The Writing Sparrow Episode 25 | Your Team of Pros: Your Editor with Briana Morgan

This week, I welcome Briana Morgan back to my podcast. Last time, we talked about social media for writers, but today, we talk about how to find an editor for your book, why you should, and what to know before you hire someone to edit your novel.

To find out more about Briana, check out what services she offers on her  website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript


Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started. 


Sarina: Welcome back, friends and sparrows. Today is the 1st of March 2021. This is Episode 25, and today, Brianna Morgan is back. Last time she was here, we talked about social media for authors. Today, we’re talking about the only reason that I know her, which is that she is my editor and has been from my debut novel. We’ve worked together for, what, roughly five years now? 

Briana: Almost five years. 

Sarina: Yeah. Welcome back.

Briana: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Sarina: Always a pleasure. Most important [00:01:00] thing maybe first, because you’ve just told me that you don’t actually edit anymore. [chuckles] 

Briana: Yes, I’m not editing.

Sarina: This is great. How long have you been an editor?

Briana: Technically, I’ve been editing since college, because I had to take a bunch of workshop classes where we did peer reviews and things like that, but I’ve been getting paid to edit, well, also since college, I guess. That’s been about– 

Sarina: [crosstalk] -that’s now how many years that is? 

Briana: I know, I’m afraid to say [laughs] how many years.

Sarina: [laughs] You’re good. 

Briana: That’s 11 years. 

Sarina: You’ll always be younger than me. [unintelligible [00:01:41]

Briana: Nobody knows how old we are. It’s just floating out there now.

Sarina: Yeah. Shall we just pretend that we’re the twins that we’ve always known we are and just leave it at that?

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: All right. Roughly 11 years, which is impressive, because we’re only 10, so we’ve done very well. [chuckles] [00:02:00] When you were still editing, what did you enjoy about being an editor? 

Briana: I like almost every part of being an editor in terms of actually doing the work, getting into the manuscript, and helping an author polish it and make it into the best story it can be. The only thing I probably didn’t like was the inconsistency. I always wanted more books to read more often.

Sarina: Yeah. It can be difficult because it’s such a thing where I always feel authors should book us in advance a lot more. But in reality, it’s more like, “I’ve just finished my book and I need an editor now.” “What do you mean you’re booked already? That can’t be right. I need you now.” 

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Yeah, I feel that pain. When you said that you enjoyed helping authors make their books the best that they can be, what did that entail exactly? How would you take a [00:03:00] story and make it better?

Briana: First, I would read through the whole thing without making any notes or anything just to get a general overview and a reader experience, so to speak. Then I would go, and typically, I would do a developmental edit, where I look at the structure, the paragraphs, the pacing, things like that, general full picture stuff. After that, I would do a line edit, where I’m looking more at the sentences and sentence structure. Then, I do a copy edit, where I’m just cleaning things up and checking that the periods are where they should be and all of that. Then last but not least, I would do a final proofread.

Sarina: It’s a lot of work involved. [crosstalk] 

Briana: Yes. There are a lot of different stages.

Sarina: Yes. A lot of time as well, it’s such a big time commitment. I’m sure you have quite a few stories to tell. I know I have quite a few. [00:04:00] I can tell from your face that this is going to be great. Without naming anyone or any titles, of course, what’s the hardest job you’ve ever worked on? What made it difficult? Why was it only doing a proofread on my first book when you knew you did more work?


Briana: I couldn’t– I don’t want to upsell to someone who doesn’t want it. I’m not going to try to sell people on more services if they don’t want it. I just assume maybe they’ll come back later like you did and ask for more. [laughs] The hardest book, oh God, this is actually the reason why I now say, “I won’t.” I’ll edit romance, but not just erotica. 

Sarina: Oh great. Go on. 

Briana: Yes. I had this erotica client. He wanted to sell books to get rich, which I thought was very strange on the face of it because writers are not rich.

Sarina: We’re really not. [00:05:00] But I think it’s sort of the dream I think that many of us have, to begin with. Before we learn better, I think that’s one of the things that many of us have in our hearts. But normally, when you then start the writing, and you start really looking at publishing it, I think you’ve realized quite quickly that you may never get rich. 

Briana: True. 

Sarina: I’m very sorry if I’m crushing anyone’s dreams here, but there’s a chance you’ll never be rich. [chuckles] 

Briana: He made a lot of money in his day job and he was just looking for another get-rich-quick scheme, on top of what he already had. I’m trying to be very careful not to name or get close to naming anyone, so it might take a minute. He was writing a book about this woman in Las Vegas, who, I think, she was cheating on her husband or something like that, and there was this private detective following her around. [00:06:00] Then, she ended up sleeping with the private detective and–

Sarina: As you do.

Briana: It was a lot to handle. A lot of suspension of disbelief going on there. He wanted to fight me over everything. The book was too short at first, it was only 10,000 words, which I told him is not really a book. 

Sarina: 10,000. That’s not even a novella. 

Briana: 10,000 is usually when I decide that I am writing a book.

Sarina: Yeah, like you said, write the first 10,000 and see how it goes.

Briana: Yes. I was surprised that that was all, but he would just push back on everything. Really, the biggest problem I had with him was he would not respect my work-life balance, my boundary. 

Sarina: That’s really hard.

Briana: Mm-hmm. 

Sarina: Yeah, I think the hardest thing that I’ve ever had was a client who didn’t [00:07:00] necessarily care that I got sick, and that I had bad days and that I deserved a Christmas break. It’s a sort of similar thing on the respecting your time issue. 

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: This client would constantly say, “Oh, what do you mean you’re still not done? Is this going to take even longer because this is already longer than I thought it would be?” I remember specifically when I told this author that I had burned out pretty severely, and I also had obviously caught a cold at the same time, because why would it just be the one thing. They said to me, “Ah, so will you do this little work every week then?” I thought, “Oh, well–“

Briana: That’s awful.

Sarina: -we won’t be working together again.” 

Briana: Yeah, you don’t want to work with those people. In the beginning, it’s hard, especially you don’t know how appropriate it is to push back. You’re worried about getting paid, you don’t know [00:08:00] if that’s going to be your last job for a while or not.

Sarina: Yeah.

Briana: That’s hard. 

Sarina: I think, especially if you’re trying to do it to make money and to maybe fund your writing, it’s really hard because you possibly end up taking jobs that you– I mean, you kind of do have the time for because it’s your job, and you want to make it work, but having that extra pressure on there doesn’t help and editing is such a time-consuming, really quite stressful thing because I don’t know about you, but when I edit, I really overthink every bloody word. 

Briana: Yeah. I do too. 

Sarina: Yeah. I think I tend to edit one sentence, and then just to make sure that I’ve done a good job. I read over it again, and then I can end up obsessing over it very quickly. On the other hand, that if I edit it for you, you’re going to [unintelligible [00:08:52]

Briana: You spend a lot of time on it. 

Sarina: We do, don’t we? 

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Yeah. I think the lesson there is [00:09:00] that if you are thinking about hiring your first editor, please bear in mind that we have a life outside of your book. I think I saw a thing once on Twitter many years ago where an editor had gone to the beach at the weekend in the summer and their author contacted them saying, “How dare you take a break? You’re still working on my book.” Everyone was like, “But it’s the weekend, it’s the summer. She’s at the beach. Why wouldn’t she go?”

Briana: Yeah. She doesn’t need to be there all the time slaving over your probably bad literary fiction piece.

Sarina: We do other things. 

Briana: Sometimes.

Sarina: Sometimes. Well, yeah, actually are we though because, again, I don’t know about you, but I end up editing everything, including myself. Right now, as we’re talking, I keep thinking, “Really? You’re using that word again? Seriously?”

Briana: You have to turn it off. It’s hard.

Sarina: Yeah, it gets really hard when you start doing your own [00:10:00] transcripts. This right there, big red dot, what am I doing? Can’t I spell? What’s wrong with me? You really realize when you’re doing your transcripts just how often you repeat yourself. 

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: That’s a nightmare. I do have another question from ourselves, but we also have three questions from social media today. Actually, let’s do those ones first. I’m going to move that one down. I think it’ll fit better at the end. Our first question is from @djbwriter on Instagram. “Do either one of us have literary agents? The struggle is real?” That it is DJB, that it is. That’s not technically related to editing, but–

Briana: Kind of. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: I think it’s quite common for writers to wonder how much editing they should do before they query. Let’s run with that. I don’t have an agent, neither do you.

Briana: Right. I would just say [00:11:00] if you are considering, you don’t– for publishing, there is more than one path of publishing, you can go self-pub or you can go traditional pub, I’m sure that has been covered before on this podcast. So, I’m not going to go too much into that, but you don’t need an agent.

Sarina: You know what? I haven’t.

Briana: You haven’t? 

Sarina: I have not. 

Briana: Oh.

Sarina: I’m going to make a note. You keep talking, I’m going to make a note, because I’m not sure– [crosstalk] 

Briana: Okay. Basically, all I was going to say is that you don’t need an agent to publish. If you’re self-publishing, you don’t need to. Even if you’re publishing with a small independent press, you don’t need to. There are ways to get around that. But if you are interested in preparing work for a literary agent to review, and maybe represent you with, you can book an editor, you can get a full edit, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from doing that. But it is not necessary if you are traditionally publishing [00:12:00] because when you get traditionally published, your agent will work with you to edit it first, and then when your book is picked up by a publishing house, their editor will go through it. It will be torn apart by other people. Like I said, if you still want a professional edit ahead of querying, that’s fine. Go ahead and do it, but don’t ever let anyone tell you, you have to get one, because it’s not true.

Sarina: There used to be quite a lot of stigma around self-publishing. Maybe that’s part of DJB’s concern that– It really is a struggle to get an agent for many reasons.

Briana: It is.

Sarina: It used to be that a lot of readers still looked down on self-published authors, but I think that stigma is slowly dying. 

Briana: Oh, yeah.

Sarina: Slowly. It’s getting there. Don’t feel that you have to traditionally publish at all. [00:13:00] That wasn’t your question, but to answer it, neither one of us has an agent and I think we’re quite happy with that. 

Briana: No. 

Sarina: I can’t speak for Bri, but I’m a control freak. 

Briana: It doesn’t make sense for where I see my career going and where I want my career to go for me to have an agent. If in the future, I was presented with an opportunity where it made sense, I wouldn’t turn it down necessarily. Basically, if it made sense with my plan, I would go with it. But right now, it doesn’t make sense with the plan.

Sarina: Yeah. I always say that I am technically open to the idea of having an agent at some point, but I feel like it would need to be a very lenient agent-

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: -and a very cooperative publishing house because I would want to stay in control of a lot of the process, which I don’t think really comes with that package. 

Briana: No. That’s one of the best reasons to be indie is you [00:14:00] get a say in everything. I would imagine going from that to trad pub where you don’t get a say in very much would be pretty challenging.

Sarina: Yeah, I think it would be quite difficult. I hope that answers your question, DJB. The next question comes from gambit190 on Twitter. “When you’re writing, regardless if it’s the rough draft or later revisions, do you recommend just writing or editing as you go?” 

Briana: This is a tricky question just because I would say that it varies depending on you as a person. I personally advise my writing consultation clients and my friends who ask about this, I advise them not to edit as they go just because a lot of early writers can get caught up in perfectionism and the idea of trying to make a page so perfect that they can’t move on and finish their book. But if you have been editing as you go the whole time, [00:15:00] and you’re still finishing books and putting them out there, then by all means keep doing that. Again, it really just is a matter of what works best for you, but typically, I would say try not to edit as you go because you can get stuck on the same book for years and years and years.

Sarina: Yeah. I have certainly the [unintelligible [00:15:18], I think my advice is pretty much the same as yours. I am someone who prefers to just get the whole first draft out, get it done, and then I tend to let it rest for at least a month before I come back to it. I put it into my little proofing drawer, and then there it stays until I eventually can bear to look at it again. I find that works best for me because then when I come back to it, you’ll never look at your book with fresh eyes anyway, because you’ve written it and you know everything that happens in there and everything that could have happened. But I find that when you give it a break before you start editing, it really helps you look at it with as [00:16:00] fresh eyes as you can get. 

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Which was terrible grammar, my inner editor tells me.

Briana: I’m not going to edit that. Don’t worry about it.

Sarina: Thank you very much. I am hard enough [unintelligible [00:16:13]. One more question, also from Twitter from Gracethewriter8, “When is the right time to start searching for an editor? First draft? When you’re further along?” 

Briana: This is also going to depend on your process. I know people who like to submit their first draft to an editor and I would strongly urge you not to do that because number one, I think you’re depriving yourself of a lot if you don’t learn how to self-edit, if you don’t do the work that it takes, at least part of the way to make your story into a real book. The other thing is that– I don’t know, some people can work off [00:17:00] just one draft and they barely make any changes and it’s good, it’s done. But if you know you need extensive drafts, like you’re going to need at least two or three rounds of editing changes, beta readers, all of that, I would urge you to start basically as soon as possible.

If you have been publishing for longer, you should have a better idea of timelines about, how long it takes you to write a book, so this step should be pretty easy, because you can probably estimate. If you are brand new, I would say maybe once the first draft is done and you’ve done a draft, maybe then you can look for an editor.

Sarina: Yeah. I don’t know if this will help at all but normally what I do, or what I do now, after already having published six books and my process used to be completely different as you know, back when I only got to proofread. Please don’t do that, by the way. It’s terrible idea. At the very least, you want a developmental edit, a line edit, [00:18:00] and proofread on your first book. Don’t forget beta readers and critique partners because I have beta readers, but I didn’t even know that critique partners were a separate thing at the time. 

Briana: Yes. [laughs] 

Sarina: I hope that you already know better than I do. What I do these days is that, as I said, I tend to let it rest for a bit. Then, I do my own first round of big edits, which is generally developmental things and line editing. Sometimes, it needs a second big round as well, depending on just how bad a shape the first draft was in. Then it goes to critique partners. Then, I go over it again. Then, I send it to Briana. At that point, I’ve already edited it a few times, because I think that by that point, A, I have gone over it myself. As you said, if you don’t do that, you’ll deprive yourself of that opportunity to learn how to self-edit, which is quite important. [00:19:00] I always think that if you do some self-editing, then you will ultimately get a tighter professional edit. It’s sort of not seeing the wood for the trees thing. You can either go in and there’s a million things wrong with it, and your editor will do their best to address all of it. But the more there is, the harder it’ll be to really get everything the same kind of time. Whereas if you’ve already done as much of it as you can, it’ll be a lot easier and it‘ll be a lot tidier at the end of it.

Briana: Exactly. I would also say– I would hope this goes without saying, but I have seen some things that make me believe it’s not, it doesn’t, don’t send an editor something you haven’t finished.

Sarina: That’s what happened to you?

Briana: Yes. 

Sarina: Oh. 


Briana: A few times. 

Sarina: I don’t know what to say to that. I didn’t know it happened.

Briana: Yeah, they send me part of the book and then they’re like, “Basically, I just want to know if I should keep writing.” [00:20:00] Then, I just don’t really know what to say to that or why they– [crosstalk] 

Sarina: No, hang on. I sent you my last draft, which at the moment– [crosstalk] 

Briana: That’s different. 

Sarina: That’s different, is it? [laughs] 

Briana: It’s different because that was a manuscript evaluation, and we have a different relationship, because I know your process and how your brain works, but if it’s an author who’s never published anything, and they’re like, “I just started writing, and I wrote three chapters yesterday. Here, look at them and edit them.”

Sarina: That’s too early. 

Briana: That’s not good. 

Sarina: That is way too early.

Briana: I would also say at that stage, you’re probably too fragile to maybe listen to constructive criticism. It’s one of the hardest parts. You need to find an editor who’s good at giving that, but you also need to be able to hear that maybe work isn’t as beautiful as you think it is, sometimes.

Sarina: Yeah, I’d say if you can get a sample edit of a potential editor, then that’s a good idea, because you’ll really get a feel for how they work because not every editor is the same. [00:21:00] We all work in slightly different ways. I know that Briana and I are quite similar in that because we both tend to also put in a lot of compliments. 

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: We also tend to put in some things that might make it a bit more fun and take the pain away. I always think that it’s quite important as well to make you aware of what you’re good at because you can– 

Briana: [crosstalk]

Sarina: Obviously, you should work on your weaknesses as a writer, but you think if you know what your strengths are, then that’s also something that you can further build on, which is also good.

Briana: An important thing to remember at the end of the day, most editors want to help you keep writing and write more books. They’re not out there to discourage you or stop you from writing. If an editor ever makes you feel so bad about your work, that you want to stop writing forever, you should not be working without an editor. It’s toxic. 

Sarina: But also, maybe consider of what the editor saying, maybe does have a point, you maybe [00:22:00] just weren’t quite ready, maybe.

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: I feel I need to be very careful there, but I do feel a lot of writers, especially with the first book, we can be very protective.

Briana: Yes, absolutely. I was.

Sarina: I was.

Briana: You were too. [laughs] 

Sarina: Also, the really weird thing was my first ever book and you haven’t even seen that one. I didn’t think we still had it until my partner one day told me that he still has it somewhere on his hard drive. It’s like, “What? I thought we burned the thing.” 

Briana: [laughs] 

Sarina: Apparently, we haven’t. I didn’t know that. When I wrote that book, it had so many mistakes in every shape. English isn’t my first language, so they were quite a few things in there where I hadn’t quite caught on yet to the various phrases and everything. 

Briana: English is hard. 

Sarina: Not as hard as German, I assure you. [laughs] 

Briana: Well, yes. I can’t speak German, so I don’t know.

Sarina: Well, to be fair, I’ve lost a lot of it, so I technically can’t speak it all that well [00:23:00] anymore either, to the great amusement to my mother. 


Sarina: He went over it for me, and he would find out things, like, “Oh, the grandmother, that’s not quite how the saying goes,” and I got very defensive about it. So, if that’s something that you’re still doing, then maybe leave it a bit longer before you ask an editor to come over it.

Briana: Yes. That’s why you mentioned critique partners, it’s a great time to bring in critique partners, you can help them improve their writing, and they can help you improve yours.

Sarina: Yeah, but also, again, I’d be aware maybe with who you ask. Your best friend you meet all the time maybe isn’t the best person to give helpful feedback on something that you’ve written because your best friend probably wants to make you happy, is probably just super proud that you have written the book. She may not necessarily tell you that the structure is often various points because she may not know.

Briana: Critique partners should [00:24:00] be other authors in some capacity. I like to grab a bunch of different authors from– I try to get some that are trad pubbed and some that are self-pubbed. I try to get people who have one or two books under their belt and people who have like 12, just so there’s a nice spread. I say that, but I didn’t use critique partners at all last year. So, I’m not sure if that’s even still my process anymore, but I think it’s a good process, so I’m going to put that out there. 

Sarina: Our processes change all the time anyway. They’re fluid things. 

Briana: When you change your process, if you decide down the road that you would like to try a different editor, that’s fine too. It’s like any other professional relationship. If it’s not working out, you can always just go your separate ways.

Sarina: Yeah, not all editors edit every genre either. If you’ve been writing romance, and you’ve been having the same editor for that, and then maybe one day you decide to [00:25:00] maybe write more heavy erotica, for example, then that’s something that not that many editors are willing to work with. Don’t assume that your current editor will be happy to do it just because you’ve already been working with them. Some editors are very picky about the genres they work with. That’s something to consider. Do your research. 

The ideal answer to that is that you can technically be too early to hire an editor. Self-edit yourself at least one, and maybe get some critique partners on there and then see if maybe you already know an editor, maybe you’ve been following someone on Twitter you’ve had in mind. If you’re not sure, if you’re too early, you can always ask them. I’m sure they won’t mind answering that question and helping you from there.

Briana: I’ve gotten asked that question several times, I’m fine with that. I’m usually just like, “Yeah, it’s too early,” or, “No, it’s not.” That’s it. It’s [00:26:00] not a big deal at all.

Sarina: There you go. We’re friendly people. 


Sarina: To come back to my question so I don’t forget it. What’s something you wish writers knew before they hired the editor? 

Briana: Oh. The biggest one is probably one I already mentioned. The editor is not out to get you. Especially with a lot of first-time novelists, there is, I feel, a lot of hostility, like they think that I am trying to break their work and tear it apart and upset them and bring them down. For me, personally, that is never what I want to do as an editor. These are some editors, I’m sure, who are harsher than I am and good for them if that works. For me, and the clients I work with, that kind of relationship would not work. I think just being aware of that they are trying to make your [00:27:00] book better. Not all editors, some editors are garbage, and they are just bad. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to find those.

Sarina: No. Again, if you can get a sample edit to get a first impression before you hire someone, then that’s a good route to go. Also, chances are they’ll have a website. They might have some testimonials on there. I think I would possibly be quite wary of an editor who says that they’ve been working for, say 10 years, but they have no testimonials to back that up. I think I’d be worried about something like that.

Briana: Yeah. I would also be worried if someone tells you, “I have all these references,” and you reach out to the references and they seem really reluctant, even if they’re not openly bad-mouthing the editor, because all of my clients when I’ve used them as references, all I hear back is people who are excited to work with me. [00:28:00] I don’t know, if someone was lukewarm, I think I would feel a little weird about it.

Sarina: Yeah, think I would possibly then wonder why they’re kind of choosing the words very carefully. 

Briana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. 

Sarina: Yeah. I think that would definitely make me quite worried. I feel like I had something else but I forgot what it is. 

Briana: Oh, no. 

Sarina: Oh, yeah. No. As you said, editors are not out to get you. To that, I would add that, remember that you hire your editor because they’re a professional who knows what they’re doing.

Briana: Yes. 

Sarina: You’re not hiring someone without any kind of credentials, without any testimonials, hopefully, anyway, you can trust that they know what they’re doing. Whereas, especially if it’s your first book, you can generally assume that they might know a little bit better than you do, just because they’ve been doing it for so much longer. A good editor will really lay structure and how to improve on that. 

Briana: Exactly. 

Sarina: Yeah, I think if you’re not [00:29:00] sure about anything at all that your editor suggests, I would be happier if my authors discussed it with me and we could then talk about it and I could explain why I’m doing this because I find that many of my authors want to learn. They are very open to that feedback. I can then see in the next book that they’re doing better, which is great, and I love seeing that. 

Briana: I love seeing that too.

Sarina: Yeah, so instead of fighting your editor and everything, remember that you’ve hired them to do a job, and that job isn’t to make you happy or even to like your book. That’s one thing I see quite often, is that, “Oh, I hope you like my book,” “You’re not really paying me to like your book.” If what you want to hear is just that there’s nothing wrong with it and you’ve done a great job then, that’s not really the point of it. 

Briana: Go show it to one of your parents for free.

Sarina: Yeah, I guarantee they will be impressed. Well, hopefully they will be anyway. It doesn’t always work, but hopefully [00:30:00] they’ll be. Finally, do you have any advice for writers about to hire their first editor or, maybe someone moving on from a bad experience?

Briana: Oh, I feel like I have so many. The biggest thing I would say is do your research. Like Sarina said, if it’s an editor says that they have so much experience, but then they can’t name any of their clients or anything like that. That’s a little suspicious. What you want to do is see if they’ve worked with clients, if they’ve had testimonials, if they do have the testimonials, maybe try reaching out to those people and getting an idea of their experience. Get a sample edit, for sure. Those should be free. I’ve seen a few that weren’t free, but I feel they should be free. 

Sarina: It’s quite weird, I think if they’re paid because it’s a sampler.

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: When you’re in a supermarket, and they give you a new kind of cheese to try, “By the way, that’s five quid.” “What?” [00:31:00]

Briana: Which you’ve already eaten it. There’s no– 


Briana: Editing can be quite expensive. If no one’s told you that I’m sorry, it can be. You don’t necessarily want to go with the most expensive option, but you also don’t want to go with the cheapest. If you can find a range and find somebody in that range that you feel comfortable with, that’s what I would advise. You don’t have to spend $4,000 or £4000 pounds on an editor.

Sarina: That’s right. [crosstalk] 

Briana: I’ve seen that quote before. Yes, I’ve seen people with that quote before. Likewise, you also shouldn’t expect to get a full developmental edit and everything for $100. It’s not going to work out. [laughs] 

Sarina: No. The reason for that is that, as you said earlier, there’s a lot of time and skill and nerves and patience [00:32:00] that goes into doing even just one round of edits. Developmental edits take quite a lot of effort because we have to look at the structure and make sure that everything flows together well. We need to make sure that there are no potholes or paradoxes, and any of that fun stuff. With line edits, we literally obsess over every single sentence. I can use literally here because I know that I really do obsess over every sentence, sometimes more than once. If you get a quote from someone who says that they can do what’s basically several months’ work that they can do it in a week and they do for 50 quid, that’s not someone you want to work with. 

Briana: That’s a red flag. 

Sarina: Yeah, they will not do a thorough job. 

Briana: You tend to get what you pay for in publishing, and all the negative aspects.


Sarina: Yeah. Again, ask for a sample edit. If you’re looking at more than one editor, ask all of them for a sample, compare, see what [00:33:00] suits you the most because this could be a very long relationship for you. 

Briana: Absolutely.

Sarina: You need to make sure you’re compatible, like we are. 

Briana: Yes. 

Sarina: There you are. This is what you want. You want a Bri and Sarina relationship. [laughs] 

Briana: It’s perfect, basically. [laughs] 

Sarina: Pretty perfect.

Briana: I mean, Sarina and I are also friends, but if there’s something wrong with her book, I can tell her and she understands that I’m a professional, and I know what I’m doing and I’m not telling her because I want her to feel bad or anything like that. I’m telling her because I want the book to be good.

Sarina: Yeah. If you had told me to burn Dreamer [unintelligible [00:33:40], I would have burned it. I’d have been, “All right.”

Briana: I didn’t tell you that though, because I’m not mean.

Sarina: But you did mean it?


Briana: No. 

Sarina: You just wanted to be nice about it?

Briana: No, I don’t think you should burn it. 

Sarina: Good. Thanks. 

Briana: I think I think it’s promising. 

Sarina: That’s good to hear. [00:34:00] We were client and editor first, that’s how we got to know each other. If you pick your editor right, then you can possibly also get a new friend out of it, which is nice.

Briana: That’s true. I think I’m friends with almost all of my clients. 

Sarina: Yeah, I am. 

Briana: That’s weird, I’ve never really thought about that.

Sarina: No, I haven’t, but you end up working so close together, especially if you end up working with the same editor over several years, and they end up doing your developmental edits and manuscript critiques, and line edits, and all that good stuff, they do work together an awful lot, and you almost can’t help getting to know each other. [crosstalk] 

Briana: Absolutely. 

Sarina: I think we’ll end on that heartwarming note. Thank you very much for coming back and answering all of my questions about editing. Thank you so much.

Briana: Thank you.

Sarina: And have a good night. Bye-bye. 

Briana: Bye.



Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, at Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course, on my website at Until next time, bye.

Support this podcast on Patreon.

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Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 24 | Your Team of Pros: An Overview

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking to my editor, my cover designer, and my cartographer about what they do and why they’re important to authors. Today, I give you a little overview so you know what to expect and to give you a first idea of why you need these pros on your team.

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Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started. 


Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the 22nd March, this is Episode 24, and before we start today I just want to very quickly say first that a few days ago I had an email informing that this little podcast is somehow ranking #32 in Canada, so erm, hello Canada! I’m so thrilled that I have so many listeners over there, this is very exciting. And… welcome!


NOW, today I want to tell you about the three most important pros you can hire for your book: your editor, your cover designer, and, if you’re writing something set in a world of your own creation, your cartographer – or as I call it, the Holy Trinity of Authoring. Over the following weeks, I’ll be talking to my own team, one pro per episode, so you can hear from them directly, but today I just wanted to give you an overview.


Pro #1: Your Editor

Say it with me, friends: I need an editor. Once more for the people in the back: I. Need. An. Editor! Why? Because it’s notoriously hard to edit your own words. Hell yeah you know your own book better than anyone else – that’s the problem. You’re biased. You know the story so well your brain fills in the gaps.

Now, I may be biased here because I’m an editor myself, but there’s an art to doing a thorough developmental edit, for example, if you ask me. There’s a lot of skill involved. It takes a lot of time, sometimes nerves, and patience to do a developmental edit followed by a line edit followed by a proofread, and whatever else you might need. This isn’t something you can wing. This isn’t something you can shove at the cheapest bidder and hope for the best.


I especially recommend a full edit of all of the above when it’s your first book or you’ve never worked with an editor before. There’s a lot you can learn from this work relationship!

I’ve once read that, your editor… It’s almost like, or it’s similar to a marriage relationship because you’ll be working so close together, and by the end of it, by the time you publish your book, you will both know your book probably exactly the same. So, it’s an important step, and it’s not one you should be skipping.


When I published my debut novel Rise of the Sparrows, I only got a proofread. If you didn’t cringe at that, bless your inexperienced heart. You will soon know why that was a terrible idea. Fast forward a few years, and I re-published Rise of the Sparrows because I was an idiot and only got a proofread in 2016. Fear not, it’s now got the full works, but at the time, Cale’s horse changed gender and I didn’t notice – and neither did my beta readers or my critique partners. Look, if your horse wants to change gender at any point, that is totally fine as long as it’s explained, but it turns out if your horse starts off as male, and then partway through the stories starts being referred to as a female, and maybe then at some point becomes a male again without any explanation whatsoever, that’s a little bit confusing for your readers. So if you think you’re the only editor your book needs because you’ve written it, think on Barnaby, the gender changing horse. Don’t think this can happen to you? Think again. Or learn the hard way. Either way.


Pro #2: Your Cover Designer

Don’t trust the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, because we all do. How do you think you choose which book you buy when you enter a bookstore? What’s the first thing you see? It’s not the blurb. It’s not the first line. It’s the cover. It’s what makes you go over there, pick up the book, and investigate further, but first the cover needs to drag you in.

Many new writers think they can easily do this themselves, but it’s not as simple as just quickly throwing something together. Your cover is your first impression on a potential reader, and if it doesn’t get their attention in a good way, they’ll keep looking.


Cover designers bear all kinds of things in mind when they’re designing your cover, from backgrounds to colours to the right fonts. Not every font works for every genre, for example—if you look on your shelf, the epic fantasy books likely look very different to the historical romances or the crime novels, and there’s a reason for that.

Cover designers know what works and why it works, and that’s why you want one on your team.

The free cover creator you can use on Amazon is not a substitute. It might be okay to use if you just quickly need a cover for, say, your NaNo project, but I don’t recommend it for any serious marketing or publishing. You want something personal for your cover that really sings of your author voice and the story and the genre and your target audience, and a program just can’t cough up anything that combines all of those into one stunning cover that’s unique to you. Besides, anyone can use it. You want something that’s personal to you and your book. You don’t want something that makes people shrug and move on when they see it—you want something that makes them want your book.


Pro #3: Your Cartographer

If you write a book set in our world, you may not need a cartographer. If your book is set in London or New York, for example, and your readers want to get a feel for the layout of the city or the whole country, it doesn’t take much to find a map on Google. But if you’ve created a whole world from scratch, your readers can’t do that.

Here’s why including a map is a good idea: a professional map will almost always make a great second impression (that’s second after your cover, of course!). Many readers like to refer to a map as they read to help them get their bearings, and if you’ve created your own world, then there’s no other way for them to do that. It’s also become pretty normal for epic fantasy novels to include a map, so if you don’t have one, chances are your readers will notice.


Again, designing a map for your world isn’t as simple or as quick as throwing something together. A lot of consideration needs to go into this, and some of that has to do with how the world works. Sounds dramatic, but it’s really very simple. Say, if you want to have rivers that flow uphill in your epic fantasy, that’s fine, but there needs to be a very good reason for it. However, if you want to have a river that flows uphill in Northern Hampshire, for example, then that’s not gonna happen, because that’s not something that happens in nature. A good cartographer will see your error in your sketch, let you know why it doesn’t work, and fix it for you.

A map of your world also looks pretty good on your wall, so it’s also pretty good art and a good conversation starter next time you have friends over.

And that’s it for today! Next week I will kick things off by welcoming Briana Morgan back onto my podcast to talk about what goes into editing your book and why you need it. Until then, friends! Bye bye! Have a good week!


If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, at Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time, bye.

Support this podcast on Patreon.

This transcript was done by Sarina Langer.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

Sarina Langer