WORKING WITH A FREELANCE EDITOR – I’ve been the fortunate recipient of an Arts Council grant to fund me whilst I write my fifth novel. One of the brilliant aspects of the grant is that I have been able to hire a freelance editor to read the latest draft of my work in progress. I was lucky enough to work with Ali Reynolds, who was an editor at Vintage, Random House, before moving to Bristol and starting up her own company, Arc Editorial, which specialises in freelance editing and mentoring.
You might think there isn’t much need for an editor prior to getting your book published and it is not cheap (although it’s incredibly good value for the amount of time and expertise you receive) – but in my experience, it’s invaluable. I’ve had two 2 book deals with publishers (John Murray and Black Swan) and am now between contracts – so I don’t have the luxury of working with an in-house editor. As Ali says:
‘There are some key reasons why many novelists choose to seek professional help with their writing. Essentially the structure of publishing is changing; on the one hand the routes into mainstream publishing have become increasingly competitive and difficult to ‘break into’ and, on the other, the options for writers have opened up with the development of self-publishing routes.
Many writers know that to stand a chance of getting published their work needs to be as polished and ready for publication as possible so that it doesn’t fall at the first hurdle – the submission to literary agents. The submission process is fraught with rejections so it is crucial that writers don’t use their ‘one-shot’ at seeking representation before the work is truly capable of being appealing to agents, editors and the market of readers for their work.’
I do already have a literary agent (Robert Dinsdale of AM Heath), but I felt it would be good to have a second opinion: Rob, after all, is mainly concerned with selling my work, rather than holding my hand through the process of writing it – although he does that too! And, as Ali says, because publishing has become so competitive, essentially we only have one shot at sending my novel out, so it needs to be as good as possible.
How it worked for me was that I sent Ali my novel. She read it very quickly and then we met up and discussed it. I received a written report, which included our verbal discussion, as well as a marked up manuscript. I was not looking for copy editing – Ali pointed out specific sentences that could be improved or sections that related to her notes.
Ali’s main comments to me were on tailoring my work as specifically as possible to the new genre (psychological thriller) that I am attempting to move into after a decade of writing historical fiction. There was an added benefit of working with Ali. As she says,
‘One of the main reasons why writers chose to hire a freelance editor is because the experience of working with an editor who inhabits the story, characters, the worlds they create, is so appealing. The editor-writer dynamic can be so rewarding, it’s an intense experience, intellectually and creatively fulfilling.’
Once your work is as polished as possible, freelance editors, such as Ali, often work with or can recommend agents to help you reach the next stage of your writing career.
Ali said in an interview with Literature Works, ‘I set up my business several years ago to respond to the need for writers to make their work stand out and navigate the often confusing routes into publishing. For example, I can often explain why a writer’s work is getting rejected by agents.
I also work as a literary scout for several agents which means that if I come across a novel that I know would be of interest to an agent who is currently accepting submissions I act as an intermediary.
Of course many people are interested in self-publishing too. I’m currently working with several writers who want their work thoroughly edited and aim to self-publish.’
It’s hard to receive criticism, even if it’s in your own best interest, but Ai’s manner is so positive, warm and supportive that it was honestly a joyful experience.
Do let me know you get on working with a freelance editor.