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Ask the Editor — Jane Haertel

We are so happy to have our next guest editor, Jane Haertel, join us today. Read and learn!

Name:  Jane Haertel, Crazy Diamond Editing Services (

Area of Expertise: Romance of any shade, Young Adult, New Adult

How did you become an independent editor? A few years ago, a friend who was preparing to indie publish her YA novel asked me to proofread for her. My fussbudget nature would not allow me to leave it at a simple proofread, though, and I ended up copy and line editing the whole book for her, as well as providing content editing. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop, and I discovered that I had both a knack and a love for this part of the publishing process. After that, I picked up another client, who consistently began to hit the New York Times and USA Today lists of best-sellers, and through word of mouth I now have more than a dozen steady clients (several of whom hit the lists with every book).

What are three things we should know about your area of expertise? Everyone—are you listening?—everyone needs an editor. (Yes, even me. Especially me.) When you’re all excited to indie publish something, and you’ve been over your manuscript a few times, it’s so tempting to think: Oh, in high school I was great at grammar and spelling, so I can save myself some coin by doing my own editing. Or: I’ve been writing for years. I’m not paying someone for something I can do myself. Wrong. You know what you meant to say, but that might not be what comes out on the page. And in general, your mom/sister/best friend is probably not the best person to do editing of any kind on your book. They love you, and they won’t want to hurt your feelings. Hire a professional. No matter your skill level, you need an objective, experienced set of eyes on your work.

Editing is expensive. Sorry, but it’s true. It takes many, many, many hours to make just the first pass through a full-length manuscript, and this is how we editors make our livings. Especially for authors who are independently publishing their first works, there is a tendency to look for the lowest price and fastest turnaround. I wrote a book, darn it, and I want to start making my millions immediately. I can’t afford to hire an editor (or proofreader, professional cover artist, formatter). I would argue that you can’t afford not to assemble the best possible team to get your work out there. The market is glutted right now with indie books and getting good editing (and proofreading, and cover art, and formatting) is something you can control. If you want to make it in the indie world, you have to produce a product that is on a par with books published by New York houses. And yes, that costs money.

Still not convinced? Think about it this way. Writing and publishing books is a business. Would you expect to start, say, a knitting shop without providing any capital upfront for retail space, inventory, staffing? And, oh, open your doors to the public before all these things were in place? Of course not. That would be crazy, right? Putting your indie book out for sale is no different.

So get creative if you have to raise the money to hire professionals. If you have a special skill, perhaps you can barter services. I have edited in exchange for personal training, and for cookies. Which, now that I think about it, should probably be mutually exclusive. There’s probably stuff in your house that you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. Can you take on some freelance work of your own, such as cooking, sewing or knitting/crocheting for hire? Or take on a few hours of overtime at your day job? How about eating at home instead of going out to dinner? That’s the same as earning $50 or more, money that you can put toward your dreams. It’ll be worth the sacrifice upfront when the money from your beautifully professional book starts rolling in!

What do people usually get wrong? Good writing is not necessarily grammatically correct. In fact, perfect grammar makes fiction stilted and inaccessible to the reader. But there are some rules that should not be broken. Here are the mistakes I see most frequently:

Alright, alot. These are not words. Use all right and a lot.
Misuse of the apostrophe. This is perhaps my biggest pet peeve. Never, ever use an apostrophe to form the plural of anything. Example: Peach’s For Sale. Who is Peaches? What’s she selling? See what I mean? And the other most common assault on the poor apostrophe is the various formations of the word its. The only time that word should have an apostrophe is if you can replace it with it is or it has, never to show possession.
Adverbs. Okay, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not one of those people who thinks that every –ly construction should be eradicated from a manuscript. Most, yes. But they don’t bother me as long as the author uses them … sparingly. And try not to end a sentence with an adverb like sparingly, LOL!
Misuse of the forms of the verb to lie. (Lay, lain, laid) The rules are too long to list, but here’s a link to a site that may help.
Using dialogue tags other than said. Ninety-eight percent of the time, said is all you need. You want the reader focusing on your characters’ words, not getting distracted because you tried to get creative. “Hand me that glass of water,” he spouted/hissed/emitted/etc., etc. Once in a while, okay. But don’t make a habit of it.
And my personal pet peeve, the word smirk. Please, please, please. Unless your character is an annoying adolescent, or an adult acting like an annoying adolescent, do not have him/her smirking. A smirking character is automatically unlikeable. So, particularly in romance, but this holds true for other genres, do not let a main character perform this juvenile action.

Is there a great idea you’d love to share? Here’s a bit of my personal hoodoo. If you are stuck in the middle of a project, or you have finished a project and sent it off somewhere, perhaps to a potential agent or publishing house and you’re waiting on the outcome, go clean something that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. Even better, get unwanted stuff out of your house—not just moved to another spot, but actually thrown away or donated. Still better, tackle something that you’ve been putting off or avoiding and that has been nagging at you. For example, if you hate going to the dentist, make—and keep—that appointment. Call an old friend you’ve been meaning to get back in touch with. The more things you do, the quicker and better the magic works.

You see, making space in your head and your life allows new, wonderful things to come in. Nature abhors a vacuum. It works every time, but not always in the way you expect it. I did a lot of cleaning and decluttering while I was querying agents, and I not only got the call from an amazing agent, I got a three-book contract, all in a two-week span. 

What are you working on? As an editor, I’m working on a juicy New Adult novel for a very good writer, so it hardly feels like a job, LOL!

Readers: Jane will be available to answer your editing questions throughout the day.

Jane Haertel, who writes as Susannah Hardy, attended St. Lawrence University, graduating with a degree in history, and has worked as a waitress, handbag designer/manufacturer, paralegal, and currently as an editor of independently published short stories, novellas and novels at She serves on the board of directors of the Connecticut Romance Writers of America and is a member of Sisters in Crime. Jane lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenaged son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat. You can connect with her alter ego, Susannah Hardy, at, on Twitter: @susannahhardy1, and on Facebook: Her first novel, FETA ATTRACTION, releases January 6, 2015 from Berkley Prime Crime.

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