. Apart from editing, we offer cover design, as well as typography and layout of all book types, and ongoing advice and guidance. Cohesion Editing and Proofreading began three years ago, and we offer the very best service we can for the best prices.
I am now six subjects into a university level Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and Publishing. I never want to stop learning. Every day I learn something is a good day.
I also teach editing at college level, at the institution I attended only two years ago as a student. It gives me immense pleasure to pass on the skills I have learnt over the years to new people, to help the industry maintain the high quality I have come to expect from myself and my peers.

3. Give examples, other than your own books, about whose books you have edited, if possible (I know, with me, some authors prefer anonymity).

Geoff: I have edited an issue of Midnight Echo, the magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association, which featured renowned authors such as Jonathan Maberry, James A Moore and Robin Firth, as well as many other great writers. I have edited NY Times bestselling-author Greig Beck, and Australian legend Martin Livings, as well as Shirley Jackson Award-winning writer Kaaron Warren, to name a few. I opened my own publishing business, Cohesion Press, a year ago, and our next release features stories by Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, Joseph Nasisse, James A Moore, and Greig Beck, as well as a plethora of talented writers.
Other services like layout and typesetting are some of our most-used options. We have done typesetting for many people, including USA Today-bestseller Madison Johns, as well as renowned publishers such as Dark Regions Press.

4. Tell us about the need for your services. For me, about 30% of the books I read should be edited, because there’s a good book hiding in there. But about 30% of the books are first drafts, which require a re-write, not an edit. Or do you see things differently?

Geoff: I think your odds are about right, and that’s not taking into account the many books that should never have been published. Every book needs an editor. Writers, no matter how great, need a new pair of (trained and experienced) eyes to look over their work. Writers see what they believe is there, yet editors provide the fresh eyes that see what really is there. No matter how great the writer, an editor, a good editor, will find the flaws, the problems, and the blind spots that the author can’t due to being too close to the story to provide themselves with honest and direct feedback.

5. How do you determine how much to charge? What factors do you include in your costs and fees?

Geoff: We charge on a sliding scale. We look at the person seeking the work, whether they are a brand new self-publisher or an established multi-list author or publishing house. We work out what they can afford.
We also look at the amount of work required. That’s why we ask to see some examples of the work. The less work needed, the lower the charge. We also offer payment plans and options suited to any budget.

6. Do you offer any guarantees or follow-up services (free or fee-based?)?

Geoff: No reputable editor would offer any guarantees with their services, except for guaranteeing to give you the very best work possible. The world of publishing is chaotic. Readers can move any way in their tastes, and what is popular today may be old news in a week. No-one can guarantee sales, no matter how well the book is written and edited. I would never make any sales guarantee. Publishers are even more chaotic. They try to move in the future, trying to predict what will be popular in the twelve-to-eighteen months it takes for a book to go through the publishing process. They like what they like, and no two publishers or acquisition editors are the same.
Follow-up services are a different thing. Years of networking in the writing and publishing field, as well as two years as president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, allows me to help with suggestion on targeted submissions and knowing who is looking for what, purely through talk with other industry professionals. That said, the first point of this section still stands – I can offer guidance, but certainly no guarantees.

7. How much time do you require for a 10,000 (20,000, 30,000, etc.) word document? Does the time differ on whether or not you are proofreading or editing, or is it a set charge?

Geoff: Each job is different. Each level of editing is different. Each time frame is different. Each fee is different. There are too many variables to give an accurate quote, but know that we speed each and every job through the process as quickly and smoothly as we can without sacrificing quality for time-frame.
Sometimes we are busier than at other times, but we are never sitting here twiddling our thumbs, as we have many return customers, and jobs go on the timetable as they come in and as our quotes are accepted. No-one gets special treatment or kicked to the front of the line. First in, first served.

8. Tell us anything about editing not covered in the questions. Go crazy, if you so wish.

Geoff: One of my pet peeves is the amount of untrained and inexperienced people out there calling themselves editors, merely because they have written one self-published novel and beta-read manuscripts for a few friends.
Professional editors get trained and educated. Professional editors work so hard at improving their skills that they bleed sweat every single day learning the difference between tenses, the minutiae of grammar, the many and varied plot elements, characters, story arcs, and everything else that makes a great book. Editors constantly stay abreast of new skills and styles. Editors have an eye for design, an eye for voice, an eye for a unique narrative style, and they have qualifications to show this. Yes, there are some naturally-good editors, but they are few and far between. For the rest of us, the skills are learnt, every single day of our lives. Most of all, editors read as much as writers should read.
Just because someone can self-publish and open a Facebook page doesn’t make them an editor. Do your research, people. Find out what they’ve done, and ask for references. Ask for a sample of work, to see if you fit with them. It’s no good using a romance editor if you write horror, and it’s no use using a horror editor if you write non-fiction. This is why I have a few different editors working for me, each with their own strengths, and every single one with training and long experience in the craft and art of editing.

Contact Information:

Geoff Brown Dip. PWE
Editor-in-Chief – Cohesion Press
Editor/Columnist/Reviewer – This is Horror (UK)


On to Theresa.

Theresa Derwin 

1: What is editing to you?

Theresa: defining editing is a tricky one; after all, when does the process of proof reading stop and the inner editor take over? It can also vary according to project. For instance I recently edited an anthology of twelve dark stories written by female writers called 'Her Dark Voice'. I'd been planning this book for quote some time and commissioning stories from a variety of female authors, cherry picking if you will. As such, the quality of stories I received was excellent, the authors very professional so the editing required was a basic copy edit and house style edit. Every publisher has its own 'house style' suck as using okay instead of OK in order to ensure consistency through its projects. However, with other books or projects the editing goes past a basic proof reading level into full on editing territory. For instance I am currently mentoring an author with his first novel, an enjoyable and quite dark horror novel that I feel has some potential. I also feel the author himself has great future potential, so I have extended my services. With a basic edit I look at structure, grammar, punctuation - the basics of writing. I will either 'red pen it' on printed manuscript or use the comment function on MS Word. I'm not a fan of track changes but at some point I'll have to get to grips with it. Once Ive done a first read through with error spotting, or proof reading, I'll do my second read through more in depth. I'll look at the overall symmetry of the piece, how it feels. Does it work? Does text need removing completely or switching around? It then goes back to the author to make changes. When it comes back I do another read through and engage in a conversation with the author about any other changes we need to consider. However, with the above mentioned author Ive been assigning homework. Month one; write me a new fairy tale adapted from an original. Month two; research William Shunn (essential to anyone wanting to submit professionally). In summary, the job varies depending on the need.

2: Experience and 3: Work

Theresa: I've been writing since I was nine years old and when I hit twenty-three I went to university to study Literature. It was at that time, nearly twenty years ago that I discovered just how much editing I required myself when assignments would come back tarnished in red pen! I studied up to postgraduate level for around ten years, part of my MA being in creative writing. Through that valuable module I honed my writing skills and learnt from the best. I also worked for the Civil Service so regularly edited work related documents. However, I really got into this gig around three years ago when I started submitting short stories to markets and getting accepted. It was there I really learned how to edit, learning from editors themselves. So in 2012 when I was offered a chance to edit a Christmas Horror anthology for Fringeworks Ltd, I went for it. That involved putting out the submission call and selecting the stories then going through the whole editorial process. That was 'Ain't No Sanity Clause'. I have since edited volume two out Sept 14, Grimm Volume One and Volume Two, Andromeda's Offspring out May 14 and Her Dark Voice released April 14 for Breast Cancer Awareness. Phew, this does depend on what you egg through your inbox or door.

4: Need

Theresa: Now that's an interesting question, but then again, how long is a piece of string? Need depends often on the quality of the writing, the experience of the author and sometimes the experience of the editor. For example, Nov 12 I edited my first anthology, and I guarantee it took a lot longer to edit than it needed because I was continually checking and cross-checking references and dud not have the confidence in my own skills. Now however, a few books in, I tend to trust my own judgement but seek advice when needed so it's down to the writing itself and the experience of the authors. About 40% of stories tend to need a good deal if work, 50% an average amount and 10% requires minimal work in my experience. With Her Dark Voice it was a 10% job! Ain't No Sanity Clause required a lot of work whereas by the time I'd come to Grimm, I'd selected some solid stories to begin with, so the editing job was less time consuming.

5: Charge.

Theresa: Charging for me services is again down to the above factors and the tasks involved. I sometimes charge a royalty (10% is a standard figure I've settled on having discussed this issue with other experienced editors) when royalties are appropriate. That's up for negotiation. I need to take into account the work and time involved. How many subs/words will I be reading? Will I even be reading the subs or just taking over at that point? How much work is involved? To settle on a ballpark figure I charge £10 - £15 per hour and invoice accordingly.

6: Is there any follow up on your part?

Theresa: I will indeed follow up if necessary. And if it's my fault and I missed something I'll fix it for free.

7: How much time do you require for a 10,000 (20,000, 30,000, etc.) word document? Does the time differ on whether or not you are proofreading or editing, or is it a set charge?

Theresa: I can read a short story of around 6,000 words with basic edits in 30 minutes to an hour with a more intensive edit normally taking up to 90 minutes. With the novel I'm currently working on which needs quite a bit of red pen it's took me two hours to edit 32 pages. I charge by time not word count but can normally give a quote once Ive flicked through the project.

8: Final thoughts on editing? 

Theresa: Hmmm. Read the bloody guidelines peeps! If you're submitting to a professional market and the guidelines call for 2,000 to 6,000 words don't send in 1,000 words. It will be rejected and you've wasted everybody's time including your own. Make sure before you send it off to the editor you've also done a basic proof read and edit yourself. An editor's job isn't to fix stupidity.

Contact Information:

Bio can be found on please.
Contact through that site or


Thank you, Geoff and Theresa, for participating in this brief interview--more a survey actually. You can see right off that our two editors have even edited the questions differently (I merely added their names to the responses). This series connects with the Cybernocturnalism interviews regarding the state of self-publishing these days in ebook form, where bad to no editing can be found. The rise of professional editing services has abounded to meet the growing need that Cybernocks, who have little to no experience, require to put out a quality product. I'll try not to wait so long between interviews with editors for our next post on The Other Side of the Words. Thank you, readers, for joining our guests today. This is the Servante of Darkness bidding you an "Hasta luego". 

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