Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

November 19, 2014

How I Became an Editor – the PSG Story

In the brave new world of the self-publish wild, it is becoming more and more common for people who know nothing – and I mean nothing – about publishing to find themselves in the position of being full-time publishers. It is also perfectly possible for someone to publish a very good book without learning anything about publishing along the way. This is why, mid-summer 2013, I took on the role of editing PSG Publishing‘s first short story anthology, Library of Dreams.

I’m an editor, I thought. I have been fixing people’s grammar and spotting typos for, like, ten years! No problem, I thought. No problem.

I don’t know how it had previously escaped my notice that an anthology editor and a copy editor have two very different jobs, but it had. It took some time for the reality of what I had agreed to do to dawn on me. And it didn’t so much “dawn”, gradually over time like the rising sun, as it swamped me, like a flash-flood.

PSG’s project leads chose a theme and a charity, and I put together submission guidelines. Stories began to trickle in, manageably at first. Many of the writers were going through the submissions process for the first time, so I fielded questions and lend encouragement. Maya Starling put together a book cover that was so slick, we instantly looked more professional than publishers who’ve been in the game for years. Things were quiet and under control until the end of the summer.

Then came the deadline. I had 14 stories, but not all of them were ready to go to print. There were revisions to make, content to clarify, changes to finalize. Some of the newer writers had never used Track Changes, nor done a substantial revision. In one case, I asked for a revision and got an entirely different story back.  One writer pulled out at the last minute. One still hasn’t submitted his contract. I gave us all the month to get the stories ready to be copy-edited. We missed my deadline by two weeks.

By the fall of 2013 I had coached, copy-edited, revised, and copy-edited again 14 stories and my job had only just begun. Sink or swim, self.

I swam.

I learned enough legalese to write contracts. I picked fonts and dingbats. I agonized over what order to put the stories in, laid it all out in rough, and then changed my mind about everything. I signed a contract with LitWorld and applied for an ITIN – an American tax ID. Maya did all the heavy lifting of formatting the book for Createspace, Kindle and Smashwords, but then we had to proofread all three editions again – twice.

By the time we released the book on December 15th, 2013, I had been working on it full-time for three months. And it was worth every. Single. Minute. Library of Dreams is clean, beautiful, and best of all – good reading.

When PSG fielded the idea of doing a second anthology this year, I jumped at it. I had the skill-set now – I was an editor. Not just the kind that fixes your spelling – the other kind. An Editor.

If last year was a flash flood that nearly drowned me, this year was a trans-Atlantic swim for which I was trained and fit. Oh, it was hard. Everybody at PSG – especially Maya Starling, Yzabel Ginsberg, Ang Thomas, Tim McFarlane, Kim Fry, Laura Perry, and ALL our authors – worked their butts off to get the book together in a way we could all be proud of. But we were ready this time and I think it shows.

Chamber of Music launched on Friday, November 14th 2014 – a full month earlier than last year – and is now available in paperback and ebook from Amazon, Smashwords, and a host of other online sources. Proceeds from its sales will be donated to Musicians Without Borders. I hope you’ll have a look!


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