Editorial Tips for Authors – Scheduling Work


I hate having to turn down editorial work for projects that really interest me. I’m lucky in that I only tend to work on projects I think will be interesting, but sometimes something comes along that makes me bite my knuckles and wail ‘NooOOooOOOoo!’

The reason I end up turning the project down? A full editorial calendar and because the author wants the edit started ‘immediately’.

Now, people … you’re just NOT going to get ‘immediately’.


It’s not going to happen unless you’ve hit the golden hour when I’ve just finished a project and either my next one has had a schedule slide or I have nothing booked in. And even then you’re more likely to get a copywriting job accepted than a copyediting job because of the timescales involved.

time is money

It’s a sad fact of life. As an independent editorial consultant I have to book work in to a schedule that allows me a steady stream of work.

And it’s not just me. Every professional copyeditor you approach will have work booked in, often months in advance, so if you want to work with them you will have to plan ahead.

So what’s the best way to ensure you get to work with the editor of your choice?

Certainly don’t expect to finish your novel or non-fiction tome and hand it straight over to an editor. Here’s what to do to respect your work and bag your editor:

pen writing

  1. Write as well as you can.

Don’t take shortcuts and think that your editor will do it for you. Sure, we *could* do it for you, but only if you have a bottomless supply of cash. Think about it … if your writing is raw and needs a lot of work you’ll have to hire an editor (or editors) for an extended period of time that’ll work out very expensive. Of course, cost is a personal thing – what one person thinks is expensive, another may find reasonable or cheap – but why distance yourself from your work by getting someone else to do what you can do yourself?

winning business

  1. Finish your project

We can’t take on work that isn’t finished.

There’s no point in approaching an editor, hiring them, then sending emails saying ‘I’ve made a small amendment’ or ‘can you just replace this section’ or ‘I’ve reread and I don’t like these sentences, please change’ etc. etc. etc. Finish your work and stop the damn tweaking. Just stop. A writer is never, ever happy as there are always things that could be changed (I’m saying this as a writer, people). So make sure you’ve finished your project and that you’re happy with it. Make the tweaks before you send it to an editor.

clean up your project

  1. Clean up your project

Once it’s finished, go though one last time and give it another spell check, get your document ready for your editor and make sure you know what to expect from the edit. Visit my free resources page to download some PDFs that will help you get ready.

stack of documents, books, writing

  1. Send the whole manuscript

This is one of the things I know worries a lot of people. Don’t let it worry you: an editor will never steal your work. But please send your manuscript as a Word document, with no watermark, and not a pile of papers!

Once you’ve decided which editor to approach you’ll need to let them see your document. There are reasons we need to see the whole manuscript:

  • To give you a quote. The beginning and the end of any manuscript is likely to be better than the middle, so we like to see the whole thing.
  • To understand what the book is about, and allow us to see if we’re the editor for you. It may be that after seeing your document an editor will decide that you need a specialist in another area. For example, I read fantasy and sci-fi, but rarely edit the genre. As a writer you can become blind to aspects of the work – an editor will instinctively know if the subject matter requires another editor.
  • To make sure the book is ready to edit. With the best will in the world, sometimes an author needs a gentle nudge towards a re-write or another revision.
  • To work on it. Don’t try to send the work chapter by chapter. This isn’t how we work. Every editor has their own way of working, but it usually relies on having the full, finished manuscript to work on. I tend to give the manuscript a couple of ‘passes’ first to clean up the mechanical aspects of editing, then I start on the nitty gritty and work through the edit – doing this chapter-by-chapter is counterintuitive.


  1. Talk schedules

Once you’ve approached, or decided to approach, an editor who works on your subject matter or genre you have to think about schedules – yours and theirs.

Forget ‘immediately’ and think about what’s best for your book. Are you willing to go with a less qualified editor who has no work booked in but who can start ‘now’, or wait until your editor of choice is free?

Understandably you’re on a high and want your book to hit the market, but soonest isn’t always best.

Here’s what you can be doing while you wait, and let’s admit it, a couple of months will fly by!

  • Set up your author’s website. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a top publisher marketing for you, the chances are you’ll need an internet presence. Find that domain name and get yourself a little website to let people find you.
  • Set up a marketing plan. Boring – perhaps. Essential – definitely. Whether you’re self-publishing or going with a small press, you’ll need a marketing plan. Figure out how your readers are going to find you. Where do they hang out? How can you get your name out there? A good marketing plan will help you to sell your book.
  • Get yourself on social media. Get out there. Build up the hype. Get known.
Get active

Get active – perhaps not this kind of active?

Once your book is edited its journey is only just beginning. Why not get active and sort your marketing out while you’re waiting for an editorial slot?

So forget the rush to get things done as soon as possible. Get yourself a strategy, get yourself an editor and talk to them. Work out a plan and stop being so damned hurried. Your project will thank you for it.


If you fancy working with me email sara@northerneditorial.co.uk and we can talk through your project.

Are You Addicted to Training?

Do you always have a course on the go?

Do you regularly have more than one on the go at the same time?

Are you always searching FutureLearn or Coursera for your next fix?

You may be addicted to training.


oooh a new course!


Now, this is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s something I’ve wondered for a while. Can you be addicted to training?

Since I left Uni waaaaaay back when, I think that for only about three of those years, when my daughter was little, I haven’t been undertaking some form of training. I’ve taken courses for work and courses for fun, but they’ve all helped my work because I actually find it fun. I work on projects and subjects that interest me, and even those courses that weren’t for work have ended up having some use.

I took genealogy, palaeography and archaeology courses through distance learning and classroom-based learning when I worked in the University, and they helped me forge a freelance career when I left, even though I originally took them because they interested me.


table of books


I’ve taken feltmaking, book making, basket weaving, glassmaking, digital fractal artwork and drystone walling classes, to name a few. All hands-on, fun and informative.

My sign language classes were great, and one of the reasons I took them was to be able to talk to a student at the Uni … I passed, but she left, I had no one to talk to so that was a bit of a loss. I really need to re-do that one as I’ve forgotten everything.

But it’s not just fun. I’ve taken numerous work-based courses, all with the intention of helping me either learn new stuff or enhance my knowledge. I’ve been known to have three on the go at once, fit in alongside my work (when I haven’t had a theatre production to work on). In fact I have three on the go right now, or I will have once I start on the new one I’ve just signed up to.

Does this sound like you, or am I alone in my addiction to learning?

thoughtful cartoon

I think this learning addiction has been helped along massively by the growth of MOOCs and online distance learning.

When I first moved to the far north of Scotland, distance learning was of the kind you signed up to and had papers sent through the post. You would read the bumf, do the coursework, then send it back in the mail. It was wieldy, slow and expensive. But now, your learning addiction can be satisfied quickly, for instant gratification. You just hit the subscribe button, pay your price and access a world of learning through the interwebs.

It’s interesting, informative, useful and a total drain on your time, despite being wonderful.

How do you spend your time?

I signed up to FutureLearn when it started and so far have completed these courses: Start Writing Fiction, Forensic Psychology, Shakespeare and his World, Digital Marketing, How to Read a Mind, Introduction to Forensic Science, Physical Theatre, Exploring Filmmaking, Much Ado About Nothing, Forensic Science and Criminal Justice, How To Write your First Song, Identifying the Dead, The Business of Film, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Introduction to Screenwriting, Explore Animation, Japanese Culture Through Rare Books, Stereoscopy, Forensic Facial Reconstruction, Competitive Advantage, Becoming Career Smart, Exploring Copyright, Creative Coding, How to Read a Novel, First Aid for Adults, Understanding GDPR, Bookkeeping for Personal and Business Accounting, and Early Modern Scottish Palaeography.

There are only two I didn’t like, and didn’t finish: The Power of Colour, and England in the Time of King Richard III.

Now if you read through that whole list, well done. It’s a whopper. Thirty courses in about three years, on FutureLearn alone.

The first one led to my OU Creative Writing courses, and my new-found love for the OU.

Addicted? Moi?

addiction2 (4)

Search online and you probably won’t find much about being addicted to learning. It’s a compulsion and is probably brought about, in part, by feelings of inadequacy – those thoughts that you really don’t know enough, that you need to learn more, THAT YOU WILL NEVER KNOW ENOUGH!

Say hello to the good old monster called Imposter Syndrome.

Now, I’m not saying that compulsive learning IS caused by Imposter Syndrome – personally, I just love to learn new things and enhance my knowledge in areas in which I have an interest – but when you learn for business, and can’t seem to stop, that’s when you have to take a long hard look at why you’re training all the time.

If you are constantly training for work, rather than just getting on with your work, it may be detrimental to your feelings of self-worth. Rather than enhancing your knowledge, you may actually be convincing yourself that you are no good. Training should be a force for good.

click here to sign up

So, if this sounds like you, ask yourself these questions:

Who are you doing the training for?

What am I getting out of the training?

Why am I training?

When is the best time for me to train? Do I need to do it right now?

How can I get the most from my training schedule?

Answer these honestly, and you may realise that you’re training just to convince yourself that you know what you are doing. I’ve been there and done that. Now I have a valid reason for all the training I do – it could be valid CPD (we all need to keep up-to-date) or it could be (and quite often is) because I love the subject. If you look at my list of courses above you’ll see a love for forensics, literature, film and theatre.

forensic filming in theatre

So, what do you think? Is there a valid reason for all that learning you are doing, or would you be better off spending your time doing something you love away from the screen? People, there’s a whole world of fun out there. Go and enjoy it.


perfect bullseye

So, last week I wrote a post that prompted quite a reaction.

In it I said that it’s ok to be perfectish.

‘It doesn’t mean that it won’t be perfect,

just accept that it might not be.

And that’s totally fine.’

Most of the comments were positive, but some of you thought I meant to strive for perfectish, rather than perfect.


Language sometimes gets in the way doesn’t it? So that post itself was perfectish. In most people’s eyes it said what it was supposed to say – seek excellence (perfectish) rather than perfection – while some people got the wrong end of the stick.

I still stand by my words:

People, setting yourself up for perfection is just setting yourself up for disappointment and broken dreams.

corgi with a stickNow, I always strive for excellence, but I never, ever promise perfection. I may deliver it, but I never promise it.


  • Clients may not have the budget to attain perfection.
  • Clients may not have the time to attain perfection.
  • Clients may not want to attain perfection (sometimes good enough is actually good enough).
  • Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

A+ testimonial

As service providers we have to look after our clients and ourselves, and that means working within the constraints of what is set before us. So this week we’ll look at how to achieve excellence as both a service provider and a client.

If you are a service provider:

Train. Do lots of training – that could be in-house training if you’re an employee, or it could be self-funded freelance training. The more training you have, and the more experience you have, the better you will get. No one ever achieved excellence if they didn’t know what they were doing (and if anyone has I’m sure someone will tell me). Target your training to suit your needs and your sector. There’s no point training in editing fiction if you only ever, and will ever, edit academic journals. Don’t train just for the sake of it – your education should enhance your knowledge, give you new targeted knowledge or help you move in a new direction. Spend your training budget, and your time, wisely.

Talk to your clients. Simple really, but different clients have different needs and expectations. I’ve had clients who only wanted a very quick turnaround and a basic edit, and I’ve had some who needed the full bells and whistles. Respect your clients, talk to them and deliver what they want.

Utilise your computer. Learn macros and programs that will help you. The more you can do mechanically, the more time you have to take care of the human aspect and do the actual editing. Editors are not computers, and I’ve still to find a computer that can complete the human aspects of editing and proofreading.

perfect sign

If you are a client:

Utilise your computer. When you have completed your document, use the tools available to you. Use spellcheck, and use Hemmingway or Grammarly wisely. Set the language in your document to the correct one before you start.

Get it as perfect, in your eyes, as you can get it. The better it reads to you, the better it will read to your editor and the easier it will be to truly attain excellence. If the document is in a bad state to begin with, your editor may be able to get it as near damn perfect as possible but it will take longer and cost you more. Dispense with the fancy fonts, fancy formatting and layout – it’s much easier to read, and work on, 12pt Times New Roman, double-spaced with margins of 2cm on each side of an A4 page, or something similar (personally I hate TNR and always work in Calibri). The first thing your editor will do if you submit your document in Comic Sans, single-spaced with 0.5cm margins is spend time reformatting it. They may not even accept your commission if the document seems to be too badly set out (we’ve all had documents sent for an estimate/quote where a fancy layout has hidden text that just wasn’t ready for an edit). Make it as easy as possible for your editor to start work on the document.

Revisit the terminology. Are you looking for an editor or a proofreader? There is a difference, and asking for an edit, rather than a proofread, may not give you the results you are after. Proofreading comes at the very end, while editing is the middle bit (I tend to concentrate on the editing side of things).

Talk to your editor at the very start. You’re in this together, so set out your needs, wants and expectations. Give them your manuscript to appraise before work starts – let them see what they will be working on. How many editing passes do you want? An editor will usually include one or two in their estimate, anything more will cost you more. You’re on this journey together, it’s best to both start off on the right footing.

wisdom over perfectionism

Think editors should promise perfection? Don’t believe me when I say perfection is a silly thing to promise?

Some colleagues I respect have also written some wonderful articles on the issue:

Lisa Poisso on ‘Why did the editor miss errors in your book?’

Arlene Prunkl on When editors make mistakes

Kia Thomas on Editing and the rise of the machines


Perfectionism is paralysing and can cause you to stall, constantly re-check your work, make you feel inadequate and can lead to serious health problems. As a freelance, the negative sides of perfectionism can become debilitating – when you work on your own there’s no one to tell you that you’re fine, that your work is damn perfect and that everyone feels the same (that’s why I highly recommend joining a professional society such as the SfEP). Mind you, there’s always someone out there to tell you that you’re rubbish.

As editors and proofreaders we have a tendency towards seeking perfection. But it’s dangerous and toxic, and society is riddled with an unhealthy attitude towards perfection. You can read an article on the BBC website that talks about the toxicity of perfectionism.

Even the Harvard Business Review and the World Health Organisation have noted the current trend for perfectionism that is destroying a generation

Yet perfection is an impossible goal. Those who become preoccupied with it inevitably set themselves up for failure and psychological turmoil. They become obsessed with winning the validation of others and demonstrating their worth through flawless performance after flawless performance.’

More information can also be found in an excellent pdf resource on how to overcome perfectionism by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia (AnxietyBC) website.

thumbs up

Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with for years (and I’m not completely over it), so I’ve learned the hard way to understand when perfectish is ok.

Strive for excellence in your work, look after you clients (or your freelances if you are a client) and look after yourself. Surround yourself with like-minded people and accept that ‘perfect’ is subjective.

Be honest, authentic and human.

Don’t let perfectionism paralyse you, it will affect you and your business if you let it.