Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interview with Editor Susan Tunis

I get a lot of email from writers asking me to recommend an editor. Here's one I do. Years back, Susan read through my unpubbed novel Origin and gave me some great tips. She's now taking on freelance editing work.

Joe: How did you get started editing?

Susan: Back in the mid-nineties, a publisher acquaintance of mine offered me a job editing his magazine.  It was a successful four-color glossy sold on newsstands around the world, and I had no relevant experience.  It also happened to be April 1st and I thought he was joking.  He wasn't.  On my first day he handed me a reference book on copyediting and I learned on the job.  I later asked him why he had hired me and he said, “I thought you had the right qualities to do the job.”  He had good instincts and it changed my life.

After leaving Discover Diving magazine, I spent a few years freelancing and working as a columnist for other dive, travel, and in-flight magazines.  Subsequently, I worked as an editor in the film and television industry and in higher education.  On the side, I began doing freelance work with novelists as fiction was always my first love.

I’m an avid reader; I read 148 books last year.  I’m a successful book reviewer, book blogger, and book group leader.  I eat, sleep, and breathe literature.  I have no interest in writing a novel of my own, but nothing gives me more satisfaction than helping an author strengthen and refine his or her work.  Sometimes a little distance is required, and I can provide that.  Over the years I’ve worked with writers you’ve never heard of, writers you haven’t heard of yet, and a few you’ve probably read yourself.  Among them are James Rollins, Christopher Moore, Elle Lothlorien, Matt Richtel, Boyd Morrison, Lissa Price, and a guy named J.A. Konrath.

Joe: What services do you offer?

Susan: I offer full editorial services from basic proofreading to project development and substantive editorial feedback.

Joe: What do you charge?

Susan: I charge between $25 and $40 an hour, depending on the work required for a job and, truthfully, the means of the client.  I’ll give you an estimate of how many hours I expect the work to take, and am perfectly willing to put a cap on fees.

Joe: Do you accept all clients?

Susan: I won’t take on a client if I don’t believe I can help them.  It’s not one size fits all, and not every editor is the right fit for every project.  Before starting, I’d like to see three chapters of your work in progress (or more if the chapters are very short) and a synopsis of the project.

Joe: What's your expected turnaround time for finishing an edit?

Susan: Turnaround time depends on the needs of the client and my current workload and commitments.  Generally, some time between two days and two weeks.  If I’m not able to turn you around within two weeks, I’ll let you know before accepting your project.

Joe: What is your editing process?

Susan: If you have a completed MS, I’ll do an initial read taking notes on things like structure, plot, prose, and character.  Additionally, I’ll clean up the MS with regard to grammar, typos, and consistency as needed.  Once done, I’ll send you a marked hard copy along with detailed written notes.  In addition, I’ll want to discuss the notes in greater detail on the phone or face-to-face.  Once that initial feedback is offered, I’ll generally stay involved as changes are explored.

When an author has a work in progress, the collaboration tends to be more interactive and improvisational.  Basically, it depends on the writer and the project how we work together.

Joe: How can writers get in touch with you?

Susan: I may be reached at stuniseditorial(at)gmail(dot)com.