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SHY EXPLORER SERIES: Asking the Experts by Judy Clement Wall

February 24, 2011

I’m on a quest, asking the experts – people already in the industry – for publishing advice to writers…

I was excited to talk to Jessica Swift of Swift Ink Editorial Services, because she is a full-service indie editor who works with indie authors. Go indie! Turns out she is also funny and warm and full of information. This was truly one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done.

Jessica Swift of Swift Ink Editorial Services provides thorough, honest editing with a strong eye toward maintaining authorial voice, tone, and style while remaining true to the content’s integrity. Editing various genres for numerous clients around the world, Swift aids in developing and realizing each client’s individual publishing goals. In her role as publishing consultant, Swift navigates the processes books undergo to become a reality—however that reality manifests. For more information, visit Follow on Twitter: @SwiftInkEditor. Read her blog:

j: It’s an exciting (some might say daunting) time to be a writer seeking publication. The industry is in such upheaval. The internet and e-book explosions have changed the way people read; social networks have paved the way for authors to attract (or alienate) valuable attention; there are a myriad of options for indie authors seeking non-traditional paths to publication, but taking the road less traveled is always scary.

What is your sense of it all – is this a good or a bad time for new authors?

Jessica: Now is the time to pursue each and every goal you desire. Never before have we in the publishing industry had so many options open to us. Traditional publishing is no longer the only approach to take—this should inspire writers. Access is at an all-time high—both in terms of accessibility of books and material, but also in ways to get what’s been created in front of people. The word no now means something completely different (in terms of publishing) than it did before. If you as a writer are told no, it’s regarding a specific house, or agent, or editor. “No” doesn’t have to mean, “You’ll never be published.” That’s exciting!

j: As an editor (book doctor), you are uniquely qualified to advise writers on what they should look for in an editor, and when in the process should they start looking.

Jessica: I’ll answer your question with a question: What do you look for in a friend? Choosing an editor is a very personal and intimate experience. I work with authors who write in numerous genres—business, paranormal, travel, literary fiction, personal finance—and despite the differences in style, topic, and approach, each writer has one thing in common: They want their work to be the best. I believe you need an editor who wants the same thing for your project. When I am only editing because I have to or simply because it’s my job—I promise I’m going to find a new career. I want my clients to have passion for their projects, and they deserve nothing less from me or any other editor. I don’t want my hair dresser to be apathetic about how my hair looks when I walk about the door. Writers deserve an editor who loves their work as much as they do.

Just as choosing an editor is personal so is deciding when to bring that person on board. The one thing the writer must be sure of, unless you and your editor are working together in a back-and-forth agreed upon fashion: When you hand the work over to your editor, you must be ready to keep in a separate file any revisions and/or updates you make and/or you must promise not to touch it again until you get it back. If you’ve passed your manuscript off to your editor and she’s working on it—introducing new large revisions can be difficult to incorporate and may throw a Chicago Manual of Style-sized wrench into the midst of the project (to mix metaphors and mutate analogies). Writers need to be at a point where they say, “OK, I’ve done what I can and it’s the best I can make it for NOW. I need some new eyes, new perspective, and some support.”

j: What do you look for in a writer?

Jessica: I work with a lot of first-time authors, which I enjoy immensely. I love to see passion in a writer; passion for whatever it is they’re working on. I have a particular client who embodies the word passion: Each and every aspect of her project she has grabbed hold of with a fierce grip that would make a flying trapeze artist jealous. She is lit with the fire of passion. Her attitude is “You want me to do that? OK!” And it’s not just that she’s passionate about writing, she has a passion for her project, which enables her to see the larger scope of possibility, which is inspiring and, I believe, contagious to her peers and those who will touch her book.

I know that there comes a time when some people simply don’t want to even LOOK at their manuscripts again. There’s a certain conviction in that, too, though, so when I see that kind of expression in a writer I think of a marathon runner who crosses the finish line—sweaty, thirsty, tired, muscles in spasm. If you asked that runner in that moment if they wanted to get up and run the course again because, clearly, they love running so much, you might get hit. I see that same exhaustion in writers sometimes and I think “Wow. S/he has given it their all. I can’t WAIT to see what they’ve created!”
j: I love that analogy, and your openness to both kinds of writers. Okay, so once the manuscript is as perfect as it can be, what should writers consider in choosing whether to pursue a traditional publishing path (through an agent) or a non-traditional path (though a small indie press or self-publishing)?

Jessica: Oh boy, the twenty million kazillion dillion dollar question!

There are myriad questions writers need to ask themselves and so many elements to consider I don’t think that anyone can simply lay out a simple equation. Publishing is so much more than a business venture in which “high up people” (i.e. the publishing houses/agents) tell the “little people” (we know who we are) if they’re good enough and worth the investment or not. By this I mean that there are options today that didn’t exist before. I’m NOT slamming the publishing industry in any way, I’m addressing how it’s been perceived, how it’s felt, and how it’s changed.

Simply put, getting your book out there is no longer limited by who puts it out there for you. If your heart is set on getting traditionally published, pursue that with all of who you are. Just consider that there are other options. Likewise if you’re committed heart and soul to publishing your book independently or nontraditionally—that’s not the only way, either, so be sure to look around. Keeping an open mind is a luxury—and our industry has never seen so many options before.

j: How has the internet, especially social networking, changed the way you do your job?

Jessica: The word access comes to mind. Writers can reach out to each other for support, advice, and conversation (all from the comfort of their own homes, sitting in their underwear if they like). Those same writers can read about and learn from those on the other side of the industry—the editors, agents, book critics, and publishing houses. And just as, I believe, there is access to opportunity, there is access to people whose paths you might never cross otherwise, if it weren’t for Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, LinkedIn…

Communication and the power of words have never been so easy and so vital, respectively. I have the privilege of engaging in conversation with talented writers and dreamers and thinkers who I might never have met without the help of social media. Plus, authors and writers can gain exposure to their audience and allow those people who will read their book, to read about how their book is being created through blogs, Facebook posts, tweets, bleeps, and blurts… Oh, that’s something else.

Has social networking changed the way I do my job? I don’t look at it that way. Does it change the ways writers and I can interact before, during, and after we work together on their project? Absolutely. Would my edits be different if I were using a stone and a hammer instead of keyboard strokes to make them? Hard to say…

j: Though I do like the image I just got of you handing down your edits on stone tables, like God to Moses on the mount. Okay… what is your one most important piece of advice to aspiring authors?

Jessica: Don’t stop writing! You’re only “aspiring” if you’re not writing (there I go with my word thing again!). Seriously: Look up aspiring for some inspiration. You’ll always be a writer—define your own publishing destiny and don’t ignore inspiration when it arrives because you think it should look different. Grab with both hands the opportunities that this new world presents you. Everyone has a story in them, but only a few are brave enough to tell it. Don’t be the silent one when it comes to your writing.

j: You resist having an editing niche, but what do you like to read? What are you reading now?

Jessica: First, let me clarify: I don’t resist an editing niche, I’ve just found that “nichelessness” is my niche. I don’t believe that to be a good editor I have to limit what I can edit. *Phew* Got that out of the way.

OK, I LOVE to read. True love.  Love as in I’m the butt of jokes at holidays about how much I love to read. Like my family teases me about missing important events during my childhood because I was reading. Or, when we were kids and no one could find me they knew to look in the bathroom because I would be there, reading (hey, they left me alone when I was in there)! I mention this because, well, it’s kind of funny, but I think it also speaks to my nichelessness which in a roundabout and drawn-out not-getting-to-the-point-quickly-at-all kind of way leads me up to answering the question about what I’m reading now. Just as I am nicheless with my editing so am I with the books I read. And, I read more than one book at a time so, in no particular order, Here’s what I’m reading right now.

1. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, Susan Jane Gilman

2. The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time, Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson

3. Emma, Jane Austen

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

Favorite books of all time? A Prayer for Owen Meany¸ John Irving; A Room with a View, E.M. Forster; Water for Elephants, Sarah Gruen; The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran; Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton (Do you want me to keep going?!) Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris And the list goes on…

Judy Clement Wall is putting the final touches on her novel, Beautiful Lives. She blogs about the perils of life, love, writing and cheesecake at Zebra Sounds: Follow her on Twitter:

12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2011 3:16 pm

    A lot here that is interesting. Some really useful insights into the changing world of publishing and a refreshingly honest and open opinion.

    Thanks Judy and Jessica.


  2. February 24, 2011 3:56 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the read, Anne. I’m so privileged to get to do the work I love, I’m always happy to relay my thoughts and opinions. Judy is amazing and her interest in our writerly world is both inspiring and contagious. And thanks to IBC for hosting!

  3. February 24, 2011 4:14 pm

    Working with Jessica is a pleasure! Not only is she warm and friendly; she knows what she’s doing. You can bet she’s abreast of every development in the industry no matter how big or small it may be…Thanks to her keen insight I’ve been able to make informed decisions regarding my work and where I’d like to pursue publishing. Her skills as an editor are amazing, but the best part is the way she edits. She never tries to rewrite, she only urges a writer to more of themself in the story. Every writer should be so lucky!

  4. February 24, 2011 6:29 pm

    I know this is about editing but I couldn’t help but notice of your 6 favorite books, 3 are my favorites too. The other 3 (by Forster, Gibran and Wharton) I haven’t read, but will now.

    • April 20, 2011 2:04 pm

      Hey, Tricia. How’d you make out with the Forster, Gibran, and Wharton? Love to know!

      • April 20, 2011 11:45 pm

        I’ve not gotten to them yet. as soon as I finish the 4 novels I’m currently reading (maybe even the one I’m writing :-)), I’ll be sure to check all 3 out at the library.

  5. February 24, 2011 7:53 pm

    Jessica and I worked together for a bit on my book and she was great. We have similar personalities (and a love of snark and humor). She GOT me.

    I definitely recommend that any indie author use a professional editor — especially now that indies are starting to shrug off that worn out stigma of putting out shoddy work. Using someone as skilled as Jessica will guarantee that will absolutely not happen.

    Great article, ladies.

  6. February 25, 2011 10:37 am

    All-round valuable information and sharing. I especially loved what Jessica said about her client who embodies the word *passion*. It struck me forcibly that the level of passion she described can easily be watered down by the million things we need to do to get the word out about our writing. I’ve copied that paragraph into my journal and I’m going to write myself back into that feeling before I do any promo-y type things today.

    Thanks, j and Jessica! This was so inspirational.

    ~ Milli

    • February 25, 2011 4:57 pm

      Milli, I loved that too. I read it and thought, she’s looking for the same things in a writer I’d look for in an editor (which, of course, she embodies). #lovefest 😉

  7. April 20, 2011 2:10 pm

    Just want to take a moment and thank you, again, Indie Book Collective and j, for all the work you do raising awareness about indies and writers and publishing and… it goes on and on. Communities like the Collective and articles like these will continue to push aside the notion that “real” publishing looks or is a certain way. We must continue to subvert the concept that success is determined by the few. Instead we are proving that the many have a stronger voice.


  1. The Friday List, 2/25/11 | Zebra Sounds
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