Guess what time it is?! IT’S WINE TIME! That special blog post where I ply people with wine and make them share their secrets with me. Today’s special guest? Editor Erika Cooper. You’re welcome, NoP readers.
Soul Mate Publishing and freelance editor Erika Cooper is today’s special guest! Erika and I have been friends for, well, a very long time. One day,
a decade ago just recently because we couldn’t possibly be so old that we could be friends for a decade, I looked at her and said “I write to write romance!” She told me, “I want to edit!”
The rest is history.
She’s taught me so much about the process, so here’s some fun wisdom for you, too!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I was born and raised in Michigan, south of Detroit, but in my heart I live in southern California. I hope to be able to move out there permanently within the next two years (in a perfect world, debt free!). I have a Bachelor’s from Eastern Michigan University in Spanish language, which allowed me to spend an amazing summer studying abroad in Mexico. I currently work full time for an insurance company in a claims department.
I have a myriad of odd hobbies that occupy my time nicely, since I hate to be bored. I love to dance and my specialty is Polynesian dance. I am currently a member of the Anuenue Dance Company, under kumu hula Janeen Bodary.
I love art, crafts, drawing, and painting. I especially love making stained glass – I even have a Facebook page just for my glass (shameless self-promotion).
I have a slight obsession with tattoos, and if I didn’t work in an extremely conservative, professional environment, I’d be covered in them.
Books are my passion. I have lived a thousand lives through books, and met the most amazing people along the way – including my book club! I am a member of the Forever Young Adult Detroit Book Club, and the other club members are among my closest friends. I have also joined the Greater Detroit Romance Writers Association, and have some made some great friends there too.
I currently live with my parents, their three dogs, and my very fluffy cat child (the current love of my life). I have an older brother who is married to my amazing sister-in-law, and I am very looking forward to being an auntie someday soon.
Tell us a little bit about your editing background.
I have always loved to read, ever since I was a kid. Throughout high school and college, as a pastime to help friends and classmates, I would proofread papers and edit them accordingly. I always wanted to be able to somehow turn that into a job, but without a degree in English or Journalism, I wasn’t sure how…that is, until Heather told me about an editor from Soul Mate Publishing who had been a guest at a GDRWA meeting, and who happened to be looking for part-time editors. Heather suggested that I send an email and introduce myself. Debby (the founder of Soul Mate) and I hit it off, and I’ve been working for her ever since. It’s my own little dream come true!
What are some tips you have for writers before they submit their manuscript?
The biggest piece of advice I can give to writers is this: READ! Read your own work, read other people’s work, read as much as you can. Learn something from everything you read, whether it be what to do or what not to do. Before you submit your manuscript to your agent/editor/publisher, print out a copy and read it as objectively as you possibly can. You will catch more mistakes on paper.
If you can’t do this, have someone else – your best friend, your parent, your sibling, your significant other – read your manuscript. I know it’s a terrifying concept, but it will be so helpful, and your books will thank you for it in the long run.
Can you give us a behind the scenes look on what happens when you read a manuscript?
I usually read each manuscript three to four times before I return it. The first time through, I’m reading for content. This means that I’m reading without the dreaded red pen, with just a small notebook next to me where I jot notes to myself as I go. These notes can be anything from noted plot holes, to words or phrases that seem repetitive, to amazing sections or phrases that I want to come back to later. I always prefer to do this first read with a paper copy.
The second and third reads are when I do line edits – this is when that feared red pen comes out. This process takes me anywhere from eight to twenty hours, depending on the complexity of the edits and the length of the manuscript, and is done completely on my computer. The final read is done when I’m finished with my line edits, and is usually still done on the computer.
I turn off as many of the markups as I can and simply re-read the story. This is usually where I find misplaced punctuation that I might have missed on the first couple of rounds, and is usually more of a simple proofread. After that, I’ll turn the markups back on, finalize any notes that I have, and send the whole thing back to the publisher. The entire process usually takes me around two weeks, since I’m only working part-time.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how freelance editing works? How much do you charge? Genre preferences?
I get most of my manuscripts from my publisher at Soul Mate, but I am also free to pick up manuscripts from other sources. My publisher has strict grammar and punctuation guidelines that I edit under, and I tend to stay within these guidelines for other freelance work. I like to discuss upfront with the authors what I’ll be doing, the timelines we will be working within, and the pricing.
Pricing, for me, depends on what I’m doing for the author. The fee will be less if I’m only reading for content or only doing a quick proofread. If I’m doing full line edits, the fee will be more. I don’t have a genre preference to edit, although there are certain topics that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I always discuss these preferences and guidelines with authors before we begin.
Are you part of the acquisition process at Soul Mate Publishing?
I am not a part of the acquisition process at Soul Mate, but interested authors can find out more at www.soulmatepublishing.com.
There is a phrase writers hear often: Write what you know. Do you believe this is true?
I do believe this is true – to an extent. Imagination and creativity are obviously going to play a large role in any fiction writing process, and of course authors can take certain liberties to make their stories work. There are, however, some limitations, particularly when it comes to hard facts.
If, for example, you aren’t fluent in a certain language, but you find that it’s imperative to your story that one of your characters is, be sure to do your research before you include that language. Using an internet translation site will not be sufficient, and you will run a serious risk of offending an entire culture of people.
Editors are not research assistants – your editor shouldn’t be fact-checking or quote-checking or translating languages for you. I know of one author who was using quotes at the beginnings of each of her chapters, and she had one quote attributed to Edgar Allen Poe, only to find out that the quote was actually a song lyric from a similarly-named band.
My personal rule of thumb is this: if you aren’t 110% sure of the information you’re including, don’t include it.
What are your favorite types of books to read in your free time?
My personal favorite genre is Young Adult, but I also read my fair share of New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. There’s not much in the way of fiction that I won’t read.
Beer or wine? Hockey or soccer?
Beer for barbeques, bar nights, and bonfires. Wine for movie nights, rainy days, and reading in bed. I’m from Michigan, home of the Red Wings, so my answer will always be hockey.
Any advice to give people who are just starting out writing or editing?
Here’s my advice for aspiring editors: start small. It is HARD to edit a full-length manuscript, and it requires a ton of time, energy, dedication, and passion. I’d recommend, if you’re just starting out, to join a resource center at a local college, and start with student papers and stories to get your feet wet. If you feel like you’re ready to move beyond that, start looking around for writing or editing groups that you could join.
The Editorial Freelancers Association is a great resource for both writers and editors to make new contacts, and there are a ton of job opportunities available there as well. Or you can start out like I did, and find a very trusted friend and edit their work for them. But be warned – this process definitely has the potential to end friendships, so make sure your personal relationship can withstand your professional one!
For writers, my advice is this: WRITE. I don’t care if you write one word every day – that’s one more word than you had yesterday, and tomorrow will be one more. I highly advocate finishing a manuscript no matter how terrible you think it is – most artists are blind to the end result while they’re working. Your book could end up changing someone’s life, but you’ll never know unless you write it down!
Do you have any questions for Erika? Post them below and I’ll make sure to forward them on! If you are interested in hiring Erika for professional editing services, you can here about.me/erika.cooper.editor.
Fun fact alert! August 6, 2015 is known for:
- Wiggle your toes day!
Yeah, we think it’s a little weird too…
Wishing You Laughter & Good Books,
Bold. Bewitching. Breathtaking.
Author of Hunting Witch Hazel featured in Falling Hard (A New Adult Anthology).