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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Interview of Freelance Editor, Diana Reese

Today I’m pleased to present an interview of Diana J. Reese, independent freelance book editor. I’ve known her for 20 years, having met her through an RWA Chapter, Mid-America Romance Authors. She’s looking for clients who are dedicated writers/authors; professional in their approach to writing. As a former critique partner, I valued her insight and suggestions. Her help as an editor is priceless.


Diana J. Reese is an award-winning freelance writer and editor based in the Kansas City area. She’s the author of more than 300 published articles on topics that range from health and medicine to decorating and decluttering. She’s worked as editor of Missouri Life magazine and as a senior editor for Whittle Communication, a former publishing company in Knoxville, Tennessee and New York City.

 Contact information:


Phone: 913.491.9001

Q: What's one important thing you've learned about the writing industry?
A: It’s hard to choose just one important thing! Remember that it’s a business. Too many writers I know see just the creative side. They write only when the muse strikes. And they’ll write only what they want to, without regard for what the industry desires, and then they wonder why they don’t get published.

 The second thing: The writing industry is undergoing major changes right now due to technology and the Internet. We have more people self-publishing than ever before. We’ve seen the demise of Borders, one of the major bookstore chains. Who would have dreamed that books might someday go the way of rotary-dial telephones and glass milk bottles?

But because of the trend with self-publishing, there’s a need for freelance editors. A published book, whether it’s an electronic or a printed version, is a collaborative effort between the author and the editors. You need more than one pair of eyes to look at that finished manuscript.

Even if you’re submitting your manuscript to an editor at a publishing house, you may want to consider hiring a freelance editor first to help polish your manuscript and improve your chances of publication. Numerous typos and grammatical mistakes look sloppy; editors may stop reading after a few pages.

Q: What does a freelance editor do?
A: A freelance editor edits for different clients, whether that client is an individual writer or a publishing house.

 There are several levels of editing, and it’s important for writers to decide what they need:

•Copyediting. This is making sure grammar, punctuation and spelling are correct. You also want a consistent style in your book. Style, in this case, refers to things like serial commas and words such as ketchup and catsup that can be used interchangeably. You may think spell-check features in your word processing program are adequate, but one of my favorite typos that I caught at the last minute when I was editing the faculty-staff newspaper at the University of Missouri had to do with a seminar at the Women’s Center. It was supposed to be on “jobs” for women, but had been typeset as “jokes” for women. I’ve always been suspicious that our typesetter had a twisted sense of humor.

 •Line editing. This goes beyond copyediting. Does the copy read well? Does it flow? Are word choices the best? Are there too many “ly” adverbs or are certain words repeated too many times?

 •Content editing. Does the story make sense? What about character and plot development? Are characters true to themselves? Does the plot work? Does the story fit the industry guidelines? I offer copyediting and line editing, but I don’t do content editing. If you are looking for a content editor, look for someone who has experience working with the type of book you’re writing.

Q: Tell us what type of client you are looking for. How important is it for a writer to have a firm grasp of grammar/industry guidelines before approaching you?
A: I’m looking for clients who are interested in improving their manuscripts. If grammar is a problem, I can fix that. Some people tell wonderful stories, but have no idea when to use there, they’re or their or what the difference is between lie and lay. As far as industry guidelines, I’ll be honest and say I’m not the best source of advice.

Q: What do you expect from a prospective client?
A: I expect someone who approaches this as a professional, who wants my expertise to improve the manuscript. The manuscript should be typed, using Times Roman or a similar font in 12-point size and black ink.

 I also hope the client has a manuscript that’s ready for someone to edit. I had someone send me an email with a 15-page attachment that was his “novel.” It was a thinly disguised account of his sexual exploits. He’d written a couple of scenes and then had just jotted notes on what should happen next.

There are ghostwriters who can take that and produce a book, but that’s a different ballgame than editing.

Q: What can a client expect from you?
A: A client can expect someone who will deliver an improved version of the manuscript in the time frame we agree on. We’ll discuss exactly what you want and how much it will cost and when you need it completed.

Q: Do you have favorite genres to read/edit?
A: I love to read – anything and everything. The joke when I was growing up was that I chose my cereal for breakfast based on how much there was to read on the back of the cereal box.

 I’ve read a lot of romances; many of my best friends publish in that genre and I like to read their work. (And I’ve read everything from the sweet to the steamy!) I also love mysteries, especially the cozies. A good suspense novel will keep me reading until dawn. I do prefer women’s fiction, whether it’s literary or chicklit.

Q: What are your guidelines for someone requesting your services?
A: I want us to have a clear understanding of expectations. That’s why I offer to do a few pages for no charge, so you can see what I do. We’ll also discuss how much the project will cost. I prefer to negotiate the price for each project. The price generally ranges from 2 to 4 cents a word, depending on what level of editing you want and what shape the manuscript’s in.

Q: Where’s your website and what will viewers find there?
A: My website is at Readers will find more information about me, along with links to some of my published writing. The website’s a work in progress still and I haven’t gone into a lot of detail about editing.

Q: Tell us about your editorial experience.
A: I’ve copyedited and fact-checked several book manuscripts, including Yankee Magazine’s Don’t Throw It Out: Recyle, Renew and Reuse to Make Things Last for Rodale and a number of short business books for Collier.

I worked as an editor for Missouri Life magazine and several publications at Whittle Communication, including patient education programs in dental and medical offices as well as Funnnies (yes, there are three n’s), a humor magazine in poster form for college students. I was responsible for hiring freelance writers, assigning stories, editing those stories, working with the art staff on the design and creating a vision of what I wanted for each publication.

As far as fiction goes, I spent several years involved in critique groups and have judged contests, providing feedback to aspiring authors.

Please add anything else you feel is important.
I love grammar. I love finding mistakes in printed copy or on websites. Ooh, look at that dangling modifier, I’ll tell whoever will listen. It’s kind of a sick obsession, but we all have our quirks!


Adele Dubois said...

I learned a great deal from this interview. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us!


Tina Donahue said...

I love my editors. All of them have made me a better writer, pointing out things I never would have caught on my own.

Great interview. :)

Harlie Reader said...

Great post for a newbie writer like me. :)


Anonymous said...

Diana, you're like the net beneath the trapeze artist, there to catch writers when we're dangling or too close to plummeting to disaster! Editing by a good editor has taught me how to improve my writing more than any classroom or book. Especially with my historical romances. I'm sure your clients are so grateful to have you.

jean hart stewart said...

I've been so fotunate in my editors. Some of them jerk me up but good, and after I get over a little snit love them for it. Very informative interview, thanks.

Mary Corrales said...

It was interesting to learn the different levels of editing. Thank you, Diane. Very informative interview.

You sound like a great professional with whom to work. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Interesing interview. I've found success indie publishing after publishing several books with traditional print and epubs. I hire an editor for all my indie books. She and I work well together and she helps make my books better. In fact, two of the books she edited for me finaled in contests. I wouldn't put up a book that hasn't been edited.

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