Carla King interviews Kristen Tate on how to use the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) to hire the right editor.
Nonfiction Authors Association Podcast | November 23, 2022
‘I do think [editing] is a great thing to do at least once in your author career, especially if you think you’re going to write more than one book. You’ll learn a lot about how to put a book together, and also what else the book could be.’
About Kristen Tate
Kristen Tate is the Events chairperson for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). She is owner and lead editor at the Blue Garret, an editorial services firm that helps authors transform their work from rough draft to finished book. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University, with a focus on publishing history, and the author of All the Words: A Year of Reading About Writing. Kristen writes a regular newsletter full of craft advice and encouragement for authors.
Nonfiction Authors Podcast: Kristen Tate
Find the video podcast, show notes, links, quotes, and podcast transcript below.
Got feedback on our podcast? Want us to consider a guest or topic? Please let us know on our feedback form here.
In this episode…
- Benefits of the EFA for authors who are seeking editors from an organization.
- Why it’s important to find an editor that is the best fit for you.
- Benefits of the EFA for editors who are seeking more clients.
- How to identify the type of editing services needed for your book.
- How the EFA can assist with publishing needs.
- Payment process for EFA services.
- The value of trust in an editor/author relationship.
- When you might need multiple editors for your book.
Hello and welcome to the interview series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with Kristen Tate and we will be talking about how to use the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) to hire the right editor. 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.
Kristen Tate is the events chairperson for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). She is also the owner and lead editor at the Blue Garret, an editorial services firm that helps authors transform their work from rough draft to finished book. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University, with a focus on publishing history, and the author of All the Words: A Year of Reading About Writing. Kristen writes a regular newsletter full of craft advice and encouragement for authors.
Hi, Kristen, welcome to the podcast.
Kristen Tate 2:13
Hi Carla, it’s so nice to be here.
Carla King 2:15
We’ll start with the EFA audiences, and then delve into how it works for authors and editors. I wanted to start with, first–what are the benefits for authors who are seeking editors from an organization, rather than searching outside of an organization with referrals and all those service websites and all that. Should they do both?
Kristen Tate 2:41
I’m a big proponent for both, especially if you’re talking about referrals, right? So if you have author friends, colleagues–people you’ve networked with people, you’ve met at a conference, and especially if they’re writing in a similar genre as you–like, if you’re writing a business book, and they’ve written a business book, getting a referral from them is golden. That’s the place to start for sure. That said, I also really encourage folks to talk to more than one editor, even though it’s more work. I think people feel hesitant to take our time–and we are busy, and this part of our job is unpaid. But at the same time, it’s important for everyone in their relationship to know it’s a good fit. And the way you know it’s a good fit and build trust is by talking to a few different folks. And seeing what feels right.
Carla King 3:36
It feels like it’s almost like dating. You have to talk on the phone, you have to go on a few dates, because it’s a long relationship.
Kristen Tate 3:47
It can be, and you’re trusting them with something that’s really important. I mean, if you’re talking about a book in particular, that is months and months of work typically, and it’s something that you’re going to be promoting for years to come. And so it’s a really important relationship. And it’s worth taking the time in the search to feel really good that you’ve found someone who’s a good fit.
And then in terms of the EFA in particular–as opposed to using a freelancer site that’s more general, like Upwork or something like that–the biggest benefit, I think–from an author standpoint–is that we have a directory, for one. So you’re already kind of focusing and specializing with folks who work on words, and work on books. And then within that directory, it’s broken down by all of these subcategories. Everything from ghost writing, to indexing, to sensitivity reading, to different kinds of editing, and you can’t do that kind of search on a more generalist site.
Carla King 4:58
I wanted to delve into those particular editing types a little bit later. And you had one more thing. I was going to ask you–what are the benefits for editors? But you have one more thing about authors?
Kristen Tate 5:10
So the other really great part–it’s all free. And then there’s also a free job list service. So for authors, you can describe your book, describe your budget, your timeline, all of that. And the type of person you’re looking for. So this is really great if you’ve got a very specific niche subject, and you would like someone who might have some subject matter expertise in there. That’s a really great way to find a quick match.
And then for editors, there are a lot of benefits. So we were kind of talking about it before we went live here. I joined the EFA pretty much the instant I decided I was going to start freelancing. And I had no clients. So this was a really big way for me to start getting clients. So we–as members of the EFA–we were the ones who pay, essentially. So the organization is run on member funds, member dues. And the biggest benefit is that job list. So I started out really by seeing those things come in, and responding to the ones that I thought I was qualified for. And that was a big way I started my business several years ago.
And then other benefits for the organization for editors include–there’s a lot of professional development opportunities, and also networking. So I’m based in San Francisco, and I’m the co-coordinator of our San Francisco chapter. So we meet regularly over Zoom and in person to kind of learn about editing topics, and just meet one another and network.
Carla King 6:53
Yeah, and when I was looking at the website which is at the-efa.org, by the way–I also noticed there’s a lot of training included with the membership. There was the one about editing sexuality, editing medical, editing legal. And some of them were free to the editors who are members, and some of them are, I suppose, deeper level and paid.
Kristen Tate 7:25
Exactly. So there are a lot of hour long webinars that are free to members. One of my favorite ones was–the beginning of the pandemic, when I think we–just like everyone else, we were all panicking, like, ‘Are our clients going to disappear?’ The EFA put together a webinar about how to recession-proof your business, and ideas for that. So there are a lot of benefits there. And then this was also how I upskilled. So I came from an academic background, and I had taught college writing. But I didn’t have the skills when I started editing to do developmental editing of fiction. And that’s something I really wanted to do. So I took–it was actually kind of a sequence of classes that took me about a year to get through for developmental editing. So they’re really in depth, and they really do give you the skills you need to provide the services you want.
Carla King 8:19
Wow, that’s pretty valuable. And it’s valuable to the author as well–the fact that you network in your industry, and you’re always training. So this is the thing– I’m pretty aware of the different types of editing–developmental copy editing, line editing, structural editing, proofreading, and all of that. But a lot of writers aren’t. Many writers think that they just need copy editing, when they might actually need a developmental editor. And I always get these terms mixed up. Can you clarify for me–I think that developmental structure, structural is about the same, and then line and copy editing are about the same.
Kristen Tate 9:07
That’s exactly right. I have to say, we freelance editors make it a little harder, because we all have slightly different definitions of all of those terms. So the best thing to do is, when you’ve identified a few possible editors, take a look at their websites–most of us have websites–and see how they define those services. But broadly, I would put content editing, structural editing, developmental editing into one bucket. And that’s if you need big picture feedback on your book. If you’re not sure if you have really carried out your argument. Or maybe you’re concerned that your examples are not as effective as they could be. Or the organization feels a little fuzzy, or off. Or maybe it’s your first book, and you want that thorough level of feedback from someone. So that’s where you would start.
And I do think it’s a great thing to do at least once in your author career, especially if you think you’re going to write more than one book. You’ll learn a lot about how to put a book together, and also what else the book could be, right? And then, in terms of copy editing, and line editing–those, again, get a little fuzzy. But they’re both about sentence level stuff. When I’m copying–I’m actually working on a copy edit today, and I’m going through it sentence by sentence and making sure everything is clear, correct, consistent, spelling’s are right–The National Mall is where it’s supposed to be in this story that’s set in Washington, DC, all of that kind of stuff. And then line editing–I do these two things simultaneously. Some editors do them separately. But line editing, to me, is about polishing–is this sentence as good as it can be? Would it be better if we broke it up? Or combined it, or maybe it needs to be in a different paragraph.
Carla King 11:06
Or delete it entirely? I was doing some peer editing for a colleague last week, and it was a great piece. But there was a lot of redundancy. So I was feeling really bad, because I was like, ‘Delete, delete, delete, delete,’ and the piece really ended up being a lot stronger, because she was telling the audience too much, where they could fill in those blanks, and it could have been faster paced. Is line and copy editing where a lot of these big deletions happen?
Kristen Tate 11:39
It can be. I definitely also often advise those at the content level as well. And I think–the way I think about it as an editor, and I think it’s helpful for authors to think about it, too–is you want to think about that end reader, right? Especially with deletions–those can be painful. I don’t know how your colleague reacted to that, but it can be hard.
Carla King 12:02
I know, we do it to each other all the time. So it’s okay. You have to have a special relationship with somebody to keep doing that, for sure. Okay, we could talk about that forever, too. But to get back to the different kinds of editors. When I looked on the site, I was like, ‘Wow, you guys have project managers, and fact checkers, and indexers, and translators, and ghost writers, too.’ So I could, in fact, maybe get a project manager for–is that the publishing process. as well?
Kristen Tate 12:39
Yeah, absolutely. We do have members who are doing that. There are so many people venturing into self publishing, in particular. And those steps can be–there are a lot of them, as you know. It’s a very steep learning curve. And so we do have members who work with that kind of client. We also have a lot of folks who work with larger publishers. And manage a lot of projects on a freelance basis, getting them kind of through a specific part of the process, perhaps.
Carla King 13:10
And last week–I wanted to mention that I interviewed the book designers Ian Koviak and Alan Hubel. And they work with a bunch of traditional publishing houses, like Simon and Schuster, and the biggies. And it’s so nice to be able to have access to editors and designers who really are working with the pros–the big publishing houses–as well.
Kristen Tate 13:36
Yeah, and you can definitely find that. It’s interesting. I think, like many other industries, it’s surprising how much the Big Five rely on freelancers. So you can hire the same freelancer that Simon and Schuster is using for their books. So we’re out here.
Carla King 13:58
So I did hire–I think a year, or maybe two years ago–a copy editor from the EFA. And it ended up to be a good experience, but it was pretty intense at first. Because with The Book Designers, they told me the more details–they have a design brief–more details, the competitive analysis, your vision, and competitive analysis stuff. They want to know that. And I’m not sure I knew that, and I don’t think that I actually expressed that in the form that I filled out. So I got two hundred people replying. And then I went, ‘Oh, okay.’ It was pretty labor intensive because I didn’t do that upfront work to find the right editor. But I did–I found actually four or five, but only two were available in the timeframe that I needed and I just went with my gut after having phone conversations with them? Is that a normal experience?
Kristen Tate 15:05
It’s very normal. It’s hard. People feel intimidated, and they really shouldn’t. We’re out here, we’re waiting for clients–many of us. I would say, I hear a lot from people who have a pretty tight timeframe. And I am generally booked out. Like right now, I’m not taking anyone until March or April. So that’s how far I’m booked out. But there are editors who, that’s not the case. And so this is where the Job List is fantastic. So even if you need a very tight turnaround within a couple of weeks, as long as you put that in your brief that you send on the job list, you’ll find someone who is ready to help you. So that’s a big advantage.
Carla King 15:55
Yeah, it is. But you have to be prepared for that sort of deluge of responses, right?
Kristen Tate 16:04
Carla King 16:05
So maybe if I had said, ‘I need this done in three weeks,’ instead of having it open ended, there would have been fewer emails.
Kristen Tate 16:15
And I would say, too, recognize–I don’t generally reply to those anymore. But you know, back when I did–don’t feel like you need to reply to–if you get a hundred responses, or even a couple dozen, respond to the ones that look good. The rest of us are not out there. We send out that email, but we’re not waiting for you to reply. So it’s okay. Pull the ones out that look great. Even if you’re just kind of looking through the first twenty or so that come in, that’s a good representative sample. And that’s fine. And then just move on.
Carla King 16:49
Thank you for that. Because we feel sort of a moral obligation to respond to everyone, right? And it is exhausting.
Kristen Tate 16:58
Yeah, we get it.
Carla King 16:59
Thank you. Alright. So also, regarding payment. Now, I send people to your payment chart page all the time. Because I know rates vary. So I have two questions regarding payment. One is–you already said editors pay to be part of the members. So it’s free for authors. But does the EFA handle payments like Upwork? Or is it privately between you and the editor?
Kristen Tate 17:31
It’s privately, between you and the editor. And that rate chart is handy. It’s gonna really vary. This is why, especially if you’re doing the Job List, and you’re on a tight budget, putting that budget in there is good. I live in San Francisco, which is unfortunately–as you well know–very expensive. And I’m more experienced now than I was when I started out. So it’s like anything else you’re gonna have to balance what you want. But that rate chart is a good starting point. I will also say a lot of editors–not all editors–but many of us do have rates on our website. So that’s another argument for at least kind of getting a handful to look at. And then you could have some rates to just see what the range is. And that’ll give you a better sense of what kind of budget you’re going to need for your project. And then where various folks fit in.
Carla King 18:28
So you can look at those rates, and some of them vary wildly. But there’s also–I saw, and I didn’t really delve into it–a Hiring Basics. But I’m not sure it was there, or maybe I just ignored it when I was desperate for an editor. That helps. And I was also kind of surprised to see, ‘If you’d like a freelancer to take an editing test, please see our testing guidelines here.’ So that was kind of cool. Now, I know some editors do require some payment for their time, but others might do a free sample edit?
Kristen Tate 19:11
Absolutely. So that’s what I do for my own business. Again, it varies widely. I know some editors will charge a small fee, that then if you go on to work together is typically deducted from the cost of the edit. For me, this is a win win. So yes, it does take time. I set aside an hour to do those. But it’s important for me to kind of test out– ‘How do I feel about this book? Do I think I can add the value I’d want to add for this writer? Do I feel a connection with the subject matter?
And again, there’s so much trust required in this relationship. You’re inviting someone in to kind of tool with your argument, and give you feedback on big picture issues, and move sentences around and maybe delete them. You really need to trust that person. And in my experience, that’s what the sample edit does, right? You get to see what an editor is going to do to a piece of your work. And I highly encourage people to send out a chunk of the actual manuscript that they’re hiring for.
Editing tests are, I think, useful for organizations like publishers. I think they’re less useful for individual authors, I think you really want to see what different editors are going to do with your work. And, again, it’s fine–don’t ask for ten sample edits. But asking for two or three so you can really get a sense of–we all do things differently. I have a different editing style and a different editing voice than some other folks do. And that’s how you’re gonna get your gut sense that, ‘Oh, this is the one. This person gets it.’
Carla King 21:02
Right. And I think it’s also important to send the same chapter to each of the editors, right? So you can really clearly see that difference. See if they’re gonna be like me, and kind of every other sentence.
Kristen Tate 21:20
Well, you might need that. I definitely have had authors come to me with a 200,000 word novel, and they need help cutting.
Carla King 21:30
Oh, my gosh, yes. And I do know an awful lot of authors–I had somebody come to me recently–and this is not uncommon–’I have my book, I’m ready to publish. It’s 500 pages.’ I’m like, Uh, have you employed an editor?’ Or maybe you don’t want an autobiography. Maybe you want a few memoirs or something like that. So you have a thriving editorial business. Do you dive in and out of the EFA? Do things get slow? How do you use it now? I know you’re the Events Manager, so you’re very involved. What do you see in the world of editors?
Kristen Tate 22:19
So the thing I’m really excited about that I’m involved in right now is–as part of this events committee, we’re launching a Speaker’s Bureau Initiative. So in addition to attending conferences, like the San Francisco Writers Conference, or something like that, and having an exhibitors table and being there to answer questions–which we do, and we really enjoy. I love doing that table. We’re also sending out speakers who are editors and can speak on exactly this topic of how to find and work with an editor? Just to demystify it, to humanize it, to answer a lot of the questions that we’re talking about now. So that’s what I’m really excited about. I don’t really respond to the job ads so much anymore. I kind of leave that. There are always new folks coming in who are hungry for that. But you can also find me in the directory. And people do find me that way. And so if someone contacts me directly, and it seems like they’ll be a good fit, then I do end up with getting work through the EFA that way.
Carla King 23:22
And you do have events coming up. And they’re ostensibly for editors. But I’m kind of interested as an author. I’m both an author and an editor. Authenticity reading: what it is, and why editors should care. I’m not even sure that most authors know what authenticity reading is. Is that sensitivity reading?
Kristen Tate 23:45
Yeah, it’s another word for it. Some people kind of prefer that term–it feels a little less freighted, maybe?
Carla King 23:54
Okay. And you have things like Editing in Google Docs, which is a virtual meeting. It feels like every time I teach a course, or run a workshop, I have to have ‘How to edit in Google Docs.’ So I would encourage the authors to even look at the events that are here as well.
Kristen Tate 24:19
Absolutely. And I will say also–many authors make good editors. So if that’s something you’re interested in, attending one of these events will give you a sense of who our membership is, how these meetings work, and just give you a little taste of whether this is something you would like to do alongside your writer business.
Carla King 24:41
And just one more question. And I’d like to go on to what you’re doing, and what the EFA is doing in the near future, and how we can get a hold of you. But, I’ve used writing groups for developmental editing, and Beta readers as well–for both memoir and my How-To books. I haven’t yet used a developmental editor. But the more I talk to developmental editors, the more I’m interested in paying that money and doing it. But then I think that editor can’t also be the copy editor because they’re too close, right? And then there’s the proofreader. So you might have three editors in the lifespan of your book–is that right?
Kristen Tate 25:31
It really depends. So for me, personally, I do copy edit books that I have done developmental editing for. Some editors don’t. And there are also lots of editors who do just one or the other. I really like having that balance of both because to me, they use different parts of my brain. What I don’t do, then, is go on to proofread something that I’ve done any kind of work on, because I really believe strongly that if you’re going to hire a proofreader, you really want someone who’s coming to it totally fresh. So that’s where I do the division.
And I would just say, too, when you’re thinking about developmental editing, there are kind of different stripes of that. So for example, I offer what I call a manuscript evaluation, and many editors do this. It’s a single read through, and you get an editorial letter with comments. So you’re a very experienced author, and that might be enough for me to say, ‘In this part of the book, I feel like the pacing is off, and here’s some ideas for how you can fix it,’ and you might then be able to go off and execute that. Whereas a brand new author might need something more extensive that includes comments directly on the manuscript that will show them exactly how–‘Okay, these three paragraphs are where it really feels like it gets tied up to me, and what do you think about breaking them out into another chapter? Or maybe deleting them?’ Or just more hands on specific feedback? So if that’s something you’re considering, think about how much feedback you need. And there’s cost differences, too. So, manuscript evaluation is–budget wise–a more accessible option for people?
Carla King 27:18
I’m actually really interested in that–the manuscript evaluation. I think it would also give me a really good idea of how I could work with an editor, right? I’ve seen them as low as $500. And as high as several $1000.
Kristen Tate 27:39
Yes, that sounds accurate.
Carla King 27:42
I know, right? Oh my gosh. And you know, these are for editors who edited best selling books. So you get a lot of value from that, because part of the reason the developmental editor is so important–I think–is because of their industry knowledge as well. So you want to ask them about that, right?
Kristen Tate 28:09
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not connection so much as it is–do they know that publishing landscape? And do they know the landscape for your genre? Right? Do they know what reader expectations are for your genre? So in a lot of cases, you really do want to find an editor who works on your kind of book. For example, I really don’t work on business books, because that’s not my background. I don’t work on horror novels, because I’m a complete coward, and I don’t read horror novels. So you want to find someone who really knows your genre.
Carla King 28:47
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of value in that. It used to be that editors almost made the author, right? There are some certain famous editors that really worked hard with them. And those days might be over, or you just might have to pay for it.
Kristen Tate 29:05
I mean, that is what’s happening, right? We’re hearing that agents and in-house editors–they’re working harder than ever, and they have less time. And that’s exactly why many folks are going with freelance editors. Because they need to have someone who’s going to be able to give them that dedicated time.
Carla King 29:25
Right. And I even heard a very famous author say that she hires an editor before she gives the book to the publisher to edit. Because they’re not doing the same things that they used to do. So sad. Well Kristen, what else should we know about the EFA? And also, what else do we know about you?
Kristen Tate 29:51
So the EFA–I would say, go check out the website. On the top, there’s a menu item that says ‘Hire A Freelancer,’ and that is where you’ll find everything that I mentioned, including that Hiring Basics link that you mentioned. So there are a lot of resources. So even if you’re just starting to think about it, it’s worth taking a look and seeing what’s there, and just kind of starting to educate yourself a little bit.
Carla King 30:17
And then the Blue Garrett. I want to know–where did that come from, that name?
Kristen Tate 30:21
So I was living in an actual Blue Garret when I started my business. At the top of this little building over in a mission in San Francisco, and I named it after that. So I was kind of getting a fresh start. And that’s where I was living. And I’ve moved, and now I still have a bedroom at the top of my current place that is blue and has the sloped attic walls. Which is when I knew I needed to live in this house. So that’s where it started. That’s special to me. So that’s where you can find me–I’m at bluegarret.com. I have a weekly newsletter. I’m doing deep dive novels studies right now. I’m getting ready, I think, to launch a new project that’s going to be a chapter by chapter breakdown of an Agatha Christie novel next year. So that’s what we’re going to do. So mystery writers out there might want to get on board for that.
Carla King 31:13
Oh, fun. You know, it’s so funny. There’s a lot of memoir, too, that have mystery elements to it, right? I’ve seen more and more. Well, hey, thank you so much for demystifying the editing process, and helping us navigate the EFA. That’s, again, the-efa.org.
Kristen Tate 31:38
Thanks so much, Carla. It was a pleasure.
Carla King 31:40
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 NonfictionAuthorsAssociation.com.
Quotes from our guest
‘It’s worth taking the time in the search to feel really good that you’ve found [an editor] who’s a good fit.’
‘I do think [editing] is a great thing to do at least once in your author career, especially if you think you’re going to write more than one book. You’ll learn a lot about how to put a book together, and also what else the book could be.’
‘It’s not connection so much as it is–do they know that publishing landscape? And do they know the landscape for your genre? Right? Do they know what reader expectations are for your genre? So in a lot of cases, you really do want to find an editor who works on your kind of book.’
We want to hear from you!
Who do you want us to interview? What topics would you like to explore? Take this short survey to let us know!