So what do you do, do?
On what, exactly, I do now.
warning: flashing gif at the end of this email
I had planned on writing about the Tom Stoppard biography I read last month, but I’m still mulling over various thoughts on Art, Life, Biography, Etc that it brought up, so I’m going to save that topic until I have a clearer idea of what I’d like to say. In the meantime, this week I thought I’d talk about freelance editing: what it is, why I’m doing it, and what it looks like when you work with one (specifically, with me.)
I’ve had a few people ask me, since I’ve started my new career path (and over the last few weeks as I’ve started this newsletter regularly again) what, exactly, it is I do now. These days, I’m a freelance editor, which means you can hire me to work on your manuscript to get it ready for either publication or querying. It’s been extremely rewarding for me so far to be able to keep my hand in with authors in this way, but I can’t shake the sense that people don’t understand how I justify what it is I do. After all, didn’t I say when I was agenting that hiring a freelance editor isn’t necessary?
I did say that! And it’s fair to question the change in career on these grounds! Agenting is easy to justify as a job; after all, if an author wants to publish traditionally, an agent is an essential partner. (And, once again, you should never pay money to someone who calls themselves an agent. If an “agent” is asking you for money up front for a reading fee or the like, they are scamming you and you should run away!) It’s true that you don’t have to pay someone like me to work on your manuscript in order to get an agent. But over the six months now (!!!) that I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned a lot from the authors I’ve worked with, and I think I can talk much more coherently about the role that freelance editors play in the cycle of a manuscript, and how they can be helpful for writers.
I work mainly through a platform called Reedsy, a marketplace that allows authors to search for editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, layout specialists, cover designers, etc. To hire a professional on Reedsy, you submit a project (sample, budget, etc.) to someone (like me!) and they either can or can’t work on it. If they can, they put forward a bid (just like a roofer) which you can then accept or reject.
Authors hire editors for many different reasons. For some, they don’t have a wide network of beta readers or a critique group, and this is a way of getting feedback (and a way of getting a professional’s eye on the project to judge its viability.) For others, they’re planning on self-publishing, and know they won’t be going through querying or the polish that an agent would give a project. For still others, they’ve queried before, and haven’t had the success they were hoping for, and want to work with a professional to take their writing to the next level.
I’d like to say here that you do not have to spend money on an independent editor to get an agent or to get a book deal or anything like that. Especially if hiring someone isn’t in your budget—I would never advise anyone that spending money you don’t have is essentialto the publishing process. However, if you have the money to pay for it and want a professional’s eye on your work before it’s shared with the wider world, it can be seriously worth it!
When you query and get rejected, often there’s no reason given as to why. Agents (my past self included) give you a generic rejection or a not-very-detailed rejection or, sometimes, no rejection at all. (Again, my past self also included.) Beta readers and critique partners are helpful, but they can’t catch everything—and if your relationship with your beta readers/CPs is particularly close, that can sometimes work against you with regards to honest, constructive feedback. When I provide feedback, I highlight aspects of the book that might be working against the story. I point out places where the pacing slows down and a reader could lose interest. Basically, I try to point out all the places where you might get a “no” faster than you’d like.
So no, I’m not essential, but I do think that I’m helpful. My edit letters are usually 2-4 pages long, with sections on areas such as character, plot and pacing. For developmental edits, which are more detailed, I provide in-line comments, suggestions, and questions. (These are more time consuming and therefore a little more expensive.)
To go back to the beginning of this newsletter, why this? Why not get another agenting job, or work as a scout, or go work in finance? Good question! I don’t entirely know the answer myself, except the working out the puzzle of how to make a book better is something I enjoy immensely. And it’s been lovely to be able to keep working on those puzzles, even if I don’t have a hand in what happens after they leave my inbox.
I’ve spent most of this newsletter outlining some of the practical aspects of hiring a freelance editor. Before I move on the various and sundry end notes of AFN, I’d like to say something else: there is an idea out there that writing is something you are inherently good at. While it is true that some people are better right off the bat than others, there is also an idea that to spend money to try and improve one’s writing is somehow cheating, that the rich buy their skills by hiring professionals. No matter what your end goal—even if you don’t have an end goal—I think spending your own money to improve your skill at something you enjoy doing is a good thing, regardless. People pay for lessons in all kinds of things. Hell, I’m learning how to play hockey, though it’s unlikely I’ll ever be on a serious team. It’s OK to take your art seriously. It’s OK to spend money to work on improving your art.
Next week, hopefully: Tom Stoppard! Or something else! In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about this side of the industry – or anything you’d like me to discuss in this newsletter! Just leave me a comment or reply to this email!
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
What did I say about fighting, Tom Wilson? I will say that I find the hand-wringing about Tom Wilson’s particular brand of hockey fightiness a little annoying. Especially considering that the night after his brawl with Panarin and various Rangers, there were not only several more brawls (including Sidney Crosby banging the head of chronic migraine sufferer Nolan Patrick repeatedly against the ice) but Panarin himself cross-checked Capitals infant Anthony Mantha in the face in retaliation. The NHL needs to decide whether it actually cares about player safety—right now the line is “let the players handle it.” The players are handling it by fighting one another.
Otherwise, this little newsletter would like to extend condolences to T.J. Oshie and his family on the death of his father,Tim “Coach” Oshie, who’d been suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. He was able to see his son lift the Cup in 2018.
On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking by Jeremy deSilva (LitHub)
He avoided conferences, parties, and large gatherings. They made him anxious and exacerbated an illness that plagued much of his adult life. Instead, he passed his days at Down House, his quiet home almost twenty miles southeast of London, doing most of his writing in the study. He occasionally entertained a visitor or two but preferred to correspond with the world by letter. He installed a mirror in his study so he could glance up from his work to see the mailman coming up the road—the 19th-century version of hitting the refresh button on email. Darwin’s best thinking, however, was not done in his study. It was done outside, on a lowercase d–shaped path on the edge of his property. Darwin called it the Sandwalk.
Beyonce’s Lemonade: A Lesson on Appreciating Art That Wasn’t Made For You by Karen Gwee (Consequence)
Lemonade was not made for me, either. As a Singaporean Chinese woman, I would be lying if I said I was familiar with the complex, myriad ways Beyoncé explores black female personhood, sexuality, and spirituality in the film. But as a non-American, non-white woman, what I am familiar with is appreciating art that is not and will never be made with me in mind.
(Interview) Only Lil Nas X Predicted How Much ‘Montero’ Would Outrage the Machine by Charlie Harding & Nate Sloan (Vulture)
Charlie: He’s good at mashing up cultural expectations and finding some way of surprising us with something important to say. Within that context, musically, you all find ways to work to mash up different genres and styles. What references are we hearing on “Montero”?
Denzel: The song is in Phrygian. I think every song that we’ve had in the top ten, oddly, has been Phrygian mode. It has almost a Middle Eastern or Moorish or Spanish sound.
David: I mean, “Mo Bamba”’s chord progression used to be called “the devil’s tritone” for a really long time. It was a banned progression. A lot of how that song made people react, it’s just tension is constantly building throughout the whole record. The chord progression is constantly looping. Nothing ever is really fully resolved.
Denzel: And it’s the same thing with “Call Me,” it just goes up a minor second and then back down to minor second. It causes tension, and then kind of eases it by going back down that minor second. And literally repeats for the entire song. It’s always pushing and pulling on your emotions.
Active vs. Passive Voice. Magic, The Gathering Black Lotus card sells for $166k at auction, doubling its value. Cult leader found mummified in Colorado. New discoveries about John Shakespeare: financial ruin and government corruption. My Cicada Wedding: When Brood X Interrupts Your Nuptials.
READING: The Honjin Murders by Seiki Yokomijo, trans. Louise Heal Kawai
LISTENING: Lil Nas X: MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)
WATCHING: Heaven Official’s Blessing
WEARING: BT21 x Skechers “Mang” (thank you Aarthi!)
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. Is there something you’d like me to talk about? Leave it in the comments or reply to the email! You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.