Helen Hardt, Editor and Author - Behind the Scenes
This month we are fortunate to have the multitalented Helen Hardt, answer questions for us. You may be familiar with Helen, the author, but did you know she is an editor who has been known to make authors cry (as a lot of good editors tend to do to new authors), but her authors become loyal fans because once they dry their tears. From there they take her suggestions and produce a good book. A number have told me, following her suggestions made their book stronger and turned them in a much better writer on their next book.
Helen, I know you wear multiple hats, but the one we are discussing for this interview is editing. How and why did you become an editor? Which publisher do you currently work with?
I’m a grammar geek by nature, and I began editing because I knew I could help authors with their grammar. What I found out is that I’m also good at helping them improve writing style and helping them with plot and characterization. Currently I am the managing editor for Waterhouse Press, a freelance editor for Lyrical Press/Kensington, and I take freelance clients.
Do you also accept freelance clients? If so, do you have specific criteria for the clients you accept?
Yes, I do. My only criteria is that they be ready for the next step. Sometimes I turn clients away and advise them to work more on their craft before pursuing publication. Other than that, if they’re willing to pay what I charge, I’m happy to edit them.
With your freelance editing do you have set fees, or do you ask for a few pages of an author’s book to determine what type of edits will be needed?
I offer a free editing sample of 500 words. That helps me determine what type of edit is needed. Yes, I have set fees. I charge by the word.
You have worked with small publishers who are no longer around; in addition to some you chose to leave. What did you learn from these experiences?
I learn something with every edit that I do. The best thing about working for publishers is that I make invaluable contacts.
What do writers most misunderstand about the editorial process? Are there certain things the majority doesn’t “get?”
I’ve had great luck with most of my authors. I’m a tough editor, and it takes some time for some of them to get used to that, but most are very happy with the end result. What some authors misunderstand is that the editor is on their side. We both have the same goal -- to make the story the best it can be. Some authors also don’t understand that editing is a learning process. An author should learn from every edit, and each manuscript should show improvement.
Some grammar concepts that elude a lot of authors are dangling modifiers and cumulative v. coordinate adjectives. Those are the two most common errors I find in published work as well.
At what point do you suggest an author hire an editor?
Once you’ve gotten critique and studied craft and revised your manuscript at least twice, you’re probably ready to hire an editor. A lot of aspiring authors feel all they have to do is write a book, and then they’re ready for an editor. I suggest joining a critique group first, attending workshops, reading books on craft. Then revise the manuscript. Tear it apart and revise it again. Have it critiqued. And revise again. Then hire an editor.
As the editor, how would you describe the role you play when working with an author?
My job is to identify any plot or character issues and help the author clean up grammar and style so his natural voice can shine through.
How would you describe the relationship you want to achieve with an author you are working with?
I want the author to understand that I’m here to help and that we both want the same thing in the end -- for the story to shine. Some of my editing clients have become great friends!
What important changes do you see happening in publishing right now?
Indie publishing is only going to become more prevalent. More and more authors are going this route and taking responsibility for all stages of the publishing process.
Are their certain books you encourage authors to read in order to improve their writing?
Only hundreds! Of course I have to recommend own my book, got style? (Amazon)
Some other essentials are The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, On Writing by Stephen King, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
When you’re ready to hire an editor, do your research. Ask for a sample. Any reputable editor will offer a sample. Talk to other authors and get recommendations. Remember, you get what you pay for. An investment in a good editor is an investment in yourself.
Do you have a link you can share if someone would like to discuss your editing their books?
Visit me at www.helenhardt.com/editing
Thank you, Helen. I definitely learned something new from your answers.
Columnist Lizzie T. Leaf: Award winning author, Lizzie T. Leaf started life in Kansas, sprung to adulthood in North Carolina, and currently shivers through the winters in Colorado.
Since discovering the fun of writing paranormal, she plays with creating vampires, faeries and other immortals. When she needs a touch of reality, her Contemporary Erotic Romances come into play. Her most recent release is Nordic Heat, available at http://amzn.to/1owng5k
If she’s not creating mischief for paranormal beings, or getting under the covers with her erotic heroes, she can be found exploring the other genres she wants to write. She is a member of RWA and has served as President for the Heart of Denver Romance Writers and VP of Programs.
Lizzie loves to read, spend time with her family and travel with her best friend husband.