Is Your Book Up to Industry Standards? An Editor Answers Every New Writer’s FAQs

Early start to Jenny’s writing career. (Family photo courtesy of Jenny Mertes)

Authors under contract with us receive a comprehensive book edit that goes beyond basic proofreading. Today, we sat down with Jenny Mertes, one of several editors Swallow Publishing relies on to polish our books into future bestsellers.  

Mertes has worked on both books in Jennifer Russon’s Roses/Persephone series, Martha Wallace’s food memoir, and the motivational guide S.T.R.I.V.E. by Nigel Walker, which is set for a (February) 2021 release.

These are Mertes thoughts on why authors should look at professional editorial services as the most important stop on the road to publication.

Q. How long have you been editing other people’s books, and would you say you’ve grown a lot as an editor since your first project? How does that growth uniquely qualify you to help an author?

A: Although I’ve been editing since 1980, my first contracted book edit involved proofreading a series of Asian travel manuals. I read them because I worked for a travel company, and the multiple typos made me crazy. I contacted the publisher and offered to proofread his books. After that I worked on friends’ books, and those friends referred me to their friends. I’ve also edited dozens of novels and nonfiction manuscripts for independent publishers in Phoenix, Arizona, and Washington state, covering genres from speculative fiction to sci-fi to chick-lit. With such a broad brush of experience, I know how to help authors polish their books to meet industry standards.

Q: What can a good editor offer a writer that might surprise him or her?

A: In my experience, most authors think of editing as a simple check of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. In other words, something anyone with a good grasp of English could do. It’s so much more! Yes, you have to know the rules, but you also must know how and when it’s okay to break those rules. You have to pounce on clichés and overused words. You need the skills to offer suggestions for rewriting troublesome passages and strengthening characters and plot lines. And this all needs to be done in one pass.

Q: Editing is often the most expensive component of the publishing process. Why is it worth the money, and what can you offer writers that their friends and family offering to proofread for free cannot?

A: A good editor, unlike most family and friends, won’t be afraid to be honest with the author about weaknesses. An accomplished editor will know whether a book can stand up to the scrutiny of a publisher or an agent and the critical eyes of non-family readers. Your editor will be as invested as you are in the excellence of your work while bringing all her years of experience to bear in helping you produce the best possible manuscript. All of this critiquing, polishing, and fine tuning is done well before a manuscript goes through the proofreading process, which is then the final step before publication.

Q: Finally, what should an author know before contracting you for editorial services?

A: An author can depend on me as an editor to put my whole heart and soul into evaluating and improving the quality of their manuscript. Editors aren’t paid much per hour—often the work is done because it’s more rewarding than lucrative. I’ll be wholly committed to returning your manuscript with the very best of my decades of experience brought to bear.

Got a manuscript you’d like to pitch to Swallow Publishing? The owners and editor-in-chief welcome both fiction and non-fiction, middle grade, YA and Adult. Please email the synopsis, including the first three chapters and allow up to 6 weeks for feedback.Want to self-publish and hire Jenny Mertes as your editor? No problem. Email Swallow Publishing and we’ll forward her your request. Happy writing!

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