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.


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.


Green Hair, Don’t Care


Northern Editorial over-exposed

I’ve had green hair now for about three and a half years.

Before that I had most colours under the sun – apart from blonde, I could never ‘do’ blonde as I’m pale with a slightly ginger tinge, and it just makes me look ill.

To be honest I just got bored with the usual violet, red, brown, and purple dyes that I’d used for the past LOTS of years.


But I was always worried what people thought of me.

Why do we worry? Honestly? People have too much going on in their own worlds.


I could go into a long psychological thesis about inner conflict, societal norms and the visual perceptions of others, but for your sake I won’t.

One day I just decided that life is too short, so I bought an aqua hair dye (we live in the sticks, the green hadn’t reached us yet). I also had a purple dye in the bathroom, so I decided to start off slowly and test the waters. I did a peacock streak type thing. A bit of purple and a bit of aqua. It was nice.

But I was still BORED.


The great thing was, apart from a few complimentary comments, the world didn’t stop, no-one stared and I didn’t shame the family (my husband is in a profession where you must not bring the profession into disrepute). All well and good.

One night, with a glass of wine I decided to just do it. Out came the aqua. My head (and bathroom) has never been the same since.

hair dye

When I first went out with a shock of bluey-greeny hair I was, let’s be honest, a bit scared. We live in a small town on the edge of northern Scotland. I was in my mid 40s. I spend my time at the theatre with a huge bunch of kids.

Would people still speak to me? Would they laugh? Would they tell me to grow up and act my age?



The world still turned. A few people loved it. A few people hated it. But it made no difference whatsoever, except that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t cringe. I loved my new hair.

One reason I always resisted dying my hair an unconventional colour was a comment I’d heard a few years before I took the plunge. I can’t remember where I was, but someone was talking about professionalism, and how, in order to remain professional, you had to look the part.

professional woman

Now, I’ve never really been the conventional type. I’m not ‘way out there’ – I have no tattoos (yet, but only because I’m fickle and would change my mind) and no piercings – but I do tend to just wear what I like. I’ve never been the suited professional, but I was lucky in that my academic librarian background meant I could still dress how I preferred as long as it wasn’t too extreme. Once I went freelance, I rarely saw anyone in a professional capacity from one year to the next, so I could wear what I liked.

But does it really matter what you look like? Does an unconventional look really make you unprofessional?

I don’t think so.

Last year I used Peek User Testing to check out my website, and the tester mentioned that they thought green hair was unprofessional, that I should get a more professional, conventional picture for my website, and that they would not feel comfortable using my services as I had green hair. Hmmm.

coloured paint on brushes

But do you know what? When I sat down and thought about it, I realised that if a potential client goes by hair colour, rather than my qualifications and experience, they aren’t the client for me anyway.

But before you take the plunge there are some things you should take into account:

Pros of being ‘unconventional’:

  • What was unconventional a few years ago isn’t necessarily unconventional now. By doing your own thing you show that you are confident in your skin.
  • It actually gives you confidence. Just yesterday, as I was in Starbucks, a lass behind the counter said she loved my hair. Last week a woman stopped me in Tesco to say she loved my hair. How cool is that? It really gives you a boost.
  • You are instantly recognisable. Loads of people I’ve met at SfEP conferences over the past couple of years have approached me because they recognised me from my profile picture.
  • You stand out in a crowd. If someone needs to find you, they don’t need to look very hard!
  • It sets you apart. People remember you.
  • It adds a level of interest to you, as a person. It conveys your personality more. If you see me with my green hair, you’ll probably get more of an idea what I’m really like.
  • It’s a good way to break the ice. For instance I’ve met a couple of quite high-powered individuals for meetings, and when you’re feeling a bit less-than-confident, mentioning that they won’t miss you because you’ll be the only person in reception with green hair is a great way to lighten the situation.


Cons of being ‘unconventional’:

  • People can see you as unprofessional. But that’s their problem if they can’t see past a beige existence.
  • You’re instantly recognisable and stand out in a crowd. Sometimes you just want to blend into the background and be left alone … that doesn’t happen when you have bright hair.
  • People sometimes don’t take you seriously. It’s a bit like being blonde – obviously if you dye your hair a ‘weird’ colour your brain is full of fluff, unicorns and glitter (ok, mine can be, but us ‘unconventional types’ are serious too).
  • You forget that you’re unconventional. I don’t see myself as an unconventional type, but other people do. Perhaps by doing what we want, and living our lives the way we want, we are not conventional, but who wants to live like that? Occasionally, though, you are reminded that you’re not ‘normal’.
  • You sometimes wonder why people are staring – until you realise they’re not staring past you, they’re staring at you … because you have alternatively coloured hair.
  • You may miss out on working with clients because they don’t feel comfortable, don’t think you’re professional or just can’t take you seriously. If this really bothers you, don’t dye your hair. For me, if someone can’t see past it, it’s a deal breaker anyway.

So, you see, since I left the brown hair behind, life has changed for the better. I’m more confident, more comfortable in my skin and feel more like myself.

How about you? Are you an ‘unconventional’ professional? How has it changed your life? Do you work in an environment that stifles your creativity or are you able to be yourself? Or do you agree that being unconventional is unprofessional? Let me know, I’d love to hear your experiences.