My interview with CA Marshall – Freelance Editor/Literary Agent Intern/Author Extraordinaire

So Cassandra, I’ve read that you’re a tea drinker. Earl Grey or Chamomile?  
Neither. I’m more of the fruity teas type, specifically cherry or blackcurrant. Occasionally I’ll go for green. I’m not much of a fan of brown teas.

Blackcurrant? Yum! No seriously, I heard you went to college in England. Where did you go? And what did you learn from the experience? Does spending time in a foreign country help you in your current job as juggler, um, I mean editor/intern/author?
I went to Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s about an hour south of the Scotland border, so it’s fairly north.  You can read about that time here:  Does it help me to juggle things? No not really. What it taught me most was focus. If I didn’t understand something, the best thing to do was research, and lots of it. If I needed to buckle down and get some work done, even if all those crumbling castles and lovely beaches were calling me, I had to suck it up and get the work done.

What kind of shiny documents did you get from going to college?

I got my MA in Creative Writing with merit honors, concentration on fiction. It’s very shiny.

What do you offer for your clients as far as editing goes? 

I do both straight proofreading/copyediting (spelling, grammar, repeated words/phrases, and other “small picture” stuff) and substantial edits (plot, pacing, voice, character development, and other “big picture stuff”). I send three quotes, one for just copy edits, one for substantial (sometimes called exhaustive) edits, and one for both at a discounted rate. I’ll send both specific notes in the manuscript as tracked changes/comments, and an editorial letter with more general comments or suggestions on how to make your work the best that it can be and how to give it the best chances with agents.

What common mistakes do you see while editing others’ works?

Lack of voice, starting in the wrong place (too much backstory, not enough set up, etc), or after I’ve sent notes, they’ll say something like, “Yeah, I was worried about that” or “Yeah, I thought about changing that.”  If you’re going to shell out big bucks for an editors help, make sure that you’re offering your best work.

Do you edit all genres or is there any genres you don’t edit?

I haven’t done much romance, nor do I read much of it. If someone approaches me about it I let them know about my lack of training/experience in romance and refer them to another editor. I have had a couple brave souls that have given me a chance to get experience anyway and now one of them has an agent, so yay! In general though, I edit mostly YA and MG and a decent amount of thrillers. I’ve even done a few non-fiction/memoir type projects.

Most writers probably think hiring an editor will seriously empty their checking accounts (me included). Can you give us an example of a few of your rates?
As a fellow writer, I try to keep my rates cheap. Most edits average under $500. Of course that varies with the amount of work that needs to be done and what the word count is. If it’s a fairly clean MS and you want a copyedit, It can run under $200 or so, but if it needs lots of work, and you want both copy and substantive edits, it’ll be on the high end. I ask for your query/a short summary and a ten page sample so I can see exactly how much work you need doing so you’re not overcharged for something that you don’t need. The last thing we writers need is unnecessarily higher bills. 😛

You’re an author. What genres do you write? How does being an author help you while editing or doing that intern stuff?

My first book was MG and it was terrible. It’s been rightly shelved. Maybe someday I’ll bring it back out and rework it, but it was nice to get that first book out of the way. I’ve proven to myself that I can do this. First books are supposed to be crap anyway, right? So my next book was a paranormal YA about a girl who becomes a grim reaper and that ones out in queries. The next one will also be YA but it’ll be contemporary. It’s a sort of modernized Pygmalion, about a girl whose family wins the lottery and a boy at her new school helps her to fit in by teaching her to be more highbrow.

What I love most about editing/interning/writing is how they all work together. If I see mistakes in books that I’m editing, I’ll check my own book for those mistakes. I used my experience reading queries to craft the best query I cold for the reaper book and so far I’ve had seven fulls and two partial requests, and it’s only been a little over a month!

In your role as agent intern, is there a common storyline that’s saturating the slush pile?

At the moment, there’s a bunch of stories about Egyptian pharaohs and lost legacies. There are also lots about sea creatures; mermaids, sirens, kelpies, you name it. Don’t worry about trends though, there will always be room for well-written books.

What’s the most common error authors make when querying your agent?

Not including sample pages. If we’re on the fence about your query, it’s tempting to just reject it. Sample pages are a sort of “second chance” for those that suck at writing queries. If we have to request those pages, that’s such a time waste for both the writer who has to resend it and the intern that has to reread it.

What’s the typical day in the life of a freelance editor, author, and literary agent intern extraordinaire? 

Umm.. lots of sleep. Lots of reading, queries, fulls, and books. Lots of twitter surfing and email sending. Time outs for playing with my dog Mollie, watching movies, doing things, and going places. Lots of blog reading, client editing, writing, and then a bit of laying around before more sleeping. 🙂

You don’t work for any sharks, do you?
I’m very proud to say that I do NOT.

I hope this wasn’t too painful. I’ll remove the cuffs now. And thank you, Cassandra,  for being my first victim … er … guest. 

Now go to her site here and seriously use her fabulous editing skills. In her brief review of my first ten pages, she pointed out a major problem in my manuscript. And that was in her initial quote letter, just imagine what she could do to your entire novel to make it shine.

Before you go, don’t forget to sign up for my blogfest for a chance to win a 10 page critique and synopsis critique or $50 toward edits from CA Marshall. Plus there are two runner-up prizes! Click here for more information on The Never-ending Scene Blogfest (or cliffhanger, whatever).

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