Lucy Cuthew, an editor specialising in children’s and young adult fiction, became a freelancer in 2011 having spent several years as a commissioning editor at Meadowside Children’s Books. She edited the English translation of Andrea Atzori’s recently released fantasy YA novel, The Amulet of Sleep. We talked to her about the role of an editor, being a freelancer, and how self published authors can get ahead.
Firstly, could you explain the role that a copyeditor has in preparing a manuscript for a book such as Andrea’s? What other types of editor are there and what do they do?
When a book goes through the traditional route with a publisher, many eyes will see the text, critique it and work on it to polish it up before it is published. The usual editing stages are a substantive edit, done by the main editor where areas such as structure, plot and themes are worked on; once the body of editing or re-writing has been done a copyeditor will look at the text for things such as continuity, grammar, spelling, consistency and so-on; the final editor is usually a proofreader who will make sure that the text is completely clean and tidy. These resources are not always available to authors self publishing and so a copyeditor will look at all aspects of the work, making sure that it flows well, that it is comprehensible to the reader, and that it is accurate and consistent. Above all, any editor working on a text is aiming to make the book the best version of itself that it can be.
Having previously done work for QED, Anderson Press, Octopus and Candlewick Press (to name a few), you are currently freelancing as an editor and project manager, how does it differ from your previous role as a commissioning editor?
When I was a commissioning editor I was responsible for curating a list, acquiring texts, editing and worked alongside the design and sales teams to create books for the UK and export markets. As a freelancer is much freer and I find that I spend more time on the texts themselves, which I enjoy. I have to be flexible, as each publisher works differently, however, it’s a great way to pick up best practice from each publishing house. Being in-house was great and I loved my time as commissioning editor, but as I also write children’s books, freelancing suits me perfectly at the moment.
What are some of the benefits to an author of publishing independently as opposed to going the traditional route, and what must writers be wary of?
I think self publishing is a great route for authors who either cannot find a publisher for their work, or who don’t want to. One risk is that the work itself isn’t up to standard – for me as an editor this is the main thing to be wary of. Getting honest opinions from friends and family, listening to feedback, and if possible investing in an editor would be some ways to ensure that the book is the best it can be.
What piece of advice would you give to authors who are trying to self publish on a low budget?
Listen to all the advice you are given, take it seriously, then act on what you think is right and fair, no matter how long it will take you to do so. There are no short cuts to writing a brilliant book and readers will reward your hard work by loving your story.
From finding willing friends to act as beta-readers to hiring a professional editor; how important do you think collaboration is to successful indie publishing?
I think it’s absolutely key. Treating your own work impartially, after you’ve been so close to a text, is virtually impossible. Whether you have the budget to hire a professional editor and cover designer, or just need to find some readers for your book, it is now fairly easy to find the right people online. There are plenty of platforms through which authors can get feedback on their writing, and lots of companies set up to help self publishers find the people they need to turn their manuscript into a finished product.
Lucy Cuthew is part of whitefox’s network of freelance publishing professionals. For more information on how whitefox can help you find the right people for your publishing project, visit their website and get in touch.