Having spent 10 years working on his manuscript, Christopher Parker didn’t want to stop short of producing a polished product. Determined to make his novel just as professional as a traditionally published book, he found himself making an unconventional decision: he hired not one, but two developmental editors.  

Discovering my publishing process

Beginning my publishing journey, I wanted the best for my book, like most writers. I was excited to discover my process as a self-published author, but I was also anxious about not knowing what I didn’t know. How was I to choose the right professional, one who could help me create a novel that was just as polished as any traditionally published book?

That’s why I immediately signed up to Reedsy. They are experts in self-publishing and provide loads of free educational resources. Most of all, the Reedsy marketplace allows you to go at your own pace and make an informed choice about which editor you hire.

I browsed suitable candidates and reviewed their experience and portfolio — I was in awe of the talent I found. Little old me could hire the editor of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine? I quickly realised that any of the professionals I had my eye on could deliver quality work — but who got the story? The way I saw it, the right candidate needed to not only have the skills and experience to deliver a quality product, but also be a good fit for my story.

This is where Anna Barrett stood out the most. Yes, she had a brilliant résumé, but she was also the most passionate about helping me improve my manuscript. Talking to her, I got a feel for what my manuscript could become. When I accepted her offer, I wasn’t only 100% confident in my choice — I couldn’t wait to get started on revisions.

Anna Barrett portfolio
Some of Anna Barrett’s past projects.

Round 1: The ‘aha’ moment

Going into the collaboration with Anna — my first editorial assessment — I was excited to view my story through the lens of commercial marketability (a strength of hers). At the time, I had no idea what a huge turning point her edits would be.  

Firstly, Anna drew my attention to the central themes that tied together all the elements of my story: grief and loss. I’d previously received feedback on characters or plot, but Anna went beyond that and allowed me to see how these elements played into the book’s overall thematic arc. She explained how connecting my story to universal experiences was crucial for reaching a wide audience.

Not all of her suggestions were easy to digest. When I first read her idea regarding two important characters, I remember being quite taken aback. I was reluctant to take on some of her notes. She suggested changing the nature of my protagonists’ relationship to each other and, therefore, the impact of the ending. I now know that she was absolutely right, but I needed some time to consider her feedback and realise that the changes she proposed were in service of the story as a whole. 

Coming away from the collaboration, I began thinking very differently about my manuscript. Anna showed me how revising is all about fine tuning, removing clunky bits, spotting where the cogs aren’t turning smoothly, so to speak. As soon as you hit the revision stage, your manuscript becomes more of a machine than a piece of art. Thanks to Anna, I was able to take off my writing hat and put on my editing hat.

Round 2: Fine-tuning character arcs

When I finished implementing Anna’s feedback, I was so deep into the story, I felt like I couldn’t see the wood for the trees anymore. I wanted to dig deeper and fine-tune whichever element needed more work. But which one was that? For this, I hired a fresh pair of eyes: Adrienne Rosado

I was just as excited, if not more so, to receive Adrienne’s feedback, because I already knew what a positive impact an editor can have.

Reading Adrienne’s assessment, I noticed that her comments built on the work I had done with Anna. Specifically, Adrienne helped me drill down on my characters. She showed me how every action is a building block of a character’s growth arc, which again plays into theme. She ensured my characters made sense within their arc and the overall theme of the book. It made my book’s message all the more impactful. 

But what I enjoyed most about my collaboration with Adrienne was how much she herself was invested in the story. The passion and enthusiasm she brought to the project felt like a rare gift and was a wonderful boost of confidence as I was nearing the finish line.

My book sold 25,000 copies in 9 months

I can say with certainty that The Lighthouse wouldn’t be what it is today without the contributions of my Reedsy editors Anna and Adrienne. Those collaborations felt like winning the lottery. Not only because I found industry experts who brought their experience and knowledge to my book, but also because they were fans of the story and emotionally connected with the characters. As an indie author, I didn’t have the support of a publishing house, but it sure felt like I did.

As an indie author, I didn’t have the support of a publishing house, but it sure felt like I did.

Beyond anything I could have hoped for, the book has been selling tremendously well — nearly 25,000 copies in 9 months. 

The Lighthouse Amazon pageThere have been so many positive reviews online, and I’ve had some great local media coverage here in New Zealand. I was even shortlisted for one of our local fiction awards!

What’s been most rewarding, though, has been the feedback from readers. One particularly memorable email was from a reader suffering from breast cancer who shared how much hope my book had given her. She felt like my characters’ stories of loss and grief were written for her. 

Receiving comments like that is truly humbling. When you’re toiling away at your desk for years, you only dream of touching readers’ hearts like this. In reality, you’re not sure anyone will ever read your book. Moments like that make it all worthwhile. 

It may be unconventional to request two editorial assessments, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learnt that I’m the kind of author who puts their book through the wringer as much as possible, and, surprisingly, after years of writing, I’m now also a keen reviser. Reedsy allowed me to listen to my gut and create my own editing process — and it worked! 

This book was made with help from Anna Barrett

Professional editor on Reedsy