Today I am chatting with Mary from Mary Grey Editorial Services.
Welcome, please tell us about yourself
I work from home as a freelance editor, and occasionally take on ghostwriting projects. I live in Northamptonshire with my youngest (20 years old) son and 4 dogs and 3 cats. When I am not editing, taking care of my elderly father or taking the dogs for a walk, I can be found sitting in front of my easel with a paintbrush in my hand or with my nose in a book and a cat on my lap. On the rare occasion I am feeling energetic, I visit the local swimming baths or a nearby National Trust property having a butcher’s with my camera in tow.
What led you to become an editor?
English language was my favourite subject at school. From a very young age I was fascinated by the way words are formed, written and pronounced. I loved playing with puns, commas, question marks – you name it, I found great joy in finding a way to amuse myself using it. (And not always correctly, I might add – I devised a secret language using conventional punctuation symbols and letters of the alphabet… it was so secret I never shared it with anyone and instead wrote secret notes to my soft toy, Panda!)
I was always the winner in spelling bees. I got a great kick out of pointing out the teachers’ spelling mistakes on the blackboard, which did not endear me to them or my peers! When I put my hand up to ask to be excused, the teacher would sigh and ask, “Okay clever clogs, where should the comma go?” and the class would all groan.
Growing up, and as a grown up, it has always irritated me when I read a billboard poster, or a leaflet, advert, official letter etc. and spot a spelling or punctuation error. Yet it never occurred to me that my knack for finding written errors could ever be a career. Then along came Owen who opened my eyes to all things possible! He got me interested in editing, as that’s what he did, and I took a course in editing and proofreading.
One day he announced that I should be ‘an editor’ instead of just ‘doing editing’. I was at a time in my life when I was thinking, “What path should I take now?” so it felt the right thing to do. And indeed it was.
As a publisher I often come across writers who think they can edit their own work as they go along – what are your thoughts on this?
We all make mistakes! Spotting them in a literary work is not easy when you’ve written it yourself. Editing these questionnaire answers has me breaking out in a sweat! It is ‘word blindness’ – your mind sees what it expects to see (i.e. what you intended to write) and not what is actually written. So, it’s easier to spot someone else’s mistakes because you haven’t got such a strong sense of what to expect to be reading. Also, it is hard to take an emotional step away from your own ‘baby’ and assess it critically and without bias. While an author may well be a very good writer, and have a sound knowledge of written English and all its foibles, I do believe that editing is in itself an art, and not everyone has that gift.
I have come across manuscripts where the authors pride themselves on not needing an editor, they’ve done it themselves, they are so good they are sure they haven’t made any mistakes, their friend edited it for them… but, sadly, every single one has been littered with errors. The fact remains, if authors didn’t make mistakes the world would not need editors and I would be following another career path.
If a manuscript lands on a publisher’s desk and on her first glance at it she spots a few errors, that publisher could well simply reject it without further ado. Yet that could have been the next bestseller. Publishers are not going to want to waste time or money employing an editor to get an otherwise great manuscript ready for the printer. She wants to see a professionally written, professionally structured, error-free book that is ready to hit the bookstore shelves (or as near as damn it).
It is said that one has to speculate in order to accumulate. Writing books is no exception. Having your beloved baby rejected time after time because you’re a poor speller, don’t know your commas from your colons, and you are trying to save a few pennies, can be frustrating and upsetting. But employing an editor to professionally correct and make your manuscript publisher-ready will pay dividends when the royalties start rolling in.
What is the best way for authors to be accepted by a traditional publisher?
Many publishers prefer to receive proposals via a literary agent. Literary agents know that publishers all have different opinions on what book may sell and which genres each prefers. Some publishers will only take certain genres. A good literary agent will know who wants what and often has already built up a good rapport.
Some publishers do accept off-the-cuff unsolicited manuscripts direct from the author. However, they often have strict rules about the layout and structure of the work being submitted – font sizes, line spacing etc., get it even slightly wrong and your potential bestseller could be rejected without a glance. This, in my view, is why it is always best to engage a good literary agent to contact the publishers on your behalf.
Owen is a fantastic, honest and caring literary agent. I highly recommend him and his website is www.lc-agency.org.uk
What advice do you have for anyone who wishes to self-publish?
There is a section on my website with hints and tips on how to become a more conscientious writer, proofreading your own work as you go along. This will help greatly to cut down the time an editor needs to spend fine-tuning your literary work, and therefore the editor’s fees should be less.
It is a shame to see so many eBooks out there with so many errors in them. Clearly the authors have gone the ‘self-editing’ route, and sadly it shows. There is nothing more distracting when reading what should be a gripping story when your eye and mind keep wandering off to poor spelling and misplaced commas and apostrophes. Personally, if I start reading something which is unprofessionally presented it puts me off. I don’t think I am unique in that way.
So my advice to anyone thinking about self-publishing is this: do the groundwork, take meticulous care while writing your book and get a professional editor to give it the once over before letting it loose on the public.
Anything else you’d like to share
My website is www.marygreyeditorial.co.uk – Please do look to read more about the editorial services that I offer. There is a ‘Hints, Tips and Useful Links’ page where I have listed some ideas for authors to keep editing costs down (basically by learning how to write more conscientiously, thus making fewer mistakes) and how to write a fantastic bestseller. (Including links to Barbara’s very own writers’ workshops and dreamy Greek retreat!)
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