...Interview Alice Peck, Freelance Editor

This is Alice! If she was editing this, she would have changed that exclamation mark to a period.

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I probably wouldn’t have been published without Alice Peck. Goodbye, Beautiful went through a number of drafts and versions, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy with any of them. So I hired Alice to edit the book for me and she suggested changing the story’s narrator. That’s HUGE, right? But it was, hands down, the best advice I’ve ever received. Honestly, when I thought about her approach, I felt the story’s heartbeat.

You can (and should) have friends and other writers read your work, but I tell everyone I know to hire a freelance editor (unless you already have an editor through your publisher). You’ll get good feedback from your peer reviewers, but you need someone who understands the elements of sentence structure, when you should use an em dash, what an em dash is, someone who can see both the small and big picture for your book. It’s even better if you get someone who understands New York publishing circles, how the industry is changing, and what approaches new and established writers should take. Alice gets all of that. I really don’t want to make this introduction into more of an advertisement for her (although you can find her services here), so I’ll end it by saying that she’s always going to edit every novel I write until she’s dead.

What’s your favorite joke?

I guess I'm not very sophisticated, because my favorite jokes are the ones toddlers and kindergartners tell. Things like: "Blue cheese? No. Blue snow!" or "Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill? To get to the bottom!" 

(Ed. Note: I had no idea she was going to go “blue” with her material. I apologize to my more sensitive readers.)

How did you get your start in editing?

I've often said that my marketable skills are that I love to read and eat lunch. I started during a college internship--working for a small press called Persea Books. After college I evaluated manuscripts for several publishing houses and then started doing the same for film and television companies. I worked for many years discovering books and guiding screenwriters as they adapted them for film and television. I also worked as a story-producer on narrative (reality) television, which meant screening hundreds of hours of footage, finding the story, and distilling it into an hour or half an hour of television. I learned so much about story and structure and dialogue and pacing from both experiences. Eventually I realized that my favorite thing to do is help writers find their voices, so with the help of an agent friend I began freelance editing over ten years ago. I'm lucky to have the best job (for me) in the world. 

What do you think is the most important quality for a good editor?

Editors need to be readers first. The more you've read in your lifetime the better editor you'll be. I also believe that editors have to be very conscious of sustaining and enhancing their writers' voices, not imposing themselves on a book. 

What are your thoughts on the changing state of publishing?

I'm excited about the changes in publishing. Even though it's harder than ever to land an agent and/or a legacy publisher there are more and more opportunities evolving for writers--myriad small presses and DIY options. 

Do you think the traditional route (agent-publisher) is still the best approach for writers aspiring to be published?

No. It's not for everyone. You have to know your book and know your audience. I've seen books that received six-figure advances from traditional publishers languish un-reviewed and unread because the publisher did no marketing. I've worked with self-published authors who made substantial sums of money (one of them over a million dollars) because they knew their audience and applied themselves to marketing with the same energy, hope, and verve they devoted to writing.

What makes a good client?

Someone who is more interested in the process of writing their book than selling their book (but willing to do the necessary marketing work when/if the time comes). 

You've authored and edited two anthologies. I don’t really have a question, I just wanted to mention that.

The books were about finding the sacred in everyday things--one was cleaning our homes and the other was food. More than the themes of cleaning and food I liked finding the connections between writers and beliefs--how they were all looking at the same house but through different windows.

(Ed. Note: You can buy Alice’s anthologies here and here.)

Is there another field in writing or publishing you'd like to try?

Nope. Not really. I love what I do and hope I always get to do it.


Thanks, Alice! Alice's contact information is above, and you can also find information about her, and tons of warm testimonials, on her Publishers Marketplace page.

Next Week: A Blog Post in Which I Discuss Music and Writing, For Some Reason. Just kidding, I have a reason. You’ll see why next week.

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