JoEllen Nordström – How to schedule editing into your book production and launch plan

Nonfiction Authors Association Podcast | January 11, 2023

“[Just remember] that any developmental back and forth with revisions is going to take longer, and you need to allot more time than you have anticipated in general.” -JoEllen Nordström

JoEllen Nordstrom Story Editing

About JoEllen Nordström

JoEllen Nordström is First Editing’s Chief Word Wizard and the host of the Publishing Power Podcast. A fellow published author and writing enthusiast, JoEllen co-authored her first two books as an authorpreneur in 2005. Since then she has led her army of editors at First Editing to assist over 50,000 authors worldwide.

Nonfiction Authors Podcast: JoEllen Nordström

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Show Notes


In this episode…

  • The definition of book production.
  • When to hire an editor during the book production process.
  • How an editor can help you with the development of your manuscript to make the book production process successful.
  • The difference between a book coach and a developmental editor.
  • A glimpse into the editing process and schedule.
  • Creative writing vs. logical editing.
  • How many editors an author needs for their book.
  • The importance of proofreading and obtaining proofs of your book.
  • When nonfiction authors should use electronic editing tools.
  • How editing companies like FirstEditing will match you with an editor.


Hello and welcome to the interview series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with JoEllen Nordström and we will be talking about how to schedule editing into your book production and launch plan. I’m Carla King, your host, and I’m happy to have you with us today. This interview will last only 30 minutes and you can find the replay on our Nonfiction Authors Association website and social media platforms including YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

And now I’d like to introduce our guest.

JoEllen Nordström is First Editing’s Chief Word Wizard and the host of the Publishing Power Podcast. A fellow published author and writing enthusiast, JoEllen co-authored her first two books as an authorpreneur in 2005. Since then she has led her army of editors at First Editing to assist over 50,000 authors worldwide.

Wow, big job. Welcome, welcome, JoEllen.

JoEllen Nordstrom  0:23

Thank you so much. It’s good to be here.

Carla King  1:39

Great to have you. And I think we need to first define book production, which–I’ll just say quickly–is the process required to turn your raw manuscript into the final printed product or ebook. And at its most basic, it includes editing–which we’re going to talk about today–and design, and formatting, and printing, and ebook conversion. But you need to get editing into the right place. And I know a lot of authors trip up and insert editing too early, or too late. Can we start with that?

JoEllen Nordstrom  2:11

Editing is–it’s really everything from the outline at the very beginning. Of what your purpose of the whole project is–what you’re trying to get the reader to do, or engage with. To how it’s presented, and all of the fine rules and regulations of the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the syntax that goes into that. So it really is a whole gamut there. And it starts from the very beginning, of just making sure that you have a clearly defined mission. And then after that, we go into the creative, and that would be the developing of that outline. And then it’s followed by making sure you’ve done it the right way.

Carla King  2:52

Yes, exactly. And this is what I see authors doing. And I bet you do too. They start copy editing–as soon as their first draft is finished–with the commas, and punctuation, and stuff, right?

JoEllen Nordstrom  3:03

Right. And that’s way too early. Because you want to get through the idea of–what are you trying to [make] happen here? Do you have a blurb plan? Can you clearly define what this book is about, and who it applies to, and who would want to read it, and why they would read it? And you’re qualified to write this book? Why, now, is the right time to have written the book? And what are the things that are happening in the world that mash with your books, so that you can create this interest and engagement? So that’s way far ahead. And that’s part of the development of your outline and your story long before you get into the copy editing, which is actually the final part–right before you go in for formatting.

Carla King  3:45

Right. And I remember–last month, I think, I talked with Ted Weinstein. And a lot of that is actually in the book proposal process. In your book business plan. You don’t want to tinker too much with what you think is the final product until you prove that you actually have a concept that will sell. So why don’t we start with that? How can an editor help you with that development of the manuscript to make it a success?

JoEllen Nordstrom  4:15

We work with book coaches. And that’s going through, checking through all of those stages of–who is your audience? Why are you qualified to write this? What is your purpose of this book? What do you want people to do? How do you want them to engage? All those different steps. So [those are] really the same questions that they’re going to be asking. When you make this proposal–’Okay, this is who I am, this is what I’m doing.’ Well, do they care? And if they don’t care, then you’re really not going to publish with them. So it’s really getting that all outlined and done. And an editor can walk you through the process. Because you may have something very important to say. And nonfiction is normally motivational, inspirational, or educational–are the main three areas. Who are you? Why are you qualified? Why do I care? That’s essential to what we’re doing. So again, it’s making sure that you have that prepared. And if you can outline all that in very quickly and catch everyone’s attention, then of course, your book launch and your book proposals are going to go much, much better overall.

Carla King  5:35

And the writing process is probably going to go better too, because you’re writing on target.

JoEllen Nordstrom  5:40

Exactly. Some people want to go by the seat of their pants, and that’s okay. But in general, the editor is going to be the one to say, ‘Okay, did you fill in all the blocks? And if not, this is what’s missing, and this is where you need to have it.’ And that really helps, especially if it’s your first time out there. Well, even if it’s your 25th time out there.

Carla King  5:59

So you talked about a book coach. Am I right in saying that a book coach and a developmental editor have overlapping jobs? They might even be the same person?

JoEllen Nordstrom  6:14

Exactly. Basically, it’s a learning process. You’re learning to outline your book. You’re learning to fill in those questions and answers, and do it effectively–the same way you do when you start your business. What’s your business proposal? And what’s your elevator pitch? And things like that. How do you engage people in this process? So it’s very important to have that access. And it’s something that–once you learn it, you get better, and better, and better at it. So it’s really worth taking that time, because it is during the creative process that it is a writing support there. And developmental editing is when you have the outline, and you’re looking at, ‘How do I engage my reader? How do I succeed in my goal, and what is my goal?’ And then you go on to copy editing, which can have several different stages of it. It’s anything from content line, and copy editing. But we can go into that a little bit deeper.

Carla King  7:04

So we’re focusing on scheduling today. And I think it’s really important to know who you have to schedule in. Not only your marketing support, but all of your different editors, and your writing group, and your beta team, your street team, and all of that. I think that a developmental editor and the book coach can help you schedule it. So, you know, in January 2023, we’re looking at books that want to come out at the holidays, right? In October, November 2023. Invariably, I have people asking me in October and November–’How can I get my book published now for the holidays?’  I’m like, well, first of all, the supply chain is so screwed up because of the pandemic. It won’t ever get printed in time. But also, you’re going to be sacrificing  quality and authority, correct? And so, when do you start? Like, okay, so I have a book idea. I know, you’re gonna say, ‘It depends.’ But I have a book idea for a nonfiction book–and say it’s prescriptive nonfiction on self publishing. I’ve written six self publishing books. I know the material very well. When should I engage to get it into the market by the holiday season?

JoEllen Nordstrom  8:23

You need at least 30-60 days for just the editing on a developmental. Plus the follow up of your revisions? That’s putting a lot of pressure on you for the revisions.

Carla King  8:37

Right. So that’s January and February. So let’s say I got my manuscript to you now– in December, right? That’s January and February.  So does that include that–I love that you said ‘dance’ –between the two parties? The editor and the writer? Or do you drop it to the writer after a month or two?

JoEllen Nordstrom  9:04

We give our clients 90 days to come back with their concerns. Having a good overall picture in how editing can slide in and out of that–what parts will work–is super essential. And just remembering that any developmental back and forth with revisions is going to take longer, and you need to allot more time than you have anticipated in general. And a good way to find out is to get an assessment, or a sample of what this editing process looks like, from your editor before you start so that you can get familiar with them. It’s a dating process. You and the editor really need to have a connection. You need to respect them. And they need to be able to understand and respect the way that your artistic presentation is going to be, and still be able to assist you in fitting into the required form that is of your genre.

Carla King  10:02

So I had this note here about creative writing versus logical editing. Does that pertain to the writer, or the editor, or both?

JoEllen Nordstrom  10:15

Both. When you’re doing self editing at the beginning–which, I really encourage people to download an editing tool. To take the time to read it backwards, to read it out loud, to just assess it in whatever way you need. You need to put it down as creative writing, give yourself a break, go relax, and then come back in a couple of days, or weeks, or months–whatever you need–and then pick it up and say, ‘Okay, now I’m going to analyze it and be really hard on myself.’ Because then it’s much easier to cut. You’ve spent so much energy writing the best that you can. And sometimes it’s like, ‘Well, that was really great. But we don’t need that.’

Carla King  10:59

The ‘killing your darlings process’, right?

JoEllen Nordstrom  11:03

It hurts. But when you’re in the logical questioning and thinking stage–when you’re just editing, you’re evaluating it from clarity, and presentation, and flow, right?

Carla King  11:16

Right. You’ve mentioned a few editors here. So how many editors do I need?

JoEllen Nordstrom  11:20

A good editor, or editing company, will assess your manuscript and say, ‘Okay, these are your strengths. These are your weaknesses. This is the level of editing you need.’ But if we were going to cover the overall–if you had an unlimited budget, and an unlimited amount of time, and you just wanted the best in the world, you would start with a developmental edit. Which is the high, over the top, your creative writing support.

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Is it any good?’, then you’re still in the creative outline. When you move from that question, saying, ‘Okay, I have a strong presentation here. I know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, who I am. Who it applies to.’ You can do that whole pitch right there. Then you’re moving on to–’Is it ready?’ And is it ready means–does it have typos? We’re getting into the syntax, grammar, spelling, punctuation, the laws of presentation, the flow, the voice. If you’ve quoted somebody, are citations there? Have you represented that all correctly? So then you’re moving into a content edit, which is looking at it from the overall structural presentation, and making sure that it follows all those things. Line is where we go literally line by line. Each sentence–’Okay, that one..good sentence.’ Moves on to the next. ‘Good sentence.’ This paragraph flows to this paragraph, and you have your scenes marked out, and all of that.

And this is all the preparation before what everyone talks about, which is copy editing. And copy editing is literally the last edit before formatting. It is the person who comes in says, ‘Right. Wrong.’ If you think that old red pen, they’re just going,’Wrong. Correct.’ Right? But they’re not giving you a lot of feedback. Copy editor is just telling you, ‘Oh, found it, missed it, blah, blah.’ After you complete your copy editing, then you’re moving into your formatting. You need to have a proofread. And the proofread is–especially in today’s technical world–it’s where we are looking to see what went wrong. How did the file basically eat a paragraph? Or eliminate a page? Or did you have a graphic, and suddenly it’s sitting on top of all your words, and you can’t see it?

Carla King  13:44

Exactly. And I know many authors go right from formatting if they’re publishing just in Word, or they’ve hired a designer to format and design the book in InDesign–the interior–and they go right to printing. But what you need is a proof. So in your launch plan, you need time for a proof. And I always like to print five proofs. They’re easy–on Amazon. And give them to my mom, as well as a professional, and maybe one of my super fans–the super fan writing group member, who was always the one who’s putting in the comments, even in the ideas stage. They’re good at it. But I agree–I’ve seen so many errors that could have been fixed in that proofread. So we have to remember where these words came from. Before the digital world that we’re in now, we used to get a proof of our book. A proof copy. And it had crop marks on it and all of that.

JoEllen Nordstrom  14:59

You can lose a lot of money that could have been saved by just having a proofreader. And I don’t want to mislead people–editing is expensive. It’s really one of the largest things you need to budget for. But the proofreader is the most affordable one. And it’s silly to just throw this away. To be a developmental editor, you’re looking at people who’ve worked in the publishing houses. They know your genre, they know all these different things. And line editors, they’re vetted, and certified, and trained specifically for what they’re doing. Proofreading–you can go online and take a class. It’s very good to trust your mother, or somebody else, with it. It’s totally fine. But just don’t skip it, whatever you do. And I also recommend, if you’re going through these different levels, sometimes it’s good to mix it up with the editors. Because your developmental editor–they know the story so well, that they’re going to be just like you–they’re not going to see the mistake.

Carla King  16:01

They’re going to skim. Yeah.

JoEllen Nordstrom  16:04

It happens, and it’s just human, we can’t seem to stop it. So, switching to a different editor at that moment, and letting them figure out, ‘Oh, okay.’ And starting for the clear, because you will literally always have one question. ‘I didn’t get this. What was that?’ And that could be so essential to your whole presentation. If you omit it. We tend to slip over–especially nonfiction standard industry jargon, that you think everybody knows–they have no idea what you’re talking about. You need to tell them.

Carla King  16:44

Exactly. And I know you’re in favor of the electronic tools. In fact, you work with Fictionary, which is super interesting, also, as a tool for memoirists. I often recommend that program. Do you want to talk about when to use that kind of editing tool?

JoEllen Nordstrom  17:07

Sure. And any editing tool, or writing tool–I think there’s so many out there, that you need to decide what works for you. And most of them–these apps, or tools, or software–they offer a freemium. So you can start, and try it. And then you upgrade, and it’s worth it if you use it. So ProWritingAid is just a basic online copy editing, style guide helper–that’s very good. With Fictionary, it’s very great if you are a do-it-yourselfer, or you love to learn and teach yourself, and you’re all in there. And it will just give you so much information, and all the tools to follow through. It gives you a process. It reviews and analyzes your entire story arc. Which, in a memoir, you’re going to have some conflict, resolution, and all these things happening there that make your story stronger. And if you omit them–it’s funny–you don’t know exactly why, but it just doesn’t grab you as much. So if you make sure you have all the ingredients to a recipe, of course it’s gonna be better. So they’re very good at that.

And we have editors who are certified story coaches from Fictionary, that can either do the developmental edit using the same kind of online software and tool. Or, if you have done all of the developmental work online using that software, then you can save some money, and come to us directly for a line edit, which is very, very helpful for many people. So again, it’s not just–you do this, and it’s done, and you don’t have to worry about it. But your editors can look at it and say, ‘Ah, okay. now I don’t have to worry about this, this, this. I can really go into the comprehension and clarity of what you’re saying. And make sure that it is as strong as can be.’ So I do recommend checking that out as a tool for the memoir. It is a narrative software. We use it for fiction, and for memoirs. So it’s fantastic.

Carla King  19:14  

I love that you’re responding to technology. And Christina Stanley of FirstEditing is awesome as well. And I just want to say–all of your Story Elements podcast episodes are really amazing. So thank you for that. And JoEllen, tell us about FirstEditing, where we can find you. I think maybe you have samples, edits for us.

JoEllen Nordstrom  19:45

We’re at And you can get a free sample, which is what I recommend when you’re looking to hire an editor. Get with us or anybody else. There’s certain things you need to look for. And that should be–they should have a nice list of every book they’ve worked on, and testimonials from those. Basically the same as you hiring anybody else. You should go through the proper procedure of finding out–what’s their experience? And has it been successful? And are they vetted and trained in what you’re doing? Also, with a company versus say, a freelancer or anything like that, satisfaction guarantee is something that’s very important there. And then getting the sample.

The sample is basically that ‘first date’ to see, ‘Is this a match or not?’ You send 10,000 words to us, we pick out some, and we send you back a couple pages showing you exactly–’Okay. This is an assessment of your writing. This is what you’re doing right This is where you’re struggling. This is what we recommend. And then we’re gonna tell you which level of editing.’ So that takes away all of the decision making for yourself. Because they can say, ‘All right, you need a line edit.’ But you’re saying, ‘I’m ready for copy edit.’  No, not if you really need that line at it. If they say you need a line edit, and you say, ‘Well, I want a developmental,’ that’s fine. You can always upgrade yourself, but you can’t really go less, because it will be a disservice to yourself and us. You won’t have a book that represents you in the best way, and we will look bad because we didn’t fix it.

Carla King  21:19

So how does that work? I know you’ve worked with a bunch of editors for years. A long time, right? Like 20 years, almost? And so do you get the request and assign an editor, or figure out which editor will be the best for that author?

JoEllen Nordstrom  21:40

We have a system that basically brings them in. And we’re looking at your instructions, and your needs, and what genre you’re in, and different things like that. We’re matching with who we have on staff that can fix that. We have many clients who come to us–and like I said, the budget is always there. But if it takes longer, that’s okay. It’s all right. Just take your time.

Carla King  22:01

Just take your time. So talking about timeline time–if you have to skip that holiday release, it’s better to do that than put out a shoddy product. I’ve done it myself. I’m talking from experience here.

JoEllen Nordstrom  22:16

It’ll come around, it’ll be better. It’s much better to get a bunch of great reviews, and people who really follow you and want to promote you. So again, do that. You can get a free sample from FirstEditing, find an editor that will tell you how long it will take to be edited, when it will be delivered. So that’ll help you plan immediately from the beginning, along with your revisions. And then of course, we do have a 20% discount for the NFAA. That’s a really big offer.

Carla King  22:49

That is a big offer. Thank you so very much.

JoEllen Nordstrom  22:54

So again, we’d love to talk to people. So find us–email, chat, or by phone.

Carla King  23:01

And where are you on social media?

JoEllen Nordstrom  23:05

Oh, of course. We’re on Facebook, we’re on LinkedIn, we’re on Twitter. @FirstEditing–you’ll find us.

Carla King  23:14

For Nonfiction Authors Association Members–to access the FirstEditing 20% discount, simply log into your account and find the discounts in the Membership Benefits area. Thank you so much, JoEllen. Thanks for being on the podcast.

JoEllen Nordstrom  23:31

My pleasure. I look forward to seeing everyone. Join us at And we’ll be around.

Carla King  23:37

Great. And thank you to our listeners for joining us today and every week. For a list of guests and topics just check our schedule on the site, use your favorite search engine, or better yet, sign up for our mailing list at

Quotes from our guest

“Who are you? Why are you qualified? Why do I care? That’s essential to what we’re doing. So again, it’s making sure that you have that prepared. And if you can outline all that in very quickly and catch everyone’s attention, then of course, your book launch and your book proposals are going to go much, much better overall. “

“[Just remember] that any developmental back and forth with revisions is going to take longer, and you need to allot more time than you have anticipated in general.”

“[Finding an editor is] a dating process. You and the editor really need to have a connection. You need to respect them. And they need to be able to understand and respect the way that your artistic presentation is going to be, and still be able to assist you in fitting into the required form that is of your genre.”

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