Erin Black Editorial
Editorial services from a friendly professional with over a decade of experience in publishing.
I spent twelve years as an editor at Scholastic. There, I acquired and edited chapter books and middle grade and young adult novels and series – but really, what I did was help authors make their stories shine their brightest so that we could get them into the hands of hundreds of thousands of readers, whether they were kids, librarians, teachers, or parents.
Books are my first love, and the feeling of being transported to another world full of people you care about is one every reader deserves – and that feeling is what I wanted from every book on my list, whether it was humor or horror, fantasy or contemporary.
So how do you get there? Let’s work together. As an editor, my favorite thing to do is dive into a text – I’ll get to know and understand your characters and live with them to learn how their world works. Whether you want help with the big-picture elements of your story or to hone in and focus on the details of your writing, I take a holistic approach to editing and helping you with revision, and would be happy to help you take your story to the next level.
Erin Black Editorial
I have always loved books and reading – as a baby, I used to memorize picture books that my parents had read to me over and over, and then “read” the story to them. As a kid and teenager, I would fall in love with a book or an author and read them every year. I picked up Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles and was in love with fantasy novels after that point; in school, A Wrinkle in Time was assigned to my class and I blew through the whole book in one night. One of my dearest friends in publishing became a friend after we bonded over our mutual love of L. M. Montgomery and found that we were, in fact, kindred spirits.
But I hadn't always planned to go into children's books. My original plan was to get a Ph.D in English literature, but that changed one summer during college. I’d applied for an internship at Random House, where I knew I preferred Editorial to Sales or Marketing . . . what I didn’t expect was to be placed with Random House Books for Young Readers, where I fell hard for kids' books and never quite got around to grad school applications. After another summer at Random House, I graduated college and started as an editorial assistant working for David Levithan at Scholastic. And there I stayed, working my way to associate editor and finally editor. While at Scholastic, I got to work on a wonderful variety of books, from mysteries and paperback series and fantasies, to science fiction thrillers and tender, funny contemporary stories. And any genre that doesn’t quite work for kids? That’s the reading I do for fun, from romance to essays to dark crime novels.
Nothing makes me happier than helping to make books succeed – whether that’s publishing a story that goes on to sell to hundreds of thousands of copies in the school markets or working with an author to strengthen their storytelling so that their novel is the best it can be. I’m the type of editor who likes to dive deeply into text and examine the arcs and architecture of a novel. I love to get to know and understand the characters, sharpen the pacing so that grips readers from page one, and dwell in a world until I understand it from the ground up. And as much as I love working with an author on the shape of their story overall, I love the details too, from pointing out which version of a paragraph says it best, to brainstorming a better word, to tugging a chapter around so that it flows with the character’s emotional journey in that section of the story. I’m here to help; let’s talk.
It can be hard to see the forest for the trees when evaluating your own work, and sometimes the best thing is to have a professional help you take a look at your story (but without worrying about a rejection like you might get when querying an agent or an editor at a publishing house).
I’ll read your manuscript and return a written assessment several pages long to you. The assessment will have two parts:
The first part will be a summary of your story. You might think you already know the story, but this summary can help you see how a reader who’s coming to your story with fresh eyes sees it, and to identify what someone who hasn’t spent months or years thinking about your characters and world building and backstory picks up on.
The second part are the notes an agent or editor would make about your story on reading it for the first time. What are its strengths and weaknesses? What does an editor think of the plot arc, emotional arc, characters, writing, world building, etc.? These are broad brushstrokes, so that you can get some no-pressure, professional feedback on things that are working great and things that could use some polishing about your project.
After you’ve had a chance to read through my notes, we can set up a phone call or Google Hangout to talk through any questions you might have – I love getting to talk to writers about their stories.
This is a little like an editorial assessment, but goes into much greater depth, and is perfect for either a finished manuscript, an outline you’d like feedback on, or a partially-written manuscript that you’re not sure how to shape into a completed novel.
I’ll read through your manuscript and write you an editorial letter. This is a great way to get a professional’s view of how your story is shaping up. I’ll get a feel for your characters’ motivations and needs, understand the shape of the world they live in, take a close look at how your plot unfolds as you move the story forward, and then let you know how it’s all fitting together. If there are places I’m confused, I’ll point them out to let you know where you lost me, and offer suggestions on how to avoid confusing readers; if there are places where I think you need to slow down to give your characters and the readers a place to react, I’ll let you know. And most important? I’ll also point out all the many things you’re doing right, because there’s nothing worse than someone who’s reading only to criticize. Readers fall for books because of the things they love, and so do editors and agents: A good editorial letter will tell you both what needs work, and what is already working well so that you don't lose your story's magic when revising.
With a developmental edit, I read through at least twice, so that I can react as a reader first, and then with an eye toward helping you revise to strengthen your book. The main takeaway is a long letter all about your story and ways we can strengthen the book until it’s all just as wonderful as the very strongest elements already are. I will also provide some notes in the manuscript itself, to point to specific examples of things I wanted to discuss with you in the editorial letter, but the goal is to keep our eyes on the big-picture shape of your story. Then, once you’ve had a chance to read through the letter, we’ll plan a time to have a phone call or Google Hangout so that we can chat about your story and the way it’s shaping up and so that you can ask any questions you might have or discuss some ideas you’d been considering as you decide on next steps.
This is usually what authors in the midst of the publishing process talk about when they say they’ve gotten their manuscript back from their editor. This is a great step for when your novel is complete and you’re looking to polish it up for querying agents or for self-pubbing. If a developmental edit is taking a macro-level view of your story, a line edit is the micro-level. Should this paragraph be moved up to the previous page? Is this the word we want, or is there a stronger way to phrase it? Can we smooth out this bit of dialogue? This is where I take a deep dive into the text, to consider every chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word. Line editing is one of my favorite parts of editing; for me, it’s a place where I get to see a writer’s attention to detail really shine, and I love to help put the finishing touches on a book.
With a line edit, you’ll likely get a short edit letter from me, where I can let you know if there are any bigger changes I wanted to suggest (like maybe shifting a chapter around so that the order of events flows better) and point out any patterns I noticed as I was editing. But the main focus is on the manuscript. That’s where I’ve used "track changes" in the document to do two things. One is to suggest changes – maybe a character repeats herself and I think the second version is stronger, so I suggest cutting the first. Or maybe I want to ask if we can arrange a sentence to flow better, so that its meaning is clearer for readers. Maybe I have a question that I think readers would also have, and this is a good opportunity to clarify. The other thing I get to do in line edits? That’s react like a reader would. I get to point out great lines, and places where a character made me laugh, and scenes that were so bittersweet or thrilling or spine-tingling that I just can’t handle it! It’s so fun to read through and see where people are reacting to your story, your words, and your characters, and it’s an important part of a good line edit so that you gain a sense of how agents, editors, and readers are going to react as you move forward with your book.
Alongside my editorial career, I’ve also done freelance proofreading and copyediting (and still do!), so I’m well-equipped to help you with cleaning up your manuscript before it goes out to agents or readers. This is work that’s very distinct from line editing or developmental editing – after all, if you fix the spelling after your first draft and then make significant revisions, you wind up needing to copyedit all over again. Copyediting your manuscript is no less important than line editing, but it is by necessity a later step, not an early one.
A copyedit comes with markings and comments in a Word document via "track changes." I’ll mark all changes to spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc., so that you can see them, whether it’s removing an unnecessary comma or changing all instances of ‘grey’ to ‘gray’ (since the latter is the way it’s spelled in the U.S. – the ‘e’ is for the UK). And if there are any logic questions or inconsistencies within the manuscript, those all get flagged with comments, so you can decide how to fix a timeline issue or what color shirt your main character is wearing in chapter nine.
For Agents and Publishers
After twelve years at Scholastic, I know first-hand how busy you are and the kinds of time constraints you’re under. And I’m here to help and alleviate some of that stress. Whether you need another set of experienced professional eyes on a project you’re on the fence about or a careful line edit to polish a manuscript before it goes out to editors or to your Managing Ed/Production team, lean on my years of experience and insights into the publishing industry, knowing you and your authors are in the best of hands.