Meet Kathleen Becker Blease, Developmental Editor

This entry is part 8 of 7 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.

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My Ideal Client is…

Do you know who your ideal client is? Below is a description of my ideal client.

Ruth Ellen Hill is 33 years old. Her husband is a fire fighter. They have two children, a boy age 6 and a girl age 3. Ruth took 2 years of community college and majored in accounting. She has 12 years experience as a receptionist, administrative assistant, and accounting clerk in small companies she’s worked in since graduating high school.

After her second child was born, Ruth decided to be a stay at home mom. Three years later her oldest child is in school full time and Ruth has decided she wants to work again, part-time and from home so that she’s still available to her 3 year old. Ruth wants to put her administrative skills to work, has researched the virtual assistant arena, and is setting up shop.

Ruth is not sure how to get started, where to find clients, what should be on her website or how to actually run a business. Her dad’s had his own construction business for years and she’s been doing some work for him such as bookkeeping, proposals and creating documents. He’s offered to help her get started and give her a small loan. Ruth is looking for a coach to help her build a solid foundation for her business.

I recently came in contact with a local virtual assistant who has agreed to let me use her profile photo here. She agrees that the description of my ideal client is pretty close to a description of herself. Lisa says, “I chose to become a VA because I wanted to put my skills to use and work from home to care for my girls!”

Lisa Jacobson

Now Lisa is not my client; at least not yet. And I don’t expect to find someone named Ruth Ellen Hill who is 33 years old and perfectly fits my ideal client description. However, by having a clear description of my ideal client and a photo to refer to, I can now create specific marketing messages for my ideal client. If I realize that my marketing messages wouldn’t appeal to my ideal client, I can refine them until they do.

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Refine Your Marketing Message

Everyone I’ve talked to recently says they need help refining their marketing message. They want prospects to pay attention and aren’t sure why they aren’t attracting their ideal client.

Your marketing messages should be clear and full of value. If all you do is say, ‘hire me’, your message is vague and does not offer your prospects any reason to find your services valuable.

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  1. Your ideal client should find your messages appealing
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Once your prospects can see that you are talking to them, understand their challenges, can provide a workable solution and can back it up with a story of how you’ve helped someone else, they are much more likely to pay attention and ask you how you can help them.