Sunday, June 8, 2014

Editor Interview: Faith Williams of The Atwater Group

Today I'm very excited to be interviewing Faith Williams of The Atwater Group.  Faith is an accomplished proofreader and copyeditor who has worked on several bestsellers. Needless to say, she stays fairly busy, so scoring this interview was something of a coup.

Please tell us a little about yourself.  
I grew up in a small town (population less than 5,000 when I was a kid).  My town was so small we didn’t have our own high school, so I went to a private Catholic high school (even though I’m not Catholic) about thirty minutes away from my house. I have two older brothers, but we also took in foster kids.  Some stayed a few days; others stayed for years. I met my future husband when I was working in a bookstore and he came in to order a copy of Mr. Boston’s Bartending Guide.  (My co-worker insisted on being the one who called him when it came in. I was all like, “Whatever.”)

How would you characterize the type of work you do - editing, proofreading, copyediting…what? 
Most of the work I do is light copy-editing, but I also do proofreading.  I like copyediting because I can play with the words more than I do in proofing, but proofing is quicker! J

How did you get into editing and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been proofreading and copyediting since 2011, ever since I left my position as an administrative assistant.  My first paying gig was for a Chinese university’s academic club: the students were applying for college programs in the US and needed a bit of fine-tuning on their essays.  It was challenging, especially when the papers explained a scientific process or experiment that demonstrated their skills but I enjoyed reading their personal statements.  My favorite description of a student:  Moreover, Xidi is a Sunshine girl as well. She always wears a warm smile and makes people comfortable. I found that her classmates always went to her and asked her questions during the break time and she always answered them patiently. The students all speak highly of her because of her kindness.

Are most of your clients self-published or traditionally published, and does the distinction matter to most editors? 
I’d say most of my clients are self-publishing, or at least a hybrid author. I guess it depends on the editor whether it matters or not. I’ve found that comments from other editors on self-publishers range from very positive (authors are willing to listen and obey accept my suggestions) to very negative (I’d never work for anyone who couldn’t make it through a publishing house). I made a conscious effort to work with self-publishing authors, so I’m fine with it.  Plus, I get to see some great manuscripts that don’t fit neatly into a publisher’s preconceived notion of what a “good” book is or don’t fit into a specific genre.

What types of books make up the bulk of your work? 
Well, it’s definitely fiction, that’s for sure.  It seems to go in spurts: some weeks, I am reading romance and chick-lit; some weeks, it’s science fiction and fantasy everywhere! I am starting to see an uptick in shorter manuscripts, in the 20-25K range but I still can count on a few authors to clock in over 120K!

Do you do any leisure reading, and if so, what’s your favorite genre? 
“Leisure?”  I need to consult my dictionary to see what that is…oh, yes, freedom or spare time provided by the cessation of activities.  Hmmm…I vaguely remember leisure.  Seriously, though, I do get breaks from reading to well, read.  Interestingly enough, I typically get my recommendations from my authors posting on Facebook or Twitter on people they read. I don’t tend to read the big names (typically traditionally published authors or some of the bigger indie authors) unless I’m re-reading something.  I just picked up Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Woman of Substance.  I’d read it as a teenager and now have it on my Kindle. I’d forgotten how much it made me cry, so I’m pacing myself through that one! My favorite genre—that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child (except I only have one kid, so maybe that’s not a good example!). I typically pick up romances, but I’m pretty happy with science fiction and fantasy.  My least favorite is, well, I guess I don’t have a least favorite in the fiction realm.

When you’re working on an author’s project, do you ever get a feeling like “This will be a bestseller!” or “This will be a dud”?  (And if so, how often are you right?) 
Some books really resonate with me personally, so I’d like to think they’d be bestsellers.  I’ve had several go on to the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists.  I would say there is one book that sticks in my mind as a complete dud (and no, it’s not one of yours, Kevin!).  It’s hard to say if I’m right or wrong on my personal barometer of what should be a success because I don’t get to see sales reports for my authors (I could look at Amazon rankings, but that changes every hour, it seems, so it hardly seems like a good use of my time!).  I hope that my authors succeed, in whatever way they define success: a traditional book publishing contract, 10 sales a week, or 100 sales a week.  

If you weren’t an editor what would you be doing? 
I’m not sure; this is really my dream job.  As I tell people, I get paid to read and tell people when they are wrong—what could be more perfect?  So maybe I’d be running a book blog…that might a close second as a dream job.

What are some of the more common problems you come across when editing? 
Each author seems to have their own quirks.  Some are real errors (like a misspelled word), but sometimes authors like things a certain way that doesn’t conform to the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard style for fiction.  There’s always the to/too/two and their/there/they’re types of errors that can trip anybody up; I also often see “common” phrases that are spelled the way they’ve been heard, not the way they should be spelled: could of is really could have or the phrase If you think X, then you have another thing coming is really If you think X, then you have another think coming.

Do you have an opinion on the things indie authors can do to sell more books? 
Write, write, write!  I think it’s a bit like acting in a way: you are in the public’s mind with each new project.  If you only write one book and then not write/publish for a year or more, you lose momentum.  The more you have to sell, the more you can sell.  As an indie author, it seems you have to do everything.  This double-edged sword means you have control, but also that you are in charge of writing, editing, cover design, formatting, and promotion.  You can hire out for some of those, but ultimately it’s your baby and your work out there.  It’s a balance between the writing time and the business side (marketing, promotion, etc.)—and you can’t ignore either of those things.

Have you ever had the urge to write a book yourself? Why or why not? 
As evidenced by my blog, I am not a writer by instinct.  I don’t have any characters in my head trying to get out and tell their story.  I do better improving a story rather than creating one.

Before we close, is there anything in general you’d like to share with our readers? 
If you are a writer, thank you for your stories.  Even if you only sell one copy a month (and it’s to your long-lost cousin who just found you on Facebook), you have created something unique and wonderful.  Don’t get discouraged.  If you are a writer, write.  Don’t worry about the “success” of others; don’t judge your journey with theirs. 

If you are a reader, write a review or write to the author to tell them how much you enjoyed the book.  A nice three-sentence email can make an author’s day!


And for those who may be interested in your services, how can you be reached? 
My website is www.theatwatergroup.com.  My blog is http://theatwatergroup.blogspot.com/.  I have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TAGProofreading) and you can follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/FaithProofing).  But be prepared: it can be a few months before I have availability on the schedule, so plan ahead!

My thanks to Faith for taking time out of her busy schedule for this interview. As I've said many times on this blog, it's practically impossible to edit your own work (a lesson I learned very early on); you really do need expert help.  Thus, I'd encourage any and all indie writers to have your work professionally edited.  Your readers - and you, yourself - deserve nothing less.

If you would like to be notified when I release new books, please subscribe to my mailing list here.

2 comments:

  1. thanks for this interview, I like this guy and what he is doing! visit site and get to know the main distinction between proofreading and editing processes!

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