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Posted on Oct 10, 2022

Live Chat: How to Explain Editing Services to Indie Authors

Below is the transcript of our webinar on How to Explain Editing Services to Indie Authors, from October 3rd, 2022.

Guests:

Fiona McLaren is a long-time fantasy and YA editor who has worked with authors published by HarperTeen, Macmillan, and Swoon Romance. She has also worked as a mentor for #PitchWars, a mentorship program for new authors.

Aja Pollock is an editor with over fifteen years of experience, having worked for ‘Big 5’ publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Macmillan. Her mission is to help writers connect with their readers through clear and vibrant prose.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.


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Skip to 6:05 for the start of the discussion.

Origin Stories

Fiona McLaren: I started as a freelance writer for print and online magazines. Then I got the opportunity to intern with two different literary agents, and I fell in love with the editorial side. I enjoyed being able to work with authors on their books and get them to shine.

After talking to some agents and editor friends, I realized that agenting wouldn't be for me because of the sales side. I was much more interested in getting nitty-gritty in the stories. So a very good friend of mine who runs the Bath Novel Award in the UK had given me a lot of information on how to get started in editorial, and it started from there. I've been doing it for about 10 years now, and, in the last four years, I've been working with Reedsy really happily.

Aja Pollock: My first job in publishing was for a textbook publisher doing college math textbooks, which was not what I wanted to do. I was having a hard time getting out of that but when I did the NYU summer publishing course,  I met the director of copy editing at Simon and Schuster, who referred me, though not for a copy editing job. I eventually wormed my way into the copy editing department at Simon and Schuster when I found a mistake on a jacket for a production editor.

I started working in-house at Simon and Schuster, and it was a wonderful place, but I couldn’t see myself walking into an office every day for 30 or 40 years. I started freelancing first just for my colleagues down the hall. Thankfully, people were happy with my work and spread the word, and I was able to go fully freelance after about a year.

Martin: So is finding mistakes in production copies like Wonka’s Golden Ticket?

Aja Pollock: People, especially production editors, are very grateful when you save them the embarrassment of a book going to print with something wrong on the cover!

Martin: Fiona, what was it like entering into UK publishing?

Fiona McLaren: Well, I actually ended up working stateside because I moved away from the UK before I started getting into editorial.

In the UK, I found the opportunities for doing internships were a little bit stricter in terms of qualifications than in the US, which was much more merit-based. I found it easier getting my start in America, which is why a lot of my clients now are in the US. But I do work for UK clients now that I have 10 years of freelance experience.

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Guiding potential clients

Developmental editing

Fiona McLaren: For me, developmental editing is about how the scenes pull together in combination with the macro aspect of the novel. So I'm really looking at both the macro and the micro side of things, like how the character arcs, the plot arcs, and the pacing come together with the theme and the setting. I'm looking to see how the big elements not only play out through the whole book, but I'm going scene-by-scene and seeing where we can improve and where things can be tweaked or removed.

It's a lot more in-depth. Authors should expect a bigger revision and editors should expect a lot more time for that type of editorial because you're kind of pulling apart a car engine. You’re checking all of the big parts and then putting it back together again.

Creating clear expectations and tackling misconceptions

Fiona McLaren: I think communication before you even begin with the editorial is incredibly important. Before I ever even give a quote for a project, I talk to the author and show them an example of my previous work. I'll show them an example of an editorial assessment, a developmental edit, and a copy edit so that they can see exactly what to expect when they get the service back.

I also have an FAQ document which outlines the most common questions that I get from potential authors, giving them the answers that sometimes they don't think to ask and only realize in retrospect. But that's something I've done later in my career. Doing it that way, I found that I've had no issues with communications.

💡Top tip: Have an FAQ document which outlines the most common questions you get from potential authors, giving them the answers they sometimes don't think to ask.

Martin: Aja, do you also send a boilerplate letter to authors when they ask for a quote? What do you include in that? 

Aja Pollock: Yes. Sometimes people wonder what's included [in my services] and what isn't. My boilerplate is really straightforward: here's the stuff I'm going to do, here's when you're going to get it, here's what it's going to look like. I've had authors tell me that one of the reasons they pick me is because I explained things clearly to them.

They don't know what they don't know, and they're often insecure about it. If you can be a conduit of information and deliver it in a friendly way that doesn't make them feel like they're out of their depth, that goes a long way.

feel like they're out of their depth, that goes a long way.""]

Aja Pollock: I always starts with the boilerplate. Sometimes, authors will ask about something specific and I'll work that in when I'm giving them my preliminary quote and description. It's really about listening to them and giving them as much information as you can about what you're going to do, upfront.

Combining editing services

Martin: How do you respond to authors asking for developmental editing, copy editing and proofreading in a single request?

Aja Pollock: First, I usually tell authors that no editor should be doing all of those things. I guess you can, but you develop a blindness to things after you read a manuscript over and over again. I'm always up front that you shouldn't be asking one person to do all of these things, and about what order the process should ideally happen in. 

Two things that might be combined are line editing and copy editing.

Fiona McLaren: I always let authors know to hire an independent proofreader, particularly because that's such a specific skill where they can't afford to be blinded by the story that they've read several times. I'm much the same as Aja. I'll just say, “Look, these are the services that I think are compatible together.”

I'll also recommend other Reedsy editors that I know. But the biggest thing for me is making sure there's an independent proofreader. 

Copy editing vs. line editing

Aja Pollock: Copy editing is really a technically focused process. You're looking at clarity and correctness, but not necessarily the quality of a sentence. As long as I can understand what you're saying as a copy editor, I'm not worrying about whether you could say it in a more beautiful way.

Line editing is more about pushing the sentences to the next level. Is it working on a paragraph level? How is the flow happening? That's more creative and subjective judgements, at least the way I do it. 

⚠️ Note: the Reedsy Marketplace does not distinguish between copy editing and line editing. It is up to the editor to clarify the level of editing their clients can expect in a collaboration.

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Before collaborations

Fiona McLaren: I'm pretty chatty with most potential clients and one of the reasons that I am is because my reputation as an editor stands on the back of the books that my authors have. I want to make sure that I'm not just jumping into any project just for work. I want to make sure that I'm building up a good stable of authors. I've got a boilerplate message that I send, but I personalize it quite a bit because I want to find out about my author's vision for their book.

I want to understand what inspired their book, what their book is truly about, and if there are any areas that they definitely wouldn't change. I like to find out a little bit about the writer as well, whether we'll connect. Whatever editing you're doing, you're taking someone's book, their baby, and putting your opinion and your experience into it. So I'm actually quite chatty over messages, and I'm happy to do a call to get to know them and just make sure that we click.

Once I do that, although it takes some time, I'll submit my quote so that we are fully on the same page. If, after all of that, I find that we don't match, I will submit my quote and I'll recommend them to another editor.

Aja Pollock: It's interesting because there's more than one right way to do this. I take a totally different approach. I'm very gut-based when I look at a request.

From the initial submission, I form my sense of how I'm going to work with the author. There is communication back and forth and all that. Of course, you're looking for any red flags or any signs that you're going to particularly connect with an author. 

But I tend to prefer not to know too much before I get started on the book because I just want to receive whatever it's giving me and talk about how that's working with the author. I try not to have too much background in my mind. I want to take what's on the page, and sometimes I can get a little distracted by an author's backstory. I'll ask them generally if there are any particular concerns they have about the manuscript that they want me to look at going into it, but otherwise, I tend to go in pretty cold. 

Traditional publishing vs. indie publishing 

Aja Pollock: At traditional publishing houses, it's the role of the production editor to educate the authors. All the copy editing at [bigger] traditional publisher is farmed out. There are people whose jobs it is to find freelancers to take that work. That's usually called a production editor or sometimes a managing editor. It's basically the copy editing department, but they don't do the copy editing themselves.

It's sort of a middle man role, and that person is more responsible for educating the author. Although if it's someone’s first time with a book deal, I do try to explain why I'm doing what I'm doing a little more than I might with someone more experienced. 

Martin: Fiona, you have worked with a lot of romance authors. Is it true that a lot of them don't have agents when they publish with Harlequin? 

Fiona McLaren: I found it quite an even split.

There's a lot of indie authors that are working with Harlequin or Swoon Romance or places that'll take an indie author as opposed to  [writers with agents], who I find I have guide through the process quite significantly. I don't have to, but I prefer to. I like to make sure that when I'm working with an author that doesn’t have an agent, I can help them understand that there will be further edits when they're with a publisher or even when they sign with an agent, if they go traditional.

As I said, their books are the mark of my reputation, so I do tend to spend a bit more time with indie authors who are submitting query letters, making sure that they understand the next parts of the process and where I sign off and they go and do the next steps on their own. 

During and after collaborations

Martin: Once you deliver the edited manuscript or the developmental notes, how much follow-up do you offer your clients?

Aja Pollock: This is one of those things where I feel like I'm going to get burned for this at some point, but I don't [make myself available after a collaboration ends]. I just say, “Once you've had a chance to go over things, let me know if you have questions.” Honestly, I never have a problem with anyone taking advantage.

Well, maybe once someone sort of overstepped after the collaboration. Otherwise, everyone has been super respectful with getting all their questions together. They don't send them piecemeal. I've had lovely experiences with people. 

Martin: Fiona, do tend to have more of a back-and-forth after your collaborations?

Fiona McLaren: I do. It's actually led me to have repeat clients where I've ended up doing 10 or 12 books with them overall. I've found that I get a lot of repeat business simply by being open to some authors contacting me and saying, “I'm brainstorming a new book. Do you mind if I show you the outline?” 

Then I'll talk to them and I'll look at the outline. 99% of the time they've then resubmitted to me through Reedsy and we've signed a new collaboration. I've got a client just now and I think we're on our 12th book together. Some of them I'm on my seventh or eighth book.

I get a lot of repeat business from keeping that open dialogue. But one thing that I do so that it doesn't eat up the financial side, is that I actually account for my entire day's work in my overall rates. So when I quote on a project, it also includes the communication time that would be part of a nine-to-five job for me.

Martin: What proportion of your day is taken up by client care? 

Fiona McLaren: I'd probably say I dedicate an hour a day to client care for different clients. They can be existing clients or older clients that have messaged and are wanting a bit of information.

Most of my clients are based in the US, which actually suits me [living in Cyprus] because I'm a night owl. One of the reasons that I love freelancing is that I get really flexible hours to work what suits me. I've had a couple of clients close to me in places like Dubai and a couple in Holland, but the later hours actually work really well for me.

Editorial assessments vs. developmental editing

Aja Pollock: The way I do it, an editorial assessment is a developmental edit without the actual manuscript comments. It's just the report.

There’s maybe a little more in-depth feedback with a developmental edit, depending on what's going on. An editorial assessment is a report giving you the big picture of what's working, what's not, and how you might move forward to advance the book. 

Martin: What sort of writer might benefit most from an assessment rather than a full developmental edit?

Aja Pollock: Everyone could probably benefit from developmental editing, but a lot of times it's about budget and an editorial assessment is about working within those kinds of constraints.

Fiona McLaren: I find the editorial assessments tend to go in one of two directions.

I either recommend them for a very new book or a newer writer that I think will really benefit from the macro side. But on the other side, there are authors that are pretty sure they've got the main bulk hanging together and they don't need in-depth developmental editing or it's not in their budget.

I've had some authors go, “Really just read it. Let me know if it works. Let me know if it doesn't.” So they're like two polar opposite ends. That's why I find the question of who should do an editorial assessment quite tricky. There are quite a lot of factors to it.

Editorial and feedback style

Fiona McLaren: I have quite a particular style, to be fair. I think it's really important to tell people what they do right as well as what they might need to edit.

Sometimes people can edit out what they've done right just through lack of knowledge of what they were doing well. If I take another look at the manuscript and go, “Oh no, that was really, really good but you took it out,” then it's really important to let them know what works.

I don't think there's a need to be brutal or unkind, but I'm very honest and upfront in my criticism and tell them why something doesn't work. The why is really important as opposed to just saying, “The pacing is bad.” 

Aja Pollock: That's definitely true.

I struggle with that because sometimes, as an editor, you can be kind of problem-focused because you're going in looking at how you can get under the hood and fix things. It's easy to forget that I've got to tell them all the things they're doing well also so they don't just toss their laptop out a window and decide never to write again.

Recommending other editing services

Martin: If you work on a manuscript and discover that they’re not really ready for the type of edit they’ve paid for, is there a way to broach that discussion? 

Aja Pollock: There is, but it often does not go well.

I haven't had good experiences with that because a lot of times it's somebody who's already paid another editor to look at the work and then they're coming in and going, “Okay, I'm ready for copy editing, I've done my structural work.”. A couple of times I've had to tell people, “Look, you've got serious logic problems with your plot. The timeline is all over the place. This is something you may want to step back and take a period to do some revision on, and then you can hand it back to me.”

You'd be surprised at how unreceptive people are to hearing that. You would think you'd want to know, right? I think the problem is they don't like hearing that they have to backpedal.

Fiona McLaren: I've had the opposite way around, actually. People have been really receptive to it because, as you say, often some of them have been through two or three editors.

Most of the time, I only offer copy editing to existing clients I've worked with on a longer-term basis simply because of workload. But if I get something and they want copy editing and they've been through a structural edit, I will often do a sample edit on the pages. I'll explain in my comments, directing them to some writing resources and why I think they apply.

I've found that when I've started adding in resources, most of them have come back and said, “Right, let me go and work on that. I'll send it back and see if I'm doing it better the next time.” That seems to have been helpful for me.

There's the writing, the passion side and the creative side, but there's also the business side. Making the author aware up front that my job as an editor is to look at not just your passion and creativity, but the business side is important. Quite often, if you parse it in the way of, “This is what the current market's looking for, this is what the current readership is looking for,” then that can be useful to soften the blow a little. 

Turning down a collaboration

Martin: What might lead you to turn down a collaboration?

Fiona McLaren: One of the really big things for me is a personality match, because if I find someone personable and easy to talk to and friendly, they can be much more receptive to editorial ideas.

They're much more receptive to the difficult edits that you want to tell them. I know what their no-go areas are in advance. If someone says, “This is a no-go area for me,” and I really think it's detrimental to the book, I'll say, “I actually loved your writing, I think you're really nice, but this isn't something I can help you with. This is outside of what I think I can bring to your novel.”

Because a lot of it is [asking yourself] what can you bring as an editor. We all have our different styles and techniques, and while we all work with the same craft, it's so big and expansive that you have personal parts where you think, “No, that doesn't work.”

If I really can't click with the person, I don't feel as comfortable working through the editorial on a long-term basis. 

Aja Pollock: I wish I had a scientific answer for this, but it's very gut-based for me. It helps that people seem to kind of know me. I think that's one of the pluses of Reedsy: that they're able to read my little spiel about myself and read through my reviews where people will talk about my feedback style.

I think the people that are coming to me have a pretty good sense of who I am and how I work. There's already a little self screening going on there. There are some projects where I just read the sample and it doesn't grab me, and I'll think about submitting an offer, but then I'll think “If this didn't grab me, do I want to put in all the time on something that already isn't connecting for me?” So it's very gut-based. I wish I could give you a more universally applicable answer.

Challenges and opportunities as a freelance editor

Aja Pollock: The challenges and opportunities are kind of related. The joy of it is getting to contribute to work that you connect with and care about, and to do it on your own time and control your own life. For me, that was a really big draw. But the flip side of that is that sometimes you're living in your office and it can overwhelm your life.

is getting to contribute to work that you connect with and care about, and to do it on your own time and control your own life." — Aja Pollock"]

Of course, not every single thing you work on is going to be a joy that you're super engaged with. You have to do your best for that, the same as you would for something that you really connect with, which can sometimes be challenging. 

Fiona McLaren: The biggest challenges when I first started freelancing was actually just finding people within the industry that I resonated with and that I could build up connections with.

Now, the biggest challenge for me is selecting projects and turning down other projects. Sometimes if my schedule is too full, if I'm turning down other projects I can find it quite hard because I get quite invested in not just the project itself, but the authors that I talk to. 

Another challenge, just as Aja said, is that it can take over your home and your life. You have to be really, really particular about setting boundaries, about finishing your day and keeping that day finished and putting it aside and making sure that you deal with it the next day, allowing yourself a flexible enough schedule for things like a sick day or holidays. Because freelancers probably have less sick days than anyone in the world. They just can't afford to a lot of the time. It's not about the financial afford, it's the, "I've scheduled this and I've got a deadline that I've set. I can't afford to miss it because it's two days before the deadline." 

The biggest opportunities have come from knowing agents and networking with agents. I help with query submission packages so I've had a lot of my authors sign with agents and I've gotten to know their agents and their tastes.

That's really helped me with understanding the market and what it's currently looking for and how it's evolving. Networking with other editors, continually learning from other editors, and from other people in the industry has been really, really important. 

Martin: What are your networking opportunities now that you work remotely?

Fiona McLaren: Whenever I've got authors I've said, "Look, if you need me at any point, let me know." Quite often they've had an agent reach out and say, “The client's book that I've just taken on was really, really clean. If you have anybody else that comes up that's got a book like this, we'd be interested in knowing.” I've ended up knowing clients for a long time. I do freelance work for a couple of agencies to help them on the editorial side.

The other opportunity has been getting to know editors from networking through programs like Pitch Wars. That was a huge one for getting to know a lot of editors and agents and other authors.

Aja Pollock: I'm the worst person to ask this type of question, because I don't do anything. I just do my job. I've been really, really fortunate with people in the publishing industry. Once a production editor knows they can rely on a freelancer, they will cling to you. If you just deliver for them, they will be giving you work until you're in the ground.

Thankfully, I've been able to connect with a steady enough stream of people that I'm doing the right work for so I really have not put much energy into it. I wouldn't even know how to network from Texas at this point. It's a little lonesome out here and I always feel bad when authors are asking me to recommend another type of editor or a proofreader. So let me know if you find a good one; I'd love to be able to recommend people!

Q&A Section

What is the average length of a book and how long does it normally take you to do a developmental edit?

Aja Pollock: I guess the standard is around 80,000 words, but it's all over the place. It depends on the genre. If you're doing sci-fi, forget it. It could be like 120,000 words. 
 
How long it takes me is such a difficult question to answer. For me, it's sort of a one-and-done thing unless they have questions that they come to me afterward with. But the bulk of it is doing the report and comments and sending it back to them.

For something that's 80,000 words, I would probably hope to spend not more than a week, but it depends on the problems that [the manuscript] has and how much time you have to spend staring at the wall thinking about it, which is just part of the job sometimes.

Fiona McLaren: Same. It entirely depends on what the book needs from me. Sometimes I've had a book come in that's 150,000 words and I've seen how to edit it down and make it work really quickly. And sometimes I've had a book come in and it's 60,000 words and I've sat going, "What do I do with this?" for a much longer period of time.

There are so many variables that when clients approach me and ask for a timeline, I always give myself more time than I think I'll need because I know that it could be one of those projects with a sudden stumbling block where I need to really sit and think it through.

For my developmental editing, I stagger them throughout my schedule and I'll say, "Okay, we'll start now, but I'm going to get it back to you within a two month period" because I've got other projects that I'm staggering. So quite often I'm working on two books at the same time. Or I've sat down and read one fully and I need to leave it to marinate. It's really variable.

Aja Pollock: Yeah, I should have clarified that. I don't take a project and say I'm going to have it back to them in a week; it's usually more like six weeks or two months so I can kind of space out. Because sometimes you just have to step away from it and do something else and let it kind of marinate in your mind.

Do you ask to see the full manuscript before you set a quote, just in case the sample isn't a good indication of what the project will be like?

Fiona McLaren: I haven't, but now I'm wondering whether I should. 

Aja Pollock: I don't either normally, but I just did for the first time. I haven't heard back from that author, so maybe it was offputting for him. 

Fiona McLaren: I offer a five page free sample letter so that they can see my style, so I've only ever worked with the sample that they've sent. My only condition is that if they send me a sample that's not from the start of the book, I insist that they send me the start of the book. Because when someone goes, "This is my favorite chapter," I tell that "I need to see how the book begins to see where your writing's at right from the start of the book." Because I'm not going to wait and just skip 13 chapters to start reading.

Has any freelance client ever come back and asked for a second developmental edit?

Aja Pollock: Definitely. It's usually someone that I have a pretty close relationship with. The first project that jumped to mind is by an author I've worked on a couple of books with, and she gave me something for a developmental edit that she was feeling really unsure about. Once I went through it, I understood why, and I had a lot of feedback for her. So she had a lot of revising to do and once she did, she sent it back to me for another round. And that's not terribly unusual. 

Fiona McLaren: It depends on the book. Some of my most long term clients know my style and what to expect in terms of base feedback. I want them to grow with every book so that I'm not having to repeat the same things. So with them, I don't do a second developmental edit. But when it's a newer client and they've given me a book that I feel needs two passes, I will recommend a second developmental edit on my round up. Maybe they want me to do it, or maybe they want someone with fresh eyes, but I feel it's my job to say if I think it might need another look by another editor. 

Would you say your process changes when you do a second round developmental edit? You're familiar with the content, but you can also be a bit blind to it, as you said before.

Fiona McLaren: Yes, definitely. That's why I quite often recommend a few of the Reedsy editors that I know because I'll know when I'm reading how some changes are maybe subjective ones and I want to get another viewpoint on it. I like to work in conjunction with some of the other Reedsy editors because I think it covers both faces for the author.

Is there sweet spot in terms of pricing? Do you guys talk money with prospective clients before sending a quote?

Fiona McLaren: I will ask people if they have a budget or a set timeline in mind. Most don't but some people do. I'll say, "If you have a set budget or timeline in mind, let me know." If I know I'm not within their budget, I can recommend someone else who might be more suitable. Or I can just take a pass on the project and say it's not for me.

I'm usually a little on the higher end with my rates and I'm quite selective about which projects I really enjoy. But I've not found being higher in pricing detrimental in any way. Some of my clients have told me I was their highest quite but that they liked how we connected on a personal level or that they liked the sample I did. So pricing hasn't really affected me, because I think there's so much more to a quote than just the price you give. 

Martin: Having seen enough requests and collaborations in the backend of Reedsy, we have seen that it's very rarely the case that authors go for the absolute cheapest one. I think it's like a premium service and they want to feel like they're getting something good from us. The ones who tend to do well, we found, are the freelancers that put in the effort and give a lot of information, and sell themselves in the correspondence.

If you're booked up for a bit or you're not worried about affecting what's going on for the next month, just experiment with changing around your prices for a few weeks or a month and see what that does. You can always change your rates back. Nobody really knows them from the outside.

Fiona McLaren: Payment plans are also really good. I've found a lot of offers have accepted a higher payment because they've been able to do it in payment installments, breaking down their payments a bit more. 

Sometimes I might break it down into five payments as opposed to just 50% upfront, 50% at the end. I've found that makes a difference.

Martin: Yes, you have the ability to change your payment schedule and all the rates. As the collaboration goes on, the nature of the project might change and you can always spread out the payments.

Do you charge the same amount for a second developmental edit? 

Aja Pollock: Probably not, unless there's a huge amount of change going on. I don't think I've ever charged full price for a second developmental edit. Once you know the gist of the story, you're starting ahead of where you would if you were going in cold, so it's usually cheaper the second time. 

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I've lost a customer or two that wanted their drafts back in one to two weeks. I think rushing is a disservice; there's enough of us floating around the world. Have you ever been tempted by the turbo service?

Aja Pollock: If they're willing to pay for it. Rushes cost money. I'm trained from traditional publishing; you get more money if they need it fast. So I guess if somebody really leaned on me about it, I'd say, "Well, look, if you are willing to pay this amount, then I can put my life on hold and get your thing done for you." I don't know if people would wanna pay that money. 

Fiona McLaren: I can't deal with the stress of having to do the rush. I think if I really, really needed the money then maybe, but I'm more like, "how much stress does it bring in and how much good quality can I do for it?" Within that really rushed period, it's a really difficult balance to kind of play out.

The only time I will do a rush is if it's an existing client that is with a traditional publisher and they've come to me for an edit and I know that they've set deadline. Some of my clients will come to me now and again and say, "I need you to look at this. I've got two weeks." For those long term clients that make up my stable of authors, I'll do a rush for them. But otherwise, no.

Martin: Usually an indie author, unless they're preparing for a Christmas book, should be able to move things around a little bit.

How many of your finished projects get some level of publishing success? How would you define success as an indie author?

Fiona McLaren It's been really variable for my authors.

I've had a couple authors that have signed [traditional deals] that felt their success was to sell over 75,000 copies, and they were really happy with that. Whereas I've had other authors where their indie market of success is completely different. So for them it's very individual.

For me, my definition of success on the traditional side is much more on par with industry standards, but when it comes to indie authors, I ask them what their goals are and what they want to succeed out of their book, so that I can help them achieve what that goal is. If it exceeds the goal, great. But that's the difference between indie and traditional publishing for me; for traditional publishing, I'm looking to make sure that my authors get agents and that the majority of them go on to get good deals with good, reputable publishers. But with indie author, I want to know what their goal is, what they want to do, and how I can help them get to that place.

Martin: What have they told you their goals are? 

Fiona McLaren: It's really dependent. I had one author whose goal was actually, believe it or not, to get signed for TV. Normally, I'd say no, but I did succeed at it because that was his focus and he was very adamant. Another author's goal was to get their books to go to audiobook and to get sales with Audible, so we really worked on making sure it was a dynamic book for reading aloud. And some have simply had the goal of selling over 2,000 or 5,000 copies, while some just want their book in print.

Aja Pollock: The vast majority of indie authors just wanna see their book in print, get it out there and connect with people. But yes, who's getting any traditional traction varies pretty widely. Probably not too many of them are getting traditional deals, but some of them do.

A lot of indie authors do shockingly well. I honestly don't know a ton about the process of self-publishing and how you do the marketing., so I'm always really impressed when I look up a project and see how many reviews it has and how well it's doing. It makes me very happy. I mean, I understand how content and marketing connect, but it's amazing to me how resourceful people are.

Martin: It's quite exciting to be an indie author right now, especially in certain genres, like romance and other types of genre fiction. I went to a self-publishing conference recently and, even though I've got my finger lightly on the pulse of self-publishing, there were some authors there that I had never heard of who were earning multiple millions of pounds. And then there are probably household name authors who have published books that haven't sold a fraction of that. It just boggles the mind, but there's an audience out there and a lot of great opportunities.  

I'm interested in becoming a Reesdy editor. I have 10 years of experience editing and proofreading for two small publishers and several self-publishing authors. How do I get started with Reedsy?

Martin: There's a link in the description where you can sign up. We'll ask you to fill in your Reedsy profile with all the information that you would put out there to pitch yourself to authors.

You can also use the link below to sign up: 

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Aja, is there any part of your profile that you feel has been particularly appealing to authors?

Aja Pollock: Obviously some of it is going be that I've worked on books that people will recognize just because I do a lot of traditional publishing. But I think a big part of it is having some personality in what you're writing so that they really get a sense of who you are. You don't want to try to be narrow and inoffensive; you want to give them a sense of who you are, what it's going to be like to talk to you and work with you. I really think that's gone a long way in helping authors that are submitting to me that are going to work with my style.

Fiona McLaren: I also think, in addition to that, your reviews from other authors. A lot of authors have referred to my testimonials or have known another author who sent them to my page. The reviews and your personality are, I think, the most important part because it lets authors understand who you are and that other people have been really pleased to work with you. Because if your reviews are quite dire or non-existent, it's a lot harder, especially if you've got no reviews and they don't know what projects you've worked on. When you've got a good staple of reviews from a wide variety of people, I think that's really helpful.

Martin: Yes, when you're first signing up and don't have any reviews [from Reedsy authors], you can put testimonials from previous clients in your overview section.

And, as you say, I think this is so much about personality becausethis is a purely online experience, whereas before, you would go and meet an editor in person. Now it's all online and even though you've got a profile picture, authors are taking a bit of a gamble because like, they've never met the person. I think they just want to know what is it going to be like to work with this actual human. So a bit of personality, a sense of what you're like and whether you'll get along will is such an important thing. 

Aja Pollock: I think keeping some of that in mind, about how authors are taking a gamble, is really helpful. I always imagine myself reaching out to this total stranger with something I've poured my heart into and not knowing if I'm going to get ripped off or if they're going to just eviscerate my work. Keeping that in mind when you're communicating with an author and showing kindness and patience and understanding of their position goes a long way. 

Martin: "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." 

Okay, we've just reached the hour. I really want to thank you both for joining us. If you're interested in signing up as a freelancer to Reedsy please do check that out. We tend to look for folks who have at least a few years of experience in traditional publishing, but we do accept folks who have a good track record in indie publishing. Ideally, we want examples of your work where we can verify that you did edit it and it has a decent amount of reviews and something that we can actually look into.

Thank you Fiona and Aja, and everyone at home watching.


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