Let me explain. Last spring, I took a trip to Cape Town, South Africa with a group of teachers and students from Vanderbilt University. While visiting the township of Manenberg, just outside Cape Town, I met a woman named Rita who tended a garden in the midst of incredible poverty, violence, and social injustice. I was inspired by her courage and hope, and that night I wrote a picture book text about Rita and her garden.
I am not a picture book writer. It's hard--really hard--to write a compelling picture book. But I revised, rewrote, and rearranged the words until I thought I had something. I liked my draft. So I sent it to my agent. She read it and agreed that I'm not a picture book writer. But the story is important to me. I want it to have "legs" and be a good manuscript. Honestly, I'd like to see it as a finished text with art and a cool cover and on the shelf at Davis Kidd, my local bookstore.
So I hired Kara LaReau at Bluebird Works to work with me on the book. Kara, formerly an editor at Candlewick Press and Scholastic Press and a fabulous picture book author in her own right, recently opened her own company offering freelance creative services to authors, agents, and publishers. More about Kara later in the week.
This is the first time I have actually have worked with an editor for hire. But for some time, many of my writing friends have speculated if working with a freelance editor on a manuscript before approaching an agent or publishing house editor is going to be the model of the future. It makes sense in this economy, when publishing house editors are being asked to focus more and more on acquisition, market potential, and margin. Publishing houses have merged into giant corporations with more meetings and less time. And as any editor knows, editing takes time. Lots of time.
Agents receive thousands of queries each year, and few have the inclination to work with a writer on a manuscript that's not strong enough for representation. As the late Giles Gordon (Curtis Brown LTD) wrote, "A literary agency most emphatically isn’t a ﬁnishing school for aspiring authors." While there are plenty of agents who do editorial work, an agent's goal is to represent and sell your manuscript. It helps if your manuscript is ready to sell.
I attended the Agents and Editors Conference this weekend in Austin sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas, and the idea that freelance editors were becoming more and more of the publishing landscape was pretty much common wisdom. This week I want to talk about the role of the freelance editor, or book doctor. Is there a difference?
How does the process work?
How much does it cost?
And what can a writer hope to gain by working with a freelance editor or book doctor?
Tomorrow, we'll begin by defining the roles of the book doctor or freelance editor. Later in the week we'll visit with Deborah Brodie, the very successful book doctor and freelance editor. We'll also chat with agents Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Literary Agency ) and Emily van Beek (Pippin Properties Inc.) on the topic.
Meanwhile, comment back to me if you have used a freelance editor or book doctor. I'm curious about your experience.