Interview with Susan Smith – Proofreader and Editor Extraordinaire
Hi Susan, I’m so glad to have found you and I’m really hoping that by having this interview today with you that it will serve as the focus for a lot more people to come into contact with you and your wonderful talent as not only a proof reader, but also as an editor. Now being an author myself I can say that I truly do know the value of people with your skill set and to date I haven’t found a better one than you. I think it’s important for me to clarify for those in the audience, that while proof reading and editing services are by no means new to the literary world, the quality that you exhibit is always going to be a rare commodity set apart by itself. As I’ve previously stated, I’m glad to have found you and I’m enjoying our working relationship as you help me to better define my written words so that readers have the best experience possible when they pick up a book of mine.
Well thank you, Guy. I love your books and consider editing them to be a privilege.
Now Susan I have a couple of questions that I want to ask and I think that there are questions that many authors want to and often do ask those individuals that they entrust with their prize manuscripts to. Shall we start?
Certainly Guy, I'll be glad to answer any questions that you have.
Okay then. A big one for me is the Voice of the Story. I’ve had prior experiences with others in the editing sphere of influence where basically the editor wishes to become the writer. They take over the story through their own lens of contact, as they superimpose themselves into the dominant role in the process of getting a book published. For myself personally, I have to say that’s a nightmare in the making. How do you handle the role of aiding and encouraging the Voice of the Story to the desired destination versus becoming the guiding force for the entire Story and interjecting your own Voice in place of the original?
In some ways, that's a hard question since I've always edited with an ear for the author's voice. First of all, I edit from the perspective of a reader, not an author. I view the story as belonging to the author and see my job as the polisher, if you will. I truly admire someone who can write a good story, why would I want to re-write it? If I wanted to write a book, I'd write my own!
Second, I believe that the author's voice is as important as the story itself. I guarantee you, if you had 4 different authors write a story using the same characters and basic plot, you'd still get 4 very different stories. I think it's important to preserve the author's voice. When I come across a sentence that reads awkwardly or is kind of rough, I try to keep the author's word usage and tone in mind when choosing an alternative sentence.
You’ve edited one book for me so far and I have to say that I really liked the way that you went about it in terms of showcasing your refinement of my writing. Allow me to explain to the audience exactly what it is you did. I, the author, provided a good old serviceable copy of my book in Microsoft Word format. You proceeded to take that digital file and make the changes needed. Now, instead of the dreaded term paper with red ink etched out all over it, I received in return the same workable digital document with not so much red on it. In specific you employed three colors. Red for spelling corrections. Green for grammar corrections. Blue for Editor Suggestions. I have to say, going down through the file was a freeing experience from other editors in the past where it was “you must change this and this and this …..," etc. How did you come up with your system of editorial review?
(laughs) Actually, that's the first time I've done it that way. In one of your original emails, you asked me to highlight the changes I made in a colored font. Well, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to you if you understood what type of error I was correcting. I guess, in the back of my mind, I was thinking that it would help you make less errors in the future. So, I basically borrowed from Microsoft Word which underlines spelling errors in red and grammar errors in green. Then, I also needed another color for my suggestions, so I just randomly chose blue, which happens to be my favorite color.
Now, I’m a self-published author and by that term alone it says I’m basically tasked with doing it all myself. But, as the saying goes, “no man is an island unto himself.” There is a great need I feel in the writing of most, if not all, of the burgeoning number of indie authors out there, for some good oversight and editorial review. How do you view your role as an editor? Specifically, do you see yourself staying in the indie market or are you interested in more mainline authors that have gone the publishing house path?
I'm open to either, but see myself more in the indie market. First of all, I believe the indie market is where the growth is happening. It can be very difficult to get published by a publishing house and a lot of good authors get excluded. As I mentioned earlier, someone who writes a good story is not necessarily someone who's good at the editing. That's where I come in. I sort of see myself as the silent partner. Just as my husband and I are a good team (we're very different in personality), I see the writer and editor as a team, working together to produce a great book.
I’m an author of many genres, but a prevailing theme behind all of my books is my heavy insistence on carrying my Christian lifestyle over into the stories I write. In a previous communication to me you mentioned that it was my strong action styled storytelling coupled with my inclusion of God and faith elements in my books that attracted you to my books in the first place. Do you see yourself as staying in the Christian market of fiction or are you open to doing editing services for books that might fall outside the realm of Christian fiction as well? Also are there certain genres that you prefer working on over others?
I see myself as staying mostly in the Christian market. While I'm not opposed to other markets, I prefer to work with books where God is central. I really have no genres preference. I enjoy pretty much any type of book with the exception of horror. I don't think I could do horror. Science fiction and fantasy are one of my favorites as well as humorous mysteries, but I'm not exclusive.
When you're editing, do you ever get the urge to write yourself or do always see yourself as but the enabler for clearer expressed thought to someone else’s imaginings?
It's funny you should ask me that. I actually have the beginnings of several stories on my computer and my family wishes I would finish them. But I don't very often have the urge to write and really prefer to help others with their writing. I guess I see myself as a better editor than a writer. I don't know, maybe someday, when my kids are grown, I might try writing.
Now, sadly, most of us DIY authors share the common problem of being, for lack of a better way of putting it, broke. I have found myself often befuddled as to just how much money it takes to put a book together well and then to get it out there where it will be noticed in a positive light. One thing I’ve learned to grow observant of, is investing my money where it will do me the most good. I find that it’s best, not to mention reassuring to me, when there’s some way of validating the services of what is being offered, before I have to make a full monetary commitment. Do you offer authors a way to first see what it is that they’ll be receiving in terms of an edited manuscript, or is it blind commitment; this is what you get for this much money? I guess what I’m trying to say is, do you offer a free partial peak or money back guarantee of your editing endeavors on behalf of the client?
Definitely. Editing is a lot of work and can be rather expensive for the author. I would rather offer a free sample up front, say the first chapter of the author's book. Then, if the author doesn't care for my work neither of us has made a huge commitment.
Well, I think that about does it for this interview. What’s the best way, Susan, that authors out there reading this can contact you to pursue getting you to look at their book? Going along with that, I’d also have to ask, for the benefit of those in the audience, where they might go online to see more of your work firsthand?
Currently, the best way to contact me is by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to preview some of my work you can check out my husband's blog: http://SmittysToolCrib.blogspot.com. I edit most of his blog posts. Also, you can view a preview of a book we co-wrote, and I edited, here on Amazon: 101 Strategies to Combat Worry
Thank you, Susan, for having this interview with me and thank you to all those of you out there reading this interview. She does great work and I can’t recommend her talents enough. My fellow authors, if you’re in as need of a helping hand as I am, in getting the perfect story out there for all to read, then you can’t go wrong with Susan.
Have a Blessed Day Everyone!
Guy Stanton III