Something unique for the Scribbler!
We are most fortunate to have Karin, a full-time editor, as our featured guest this week. Karin has worked as an editor for some of my author friends, who have been guests on the Scribbler, and we met through them.
One of the difficult decisions when an author is finished with his/her manuscript is, who will the editor be? Who can I work with, and trust, to polish up my story? With so many editing styles and choices, it’s a challenging decision.
Karin has kindly agreed to a 4Q interview and is sharing lyrics she wrote for two songs she recorded and performed with the gothic/progressive-rock band Persephone’s Dream.
Karin Nicely is an Ocala-based editor, writing coach, promotional writer, and independent publisher with more than twenty-five years’ experience in her field. Originally from Pennsylvania, she earned her Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Professional Writing and has worked with international publishing houses such as Prentice Hall and Wiley. Ms. Nicely has also been a marketing consultant for SAE International (the Society of Automotive and Aerospace Engineers) and has written for the APEX-award-winning business-to-business publication Spotlight on Safety.
Now specializing in developmental and line editing for independent authors throughout the United States, Ms. Nicely, owner of Seren Publishing Co., Inc., is also the editor of quarterly magazines, presents customized workshops for writers, and writes advertising and public relations copy for corporate clients.
Ms. Nicely’s other interests include music, horses, dance, swimming, paddleboarding, history, and creative writing.
4Q: What inspired you to work as an editor?
KN: First and foremost, I have always loved literature. I began reading at a very early age and enjoyed books about many different subjects—everything from fairy tales to archaeology to biology. I was that nerdy kid who wished I could spend every recess in the school library. As I got older, I not only read for knowledge, but also loved the sound of certain words and phrases and what images they could create. I decided to major in English Writing in college, and when I transferred to a different school, its version of that degree was called Professional Writing, with combined training in practical, marketable writing skills with courses in business and graphic design.
For years, I did (and still do) promotional writing for corporations and nonprofit organizations. And much of that work involved extensive revision of previous materials. So in essence, I had been editing all along and knew that I truly enjoyed the process. Soon, I began editing and proofreading for a Chicago-based publishing company that handled outsourced projects from Prentice Hall, Wiley, and other large publishing houses. The projects I worked on were all nonfiction at the time—business law textbooks, CPA exam books, programming language resources, etc. Much of it was quite dry, but it taught me how to go meticulously through text, looking for minute mistakes and inconsistencies.
When I moved to Florida several years ago, Becky (Pourchot) Magnolia’s Open Souls was my first foray into editing novels, and I absolutely loved it. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to edit everything from paranormal romance to action/adventure to science fiction. I also continue to edit all types of nonfiction as well
4Q: There are many types of edits. Can you please, briefly, explain the important issues an author faces when trying to decide which route to go?
KN: It is important for an author to first think about their goals and expectations for their written work. Will it be a memoir to only be shared with family and friends? Is it a short story to be submitted to magazines or contests? Will the book be used as support material for training or lectures? Or is it a novel that will be marketed and distributed across the globe?
In other words, how important is it that the end result is as professionally prepared as possible? If the book/story/article is to be promoted at all, chances are it will need more than just a light copyedit.
Another consideration is whether the writer is just starting out or is a seasoned author. With some clients, I act as a writing coach, consultant, and developmental editor, working with them right from the beginning stages of their project to help them develop characters, outline plots, and keep on track. With other clients, I need only see the manuscript after they have completed it and it is ready for line editing.
But whatever level of editing is needed, I feel it is crucial to not change the author’s own style and voice. One of the best compliments I consistently receive is when my clients say, “It still sounds like me!”
4Q: Every new guest to the Scribbler gets this question. Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
KN: When people learn that I grew up on a Quarter Horse and beef cattle farm, they automatically think I’m a country-music girl all the way. But I will tell you one of the earliest experiences of my young life that probably made me want to belt out rock songs, instead.
When I was about four years old, my mother’s two younger brothers had a rock band called the Wannamaker’s Two-Story Garage, and we were going to see them play. I remember filing into a dark church basement and finding room to sit on the cold, crowded floor. The music filled my ears, and I looked at the stage in awe. There were my two long-haired, bearded uncles amid the smoky, pink and blue and purple light. One played guitar, and the other sang and growled into the mic.
Even then, I loved to dance, and I couldn’t help but move to the beat of the loud drums and pounding bass. But I remained sitting, moving my hands, tapping my foot, nodding my head. I was so shy I was afraid to stand up and dance in front of all those people around us. But I wanted to so badly.
My mother, also a musician and composer, turned around at that point and said, “Go ahead! You can get up and dance if you want. It’s okay.”
And so I did.
Years later, as I often gripped the mic on a smoky stage full of multicolored light, I would look into the audience and think of that night I danced to the raucous, rebellious, melodious sounds.
4Q: As an editor, one would assume you are also a reader. Favorite authors and/or novels?
KN: Flannery O’Connor. I am drawn to her use of realism and her insight into human nature. In fact, my honors thesis in college was entitled “Kierkegaardian Existentialism in Flannery O’Connor’s Short Fiction.”
Marion Zimmer Bradley is another author whose works I never tire of. From her Darkover series to the Avalon series, I think I’ve probably read them all.
J.K. Rowling. When my young cousin first became a Harry Potter fan, I thought it was just some run-of-the-mill kids’ book. But when I began reading Rowling’s novel to my younger daughter, I soon realized that this was not just a simplistic children’s story. Rowling’s incorporation of themes and vocabulary from Greek and Roman mythology along with historical references and mature social commentary fascinated me. The Harry Potter novels were also wonderful tools I used to help increase my daughter’s vocabulary.
As for poets, I would have to say Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou.
4Q: Please tell us about your songwriting and performing your own music.
KN: I would say I wrote my first actual song when I was about fourteen, and I’ve sung with bands since I was fifteen, but I didn’t begin collaborating with other musicians to write, perform, and record songs until I was in my twenties. I’ve studied voice and performed classical music, blues, musical theater, country, rock, and sacred music, but most of my writing has been in the alternative/gothic/progressive realm.
I can get truly obsessive when writing or recording songs. Often, people will ask me about the songwriting process, and in my experience, it has really never followed a specific formula. Sometimes, I or another band member would write lyrics first; other times, the music would come first. Once, the guys were just messing around with a catchy riff, and on the spot, I wrote the entire lyrics to “Far Side of Eden” (see below) in about fifteen minutess.
I loved performing in all those different places (from Boston to Atlanta) and truly miss doing it on a regular basis. It was always interesting to talk with audience members after a show and find out which songs they especially liked or which lyrics resonated with them. I do still sing with a few local groups (country and sacred music) once in a while and have been working with a local songwriter, as well.
4Q: Is there a general rule of thumb that a new author can use when trying to form a budget for editing. An average cost? Or does it differ from each manuscript?
KN: It does differ somewhat for each manuscript, but calculating 3.5 to 4 cents per word would be a good figure to go by. I generally like to do a sample edit on at least ten pages to get a feel for the author’s style, writing mechanics, etc. However, it is difficult to predict things such as inconsistencies and organizational problems from just an excerpt.
4Q: What advice would you give to a new author when he/she is looking for an editor?
KN: Questions to ask:
• How long has the editor been doing this type of work professionally?
• Is the editor familiar with—and do they enjoy working with—your genre?
• If your work contains profanity, explicit sexual situations or violence, or other subject matter that may be offensive, is the editor comfortable with that?
• Will the editor be available to go over changes, suggestions, and queries with you by phone or video conference (or in person, if local) rather than by email only?
• How many editing passes will be included for the price? (For example, I customarily do two editing passes, with time in between for author review/revision, and a final proofreading before publication.)
• Will the editor be careful to not alter your unique voice/style?
• Is the editor familiar with editing for your book’s intended audience? (This is especially important if the work is for children or a particular technical or professional audience.)
4Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
KN: Because I work primarily with independent authors, I found there was a need for project management along with the editing services. As I also have experience in the design, printing, and marketing fields, it was a logical next step for me to begin helping authors self-publish their works. And recently, I began my own publishing company (Seren Publishing Co., Inc.) so authors would have the option to publish under my imprint.
Song Lyrics by Karin Nicely:
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with Permission)
“Far Side of Eden”
(From the Persephone’s Dream album Opposition)
Crying and crying
Pain out of bounds
But there is no sound
Gaia’s own heartache
As the smoke swirls around
Black rain falling—falling down, down, down
We are living on the far side of Eden
From the factories rise
Choking our ambition and
Blinding my eyes
Naked trees dying
By the cruel roadside
Soon our children will have
Nowhere to hide
We are living on the far side of Eden
Wisdom of the ages
Lost in the dust
Of technology’s eruption
As it’s gaining our trust
Bitter winds blowing in
Fed by our growing
Greets the disgust
As the tide of complacency
Keeps eroding what it must
(with Persephone’s Dream)
Lyrics inspired by Ian Watson’s novel, Alien Embassy
Wound up tight in protean flight
Sweet Apollo in an emerald bright
Yellow hues in the desert sand
Meet mountain green in Hestia’s hand
Soft illusion, smooth terrain
Pulsar rhythm in an alien brain
Illusion’s prism bends the light
Open a door but close it tight
Hidden agenda in the master plan
Evolution’s always in demand, always
Fear is bound in procreation
Lost to chemical elimination
Alien addiction to loneliness
Covert flight in Apollo’s night
Dark eludes the lovers’ sight
Knowledge leads to silent pain
Keep on searching till they go insane
Transformation in the fire
Each level only takes them higher
Ignore the populist propaganda
Electric arms invade the space
Bend to conform to an alien race
Bend the knee and bind the brain
Bleed till they don’t feel the chains
A leap ahead of ev’ry step they take
Beat them down until they break
Bend the knee and bind the brain
Bleed till they don’t feel the chains
Till they don’t feel…
Technological prison deep
Leave behind the comfort zone
Normative dogma overthrown
Union is the wilderness
Addiction to loneliness
Thank you, Karin, for being our special guest this week.
For you readers and fellow authors looking for a contact for Karin, please follow these links: