Amanda edited both of my works that were published through Less Than Three Press, and I am infinitely grateful for that. I learned as much reading through her comments and suggestions as I had through numerous workshops and classes. She also has a humorous and kind way of leaving those comments that I truly hope to emulate when I give critiques. I consider Amanda to be a great friend and a wise teacher, and I am so pleased to introduce her to you. She has some fantastic advice for anyone hoping to get into the industry.
Name: Amanda Jean
Company: Less Than Three Press, LLC
Genre: LGBT Romance
Astrological Sign: Cancer
Q: What is your relationship with the book you work on and the writer of that book? We’d love a brief description of what you do and how it pertains to the author.
A: I wear many hats when I edit any given project. Each requires a slightly different approach; the relationship I form with a five hundred-page high fantasy novel is different from my relationship with a thirty-page short story. My hat also depends on the strengths of the writer. Some have a great grasp of world building, and some are more character-driven. A major consideration of what my primary focus will be is the author’s level of comfort with the English language. If I’m spending most of my time correcting comma splices, fixing dialog tags, and nagging them about run-on sentences, developmental editing takes a second chair. Writers comfortable with English language rules receive a lot more nitty-gritty content edits on the first pass as opposed to those who need more help.
My personal strengths are in developmental and structural editing. I catch contradictions, weak spots in the narrative, inconsistent characterization, and even factual errors (I love research. Ask me how!). Redundancies are another big one with me. Because my focus is heavily on the content and stylistic aspects of stories, authors tend to have two reactions to my edits: great happiness or great displeasure. There’s rarely a middle ground. Editors who don’t give extensive content suggestions tend to receive less extreme reactions, although some authors do feel very protective of their comma placements.
Q: How can an author help in this process?
A: By having a history of receiving and utilizing critique, honestly. Authors new to publishing are sometimes taken aback by how thorough and unforgiving editor comments can be, though we all do our best to soften the blows. I use emoticons. And feeling words.
Discover your own method for coping with difficult edits (I suggest booze and/or .gifs of kittens) and come at the edits as objectively as you can. Do this even if you feel like the editor has it out for you and is going to ruin your vision. Really sit back and consider why the editor made the suggestion they did. If it’s an inconsistency, don’t hand-wave it away; readers will notice laziness. If it’s poorly developed character motivation, dig deep and find a way to communicate what’s going on in their head. Some authors do basic patch jobs to fix holes—expositional dialog, how I loathe you—and others use the opportunity to enrich their story and take it to entirely new places. If you do the latter more than the former, I guarantee your editor will adore you for it.
We don’t make suggestions to hear ourselves talk. Even if we do secretly hate your story, our time and energy went into it too; why would we want to risk it being picked apart upon release? Editors want the story to thrive. That’s why we’re editors.
Q: How did you end up in this field?
A: My original career goal was to do something in abnormal psychology, but the long and short of it was that I realized that clinical work wouldn’t gel with me. I reassessed my skillset. My knack for the written word, along with my history of informational article writing and editing, academic editing and tutoring, and nearly a decade of experience as a beta reader all added up to one potential field. I changed my major from psychology to communications and consulted a few people I knew in the industry. Journalism is not for me, so that left fiction.
I joined up with LT3 when a friend of mine who publishes with them discussed an editing experience she’d had with the company; she thought I would be a good fit, and so I sent a query letter and joined the team within a month.
Q: Do you have advice for others who want to get into your field?
A: Be sure this is the avenue you want to pursue; even in what is considered to be a niche corner of the wider publishing world, the reality is that the work is hard, the hours are long, and the opportunities are limited. With the Big Five publishers, editing positions are fiercely competitive and require novel-length resumes just to get a foot in the door. My niche, digital-based publishing and specifically LGBT fiction, is not nearly as cutthroat (and doesn’t require me to relocate, bonus!), but I got lucky; I was hired with around a year and a half of industry-relevant experience, despite the fact that most companies call for at least two, and that’s for entry-level work.
As for how to get said experience? Take every composition class, every technical writing class, every esoteric class that deals with words. Depending on location, finding opportunities to develop editing skills may be difficult; online workshops are useful, if pricey. Freelance. Beta read. Academia is a great place to start. Join college literary magazines, newspapers. I never had to take an unpaid internship, but nearly everyone I encountered recommended it to me. If the world of academia is long gone, learn independently, and find small digital publishers to get involved with—zines are great for this. Poetry, straight fiction, stories long and short; any experience is good experience. When I freelanced, I wrote and edited a lot of copy for internet-based businesses. No paying gig is too small when you’re learning to navigate professional editing and building your resume accordingly.
More generally, my advice would be to read widely, as it keeps you sharp. Develop an appreciation for pedantry. Understand that editing is a craft entirely apart from writing, and that talent in one area does not necessarily denote talent in the other. Learn a swift work ethic if you haven’t already. Have patience and empathy for the emotions of authors. Buy copies of TheChicago Manual of Style and become intimately acquainted with its hefty pages. And send query letters. At worst, they’ll say no.
Q: What is your favourite aspect of your work?
A: Receiving the manuscript back after the first round of edits is usually an interesting time. It’s when the evolution from a rougher draft to a more refined story that is starting to resemble its ultimate form begins. Seeing my nit-picking comment or suggestion spark an idea that improved the narrative in an unexpected way? Cool feeling. Probably my favorite.
I also like the part where I get to hold paperback copies of something I’ve edited in my hands. That’s super nifty.
Q: What do you listen to while working?
A: I’ve made several “editing” mixes, and the key to a good one is including music that is already very familiar to you. Low-key tunes don’t hurt, either. My staples include Elliott Smith, Neko Case, Rufus Wainwright, and a lot of instrumental soundtracks. But sometimes dead silence is the best ambiance.