When I first started writing, I assumed my own background in journalism and copyediting would be enough to be fairly certain that my books were error free. I think it’s a common assumption that most new authors make – that attention to detail will allow us to find all of our own mistakes – but oh how wrong that assumption is. As careful and precise as I tried to be, there were just natural little things that I could never seem to catch. So in 2019, with the introduction of a new series of books, I decided to hire an editor.
I met Caitlin (same name and spelling as my sister!) when I was at Book Bonanza in mid-2019. We struck up a conversation while she was helping at an author’s table, and followed up on that once the book signing was over. Friendly and engaging, and clearly incredibly intelligent, the fit felt right, and I am eternally grateful that the two of us met last August.
Because she has become such an integral component of my writing and editing process, I wanted to take a moment to share her with you – my readers – so you can get to know her a little bit better 🙂
- Can you share a little about yourself and your professional background?
My name is Caitlin, and I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. Almost all of that time has been in the Austin area, including earning my English degree at the University of Texas. I taught adult English as a Second Language classes at a nonprofit through AmeriCorps for two years after college, then worked a couple odd jobs while editing on the side before taking the leap to edit full time 4.5 years ago. I’ve always been the go-to proofreader friend and colleague, but I don’t actually have any formal training or certification in editing. I also love yoga, hiking, and my dog, Mouse.
- What was the very first book you edited? How did it feel when you were done?
The first book I worked on was the first book a good friend wrote, published, and then removed before going on to have a very successful career self-publishing romcoms. It was really, really fun to edit it for her, although it was a much more informal process than what I do now. I loved getting to provide valuable feedback, and it was very cool to be kind of on the inside of the book publishing process.
- What are a few of the most common mistakes you see authors make?
While I don’t believe every writer needs to fully plot a story before writing, I do believe every writer needs to find some method of organizing details of a book that works for that person. This includes details about characters (both physical and otherwise), keeping the timeline straight, and just having an overall clear idea of how all the pieces fit together. Not keeping these things in mind can lead to issues that are difficult for an editor to correct without having to do actual rewrites and can cause unnecessary extra work for the author. I think a little planning and/or organization at whatever point works for you creatively can go a long way toward creating a book that has more oomph and doesn’t distract readers with inconsistencies or things that don’t quite fit. Also, choosing a formatting style for chapter headers, section dividers, etc. from the get-go and using it while you write and/or at least applying and double-checking that style after writing can help your editor focus on the things you can’t catch yourself. There are of course common grammatical and punctuation errors, but that’s going to happen to even the most meticulous writer. As I always say, if I, an editor, were going to write something, I would hire another editor to polish it for me, because there are some things our brains just can’t catch in our own work. (In fact, I wish I could have someone edit the answers I’m typing to these questions!)
- Do you have a favorite book you’ve edited? If so, what is it?
I don’t have one favorite, but the books I love working on have that wonderful combination of excellent storytelling, purposeful prose, and clear evidence of the author having something meaningful to say and taking the time to make that message shine. Publishing is a business, but when a writer also has a knack for their craft and allows the time for creativity to happen and bloom, it makes it an art as well.
- How would you encourage future editors to get into the field?
Reach out to editors whose names you see in the books you love to read. I am always happy to answer questions and have even done a couple phone and video calls to discuss the field. Also, be willing to take on any project, no matter how big or small. You never know when you’re going to happen upon a client who will be with you for years. My success in this business has been hugely due to word of mouth, so ask your clients to recommend you to their author friends, and ask them for quotes about your services to share on your page or website. I also have a Facebook page for my business. Some people message me through that, or they get my email address there and contact me that way.
- What book are you currently reading for pleasure? (no editing allowed!)
I just finished Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (very enjoyably unsettling) last night, and this morning I started The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. I’m also (slowly) working my way through The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, which I’m really enjoying. It’s dense, but so well done, history that feels alive and urgent. I loved his book The Devil in the White City and am planning to read as many of his others as I can. I also have Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi on deck and am really excited to dive into that (Homegoing was a great read).
- Do you only edit romance, or do you edit other genres as well?
Mostly romance, but I’ve done some memoirs, sci-fi, and fantasy as well. I’m open to any genre.
- What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up about 6:30-7:00am, feed and walk the dog, make breakfast and coffee, then get to work for a few hours. I typically do 30-minute chunks of work with short breaks in between (5 to 15 minutes). Lunch break around noon, maybe answer a few scheduling emails and new client inquiries, then back to work. I usually take a break mid to late afternoon to walk the dog again and get some air, another stretch of work, then dinner and hanging out with my husband. He works odd, irregular hours so I sometimes shift things around to match my non-work time to his by working in the evenings and on the weekends, and it’s also nice to have the flexibility to run errands during the weekdays if needed.
- What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
Communicating with my clients, feeling their appreciation for my work, and–most of all–seeing them grow as writers. I have quite a few clients I’ve been working with for multiple years, and it’s really cool to see them evolve and improve.
- Have you ever considered writing your own books?
Honestly, no. I know my strengths and what I enjoy, and writing fiction is not one of those things.
- What does your editing process generally look like?
For the line/copy edit I do for the vast majority of projects, I comb through the manuscript twice and use Track Changes in Microsoft Word to make my edits as I read. During both passes, I correct grammar, punctuation, word choice, and such (copy editing), and make notes about things I need to double-check after reading more or referencing another scene. On the second pass, having read through the whole story once and thus knowing where it’s going, I also pay extra attention to repetitive words and phrases, timeline, style consistency, and more line editing type issues. I also have a list of common typos (like extra spaces or grey vs gray) that I check the entire document for between passes and at the very end to make sure those little things are caught. It’s a fairly intense process, and I’ve found it’s a really effective way to catch as many errors as possible and get the manuscript as clean as it can be to let the story be the focus, not typos.
- If you could give authors one piece of advice, what would it be?
Treat your business as a business! This is about respecting and investing in your own craft as well as respecting those you work with in the process of publishing: cover designer, publicist, editor(s), proofreader(s), and so on. Writing is a creative art and that means it will look different for different people, but publishing is a business and should be approached as such. That’s not to say it’s not personal, because there is a wonderful community and I love genuinely becoming friends with my clients. It just also takes discipline and drive to make it all happen.
Thank you so much, Caitlin! That was such a fantastic little bit of insight into the life and mind of an editor.
Caitlin has now edited five works for me, and I value the work she does on my manuscripts so much. She is an absolutely fantastic editor, and while she didn’t brag about it when given the opportunity, I think it’s relevant to share that she has done editing work for such amazing names as R.S. Grey, Brittainy C. Cherry, and Sara Ney.
You can find her details HERE