Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Looking for a Professional Critique or Freelance Editor?

This week my guest is Selena Robins, Freelance Critique Specialist, Editor, Writing Coach, and Teacher. Selena also writes paranormal romantic comedy and romantic suspense.Welcome Selena.

Thank you for the invitation and for the opportunity to introduce my services to your readers.
There are so many kinds of editors; can you briefly describe the difference between an editor that works for a publisher and the services you offer?
My services provide constructive feedback of how I think an editor in a publishing house or agent will react to your manuscript. My feedback includes detailed strengths and weaknesses of your book with suggestions for tightening the strengths and improving the weaknesses, so that the author's work is presented in the best possible light and polished within an inch of its life.

As a freelance critique specialist, I work closely with the author to ensure the plot, conflicts, characters, structure and theme are all well developed.

Editors in a publishing house review manuscripts and select which ones will be published; the majority of the time, editors in a publishing house will simply send a rejection. They also send you an offer and a contract if your book is accepted.

It’s important to note, the difference between a critique and a copy line edit. A copy line editor takes a manuscript which has already been critiqued and polished and corrects the spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

How does a writer know when an editor is needed?

If a writer has been sending out their project to agents and/or editors and receiving rejections, (especially if the rejections have a similar pattern) it would be a good idea to get a professional critique. Often times, I can spot the problem within the first ten pages. Another reason would be an author who has finished a manuscript but doesn’t feel confident about sending it out without having a professional look at it first.

In today’s tough and competitive market, most writers do seek out a professional critique and copy line edit before submitting work. It shows the publisher and/or agent the writer is serious about writing.

It’s important to note: a writer has to be willing to revise their work after receiving the feedback, or they are wasting their money.

How does a writer select the best editor for her/his needs?

Most critique services offer a free critique for the first few pages of a project. If they don’t, then don’t be shy, ask them to read the first few pages. This is helpful for both the critique specialist and the author. The author can get a feel on how this person critiques, and the critique specialist can gauge how much work is going to be needed to shape the manuscript into a publishable state.

If you live in the same area as the critique specialist, ask to meet them. If a meet and greet is not possible, an author can schedule a telephone interview. The author wants to establish a good working relationship with this person, and ask questions. I encourage this type of arrangement, either meet with the author or have a telephone conversation. I also keep in touch via email as much as possible; to let them know what stage I’m at with their work. If I come across a major plot hole, I get in touch with the author and we brainstorm together for a resolution to either a plot hole or perhaps a character that hasn’t been well developed. The lines of communication have to be open and accessible. If the critique specialist is not willing to answer questions, or keep those lines open, then it may not be a good arrangement for the writer.

What about authors who fear an editor will spoil their “voice”?

A good critique specialist will not take the author’s original voice, plot or characters and drastically change them. They shouldn’t twist it to their writing style or voice, or make any major changes without the author’s approval. This is why I emphasize open communication at all times.

In my critiques, I use the tracking tool on Word. I also make comments on the side, so the author can see why I’ve made certain suggestions. If I see grammar and spelling errors during a critique, I correct those and with the tracking tool the writer can see what I’ve done. Also, if I spot repetitive words or phrases, again, I will make some changes, however, the author can choose to reject or accept the changes. I explain why I’ve made the changes, so the author can note this for future writing projects.

A good, professional critique will enhance your voice and make your book stronger, tighter, polished and ready for submission to either an editor or agent.

Any tips on how to work with an editor?

Ask the critique specialist (or editor) for a free evaluation of your first few pages and either a face-to-face interview or telephone interview as I stated above. Once you have decided to work with me (or another service) let her/him know up front what you are willing to do and not willing to do for your novel. Establish turnaround time and price.

Tell me about your critique services.

My services include (one chapter, three chapters or the full manuscript) I provide annotations, suggestions, specific recommendations, and examples throughout the manuscript for:

Check for overuse of similar words
Correct redundant phrases and plot points
Correct passive voice, point out if the story has too much telling and not enough showing
Make suggestions for your dialogue to snap and ensure it’s not stilted
Point out opportunities for your characters to jump off the page and become real so your readers will care about them
Ensure there is no head hopping and that proper point of view is used
    Although a critique isn’t a copy line edit, I’ll mark grammatical and spelling errors.

    My philosophy is, “Never give an editor a reason to reject you.”  For this reason, a solid, polished and well edited submission is necessary. The writer needs to submit a manuscript to not only capture an editor's attention, but to not give that editor a reason for any type of rejection, or if there is a rejection (and at times those rejections can be positive) the writer takes the comments and works with them for a resubmission of their work.

    How should a writer handle a difficult situation with their publisher's editor? Any warning signs?

    One of the things I address when I'm teaching writing is to remember that publishing is a business, and we all must act accordingly. We’re all human, we all have up and down days, and some times a writer may have caught an editor on an off day. This does not excuse bad behavior, but the main objective for all parties is to produce and publish a good, solid read for the reading public.

    However, if it’s an ongoing situation or the rejection letter or other correspondence has an ongoing theme of rudeness, snarkiness or sarcasm, then the writer is better off not working with this publishing house or agent, as it is an example of how they would be treated if they were to work with this agent or editor.

    Publishing is a professional business, writers, editors and agents need to act in a professional manner at all times, even during a rejection.

    If a writer is already contracted and having difficulty with their editor in a publishing house, if they have an agent, he/she would intervene on the writer’s behalf. If the writer doesn’t have an agent, then professional open lines of communication, either by phone or email is the best way to handle it.

    Thanks. Selena, so much for visiting Wordshaping and sharing your advice. 

    Selena Robins is a Freelance Critique Specialist, Editor, Writing Coach, and Teacher. Selena is the published author of short stories, non-fiction articles, children’s book, and a paranormal comedy (Sabrina’s Destiny), which has won reviewers choice awards and a best book (publisher) award. She is a member of International Thriller Writers Association and Capital Crime Writers.

    Selena is currently working on a romantic suspense novel. As an active member of Arts East Association, a dynamic not-for-profit organization, Selena contributes editorials, promotional and marketing ideas to help develop partnerships, audiences, and visibility for fiction writers.

    Selena teaches writing courses – Crafting a Novel and The Business of Writing. As a former
    public relations officer, Selena has a marketing and sales background, and has worked in the media as a radio talk show host.

    Visit Selena Robins author website at:

    For testimonials or for more information, visit Selena’s website or email her directly with any questions.

    Special Offer
    Mention Amber Polo's Wordshaping blog and receive 
    a free evaluation of the 1st 5 pages of your novel.
    Contract Selena to critique a partial or full ms 
    and she will read and offer suggestions for the synopsis 
    at no additional charge.

    “Write with a smile and heart--
    edit with your head and a good critique.”
    ~~Selena Robins


    1. Sounds like a wonderful offer. Where do we send it for the five page evaluation? Gosh this sounds like a great idea. Is it expensive?

    2. Hi Mary,

      Please feel free to email me at and I'll give you instructions on how to send your five pages.

      You can also email me any other questions you may have.

      Selena Robins

    3. Excellent, Selena--I knew portions of your post, but learned a few things, too. Thanks for taking so much time to write a clear, concise blog. I definitely will take advantage of the free five pages offer. Celia

    4. What an interesting post. I like the list of things to edit. That's what I usually pay attention to. Thank you Selena.

    5. Excellent post, Selena.

      I agree with writing with your heart and editing with your head.

    6. I can attest that Lena is a superb editor. :) I've worked with her many times.

      Denise A. Agnew

    7. Thank you, Celia, Mona and Sandy.

      Denise, I always enjoy reading your work, thank you for the kind words.

      Happy Writing everyone!


    8. Thanks for the informative post. Very interesting. How nice of you to offer to read the first 5 pp. I know it helps your business, too, but still. Very generous.


    9. I have a wonderful NY agent and can attest to the fact that much of the advice Selena gives in this article is the SAME advice that I have received from her.

      Thanks, Selena - for helping writers refine their craft.

    10. Thank you, Rebecca and Drue. In this competitive marketplace, I think getting solid advice and support is imperative.

      As I always say, "never give an editor a reason to reject you."

      Happy and successful writing everyone. :)


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