Working with a Dog Ear editor is a little different than working with a freelance editor. Join us as we talk about why that is—and why you’ll want to choose us to help make your book the best it can possibly be!
Stephanie: Angela and I have been editing collectively for 31 years, and in this podcast, we try to take some of the confusion out of writing a book. In today’s podcast, we are talking about something that is near and dear to my heart, as Managing Editor at DogEar, and that is what you can expect from a DogEar editor.
I’ve always been very much into quality and service in my life, and very service oriented and quality oriented. This has definitely affected how I have selected editors for DogEar Publishing. I believe Angela is a prime example of this.
Angela: That’s true actually, because the very first time I contacted DogEar Publishing, I didn’t know anybody who worked there, I just kind of sent out an email and hoped for the best. I got one back from Stephanie, and the first thing she said after a, “Hi, how are you?” Are, “Oh, by the way, here’s a nice big fat editing test for you to take.” I was asked off the bat to prove myself. Thankfully, she worked with me and I did okay, and two and a half years later, here we are.
Stephanie: You had to do better than okay because, as I’ve discussed in several, well at least I think it’s several, articles now, I do require that the editors pass at least 90% on that subjective test, on that subjective part of the test. You’ve got to have at least an A, or you don’t get through.
Angela: That’s right. It was an extensive test too. It wasn’t just on one thing, it was on a lot of things.
Stephanie: Yes. There’s not much to say there. It’s definitely, it’s a test that I built based on what I went through in my editing courses in college, which were actually taught by a former hiring editor for a publishing company. I think I learned from the best and got to use his example to base on. That was pretty awesome.
Angela: I think one of the, well, the best thing, I think, about the editing test too is it wasn’t just about the, I guess, the nuts and bolts, like commas or dialogue or things like that. I mean, it was actually, “Okay, if you have to talk to the author about this issue, what would you say? How would you say it?” Because that author-editor relationship is so important, and especially at DogEar.
Stephanie: Well, and especially, in my opinion, for indie publishing in general it should be.
Stephanie: Again, having only worked with DogEar Publishing in the indie world, I can’t say how others do it. Well, I should say, long, long, ago I did work for Author House a long, long, long, time ago, but I was never involved in much of that interplay with the author.
I really believe that is every important, because we are, you, as an author, have not turned over your manuscript to a large, to a traditional publishing house where they get the final say in what comes. They work with you, but they get the final say in how your book looks.
Stephanie: That’s not the way here. We’re trying to help you, who are doing most of the work, we’re trying to help you along. We should be in a supportive role and not in a domineering and dominating, “This is the way it must be,” sort of role.
Angela: Well that’s one thing I actually love the most about DogEar, I think is I’ve worked with other just traditional publishers, and DogEar is an indie publisher. We’re so focused on the way the authors and the editors interact with each other. This kind of give and take relationship, we’re not looking to tell you how to write your book.
Angela: We’re looking to kind of help you find what you’re trying to say and the way to say it that will reach the readers. There’s like a total collaborative relationship in that, you’re allowed to ask us questions, you can send in emails to the author representative and she can get in touch with us. We offer phone call services, we offer development edits, so there is a lot, like I said, of give and take going on, it’s not just one sided, the editor gets your book and edits it, and never talks to and it’s done, and then it gets published and that’s it.
Stephanie: Now, with that being said, it is also the case that the author services folks do like to make sure that we, the editors, don’t get overwhelmed.
Stephanie: A lot of times they will feel that those questions and those emails and see if they can take care of anything before they come to us.
Stephanie: We do, we are more than willing to answer those followup questions, and honestly, quite often my role, as Managing Editor, I answer questions before I even need to pass them onto the other editors. If an author comes back with questions about an edit, sometimes I’m answering those questions and just leaving it at that, so the other editors don’t even have to be bothered.
Angela: Well, right, not-
Stephanie: Not that it’s a bother to answer questions, but if it’s something that, about style or content, then I can usually handle it, if it’s not specific to that book.
Angela: Well I think that’s one reason why we started the Editor’s Corner in the first place, is because we get so many questions that really are just different versions of the same thing. We wanted to find a way to be able to reach out to authors, not just DogEar authors, but all authors and answer those questions.
Stephanie: Yes, absolutely.
Angela: It’s not to take work off our plate, although that helps, I mean nobody is going to complain about that, but just to kind of educate everybody out there, and kind of give you guys a glimpse into what we do.
I mean it’s, always think of like if you’re an author and you think of editors as like kind of up on Mount Olympus and nobody gets to talk to the editor, it’s behind a secret closed door, and it’s so not like that. Especially at DogEar, we love, love hearing feedback from our authors, and everything, I don’t know, I’m sure you’re the same, but like what you hear back it helps you become a better editor.
Stephanie: Oh, yes.
Angela: Even the stuff that you learn that what you need to do differently and you’re learning what works.
Stephanie: Oh, yes. Absolutely. It’s always really nice too, to get the feedback from the author, who says, “Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much for the help.”
Stephanie: I mean it strokes your ego, but then it also helps reinforce that you really are helping people. That’s a pretty awesome feeling, and again that goes into that goal, that we’re here to provide support and advice to you, and that we do want to respect your voice and quality, or your voice and style, and really give you that quality that you pay for.
Angela: Yes, you’re exactly right. I was thinking too, I think sometimes when authors are considering editors, they, I don’t know, they get this sense that when they send in their work that we’re going to change it and turn it into our work and stamp our name on it.
Angela: That’s not the case with a good editor period.
Angela: That’s absolutely not the case with DogEar editors.
Angela: I wanted to let them know, when we edit, we edit to your style. Little things like, if you’re not using contractions in your work, we don’t use contractions in our edits. We sit and we study the style that we’re reading, we’ve been trained in it, we’ve been doing it for a long time and we’re able to kind of mimic the style. The best part is, the author gets the final say at DogEar.
Stephanie: Yes, absolutely.
Angela: If you don’t like it, if you don’t accept the change that we made, and it goes back to how you want it.
Stephanie: I do like to stress that to authors, that, excuse me, that ultimately it is your decision whether to accept or reject our changes. It can be a pain if I’ve made a call and decided to change something in your manuscript, throughout your manuscript, and I’ve changed it 25 times, it can be-
Stephanie: It can be a little annoying. I’ve got to admit, I have gone through and accepted and rejected changes in a manuscript before. It can be annoying to reject that change 25 times, but it is good that you consciously make that decision. That’s one reason we call your attention to it, and it’s easier I think than us saying, “Hey, you might want to do this,” and then not doing the change, because then you have to read your entire manuscript with the eye going, “Well, where do I find this? How do I find this?” There are tools that we can do, that we, working with Word all the time, that make it easier, though not always easy.
Angela: Well, and every author is different too, I mean I’ve had authors come through that don’t want us to use track changes, they just want us to change it and be done with it. We talked about that on the podcast, that’s fine, if that’s your choice we can do that. Then we have editors who are very particular about the changes that they want, and they will go through, piece by piece, and look at what you’ve done, and there better be a darn good reason that you did it.
All of our edits that we make are good faith edits. We don’t do things unless we have a reason to do them, they’re not just things we’re going, “Oh, yeah, that might look good.” No, there is something backing it up, and if you can’t figure out what that something is, you can always ask us.
Stephanie: Right. In my edits a lot of times, I like to state upfront that I do explain the first time I make a change. Usually I explain the reason for making a change, not all editors do that, but it is something that I do. Again if you do have questions why a change was made in a certain way, in one place, but not in another, that is absolutely something that we do answer questions about. That when that comes back to me I will either answer it or pass it onto the correct author, I’m sorry, correct editor, to answer that. That is, because we do want that clarity, and we do make mistakes, that is something that I would like to point out.
Angela: Right. Yes.
Stephanie: We miss things sometimes, we have off days, we have on days, and we can make a mistake. We can catch something 20 times and miss it three times. Don’t be afraid to notice that, and again because you do have the final say, you also get to I guess bear the final responsibility for the errors that are there.
Angela: That’s true. Welcome to indie publishing. That’s right, that’s what indie publishing is all about, it’s all about you.
Stephanie: Trust me-
Angela: Yeah, and I mean, we’re very human.
Stephanie: We don’t like having those mistakes.
Angela: No, we don’t. We don’t. That’s the thing, I mean you point out in an article you wrote about what to expect from a DogEar editor. Traditional publishing houses have more than one pair of eyes. You’ve got your development editor, then it goes to a copy edit, then it goes to a proofreader, then it goes to the design layout, and then it probably goes back to a proofreader.
You’ve got all of these different pairs of eyes looking at this manuscript, and you may think one editor can look, and you’re like, well, it’s like maybe say a kids book that’s like seven pages, one editor can surely do it. Once you’ve read something through, even one time-
Stephanie: Oh, my gosh.
Angela: … your brain starts filling in words, and it’s not necessarily the words that are there, but your brain will start filling them in. Especially with developmental edits that we go through three different times, you start memorizing what you think is coming up, and it gets tougher and tougher as it goes.
Obviously we work our butts off, we do the very best we can, but there will be errors, so the cool thing about it being independent, is that at the very end when we say, “Okay, here it is. You take a look at it, see what you think,” you get to go through it, as the author, and make the changes that you want to make before it’s finally published.
Stephanie: Excuse me. Yes, that is, I’m sorry, I had to clear my throat and got completely derailed.
Angela: That’s okay.
Stephanie: This, like I said, this is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve always been passionate about editing, I’ve always been passionate about customer service, and so that is something I really, really strive to maintain, as I said, in the editors that I hire. That I hire. Well, yes, I guess so.
Angela: That’s true. That is true.
Stephanie: That I bring on for DogEar. That is a big focus, DogEar is trying to set themselves apart by having high quality edits, because we know that a lot of indie publishers, even 10 years ago when I first started working with, and I don’t even know, it was with Author House. Yes, sorry. When I started working with them, at the time a lot of people, a lot of indie publishers, although there weren’t many at that time, would run, just run something through a spellcheck and call that a proofread or an edit.
Angela: Right. Right.
Stephanie: It’s come a long way, spellcheck, but it still has that, it’s meant to call your attention to things that maybe wrong. I’ve seen so many people fall into the trap of, “Oh, well, it tells me that this might be the wrong “their”. It might be T-H-E-R-E, instead of T-H-E-I-R or a T-H-E-Y apostrophe E.” Then people start to doubt themselves and they’ll change everything.
Spellcheck is really just meant to call your attention to things that could be wrong, and very commonly mistaken things. It has come a long way, but it still does make those mistakes. You don’t want to rely just on, you want to make sure that you know what you’re getting out of an edit, if you do go through someone who sets themself up as a freelance editor, or any publisher.
Angela: Right. I think too, the whole, I mean I’ve heard this argument a lot, and I totally understand. Editors are expensive, just period, it is not cheap to get your book professionally edited, but I want you think about the idea of, “Okay, if I’m running a spellcheck, let’s say a word is spelled correctly, like the word “its”, I-T-S. What if it’s used incorrectly, what if it should be I-T apostrophe S?” Spellcheck is not going to catch that, and if it tells you, if you run the grammar check, like in Microsoft Word has a grammar check, it may tell you, “Hey, we think this is wrong.” If you don’t know the rule behind it, you don’t know if it’s right or wrong.
Angela: You only know that it thinks it might be. It doesn’t catch words that have, are missed. If you have the term, let’s see, “Working with a DogEar editor,” and the word “dog” is missing, it’s not going to catch that because there’s no misspelling. Spellcheck is great, we love when authors spellcheck before sending it to us, but it is not going to make your book ready for publishing, like an editor will.
Stephanie: Right. Then a good professional editor also is trained in knowing how something can be misread. A sentence may be technically correct, but a sentence can sometimes be read two or three ways, maybe even more. It’s our job to query that and to say, “Hey, so I’m not sure if you meant it this way, but it could also be read this way.”
Or frequently I will rearrange a sentence just because I say, “Well, it made me stumble, as I was reading it, and I had to stop and go back and reread the sentence.” You don’t want your reader to do that, because that interrupts the flow and that interrupts, a good book, you’re kind of like weaving a spell. You’re just drawing the reader in and you don’t want them to get pulled out of the world of your book.
Stephanie: A good editor is also going to notice things like that. The DogEar editors, we notice things like that.
Angela: Yes, we do.
Stephanie: Sometimes we may miss it, or we may read it the way you meant it and not the, and may not have even noticed that it can be read another way. That’s good, that we read it the way you wanted it read, but again, we are, I make sure that we catch people who, that we have people who catch that sort of thing. That is actually built into the test, believe it or not.
Angela: That’s true. Yes, you’re, I mean I have nothing to add. You’re exactly, exactly right. I just, yes, I’ve lost my train of thought, but I’m going to agree with you.
Stephanie: Right. Yes, yes, yes.
Stephanie: There are a lot of authors, I think, as we’ve said before, are hesitant to get edit, to have an edit, because of the cost, but then a lot are very nervous and tense and expecting that this book is going to come back, not even with their tone changed and their style changed, but just marked up. They have fears of high school English, and getting that paper back marked, that term paper all marked up in red, and with these one line exclamations, “Terrible,” just something like that.
Angela: Right. Right.
Stephanie: That is not at all what we are going to do, especially at DogEar. I mean hopefully, hopefully not. That’s not to say somebody doesn’t snap once I suppose. That is hopefully not ever going to happen.
Angela: No, that would be a bad day. When you’re having a bad day like that, you do not edit, everybody knows that. It doesn’t go well.
Stephanie: Yes, you step back from the computer and say-
Angela: Yes, you must.
Stephanie: “Today is not the day.”
Angela: You want the day off. That right. That’s important to remind authors too, I mean any time you get an edit back you have to take a step away from it and remember this is not personal, we don’t know you. We’re sure you’re genuinely nice people and we would probably love to sit down for a coffee, but we’ve never met you. There’s nothing personal about our edits, we’re not trying to make you upset, we’re not trying to tell you that you’re a bad writer, all we are ever trying to do is help you get your message across to the reader. That’s it.
Stephanie: We’re not that harried high school teacher who’s grading 20 term papers.
Stephanie: And just getting writers cramp, and trying to do that all by hand.
Angela: That’s right. Exactly.
Stephanie: That makes it easier too, so that we don’t have those that are, “Terrible,” written there.
Angela: That’s right. That’s right. Although in our track changes I think a lot of our changes do come through in the color red, do they not?
Stephanie: I believe so, but you can change that.
Angela: I believe so. Sorry about that.
Stephanie: Yeah, you can change that, if the red does get distracting.
Angela: That’s true.
Stephanie: You can decide what changes are marked in what color. I-
Angela: If red is intimidating, go with something much more soothing and get a cup of tea or a beer and relax.
Stephanie: That’s right. I learned from, gosh, I think it was my first editing boss actually, she always liked to edit in purple or green. Now that is my default color, even when I edit on hard copy at home, purple and green.
Angela: Yeah. It’s just so much more pleasant, right?
Stephanie: It is, it really is. Okay.
Angela: That is, yeah, that’s all that I have. I mean I can talk about this all day, but I don’t want to completely bore the people that are listening.
Stephanie:Exactly. That is something, I’m so passionate about this, but I’m like, “I think we should probably wrap it up.”
Angela: I know. Yes.
Angela: If we were in a sound booth, that is the gesture that they would be making, it’d be, “Wrap it up. Wrap it up.”
Stephanie: Yes, yes, and you’ll notice a lot of times you’ll hear this sound because I get so excited I have to clasp my hands because they are swinging everywhere, and I cannot knock this microphone over, so I’m just clasping my hands.
Angela: I was going to say, “She knocked over her tea, she knocked over her computer, it’s just a mess. You don’t want to say anything.”
Stephanie: No. No, you know it. We are going to try to contain our enthusiasm now, and we are going to say, thank you for joining us and please join us next time when we are going to discuss how you can build your writing muscles. Until then, keep writing.