Meet Chrissy Das, founder of This Edited Life

This entry is part 6 of 5 in the series Book Industry Experts

A couple of years ago Chrissy and I connected on LinkedIn and I invited her to schedule a time we could chat to learn more about each other and how we could support one another in our businesses. We have even done some work together.Chrissy Das Headshot

Tell us a little bit about your business.

I founded This Edited Life in 2015 to serve authors who need help communicating their best ideas. As a ghostwriter and editor, I help shape the books so that the author’s first impression is the best it can possibly be.

How would you describe your ideal client?

Most of the authors I work with are service-based business owners. They have been in their industry at least 5 or 10 years, often longer. The content they need are short-form pieces like blog posts and newsletters or long-form content like whitepapers and business books. The topics range across industry but what they have in common is a business focus, whether that be on their proprietary business process or on sales or leadership.

How did things change for you in 2020 and how did you manage to weather through the year during the pandemic?

2020 has been hard for a lot of my clients and it’s been challenging for me as well. My work life didn’t change very much because I have been working from home full-time for years. The main thing that’s changed is missing the in-person connections I used to enjoy. While I have clients all over the US, my local network is important to me and I’ve really missed

What is your favorite tip for using social media?

Focus on individual relationships. Make authentic friendships that you can take offline.

What are your goals for 2021?

My goals for 2021 are to do more of what I love. I am using this year to devote time to client projects

Where can authors find you?

www.thiseditedlife.com

www.linkedin.com/in/chrissydas

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Putting your work out there can feel scary. If you want a hand making your words more powerful, I am happy to help.

Bio

As a ghostwriter, I enjoy working with authors on their content strategy and websites. My clients are often service-based business owners and members of the creative community who rely on me to help them better communicate their thought leadership and grow their business.

Meet Kathleen Becker Blease, Developmental Editor

This entry is part 8 of 5 in the series Book Industry Experts

Kathleen and I connected on LinkedIn last year. She’s one of many editors I’ve been able to connect with and add to my growing list of recommended editors for nonfiction authors.

  • Tell us a little bit about your business.Kathleen Becker Blease

I’m a fulltime freelance developmental book editor specializing in memoir, how-to/memoir hybrids, and how-to/leadership titles. “Developmental editing” means I work closer to the author’s creative process than, say, copyeditors and proofreaders, and I also ghost re-write manuscripts. I work on completed drafts of manuscripts and book proposals and provide deep edits and evaluations.

I’ve been blessed to have gained experience and coached among some of the best in commercial trade publishing on staff at Random House, Inc. An RH editor is trained to tune into and honor the author’s voice, so that’s my key skill. I’m also trained in writing direct response sales copy. I understand how to capture and engage the reader and, if the author would like, gently bake the marketing right into the manuscript, targeting the unique selling points of the book’s message, particularly for how-to/memoir and how-to/leadership titles. My ultimate goal as an editor, however, is to identify and remove the word obstacles between the author and the reader, so his or her message, story, and intention are clear and effective.

I’m a one-woman band and this is my only gig, so my work schedule is solely about my clients.

  • How would you describe your ideal client?

I love working with authors who take time to think things through and are open-minded about making changes to strengthen their message. They come from a variety of backgrounds, and their writing ability really doesn’t matter. That’s why I’m here. But their willingness to consider the editorial suggestions I provide is what I look for before signing my clients. I have an introductory process that helps facilitate that.

  • How did things change for you in 2020 and how did you manage to weather through the year during the pandemic?

This global pandemic has been rough on everyone, and I’m no exception. I lost my husband several years ago at the age of 48, so I’m somewhat sensitive about the possibility of losing another family member or putting my children through another loss. To put it mildly, COVID brought to the fore my sense of grief and uncertainty. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on my mindset, I was going to have a tough time keeping my freelance business going and providing for my family. I know it sounds silly, but I decided to do something that I always wanted to do—watercolor painting. I’m sure you’re looking for a more business-oriented answer to this question, but I felt that God was moving me in that direction for a reason and decided to go with the flow. As I stepped out and pursued it, I could see His wisdom.

Sometimes silly things spark measurable benefits. I’ve never pursued art before, but watercolor fascinated me, and I wanted to come out of this pandemic with something positive . . . anything positive. Additionally, I needed to focus on creative, productive thoughts to keep me sharp as an editor, which was my first and most important step in keeping the home fire burning, so to speak.

My followers on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook regularly got a taste of my painting learning curve. And as I began posting, I captured and capitalized on yet another benefit: I could directly empathize with my ideal author clients about their creative process and putting themselves out there. It’s scary to be vulnerable, but it’s also relatable and builds trust. Authors get it. Now I get it. So, we get each other.

Watercoloring—and posting my progress on social media–turned out to be a unique and tangible marketing tool. It’s also very visual, as in, “Oh, yeah, you’re that book editor who likes to paint.” And there’s no doubt that I’ve found a new hobby that I don’t plan on giving up any time soon. It took a while after the March shut down, but by the end of July I did manage to sign a few clients—great clients, actually—to keep things going through 2020. I could focus, advance my editing and creative skills, and my confidence grew. God is good.

  • What is your favorite tip for using social media?

I firmly believe in finding one social media platform that fits your style and interests and putting your energies there, targeting and refining your list of followers and connections according to your skillset, work ethics, and belief system. Mine is LinkedIn. I also post on Facebook and Instagram. But my main focus is LI, and I’m specific about with whom I connect and who I follow. I don’t think it’s useful to cast a wide net and spend time on unfocused engagement; your engagement needs to somehow lead to building a network of like-minded professionals, a community.

  • What are your goals for 2021?

I think I’m just like everyone else . . . I want to get back to normal in 2021 . . . and I’d like to watch my son graduate from college. But my specific business goals are two-fold: 1) continue to find great clients with intriguing stories, particularly among memoirists and creative nonfiction authors, and 2) identify appropriate podcasters and bloggers and schedule interviews for spring and through the summer months. Guesting on a podcast, in particular, would be new . . . a little scary . . . and exciting for me.

  • Where can authors find you? Share your website and social media links.

The best place to find me is on LinkedIn!

www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenbeckerblease

  • Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like every author, especially first-time authors, to know that I understand how scary it can be to put yourself out there. Totally get that. So, bear in mind that your message–your own story from your perspective–is unique, and you’re the only one who can tell it. If you don’t, no one else will, and there’s no need to let your writing level hold you back. That’s what editors are for, especially developmental editors.

Bio

Kathleen Becker Blease is an ex-Random House editor, now a full-time freelance developmental book editor. She has edited a variety of nonfiction and creative nonfiction topics—from Mr. Rogers’ educational techniques to healing multiple personalities disorder to the gift of black fatherhood. Kathleen is also a watercolor enthusiast and a retired homeschooling mom. She is the author of I Can’t Wait to Meet My Daddy and several gift books published by the Ballantine Books group at Random House, Inc., including Love in Verse, a Boston Book Review bestseller. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains with her college-age son (who is awaiting campus to reopen) and their black cat Maybelline.

Meet Cristen Iris, Developmental Editor

This entry is part 9 of 5 in the series Book Industry Experts

This is the first in my 2021 series of book industry experts that will include editors, ghostwriters, book coaches, and other experts in the book industry. Cristen and I first connected a few years back when we both worked with the Nonfiction Authors Association.

Tell us a little bit about your business.Cristen Iris headshot 2

I’m a developmental and substantive editor and book proposal consult who loves developing long-term professional relationships with my clients and other publishing industry pros. I predominately work on nonfiction projects written by experts but am keen to work on well-crafted fiction with a literary bend.

Memoir with its nonfiction base and fiction-like narrative style is one of my favorite things to work on, but I jump at the opportunity to work on anything even remotely related to medical anthropology, sociology, sports, entertainment, or business.

My clients include a New York Times bestselling debut novelist, a GRAMMY Award ® winner, attorneys, researchers and medical doctors, competitive athletes, advocates and activists, and an international entertainment entrepreneur. I’m delighted to have worked with Linda K. Olson (triple-amputee, retired MD, and Parkinson’s advocate) on her recently released memoir, Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life, listed by Parade Magazine as one of the 24 best memoirs to read in 2020.

I love helping clients develop their writing craft and market acumen, so they can share important information and tell meaningful stories that attract the attention of literary agents, publishers, and readers. What I love most about what I do is the ability to partner with others to do work that has the potential to change lives and shape culture.

How would you describe your ideal client?

My favorite clients are Type As with a sense of humor, the type that are serious about the work but don’t take themselves too seriously. I also prefer working with clients who are multi-book authors and aspire to be traditionally published or published by a publisher that exercises editorial discretion. I also like working with authors who choose to indie-publish for strategic reasons.

Authors who are looking for a one-time, do-this-and-I’ll-pay-you-and-leave aren’t a good fit. The most fulfilling relationships for me are dynamic, collaborative, and strategic because they’re the most fun and get the best results.

How did things change for you in 2020 and how did you manage to weather through the year during the pandemic?

My pandemic year started the first week of January with the sudden death of my 42-year-old friend and brother-in-law. Another relative died suddenly in February, and in March, another one of my young relatives was hospitalized with COVID-19 and according to his doctor, “could have gone either way.”

By April, clients who’d booked large, multi-month projects had put their projects on hold or were moving at a snail’s pace due to interruptions in their lives and concerns about cash flow. The dip was brief. Within a few weeks, emails started flowing in. Lockdowns and layoffs allowed many aspiring authors to focus on their books. I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure I’ve done more projects this year than any other. Having said that, my income compared to last year is down because pricing and timelines got all out of whack early on, and I’ve done more lower-fee projects than high-dollar ones.

On the business side, I have to say that it’s been a great year. The pandemic exacerbated a project management and cash flow frustration I’ve had for several years and was the push I needed to eliminate the service related to it and start offering an hourly consulting rate service that’s been a surprising hit.

If I had to boil the change and the benefits that followed down into two words they would be “focus” and “efficiency.”

On the personal side, I’ve become more aware of how important my husband, sister, and children are to me. That’s given me perspective and a sense of belonging that I haven’t experienced in a while.

What is your favorite tip for using social media?

Well, first I want to encourage you to consider any tips I offer with a degree of skepticism because unless you’re an editor who works with clients like mine and share my goals, this is likely bad advice. But if you see yourself in anything I’ve said about myself, my tip regarding social media is to get off it as soon as possible.

Perhaps a better tip is to consider whether your ideal clients are hanging out on your favorite social media platform and if they go to that platform when looking to hire someone like you. Social media is a time suck. Each of us only have 24 hours in the day. If we want to succeed, we must keep customer conversion expenses low. Time and energy, like money, is limited.

I’m also an introvert (not shy, an introvert). Social media wears me out. My energy is best applied elsewhere. But when I started my business, I spent a lot of time on social media because that’s where authors who were willing to take a chance on a new editor hung out.

So, my tip is to remember that marketing isn’t a one-size-fits all deal. Marketing fiction requires a different approach than nonfiction and both require strategies that keep the ideal reader’s needs and habits top of mind. If you can afford to, hire an experienced consultant who knows your genre and understands your personality and goals and can help you develop a customized social media strategy that gets results. Sue has been doing this a long time and as an author herself can speak directly to what works and doesn’t. I’d start by talking to her.

What are your goals for 2021?

My goals for 2021 are the same as they are every year and are more strategic than specific, which allows me to take advantages of changes in the market and opportunities that always surprise me. In general, they are:

  • develop more high-value industry relationships;
  • stay connected to clients by celebrating their wins and promoting them whenever possible;
  • submit more of my own writing to literary magazines;
  • become even more effective and efficient, so I can serve more clients;
  • and get more outdoor time by taking walking breaks each weekday and hiking, biking, paddle boarding, and snowshoeing with family and friends on weekends.

Where can authors find you?

The best place to find me is at cristeniris.com.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’d just like to encourage anyone who feels beaten down, inept, and bone tired. I feel that way most days, especially when I feel forced to choose between answering emails that keep piling up and doing the actual work.

Running a sustainable and growing business is hard. We must keep all the plates spinning at least fast enough to keep them balanced on the pointy sticks they sit on.

It’s o’dark thirty, and I’m sitting in my bathrobe looking like a two-year-old that nobody’s bothered to hose down lately. It’s easy to feel like we’re doing something wrong, like we have little in common with those real professionals we admire.

But never mind Instagram, photoshopped headshots, and holiday everything-is-wonderful newsletters. That’s all fluff. The meaningful work is ugly work, but it’s the only work worth doing and the stuff that produces results that prove to ourselves and others that we’re competent and resilient.

May your 2020 failures and triumphs propel you into 2021 and may it be your best year yet!

Bio

Cristen Iris is a craft-focused, results-oriented developmental and substantive editor and book proposal consultant. Her clients include a New York Times bestselling debut novelist, a GRAMMY Award ® winner, attorneys, researchers and medical doctors, competitive athletes, advocates and activists, and an international entertainment entrepreneur. Recently, Parade Magazine listed client and triple-amputee Linda K. Olson’s book as one of the 24 best memoirs to read in 2020. Cristen’s personal essays and business columns have been published by, among others, IDAHO magazine, Idaho Business Review, Unbound Northwest, and on the Nonfiction Authors Association blog. When her nose isn’t stuck in a book or her fingers glued to a keyboard, Cristen and her feet can be found anywhere there’s dirt, trees, or water.

Working With an Editor: FAQs Answered by an Editor

I’ve asked my friend Tom Bentley, editor extraordinaire, to answer some FAQs about working with an editor.Tom Bentley, Editor

Should you ask for a sample edit?

Yes. A sample edit can demonstrate an editor’s skills, acuity and even editing style. I have sample edits of developmental editing, copy editing and proofing from both fiction and nonfiction projects that show my efforts. It’s also reasonable to ask an editor to edit a representative number of pages (perhaps 15-25) of your work to see how they deal with the specifics of your writing. Some editors will roll a fee into project charges for that if you take them on as your editor, some will do it for free.

Should you initially call your editor for a video or audio chat or just work with them through email?

I think it’s best to call and talk about the project. When having a conversation, questions and their answers arise that never would have occurred in email exchanges, even detailed ones. I learn more about the project and the client needs than I ever would have by looking at the writing and email information alone. That said, I have edited a couple of books solely through email exchanges, and they have gone well. Since I have a face made for radio, I prefer a call.

What tools do editors normally use (like Word’s Track Changes commands)?

I use Word’s revision and commenting tools as the mainstay of my editing work. I work on a Mac, and if the writer has a fairly new version of Word, Mac or PC, there are usually no compatibility problems. Sometimes I have to explain some nuances of the revision tools, but there are clear, explanatory videos online that I can point a client too.

Other than those, I have copies of the AP Style Guide, the Chicago Manual of Style, and a bunch of other style, editing and general writing books (like William Zinsser’s excellent “On Writing Well”) that are helpful. Software tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway Editor online can be useful.

What ground rules should a writer and editor have before the process begins?

I think both parties should have a good sense of milestones (when the first round of edits is due to the client, when the return round is due back) and fees, such as paying for a book edit in installment payments. Both parties should have some flexibility for life events, and for round-to-round changes in the original body of work that could affect deadlines.

In a developmental edit of a memoir I just finished, where I suggested the addition of a References and Addendum sections, I charged slightly more for the copyedit phase, because of the added material. Both parties should be communicative about any changes or unforeseen events that affect the work.

What are the types of editing an editor performs?

Developmental editing (which I also call content editing), is the big-picture stuff, incorporates the book’s structure and style, and can also be considered substantive editing. For me, content (developmental) editing is where chapters or chapter sections are shifted about or possibly eliminated, suggestions made (if needed) for the addition of substantial pieces of new material, checking if the information flow is logical, and for fiction, figuring out whether characters feel real and consistent (while still being able to evolve). But if you’re comfortable with those structural issues already being addressed in the book, an author can go straight to copyediting.

In a content/developmental edit, I usually examine the work for broad issues of continuity, theme, and voice—if the story’s arc actually does arc, in a compelling way. I look for whether the narrative starts/ends at the right place, has good transitions, that the story has a current that pulls the reader through—things like that.

Copyediting and line editing, in my view, are the same: for me, my copyediting normally includes deeper suggestions of editing changes—if needed—sometimes found in a content edit, and a sense of editorial assessment, also often found in a developmental/content edit. My copyediting approach might be thought of as a more complex, fine-toothed (and interpretive) way of proofreading, where I make simple in-text corrections for errors, but sometimes also suggest re-workings of sentences and entire paragraphs, in trying to mediate omissions in ideas or undeveloped ideas, or with fiction, difficulties with plot or character consistency and story arc.

This is where I both look at grammar and writing mechanics as well as at the flow of the work. I often suggest in detail where sentences/paragraphs could use some bolstering.

When I proofread, I’m attentive to common typos and spelling errors, but also attentive to something like “versus” being spelled one way in one chapter and seen as “vs” later. I have an eye for consistency, so, speaking of a novel, you wouldn’t have green-eyed characters later seen with blue (unless that was their nature).

Developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading are three separate processes, normally done in succession—you have to make the big changes of a developmental edit before copyediting can proceed, and you have to make the changes of the copyedit before a book can be proofread.

Otherwise you would be doing a bunch of extra work: for example, if you add/delete a bunch of material in the developmental edit, any copyediting you did for the deleted material would be wasted, and you wouldn’t have copyedited the new material, which would have to be edited again.

And proofreading must be the last stage, after you input all the material suggested in the copyedit, since the book would change again from the copyedit.

Should you allow an editor to rewrite sentences or even paragraphs or just make suggestions?

I have worked with authors that were fine with my rewriting of short elements of works. That power, of course, needs to be granted by the author ahead of time. When I first review a project with an author, I ask if they want me to do that (it’s tracked, of course, for their approval or rejection), or if they want me to elaborate in a comment about a suggested change. Repairing typos or egregious grammatical errors I do without hesitation.

Do editors charge by the page, by the word, by time, or by fixed fee?

All of those things. They might even try to charge you for the Doritos they eat at lunch, but don’t let them. I have charged by all of those methods, but for the last couple of years I’ve charged by the word. That is flexible: I’ve charged more per word for complex editing projects and less for where I recognize that the writer has a good handle on the base material, so in some regards it becomes a fixed fee.

What can an editor do for a writing work?

Make it sing like Paganini’s violin! On a more down-to-earth level, editors can offer to bring clarity to an author’s ideas in places where the words might obscure or divert the intended concept or in fiction, sense of drama. Editors can see where characters in fiction might behave in ways wholly out of their established patterns to a reader’s discomfort, where the author might think it’s a needed dramatic explosion. Editors can question areas or ideas that might need expansion. Or they can point out where the thoughts or scenes can be too heavy-handed or bloated with too much exposition.

And to be worth their salt, they must tidy up typos and knock-kneed grammar.

What if an editor suggests the deletion of entire chapters of a book, or for a novel, a character?

I have committed that terrible crime before. I worked with an author of a SciFi book that had a great beginning—that was three chapters in. The work’s first chapters had a great deal of dragging backstory that dulled the senses before the good stuff began. Of course they were troubled at the suggestion, but after reflecting and deciding to do the deletions and shifts, the author very much agreed that the work began with more power and appeal.

One of the great thing about how editors and writers work is that the writer can simply say “nope,” and be done with addressing that edit. It is the writer’s work, after all, and their judgment supersedes an editor’s. Editors should be fully explanatory about why they feel a major edit is justified, how it strengthens the work and energizes the reader, but if the author isn’t onboard, there’s no point in arguing.

Do you have any recourse if you think an editor’s work is terrible, and you’ve already paid them, or paid a portion of the fee?

Giving an author a sample edit and having a clear-cut sense between author and editor of project scope and detail is helpful to stave off those kinds of circumstances, but not always. I have never had an author ask for their money back, though I have had a couple of instances where they thought I could have done more. And I went back and re-did some work without charge. I did have an instance of working with a publisher for whom I edited a number of books say that my work on a specific book wasn’t up to my prior standards, and she did point out some places where I’d missed things I would normally fix.

This is not a great excuse, but that impelled me to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while: I bought glasses with a prescription strictly for reading on the computer; I’d been struggling with focus on the screen with my standard lenses for more than a year. My trouble with that book did force me to get the glasses, which have sharpened my screen vision considerably.

I believe an editor should either promise to resolve the inadequacies of the edit without charge, or refund a portion of the fee if the author has lost confidence in the edit.

Tom also recommends this source for self-editing.

I encourage you to check out Tom’s website, The Write Word. Thanks Tom for your answers and usual wit!

P.S. You might also enjoy this video where I and Anna Scheller discuss editing.

Blogging, Your Social Media Platforms, and Finding a Literary Agent for Your Nonfiction Book

Blogging, Your Social Media Platforms, and Finding a Literary AgentA freelance editor emailed me for advice on an author’s view of blogging, social media, and finding a literary agent for their nonfiction book.

“I’m writing to ask for a bit of advice from a social media expert’s point of view. I have a client who is getting ready to shop their nonfiction book. I’ve been encouraging this client for a year to build their social media platform, but my client was resistant to doing so until they finished writing the book and proposal.”

The author’s only social media presence is on LinkedIn, though they plan to start using Twitter – tweeting only twice a week! They do have a blog – only four posts in the past year with a plan to post a new blog weekly. The author is considering having their web designer create a section where guest bloggers could post – without first being vetted. The author thought having a guest blog post section should be mentioned in the book proposal.

Another blogger had approached this author offering to be a guest blogger. However, the editor noted that this blog looks like a small, personal blog—no mailing list, no way to contact the author.

“I don’t think this blogger is an asset to my author right now – they have two old blogs posted [both over a year old], that’s it. I’m inclined to tell my client not to do this, but mostly I don’t want any guest writer to hurt my client—would posting their guest blog potentially do that? I’ve encouraged my client to contact you for help, but so far, he’s been resistant to doing anything except wait. I’d appreciate your advice about this.”

This author’s approach to blogging, social media, and attracting a literary agent is not unique. Many authors I work with start out with these:

Common Misconceptions

  • “I don’t need a website, blog, or social media platforms until I finish my book.”
  • “Blogging once or twice a month is plenty. I don’t have much to blog about anyhow. I’m busy writing my book. I’ll have some guest bloggers for additional content.”
  • “I’ll start tweeting and get on other social media platforms once my book is published.”
  • “My book proposal is enough, and I don’t need a large following on social media to get a good literary agent.”

Literary Agents Expect Nonfiction Authors to Have in a Book Proposal:

  • An established website, including a blog (consistent blogging on a weekly basis for a year or more). Guest bloggers are tricky (more about that in a bit).
  • Established social media platforms with a decent number of followers on each platform. Learn more about that in this article posted by a literary agency: “7 Ways Agents Measure Social Media.”
  • A marketing plan in your book proposal that includes your social media marketing and book promotion plan.

Blogging has impact on your social media presence. However, blogging just once or twice a month won’t get you noticed. The more you can blog, the more impact you’ll have. And tweeting only twice a week won’t get you noticed at all. There are some good tips and interesting statistics on this found in the article “The 5 Commandments for a High Impact Social Media Presence.” If you can be a guest blogger on a well established blog, this can have a very good impact on your efforts.

However, having a guest blogger on your own blog can be tricky if not done right. There are some rules to follow. I do not recommend allowing guest bloggers to post on your site without vetting their posts first. Be sure anything they write is relevant to your topic. Your guest blogger should also have a well-established blog (over a year old) with at least weekly posts. It’s not beneficial to have a guest blogger who doesn’t already have a solid blog themselves and in fact, it can be harmful to allow a guest blogger on your site when their own site is outdated. A guest blogger should also be willing to share the blog with their own established social media networks. For more rules about guest blogging read the article “Don’t Accept Guest Posts Unless You Follow These 7 Rules.”

To learn more about what to include in your Social Media section in your book proposal, read editor Candace Johnson’s guest post on our site: “Your Social Media: What to Include in Your Book Proposal”.

My advice to the editor was to provide all this information, including the links to other sources, and encourage the author to start blogging regularly and establish solid social media platforms before reaching out to literary agents. I discouraged the idea of the guest blogger since they had only two blog posts of their own – both over a year old. If an author wants to get noticed, they need to ensure a solid social media presence.

If you’d like to ensure your social media presence is what a literary agent is looking for, contact me for my “Peace of Mind Social Media Audit & Consultation”.

You might benefit from Joel’s follow-up to this post.