Behind the Scenes at the FriesenPress Editing Department

Behind the Scenes at the FriesenPress Editing Department

Professional editing is arguably the single most impactful process an author experiences when publishing a book.

That’s why we’re so hands-on and meticulous when matching our authors with the perfect editor for their project. Thoughtful consideration of an author’s working style and needs isn’t something that can be automated by a computer algorithm. Our personal approach to editing allows us to match you with the editor that’s best suited to your book and your publishing goals.

The guiding hand behind the FriesenPress editing process is our very own in-house editing professional: Amy De Nat.

With two degrees under her belt (including the completion of Simon Fraser University’s editing program), Amy’s dedicated her career toward building our industry-leading team of experts and helping authors publish the best books possible.

We recently sat down with Amy for a behind-the-scenes look at our editing department – from our unique qualifying exam, her must-have qualities for great editors, and what constitutes a perfect match.

Thanks for chatting with us, Amy! Let’s start at the beginning: What drew you to the world of editing?

I believe that one of the most fulfilling aspects of publishing is helping someone else to tell their story. That's why I love editing. I love helping authors – new or experienced – bring their writing to its full potential. Good writing is the foundation of a good book. And good books inspire generations of readers and writers. No matter the genre, as Gordon Lish said, "Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive."

What do you look for in a potential editor?

A FriesenPress editor must be trained, be experienced, possess vast subject matter knowledge, and more! It's integral that our editors know and practice the high standards of each level of editing: substantive and mechanical. They must be able to assess a manuscript's needs, recognize and adhere to the scope of the level(s) of editing required, and maintain the balance between knowing when to make an edit, or query the author, and when to leave elements of the writing alone.

What can you tell us about your hiring and onboarding process?

A unique aspect of our onboarding process is our qualification exam. This exam is administered to two parts: a substantive portion and a mechanical portion. It was created (and is impartially reviewed) by a long-standing member of Editors Canada standards committee. FriesenPress editors must pass both portions of the exam in order to join our freelance editing team.

Our in-depth hiring process has allowed us to build a team of qualified, highly experienced editors. They have worked at establishments such as Caitlin Press, Heritage House, Orca Book Publishers, and more. On top of that, many of our editors are also published authors, writers, professors, and filmmakers themselves. We have editors specialized in memoir, religion, poetry, children's books, young adult novels, and fiction, as well as those who love working on technical manuals, cookbooks, health books, and books about different professions and hobbies.

Describe the process of matching up an author with their editor.

The process of pairing an editor and an author centres around the project. Getting to know the author and the book project (such as, what the book's about, where the author drew inspiration, for whom the book is intended, etc.) gives me a deeper understanding of the project, which, in turn, allows me to find the best pairing of editor and author.

When considering which editor is best suited to a project, I consider the specializations, genre experience, and subject matter knowledge, as well as the temperament, editing style, and availability of all the editors on our team.

An important distinction, for me, is that the author is the subject matter expert of his or her book. He or she knows the content best. The editor is a subject matter expert in editing. As a collective, our editors are knowledgeable in a wide range of subjects, but they are trained in conventions of genre and audience suitability, as well as organization, clarity, and correctness of a piece of writing. A question I'm often asked is, "Shouldn't my editor be an expert in my book's specific subject matter?" Well, there are cases where this is of great benefit, just as there are cases were a lack of familiarity with a book's subject matter is more beneficial. It all comes back to the author. With the author's guidance on his or her target audience, goals, and desires for the project, we can assess the situation in order to find the best editor suited to the project.

Are there any little things editors do that might surprise people?

One of the perks of FriesenPress’ process is our Editor’s Manuscript Evaluation. This is a summative assessment of a manuscript, outlining elements such as some strengths and opportunities within each manuscript. Something that might surprise people, though, is that our editors will provide each author with BISAC codes, search keywords, style guide recommendations as part of that assessment. They’ll provide authors with some of the metadata information for their books before these projects are even in production. This information can be instrumental in solidifying genre, target audience, and more. It’s a great jumping-off point to start authors thinking about their project as a whole and how they want to bring it to publication.

What’s surprised you most since becoming Editing & Illustrations Coordinator?

I tried not to come into this role with an expectation of what the experience would be like, but rather with eyes and ears open, receptive to learning the experience from the ground up. So, while I wouldn't say it surprised me, I will say that I was delighted to learn how involved every editor on our team is. Each editor on our team cares about each manuscript they edit. They invest themselves in each author's vision for his or her book, the outcome of the project, and the success of the FriesenPress community – our authors, our staff, and our company.

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