ATIE BROGAN IS A FREELANCE EDITOR and former editor of Writer's Market, Writer's Market Deluxe Edition, and Guide to Literary Agents. She was also the associate editor of Writer's Digest magazine, and the executive editor of Publishing Success, a special interest publication focusing on self-publishing and electronic-publishing.
Brogan is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in English and concentrations in English literature, journalism, and women's studies.
She is an accomplished speaker and also a published freelance writer whose nonfiction has appeared in Cincinnati Women Magazine, Writer's Digest, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, and The Complete Handbook for Novel Writers.
Katie lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Jeff, and their son, Ryan.
How did you get to the role of Editor? Did you begin as a writer, or did editing grab you from the beginning?
I've always been very passionate about the English language and the written word, so publishing has always been a natural fit for me. While I always wanted to be a writer, I quickly learned that being a full-time writer doesn't always pay the bills-which is why I turned to editing as a career. I think I'll always have the dream of being a writer; I just need to find the time and resources to make that happen.
How are editing and writing very different skill sets?
There are many wonderful editors, who are also wonderful writers, but the majority of editors edit and writers write. Editors have to be very critical of manuscripts because they know that it takes more than just a good idea to sell a manuscript.
What makes the good editors good?
Good editors are good because they understand the publishing industry, they know how to work well with writers, and they know the difference between a good manuscript and a fantastic manuscript.
What do you like best about being an Editor?
My answer to this question applies to both when I was the editor of Writer's Market and to my current role as a freelance editor. The best part of being an editor is working with a writer to help him/her recognize their full potential.
Can you tell us what it meant for you to find a good story by a new writer?
I am always excited when I edit a well-written manuscript that illustrates the writer's understanding of his/her audience, the mechanics of grammar, and the passion for what was written.
What would be the most significant advice you could give a new writer?
I am not sure if I can give "significant" advice, but I can tell writers that it is important to have a good salable idea that you passionately believe in, and then write the manuscript. Make sure you understand the mechanics of grammar and that you learn to ruthlessly edit your manuscript before you submit it.
Some aspiring writers really feel that a good idea is everything and how they write it doesn't matter. What's your response to that?
It is important to have good ideas, but if you cannot communicate those ideas effectively through writing, then the idea is worthless. Bottom-line: The root of the word "writer" is "write."
When you first sit down to read someone's story...can you pretty much tell right away if the whole piece warrants further attention?
If a manuscript is obviously well beyond the standard word length, poorly written, and littered with grammatical and spelling errors, I will immediately reject the manuscript and decline establishing a working relationship with the writer.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are still on the far side of the 'published' barrier? What do you feel are the most important things to work on?
It is important that aspiring writers do their homework about the publishers to which they hope to submit their manuscript. By that, I mean the writer needs to take the time to look through guidebooks and submission guidelines, and understand what each publisher is looking for-subject, word length, types of books published, etc.
What do you look for in a new submission? What makes a story stand out for you?
I don't edit fiction, only nonfiction. So, when a potential client approaches me, I look for book subjects that pique my interest. I can edit any nonfiction manuscript, but I am particularly drawn to manuscripts that explore women's issues, family issues, medical conditions, and spirituality.
If a writer continues to collect rejections from New York publishers, what would you suggest?
Keep trying! I would also encourage the writer to submit his/her manuscript to smaller, but still appropriate publishers. Many writers consider this a "step down," but oftentimes it is necessary if they want to get their manuscript published.
What do you see as the most common problems in submissions?
Right now, I think the most common problem with a manuscript, itself, is wordiness. Too many writers think they need to tell a story in as many words as possible, when in reality, the shorter, the better. I encourage writers to self-edit a number of times before attempting to submit their manuscript. As far as the biggest mistake writers make when submitting their manuscript is that they don't take the time to research their prospective markets.
What's your opinion concerning the trend where people are reading their books on PDA or have the audio for IPODs or MP3s?
I personally prefer paper to electronics, and I think many people still agree with me. While I think more and more people will continue to embrace technological advances like PDA's, e-readers, etc., I still think there will be a need and a love for physically holding a book or newspaper.
The role of the editor is always changing. Can you describe what a typical day is for you, and describe an editor's responsibilities?
I don't really have a typical day for work. I actually do most of my editing when my son is napping or in the evening, after my husband gets home from work. The responsibilities of an editor vary depending on the editor and the services he/she offers. For me, personally, I provide content editing, line editing, proofreading, and indexing services. Before working with a freelance editor, I encourage writers to understand exactly what services the editor offers and what the editor's definition is of each service.
Since writers have only one chance to impress an editor, what tips would you give to perfect the query letter?
The query letter is the most important first impression you'll make on an editor. A writer might have the best manuscript in the world, but if he/she cannot sell the idea to the editor, no one will ever know the true greatness of the manuscript. Some things to remember when writing a query:
Spell check the letter at least two times
Make sure you are sending the letter to the appropriate editor
Spell the editor's name correctly
Keep the letter to one page
Many writers feel that editors are less involved in the editorial process these days. How involved are you with your writers?
As a freelance editor, I am 100 percent involved with my writers-I have to be, that's my job! Communication is key between my client and me. It is inherent that we have an open, honest working relationship if we want to get a job done.
Is it better for a writer to use an agent, or handle the submissions themselves?
It depends on what the writer wants. If a writer wants his/her manuscript published by one of the major New York publishers, then he/she MUST have an agent-New York publishers won't look at a manuscript that doesn't come from an agent. If the writer just wants his/her manuscript published, then there are many reputable publishers who will happily look at submissions that come directly from the writer.
What are you doing right now?
Chasing after a very active 17-month-old while also trying to take care of my husband, our house, a feisty cat, and myself-and enjoying every minute of it. In addition to those things, I also work from home as an editor, and as the alumni newsletter editor and yearbook advisor for a local high school.
As an editor, you must be an avid reader-what kind of publications/books are you reading right now?
Do board books count? If so, my favorites are Brown Bear, Brown Bear and any Winnie the Pooh stories! When I have a spare minute, I enjoy reading magazines like First for Women and For You . If I actually find a block of time, I enjoy books by Jodi Piccoult, Nicholas Sparks, and James Patterson.
Belated congratulations regarding your son. He must be a huge joy in your life. We're sure that is a full time job in itself. So, how are you handling being a wife, stay-at-home mom, and freelancing?
You know, I don't know how I'm handling it! Seriously, though, my son is the best thing to ever happen to my husband and me, and it is so important to both of us that I stay at home with him. I enjoy being a stay-at-home mom and have used the time management skills that I learned when I was a member of the corporate world to balance being a wife, a mother, and an editor.
Katie's concluding thoughts for WOW! readers:
I encourage all writers to follow your heart and the ideas in your heart, but make sure you understand your audience and the market to which you want to sell your manuscript. It's not enough to wish to have your book published, you have to be proactive and make it happen. Unfortunately, publishing is a very competitive industry, so it's up to the writer to be his/her own coach, cheerleader, and, most importantly, critic.
WOW! 's closing comments:
Katie, thank you, for sharing your experience, knowledge, and most of all, your heart. You've made this a "bookmark this" column. We know everyone will enjoy this as much as we did working with you.
If you're looking for a freelance editor, why not go with the best!
Email Katie: firstname.lastname@example.org