Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Interview with Ellora's Cave Editor Kahli Reid

While we were at the Ellora's Cave Romanticon 2011, we were fortunate enough to sit down with one of their editors and ask her some questions.  Kahli Reid is a newer addition to the Ellora's Cave editorial team, but not to the world of editing.  We were able to learn much for listening to her, and hope any of you aspiring authors out there do as well.

Please note, this isn't word for word what she said, but rather the gist of it.  Any mistakes are my own.

1. What exactly does an editor do?

There are two different types of editors, the Content Editor and the Line Editor.  The Content Editor works one on one with the author to make sure the story is cohesive, the characters make sense, the sex is hot, and also makes sure there's no ick factors to turn the reader off of a book.  The Line Editor's job is to go through the manuscript line by line and make sure not only the grammar and punctuation is correct, but also that everything is consistant.  For instance, that the word blonde is used for a woman, and blond is used for men.

An editor's job is to not only help with the technical aspect of the book, but for Ellora's Cave editors it's also to nurture the authors to help them become the best they can be.  It's about finding the diamond in the rough.  Ellora's Cave takes care of their authors, and it shows in the finished books that are published.

2. How did you get your start in editing?

Kahli Reid started off as a writer, spending more than twenty years writing everything from children's books to technical journals to romance novels.  Since she spent so much time personally editing things for friends and coworkers, when she saw the Twitter post that Ellora's Cave was looking for editors, she jumped at the chance.  Now she gets paid to do something she loves.

3. The day and life of an editor

Most editors get to work from home, so she's lucky enough to work in her pajamas if she chooses.  Her day consists of tons of emails to go through, submissions to look at, and searching for authors to publish.  When looking at a submission, she'll spend time looking to see if that person has any kind of online presence, and if they do, what are they doing to get their name out there to potential readers.  She looks to see if the person is serious about being an author. 

Then there's the actual editing of manuscripts.  A lot of what an editor looks for is not just grammar and punctuation, but a lot of show vs. tell.  For example, don't tell us that the character's angry.  Show us by having him stomp into the room, slam the door, then pick up the lamp and throw it into the wall.  In that way, the reader can see in their minds what's happening as opposed to just reading about it.  Her advice is that the editing process is one of the most valuable experiences an author can have.  You can hear or read about the things editors will look for, but until you have it applied to your book you don't truly understand.  There are freelance editors out there who will professionally edit your book for a fee, and it's a good idea to have the first even the first fifty pages done of your manuscript. 

Most people (myself included) don't realize that editors don't get paid until a book they're working on goes to print.  For that reason, make sure your book is as polished as you can make it.  You may have a better shot of getting accepted if your book doesn't need a lot of work.

She also says she's looking for historical paranormal, such as vampires in the 1500s.  So if you've got a story, send it in to her.

4. What is the process once a book is accepted and submitted?

The first thing to happen is the contract.  Editors can't begin to suggest changes to your manuscript without a contract in place.  Once the contract is settled, then she goes through the overview of the story to make sure it flows smoothly and there are no discrepencies.  Once suggestions are made, sent to the author, then fixed and returned, she goes through it line by line.  She makes sure the changes or corrections were addressed, and makes sure the story is tight, interesting, and the characters are sound.  As an author, you can fight for certain things the editors want to change, but you'll need a solid reason for doing so.  Remember though, the editor's job is not to change your story but make it tighter and better so that it'll fly off the shelves (or into the online shopping cart) once it's published.  A book is not a read, it's an experience, and it's the editor's job to ensure that comes true.

5. After edits are done, what happens next?

Once the Content Editor is done, they send the manuscript over to the Line Editor.  The Line Editor goes over it line by line to make sure the grammar, spelling and punctuation is correct, and that words and other details are consistent throughout the story.  Once they're done with it the manuscript goes to the Production Department, where it will be given a cover, assigned an ISBN# and turned into a book. 

Authors have very little control over the title or the cover.  For the title, if you want to keep the title you came up with, then do your research.  Make sure there's not a book already that has the same title, because every publisher wants each book to have a unique title.  Also, look at the other book titles in the genre you want to write.  Make sure it's short and to the point, and goes well with the type of story you're writing. 

6. What are three common mistakes you see right away when you get a manuscript?

The first one is, please learn to write a synopsis.  When you write a synopsis, don't put every detail of your book in it.  The goal of a synopsis should be to seduce the editor into reading your book.  Your synopsis should give them the highlights of your story, yet at the same time tease the editor enough that they have to have your story to read and find out all the details. 

The second one is please submit a clean manuscript.  Not only with the technical aspect of grammar and punctuation, but also with the flow of the story.  Are there any gaps in the story, are the characters consistant, is the story tight and does it flow smoothly. 

The third one is please write what you know.  Don't write a medical drama if you have no idea what a doctor does.  Don't write a police procedural if you've never dealt with law enforcement before.  If you do want to write something out of your element, then do your research on it.  When readers pick up a historical, for example, they expect the story to be historically accurate, and will become upset if it's not.  Readers check for these things, so make sure you've done your homework before you write, or else stick with what you know.  It also helps to read several books in the genre you want to write.  If you want to write a paranormal, then read paranormal.  That way when you write, you can make sure your book isn't one giant cliche and you can move past those to develop something truly unique.

 And remember RomFan is also giving away a $25 Ellora's Cave Gift Certificate to one person see details (here)

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