I strive to produce the highest
quality in all my work and to offer the greatest value
to all writers who choose to work with me. My full-time profession for 50+ years has been editing books and teaching writing.
I believe in working on one book at a
time and devoting all my attention to it until it is
finished, without letting my focus be interrupted. That's
why my telephone hours are often sparse
and my e-mail replies delayed.
These days I am taking on fewer clients a year, usually limited to:
- mystery authors who've already been traditionally published, plus a very small number of promising new mystery writers who are serious about seeking traditional publishing, not self-publishing
- publishers — usually mid-sized independent presses
and a select few nonfiction self-publishers.
Authors I've edited have been published by St. Martin's Press, Berkley Prime Crime, Midnight Ink, Forge, Intrigue, Harlequin, Viking, Rodale, Oceanview, Five Star/Cengage, Walker & Co., and more.
Since publication of DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION (which is the expanded version for all writers of the original DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY), I now require fiction writers who work with me to
read either of these books and integrate as many of my recommendations as are applicable to their own manuscripts before sending me their work. If your local public and college libraries don't have copies for you to borrow, you can ask their Collection Development Librarian to acquire copies for their permanent collections.
To see a list of some of the many novels I've edited for authors, please click published
For a list of non-fiction materials that I wrote or edited,
please click the button at the end of that page.
Choices I offer
I believe that most new fiction writers
can benefit from an edit and critique of the first 10 to 25 pages of a
manuscript. The same is true for a new writer of nonfiction. Such critiques should be made on the first chapter of the book's content, and not the first text that appears such as an introduction, preface, or other preliminary or "front" matter.
Writers who acquire a critique of a "partial" (jargon for the first few chapters of a manuscript) become empowered to apply the lessons of that
critique to the balance of their drafts, thereby raising a manuscript to a
higher level of readiness for a full edit. I do not offer
critiques in place of editing, because reading a manuscript in its
entirety, making informed notes about it, and writing a thorough analysis of it
takes as much time as actually editing it. An edit plus a critique gives
authors much more value for their money than a critique alone—if they are willing to learn.
- Critiques of entire books are usually general in the suggestions offered,
leaving the writer to interpret how
to actually apply those suggestions to their text. I believe
a full-length critique may be of use to well-established authors
in the process of developing later books,
but of little value to new writers.
- Critiques of single chapters, on the other hand, when combined with an edit of the same pages, is something I do recommend to help new writers evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their work. After I critique any part of a book manuscript, if writers then wish to have the rest of their chapters edited, I require that they first apply to every remaining page all the suggestions already recieved that they agree with.
offers the same suggestions as a critique, but provides
a great many more specifics and shows how those edits
may be applied. Too often, a suggestion without a demonstration of how to apply it can be misunderstood.
lets me offer the same detailed benefits as all of the above-described
editorial services, with the added value of a marketing perspective
— which is what all informed critiques should
reflect. Therefore, the editor should be a reader of the same genre or a related genre, because each has its own market. And each market has agents and publishers who specialize in reaching those very markets.
Accepting a manuscript for editing
does not mean I can ensure or even predict its
publication. No one can. The market is crowded,
competitive, and fickle. So if you meet someone who
claims to ensure successful publication, run —
don't walk — to find a more trustworthy editor.
Once in a while, as my editing gets further along in a manuscript, I may begin to see that it is not
sustaining its initial promise as a marketable book.
If I believe that further editing is unlikely to sufficiently
improve that book's chances for success, I stop and
explain to the author what I'm observing. I then return the
unexpended part of the author's advance payment together with the
pages already edited. The author ends up with the
same evaluation that a critique would have provided,
plus something more detailed and functional: the editing
of one's own writing — a tangible product from
which to learn more effective techniques for future
Naturally, my opinion is that of only one person. Some
editors and publishing advocates like to tell authors
what they want to hear. I don't.
Only once has a client let me know that she strongly
disagreed with an evaluation of mine — which is
every author's right, of course. I was told that she'd found another
editor who contradicted my evaluation and praised her manuscript. To my knowledge, that novel is still unpublished, as is that writer. My experience has been that a writer, upon learning her or his manuscript is not
likely to produce the hoped-for result even with
substantial editing and rewriting, is grateful
for the opportunity to save years of further effort,
cost, and disappointment.
When I began my career in niche
publishing in my hometown of New York City more than 50 years ago,
I wasn't planning to become an editor. I thought I'd work with my training in commercial art and design. But
I soon discovered that publishing appreciated skills I'd always taken for granted: reading
I learned to edit in the best possible
way — on the job as understudy to talented editors
— and after a number of years worked my way into the position of a very busy managing editor for a rapidly growing niche publisher in Milwaukee, WI. In 1983 I decided to become an even
busier independent editor, because — like many who move from editorial into management — I missed the hands-on manuscript analysis that can guide authors to more effective, more publishable writing.
After my first 10 years of working
in NYC, my husband received the first of many transfers to Albany, NY, where I worked for a small publishing house and started a family. In less than two years we were on the move again, to southern Maine, where I wrote my first book — a history of Cape Elizabeth, ME. Researching that book (assisted by two toddlers) motivated me for the first time to go to college. In 1965 I enrolled at the University of Maine-Portland, now the U. of Southern Maine, and in four years received my B.A. in English, with — to my great surprise — highest honors (summa cum laude).
The English Department encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree and offered me a position, not as a grad student/teaching assistant but as an actual instructor of
writing (based, I suppose, on my previous work history as well as my undergraduate grades). I accepted! While my youngsters attended nursery school, then elementary school, I taught day classes and some evening classes, free to make up my own course titles and content. In two years I earned my M.A. — the FIRST Master's in English awarded for graduate work conducted entirely on the Portland, Maine, commuter campus. That particular distinction resulted from my discovering the only way to avoid the required summer residency on the Orono campus, a hardship for me with youngsters home all summer.
As the Dean of the Graduate School, whom I journeyed to the Orono campus to see, explained it: I must add to my graduate experience "intellectual intercourse with the graduate faculty"— which only residency on the Orono campus could offer at the time. After asking exactly what that entailed, I went home and organized the graduate student body on the Portland campus, served as its first president,
initiated its student newsletter (writing, editing, and mimeographing it via a hand-cranked antique), and arranged with the undergraduate student body to host, at private wine and cheese receptions for grad students, graduate faculty, and notables, the guest speakers that student body had the resources to bring to campus (such as Alex Haley). In that way I replicated the "intellectual intercourse" the Dean had outlined.
Next family transfer: to Syracuse, NY, where I was hired
by Empire State College of the State University of New York
as a writing mentor to independent study students. Mentoring others convinced me
of what I'd long suspected: that writing could be taught more
effectively outside the classroom than in it through one-on-one
coaching and a gentle but instructive process of editing — similar to
what takes place in a publisher's editorial meeting. But it took one more transfer, to Wisconsin, where the university wouldn't even interview an instructor who lacked a doctorate, which led to my starting classes in French to expand my foreign language requirement for a PhD. At the same time I was hired to teach writing at a voc/tech school, then quit and did community organizing for the next 10 years until my sons left for college, producing position papers, training manuals for volunteers, and testifying at the capital in Madison. In 1984 when I decided to go back to paid employment, I took on the caught-in-the-middle-management status of managing editor at a niche publishing house. I lasted for not quite one year before the desire to recapture the satisfaction of the hands-on, one-on-one editing process led me to finally hang out my shingle as an independent
That's when I began to affiliate with national and regional associations of independent publishers. Over the next 11 years founded an organization of high quality Wisconsin presses such as Kalmbach and the University of Wisconsin Press. After I merged that state organization into MidAmerica Publishers Assn. (founded by John Kremer, author of 1000 Ways to Market Your Books), I became president of MAPA and later merged that into the national Publishers Marketing Association, now Independent Book Publishers Association. All this time I was also speaking at conferences. The more I learned about the production and marketing of books the more convinced I became of the need to educate writers
in the skills that would help them survive in the competitive
world of publishing.
So I entered the university classroom once again,
this time initiating the first outreach program in book publishing
for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. For the next nine years while editing for authors and small businesses during the day
I led evening and summer classes that introduced about
2,000 Midwest writers to the workings of the book industry
and the need for market savvy in becoming published
Similar classes were requested by Alverno
College (which had also refused to interview me when I'd first arrived in Milwaukee) and by various business conferences and annual writer's conferences — including
two sponsored by Cardinal Stritch University, which invited me as its keynote speaker in 1998. I served on the boards of Women in Communications
for Southeast Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Society for
Technical Communication, and presented numerous sessions
on technical editing to my peers at state and regional
conferences and one international STC convention.
One of my business clients at the time, GE Medical Systems, sent me together with its management personnel to receive training in ISO 9000 quality standards. That special training affecting a corporation's quality certification allowed me to be one of the first writers, speakers, and trainers of technical writers in how to create the documentation essential for a corporation's ISO 9000 certification. At the time, writing about how to produce that documentation was such a pioneering concept that my first article on it in a technical journal was plagiarized. But I won damages because another technical writer I knew who read an ASQ journal recognized what could only be my work on the subject. What fun it was to prevail over the plagiarizer!
In my growing independent editing function, occasionally being asked to edit a client's nonfiction book led to being asked to ghostwrite it. One of the nonfiction crime books I
ghosted in the mid-90s qualified me for full membership in Mystery Writers
of America. Shortly after relocating from Wisconsin to Greensboro, NC, Elizabeth Daniels Squire invited me to join the board of MWA's Southeast region, where I served six years and edited the region's quarterly publication for seven.
After my own 11th book came out, DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION (the expanded version for writers in all genres of the original DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY), I've been presenting
a greater number of skills-based workshops at writers conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada. (A list of
appearances can be seen by clicking /training.html, and a mix & match menu of workshop topics can be accessed by clicking /presents.html.)
Other organizations to which I cheerfully
pay dues include Sisters in Crime, Wisconsin Regional
Writers, North Carolina Writers' Network, and Mensa. In 1991,
Who's Who of American Women saw fit to list
me in its pages and continue doing so for the next 15 years.
Over the years, in addition to
editing a few thousand book manuscripts, I've written 75 or so articles,
co-authored a simulation game, and written 11 pre-sold books, 5 of them
as ghostwriter. (It's why I don't call myself a freelancer: I don't write something, then try to find a publisher for it.) My only noncommissioned book is one that I
intentionally self-published mid-career because by then I knew I could reach its niche market directly.
It's about my adventures teaching English communication skills to
Korean schoolteachers abroad through UNESCO. It's called Open Gate, and
a few new copies are still available from me at a lower cost than are being sold for by the used book dealers on Amazon.com.
Badger Book Quarterly asked me to write a column on Market-SavvySM
book publishing, which ran for two years, and two of my articles on "Market-SavvySM
Editing" (reprinted on this site) were written for
the 5th and 6th editions of John Kremer's 1001 Ways
to Market Your Books.
After a lifetime of living and working in the
vigorous climates of New York, Maine, and Wisconsin, in 1999 I welcomed my choice of moving to Greensboro, NC (not a transfer), enabling me to enjoy many more years of editing without
having to put down my pencil to pick up a snow
shovel. I continue to delight in having my work help
authors and publishers produce superior work they
can be proud of — and that helps them win awards.
You can visit awards for a list, and
published work for information about some of
the books I've edited and authored.
[page top] [my