I have been an editor for more than 30 years, spending some of that time on staff and some of it as an independent contractor. Before founding the Sharp Pencil Editorial Services in 2003, I worked for a number of book publishers, several newspapers, and a website. The skills and experience I picked up in each field allow me to feel comfortable today with a variety of formats and subject areas.
Although the bulk of my projects as a staff editor were in consumer health, I’m considered a general trade book editor. I’ve worked with materials on health, nutrition, dieting, cooking, fitness, pregnancy and childbirth, parenting, relationships, psychology, self-help, lifestyle, politics, mind/body/spirit, and pet care. In fiction, I’ve edited mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, fantasy, LGBT, and young adult manuscripts. I’ve edited nonfiction books, novels, magazine articles, short stories, and website content, and I’ve proofread enough galleys to send my eye doctor on a summer-long junket around Europe.
I spent a number of years working for a certain publisher who felt that once he acquired a manuscript from an author, it was his to do with as he pleased. He hovered over the editors’ shoulders, directing them to slash whole chapters, write new sections themselves, and just generally reword and rework for no other reason than that he wanted it. As a writer, I felt flabbergasted, and as an editor representing my authors, I felt infuriated. Today, as an independent editor, I hold the author’s work sacred.
When I edit a manuscript, I fix problems. I correct misspellings, improve clarity, replace wrong words, and so on. What I don’t do is change something just because I prefer it a different way. It’s not my manuscript. As a writer, I’ve had it done to my work. My response is always the same: If you feel that strongly, don’t read my manuscript. Go write your own!
When I work on a manuscript, I always remember who is the author and who is the editor. I always remember whose words I’m working on and why.
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“A meticulous, caring editor, Elaine is a real pro who knows how to take a book from the idea to the finished product, applying professional standards with compassion every step of the way.”
—Michaela Hamilton, Editor in Chief, Citadel Press, and Executive Editor, Kensington Publishing