Interview with an Editor…
Welcome to Nicole D’Arienzo, senior historical editor for The Wild Rose Press! So glad you could take some time out to answer these questions and tell us about the life of an editor.
So first tell us about you and how you got into editing?
Hmmm …I honestly don’t remember. I had a lot of positive feedback from judging contests and a lot of really nice thank you notes telling me that the way I explained things made sense for the first time, or they appreciated my gentle touch in making suggestions. When TWRP was just starting out and looking for editors, it seemed like a good fit. It just sort of fell into place. Of course, it helps when your sister is the co-owner of the company and you are the only person she knows who knows anything about historical romance LOL. I honestly only came on board to help set things up and get the department going. I fully intended to return my focus to my own writing. It’s been twelve years and I’ve yet to do that!
Do you write as well? (We can post your books covers and links if you want? Your choice whether or not you want to answer this one.)
Yes. I write as Nicole McCaffrey and am published with TWRP. I don’t get much time to work on my own writing these days, but I have five books out with them.
Tell us why you enjoy editing historical stories and do you edit other genres?
I have edited—and still do edit-- other genres, but I have always been a student of history, have always been fascinated by the way the past shapes the future. And who doesn’t love the romantic image of the Old South, the adventure of the Old West or those elegant Lords and Ladies of the Ton? That’s my kind of escape from the busy lives we all lead.
What do your editing duties with The Wild Rose Press encompass? (What is the typical day in the life of an editor?)
Once I land at my desk for the day there are emails to answer, of course. New queries to be reviewed and assigned, contract requests from the editors who work with me to review and approve (or not 😊 ) and then there are emails from the authors I work with, returned edits, or blurb changes etc. And somewhere in there I still need to edit! LOL. I’ve gotten very good at compartmentalizing my day, certain times to answer emails, certain times to edit and so on. Otherwise my head would be spinning.
What are the three tops things you look for in a query letter?
As I’m reading a query, three questions are going through my mind:
1) How serious about writing are you? This goes hand in hand with number two, but I’m looking for things like: published elsewhere, even if it’s self-published (that tells me you can finish a story—not every author can), how long you’ve been writing, etc.
2) What, if any, are your professional affiliations? (i.e., RWA, or other writing organizations. These aren’t necessary in order to be published with us, but if you belong to a group like this, chances are you are a step ahead of some of the other authors in my query inbox on any given morning. J )
3) Can you write? Yes, I am going to look at those sample pages we request and see what you can do!
Simply put, a professional query that follows our submission guidelines and contains minimal punctuation or typing errors is always a breath of fresh air.
How many stories do you edit per month?
It varies. Some months I schedule more projects than others. It all depends on the way things fall, if I have a lot of things wrapping up (i.e. galley stage, or near galley stage) I won’t schedule quite so much because I know I will need time to finalize those. And sometimes authors return their edits later than planned, which necessitates moving things around in my schedule again, or I’m asked to work on a special project that I have to squeeze in somewhere. So there really is no way to give it a set number.
What are some of the things you look for right off to know a story is one you are interested in contracting?
That’s actually a two-part answer. First of all, I’m looking for the basic writing mechanics—good control of viewpoint, active versus passive writing, showing rather than telling. Seeing that definitely gets my attention.
But that’s not a guarantee the story won’t fall apart halfway through or that the hero or heroine won’t be so unlikeable our preliminary readers can’t relate to them or that the conflict doesn’t end in chapter four and the rest of the story is just filler. We see these things all the time.
Basically, if the story telling is great, I can work with the author on cleaning up the mechanics. But if the mechanics are solid and they still can’t create characters or a story readers will care about, I’m not sure I can help with that.
So what are some of your pet peeves when reading a manuscript? Well since I’m an historical editor, I have to admit I hate it when authors try to get by without researching. For some reason they think if they skimp on details or are vague with descriptions, we won’t be able to tell they didn’t research adequately. But it always shows. I’m not saying you must go into full detail over every teeny tiny thing, but if you haven’t done your research… trust me, we can tell.
What is the hardest thing about being an editor?
Probably when you have tried repeatedly to explain something to an author, like viewpoint or active writing and they ignore what you’ve said and continue to write the way they always have. Sometimes they just don’t understand what it is you’re trying to help them learn. You want them to succeed, you want their “good” story to be “great”. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
What is the best thing about being an editor?
The relationships I’ve developed with my authors over the years. It’s wonderful to see their writing grow and change with each book and to see their confidence grow. Some authors I have more personal contact with than others, they share news about college graduations, weddings, the birth of a grandchild. It’s wonderful to share those moments with them, even if only via Facebook or email. After twelve years of this, we’ve been through a lot with some of our authors!
What advice would you have for seasoned authors submitting to The Wild Rose Press?
To take time to learn from your edits. If the edits in your last MS focused a lot on cleaning up passive writing or showing rather than telling, please make sure you’ve addressed that in your current MS before you submit. I think there is a school of thought that “my editor will fix it” or that it needs to be submitted right away so you can get the ball rolling toward the next release. In truth, the process goes much faster when you submit your cleanest possible work, it can be the difference between needing only one round of edits. Or several. So, if your editor is giving you the same edits time after time with every story it’s probably a sign that you need to brush up on those areas. And you will undoubtedly make her entire week if you address them in your next MS before submitting LOL.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
couple of things. First, take the time to make a good first impression when submitting. Be polite, be courteous and make sure you have checked our submission guidelines and followed them to the letter. I’m amazed sometimes by the number of queries that lack the necessary details we require (detailed synopsis and first five pages of the MS.) We see a lot of submissions from retirees and new writers and I must say, starting your email with “my son is sending this from his email account because I’m not so good with computers…” is probably not the best way to get my attention. If you’re submitting to an electronic publisher, it’s probably best to brush up on your computer skills first.
Second. Take your time. Writing is a process we learn by doing, but it’s not something you can learn overnight. The biggest mistake I see from new authors is being over eager. We’ll send a nice rejection letting them know what they need to work on if they want to be published by TWRP, including links to articles, books on craft, etc. only to have the manuscript resubmitted in a matter of days, sometimes less than 24 hours. I can’t think of too many instances in the past twelve years where someone resubmitting a manuscript that fast actually focused on everything they needed to. Rushing usually leads to a second rejection and, depending on how well the author did with the revisions, we may not ask to see it again. I promise, there is no expiration date on revising your manuscript after a rejection. Take the time to be thorough. The goal, after all, is not simply to be published, but to write a story readers will love.