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Really Good Editing

back when i was just starting to shift this blog from a personal review archive into a place where i could share up and coming titles with others, i met Harrison from Bancroft Press. and by met i mean he approved me to read a book on NetGalley and then proved himself to be awesome beyond all belief.

so awesome, in fact, he did a little interview with me that was super insightful and helpful.

so when he told me he was starting a new project, i was SUPER happy to be a part of it. instead of me telling you what it's all about, allow the man to speak for himself.

Harrison: I'm launching a new enterprise called Really Good Editing. Really Good Editing is my freelance editing business. I'm not leaving Bancroft, but I mean to spend half my time there and half my time working one on one with writers, ideally providing extremely in-depth developmental editing for mostly works of fiction.
I think every would-be author needs a serious edit, and I'm hoping Really Good Editing comes to represent that for a great many people.

Lisa:  I like to think I know what an editor's job is, but I really don't. For those of us who have no idea what editors do (me), can you give a brief rundown of what an editor does?

Harrison: What an editor does varies a lot from company to company, and publisher to publisher, and even job to job. But a lot of people have the perception that editing is just correcting spelling and adding commas, and that’s not what I do at all. Or, rather, I do that, but it’s only a small part of the job.

Most simply, an editor does everything he can to make the manuscript he’s working with as strong as possible. A developmental editor like me will analyze story, structure, character, logic, and virtually everything about a piece of writing that is good or bad, diagnose the problems, and help the author understand the problems and what can be done about them.

Alongside exploring the bigger issues, I will fix sentences, cut unnecessary passages, move things around, and pretty much do whatever I can to the text itself beyond the substantive changes the author will have to do.

And of course, after that, the author will make changes and send back a new draft, and we do it all again. I’ve spent as long as two years editing single manuscripts in various drafts. Editing can be a very long job.

Lisa: What's the best part of your job, and the part of your job that you absolutely loathe?

Harrison: Since I started freelancing, I have rediscovered just how much I love purely editing. It’s downright meditative for me. I love sitting back and working with a manuscript, and I love figuring out how to help the author take the next step toward a finished product. It’s part creativity, part problem-solving, and for me it’s an ideal combination.

The part I hate is marketing. Marketing is actually one of the main reasons I’m shifting toward freelance editing. It’s an exhausting struggle, fighting for the success of books you’ve worked with for so long, and while that struggle isn’t typically part of the editor’s job, it is when you work at a small press. I believe in my books and want to do everything I can to help them, but I don’t enjoy the fight.

I think freelancing requires less marketing, but it’s still necessary. Otherwise, how is anyone to know Really Good Editing exists? So I’m looking forward to the day when I have enough clients that I don’t really need to worry about promoting myself.

Lisa: How much impact does an editor have on the finished product?
Harrison: That varies project to project. Every now and then, you’ll see a manuscript that’s already pretty close to finished, or one for which the changes are mainly a means of bringing out the incredible novel that’s already there. Other times, a manuscript will simply require a ton of work to reach its full potential, and on her own, the author may not know how to get there. Most don't.

In the latter case, a good editor will have a major impact on the finished product—but it will still be the author’s work, completely and entirely. One of the greatest thrills for me as an editor is when an author use a suggestion I made in a highly inventive way I’d never have imagined. I think that indicates the relationship between writer and editor.

Lisa: As a freelance editor, what makes what you're doing unique or different from editors affiliated with publishers?

Harrison: That depends a lot on the publishers. The kind of editing I do—complete developmental editing—is simply not done by the major publishers anymore. If they’re taking on a manuscript, they want that manuscript already very close to finished. I’ll work with authors far earlier in the process—and I’ll do so without a publisher’s consideration for whether or not a manuscript is commercial.

In the industry today, I think an author generally needs an editor before submitting to most publishers. If what they receive isn’t great, what they receive will not be published, and there are a lot of incredibly talented authors remaining unread as a result. And if an author is self-publishing, which so many more are doing now, then a freelance editor is the only editor they’re going to get.

As for me, I happen to be particularly good at working with authors and bringing out the best in a manuscript. I’ve never let an author down before, and I certainly won’t as a freelancer. And because I also have six years’ experience in the publishing industry, I can help authors figure out the next step once their manuscripts are truly ready to go.

Lisa: What's the last book you recommended to someone?

Harrison: I don’t know if it’s really the last book I recommended, but I’m always advocating for the work of the late Douglas Adams. Everyone knows The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but not enough readers have discovered the Dirk Gently books, and most specifically The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. I’m sure I must have recommended that to someone recently. If I haven’t, allow me to do so now. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul: not just extremely funny, but brilliant and insightful in the very best way.

thanks to Harrison for sharing with me (and with y'all) more about what he does. should you wish to contact him for more information, here's how you get a hold of the man:

and now i'm off to add The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul to my tbr! HOLLA.

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Interesting interview and I wish him the best of luck.

    I also loved the Good Editing Image! :D

  2. First of all, I'm starting to break back into reading the blogs a little in between Irene clean-up today. This is one of the first posts I've come to. I'm really excited to be here. :)

    Next, I love interviews like this.

    Also, I've always thought marketing was really interesting, but I just didn't go that direction in my life. My assumption was that everyone in the book industry loved to market the products they work with/on, so I find it interesting that Harrison doesn't *love* marketing.


  3. I didn't realize how much work an editor put into everything, color me ignorant :) Officially though, after this I think we need a national Hug and Editor day! Great interview!!

  4. so glad y'all loved the interview! i know, i'm totally in the dark about what editors do and thank goodness Harrison set us straight! :)


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