Writing 101: The Professional Editor Visits *gulp*

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I’ve heard tell of them--Editorial Letters. Eight or nine page beasts that require an author to sift through their manuscript as cold sweat drips down their back and the taunt “Now everyone knows what a terrible writer you are,” echoes in their ears. But I had never encountered one myself, though I must admit that the taunt runs through my mind throughout the writing of a manuscript, e-mailing of finished product, and subsequent edits. There now. That doesn’t leave out any part of the process, now does it?

But this, my very first “official” editorial letter, was different. Not at all what I expected.

It all started out innocently enough. I received an email. From this lady. Her name is Jamie Chavez and this is how it started:


Hi Sandra!
This is just a quick email to introduce myself and tell you that we're gonna
work on your novel, A Recipe for Deceit, together. Really soon! And quickly!

What captured me right away is the cadence of her email. The energy. And if any of you have ever read a LaTisha Barnhart mystery, you know LaTisha is all about attitude and, in her own way, energy. I think I expected something stodgy and stuffy. “Greetings, My name is William Wunderkiedz and I am an intellectual genius with a three digit IQ and more degrees in English, particularly Grammar, than you have teeth. . ."

What I got was. . .


HI! So nice to meet you! A quick background on me: I'm a mom (OK, OK, my boy is 27), I worked for Thomas Nelson for 11 years before I went freelance back in 2004, and I love, love, love what I do. I have a website, so you can see my portfolio. Oh, and I'm on Facebook, if you're
interested. :)


Down to earth. Kind. Funny. Spunky. I was relieved. I then did what any self-respecting author would do. I googled “Jamie Chavez” and found jamiechavez.com (duh, now why didn’t I think of that?). Jamie’s picture grabbed me by the throat! Can’t you just SEE LaTisha looking over her reading glasses like that? Okay, so this lady is legit, and she’s jazzed, and I’m getting excited because I like working with high-energy people.

Second, third, fourth, and fifth thing to grab me is. . .she’s a Mac gal! Yeah! A woman who has not only stepped into the 21st century but has embraced the simplicity and beauty that is Mac. Check out her Macbook Pro! Drooling. . .

Then, within a week, she sent me THE LETTER and I realized. . .




Over the course of the next few Tuesdays, we're going to peek into the relationship between an author and developmental editor as Jamie Chavez and I work through Recipe for Deceit, the third and last of the LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series. Jamie is going to join me in this and we’re going to be open to any questions you might have. Drop us a line!

14 comments:

Amber S. said...

Oh, how fun! Your editor sounds very nice, Sandra...so don't be too mean to her, OK? ;) Just kidding!

Jamie, it's a pleasure to meet you! I have a question for you: How did you become an editor? I'm planning on graduating next spring with my B.S. in English, and I'm very interested in working in the Christian publishing industry either as an editor or a publicist. (And I'm still hopeful of becoming a published author sometime, too!) ;)

I would be ever so grateful for any tips on how to get a job with a Christian publishing company and what companies are looking for in potential employees!

~Amber

Joyce Magnin said...

Oh boy, what fun. BTW I love love love Jamie. Tops in my book.

Jamie said...

Hi :) I'd been working in the CBA for about 13 years when I went freelance. I'd been mentored by a couple of really talented people and had a large network. The network is the key; I asked a lot of people to send me work, and some did. :) To get work at a Christian publisher you need to be prepared to start at the bottom, as a coordinator or something, and work your way up as positions become available; but this is standard for any industry, I think.
I don't know if you're following the publishing industry as a whole but right now it is in flux. Technology as really changed the way publishing IS done and the way it will be done in the future. Many, many publishers are laying people off. So you may need to work on an unconventional way to get into the biz while things shake out. I don't mean to be discouraging -- this is just the truth of what's happening in publishing right now. (I've blogged about this situation quite a bit, if you're interested; you can get there from my website.)

Jamie said...

Thank you, Joyce!

Jamie said...

HAhahaha, I'd included a {{{hug}}} on that, somehow it got lost. Clearly I need to have another cup of tea this morning...

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Hey, Jamie! Thank you so much for joining us!

Do you work for other publishers besides Barbour? I ask because invariably, what applies to one house doesn't apply to another. How do you keep all the rules straight for each house?

Sylvia A. Nash said...

I'm looking forward to this. It sounds like good preparation for before and after THE letter!

Jamie said...

Elizabeth :) ...the "principles" (such as they are) of editing are the same no matter which publisher will release the book, y'know? Everyone wants a good story that doesn't drag, with an interesting voice, layered characters who are meaningful, lyrical writing...and on and on. Right? I've discovered it's more about nomenclature. Some publishers call this a developmental edit, some call it a substantive or sub edit (I think this is the Chicago Manual of Style's term, actually), some call it a macro edit. I just try to make sure the managing editor and I are on the same page before I start. And... I'm still learning. :)

Jamie said...

And oh, sorry, I'm still waking up. Yes, I do work for any publisher that will hire me. :) Sometimes that happens because an author requests to work with me, and sometimes it's because the in-house editor thinks I'd work well with a particular author or a particular story.

Terri Thompson said...

Uh oh. Sounds to me like your mentoring hours are being cut way back. Not good news for me. LOL Just kidding. Go for it!!

S. Dionne Moore said...

Gotcha covered, Terri. Just slower than normal. Sorry about that.

Jenny B. Jones said...

Agree--LOVE Jamie. Magic working woman.
Had to laugh at your idea that 8 or 9 pages is terrible. I think my last one was over 20...

S. Dionne Moore said...

Twenty! *faint*

Jamie said...

Jenny! Shhh! I was going to send her the other 8 or 9 NEXT week! (Just kidding.)

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