Hello, bookwyrms! I hope you’re having a happy summer so far. Recovering from the first half of 2020 is no easy task, but hopefully, we’ll go forward into the second half of the year stronger than before. To that end, I’d like to introduce more writing resources here on the ole blog.
I have the absolute pleasure of inviting editor and writing coach Lori Baxter as a special guest this week! Lori is the co-founder, along with writer Hannah Comerford, and senior editor for The Scribe Source, which offers quality proofreading, editing, and copywriting services.
Lori is gracious enough to share her insights on editing, as well as her experience as a small business owner. Without further ado, it’s time to learn!
Welcome, Lori! Here’s your first question: How did you decide to be an editor?
It was kind of by accident. I actually had a friend who I would edit things for, whether it was just their own writing or help with a project for a non-profit or something like that. People got the idea that I was good at it, so I started getting some requests. Right around the time I graduated from college, I got offered a job for a non-profit to do ghost-writing and editing. At the time, my major was international studies, and my goal was to join the foreign service, but the testing was once a year. I was waiting for the next testing and decided to take it, so I wound up with a job as an editor with very little experience. But I did a good job at it and was happy.
Around the time I was going to do the foreign testing, I passed through the written exam and went to Washington DC to take the oral interview. Right around the time, a close family member was diagnosed with cancer. I made the decision to come home to Washington to help my family through this time. And then, all at the same time, I got word that I missed the oral assessment by a tenth of a point. I had already quit my job to come home, so I had a couple people that were still asking me to do side projects for them, so I decided to go ahead and get a business license.
How did The Scribe Source come about?
I got the business license (they called it something else at the time). It was really just me as a sole proprietor, but the further along I got into it, I was getting asked to do projects that weren’t my expertise, but I knew I could find somebody who could help me with it. So, I got the idea of having more of a team approach, where people had their own specialties and strengths. That’s the vision that the Scribe Source came about.
A little bit further along, that was right around the time I’d gotten married, and I knew at some point I wanted to start having kids. I didn’t want to work full time, so that was also a lot of my motivation for building a team. So I kind of subcontracted a couple things, but it was when I was pregnant with my first child that I met Hannah [Comerford], who was my first official team member.
What is the toughest aspect of being your own boss?
On the technical side of things, I think for me, marketing has always been the most challenging, where to find clients. When you’re a small business owner, you’re wearing all the hats. On the technical side, it’s probably the most challenging. On the more personal side, sometimes it’s turning off work, especially when you work from home. It all bleeds together; sometimes it would feel like you’re never really off work. On the flip side, there’s a tremendous amount of freedom. But sometimes it feels easier to have a 9-5 job.
How did you overcome these difficulties?
It’s been one long process of educating yourself on the various prospects of running a business. I’ve taken I don’t know how many classes and seminars and workshops, learning all the various aspects of running a business. That’s been fun! And of course, working with the team is a really educational experience, something that a lot of freelance editors don’t necessarily have. And that’s one of the things that I really like about the Scribe Source: we’re learning from each other, and we get to have the added benefit of having another person’s perspective.
One of the things I want to do is build a tiny house office in our backyard. I think having a small space outside the house would help me turn it off. Right now, my bedroom is my office, my living room is my office. I respond to things as they come in. Having a separate designated space might help with that.
What is your most memorable experience editing and/or coaching?
Probably one of the coolest things I ever got to be part of, is a client that was a business owner. I helped to write press releases and that kind of thing. His wife was the president of a major global company, which I didn’t know when I met him. He seemed like a normal, down to earth guy, but his wife was running a multimillion-dollar company. At one point, she had been asked to apply to be one of the secretaries at NATO. They asked me to help, not only with her resume, but she had to write a three-page statement addressing enormous global initiatives. I was probably about 30 at the time, and I was like oh my gosh, I can’t believe I get to help with something like this. And that’s happened a couple times, where random projects drop in my lap. It was cool to help her with her essay for NATO, especially for someone whose original aspirations were to go into international politics!
Tell me about loribaxter.net. How did you decide to become a writing coach, and what’s your favorite thing about the job?
Honestly, the idea really came out of what I felt like was a really big gap that wasn’t being served in the Scribe Source. There were so many times when somebody came to me with a manuscript for editing, and they were just terrible! You can’t edit this, it’s conceptual weaknesses. Even a really extensive developmental edit wouldn’t help it. And even if it would, it’d have to cost a fortune because of the time it took going into it.
I had personal contacts or word-of-mouth people that came to me, that the focus was a lot of nonfiction books, especially instructional books, whether they were an entrepreneur or a minister or something, where they wanted to write a nonfiction book out of their experience. I felt like if I could help them from the beginning, they would have a shot of doing this well.
More and more people were wanting to self publish. I’m a big fan of self-publishing, but as an editor, I want them to be quality books. And there are just countless examples of where that’s not happening. The desire to take on book coaching was around that, to address something the Scribe Source wasn’t really hitting on to fill in that need, to help people earlier in the process.
But by that point, I had three small kids and the editing business, and I didn’t want to do a bunch of one-on-one coaching. Financially, it wasn’t a good model. That’s when I started to get the idea about developing a course. It’s not up yet on that website, but eventually, that’s what loribaxter will have, a course about how to conceptualize, write, and edit a nonfiction book. It’s kind of like taking everything I’ve learned over the last 15 years and putting it into an easy to-follow-road map for people instead of taking all of that effort and doing it one-on-one, where it takes a huge amount of my time for each person. I’m hoping I can take all that time, do it once really well, and put it in a format that people can use over and over again.
Do you have any advice for aspiring editors/authors?
Always be learning. I do feel like a lot of times when people think about editing, they think of the rules and the style guides. They think of it more as a black and white thing. But editing is extremely subjective, and that’s one of the reasons why I really like the collaborative approach. I’ve been working with Hannah now for 8 years and sometimes I feel like I can’t make an editing decision without her anymore, just because of how valuable it is to see things from someone else’s perspective. And I think it’s important to look at things from a different perspective, look at things from the author’s point of view. Obviously, there are hard and fast rules when it comes to things like spelling. But always be learning.
There are so many free, affordable resources out there for editors. I would also encourage people to join one of the associations. There’s the Editorial Freelancers Association or American Copyeditors. There are local or regional editing groups too, and that can be really helpful!
If you found Lori’s advice as helpful as I did, be sure to check out her website for more information. And if you have a manuscript ready to roll but feel like you need another pair of eyes, have a look at The Scribe Source for their services. Lori and the team are more than willing to help you out!