Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book World: Behind the Scenes {4}

Hey readers! Ethan here introducing to you a brand new blog series!

Getting a book from a word document and onto the shelves at your local bookstore takes a lot of work and, often, a small army to do it. Many believe that the authors are the only rockstars in the business. After over a year of blogging, I've learned that this simply isn't true. There is an entire community of 'unsung heroes' doing the hard work behind the scenes to get the book ready for our hands!

In this series, I'm honoring those awesome unsung heroes.

Book World: Behind the Scenes will be a weekly post, each Thursday, that will spotlight one awesome individual from the book world. I will not only be spotlighting that person, but also conducting a one-on-one interview with them covering an array of topics such as the current state of the book world, trends they are seeing, and some information about their background in the field.

I think this is an incredible opportunity to show readers and the rest of the bookish community just how much work goes into making a book successful! Let's give those unsung heroes a moment in the spotlight!

Week Four: Meet Kathy Lapeyre

When I started planning out this series, I knew I wanted to include some of the behind the scenes people who really worked hard to put my favorite books on the shelves. Everyone knows a little about what going on behind the scenes in the book world, but some roles are completely glossed over. In my opinion, one of the single most important jobs in the books world is that of an editor. A poorly edited book can be the deciding point between a DNF and a 5-star read for me. It's a long, hard job, but someone has to do it. People like our very own Mrs. Kathy Lapeyre! I (virtually) met Mrs. Kathy while working with the team over at Clean Teen Publishing and have learned a lot from her I'm so excited to introduce you guys to her here today!

Kathy Lapeyre
I worked in the printing and publishing industry for 25 years.

Although I did some writing, my primary job was to make sure someone else's words were properly written, edited, proofread, and formatted, before going to press.

The methods I use for professional edits include: sample edits, copy editing and proofreading. When you've made your first-draft changes, I check it through once more. My working knowledge of the English language and proper grammar are equal to most traditional in-house publishing editors.

In today's society, there's a vast array of editing choices for writers. It can be a daunting task to find the right one for your particular project. When editing, I utilize my education, knowledge and background, along with other tools available in today's world. Although my formal training was based in newspaper and magazine publications, and I'm familiar with those styles, I use Chicago Manual of Style's 15th and 16th editions as guidelines for book editing.

I generally use the Tracking Changes part of MS Word's software, but would edit hard copy if requested (extra charge).
Find Kathy Lapeyre

Interview with Kathy Lapeyre

Name: Kathy Lapeyre
Location: Pacific Northwest Washington
Book World Occupation: Editor
Years in the Business: freelance full time the past 3 years – 28 years overall
Currently Reading/Last Book You Readaudio book version (for at least the 4th time) starting the trilogy again … Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

1. We’ve read your bio, but tell us a little more about yourself and your work within the business. What exactly is your role in helping a book get from a word document and into the reader’s hands?

The answer could end up a very long, detailed one. Instead, here’s an easy visual. As an editor, it’s my job to take the author’s writing and polish it. Sometimes the process is similar to dusting furniture (light grammar and structure touchups). More often the work I do, especially with first-time authors, is like helping the writer reorganize the living room so their guests don’t trip over items while on their way to the party in the back yard.

2. What kind of training do you have? What prepares you for this type of work?

I always wanted to be an English teacher and write short stories. At one time, my formal education was headed that way, but fate intervened. My first job in the printing/publishing business was in 1972 when I worked for a small town weekly newspaper doing typesetting and proofreading. I learned everything about the production of a newspaper and was taught every phase in the process except running the press. Eventually, my husband and I relocated to a metropolitan area where more jobs were available for him. I served a two-year apprenticeship at a large, daily newspaper and ended up spending a total of twenty-five years working in the industry, mostly at commercial printing/publishing companies. Other than commercial work (advertising or newsletter type of pieces), the book editing I did was as part of a three-person team and we worked on each manuscript for months at a time. Too many new authors expect one edit to be enough from impatience or shortage of funds … it’s not, even from the best editor you can find. I always read at least twice and sometimes three passes are necessary.

3. As an editor, you have one of the most important jobs when it comes to the publishing industry. It’s also one of the most misunderstood roles in the book world. Tell us a bit about what an editor is and why having (a good) one is important for both the author and their readers.

You’re right. The editor’s role is usually misunderstood and often confused with that of a proofreader. In simplistic terms, an editor is an interpreter, making sure the author’s words are understood by the reader. Everyone knows that editors look for errors. What people might not realize is the scope of that process or all the types of errors we find. Sometimes we fix them. Other times, we teach the writer how to improve those areas themselves. Corrections of spelling and punctuation are just the tip of the iceberg. That’s proofreading and although it’s an important part of the editing process, it should be the last step prior to formatting, uploading, and publishing. I consider myself a line editor, which is a blend of basic copyediting and light developmental editing.

Here’s an incomplete list of items:

· proper verb tense and POV (point of view)

· pronouns in the right form (singular or plural) and making sure they refer to the right noun

· proper use of possessives versus plurals or plural possessive form

· tips for showing versus telling

· watching for passive voice and suggesting active voice where applicable

· fixing or offering ideas of how to improve general clarity

· instances of repetition (same pronouns starting consecutive sentences – identical adjectives in a sentence or close proximity – too many cases of using generic words such as: look, feel, think, walk)

· fact checking, even in fiction

· capitalization and correct use of italics versus quotation marks – example: album titles in italics, song titles in quotes

· use of past perfect (had)

· catching and alerting author about plot holes or character traits not matching what’s actually written

· converting straight quotes and apostrophes into “smart” ones and hyphens into the proper dashes (en dash or em dash)

· fixing incorrect format of numbers (spelling out 0-100 is just the start because the exceptions list is long)

· consistent use of “gray” area spellings or applications – if an author chooses to use a unique style or spelling, making sure they don’t vary from it

· when using brand names, assuring they’re spelled and punctuated the same as the actual brand

· alerting author when he/she has too many paragraphs of dialogue in a row or too many dialogue tags (suggest scene breaks or clips where the tags can be removed when the reader will automatically know who’s speaking)

· proper use of collective nouns (matching verbs)

· knowing when to use some of the tricky English words: lie vs. lay and who vs. whom spotting and making suggestions for editing redundancies: disappear (from sight) – 8:00 a.m. (in the morning) – descend (down) the stairs

· applying rules for breaking paragraphs related to dialogue

· dialogue tags (use and punctuation) and avoiding the overuse of adverbs with them

· watching out for actions that can’t be done simultaneously even though the author’s words “say” it

· although ending sentences with prepositions isn’t the “no-no” it once was, reorganizing sentence structure to avoid it when possible

· catching “homophones” – words that sound the same but mean something different (they might be spelled the same … or not): passed-past – affect-effect – sent-scent – kernel-colonel

· basic sentence structure – making sure each sentence says what the writer intends instead of what they’ve sometimes written (the order and modifying words in the wrong place will change the entire meaning)

· mixing it up, including: length and pace of sentences, using pronouns and nouns effectively together to avoid monotony.

Putting the best product out there for your readers is always important because you can’t take back that first impression. Once your book is sold and you start receiving bad reviews for lack of editing or plot holes, it’s not too late to pull it and fix it on e-books, but you might have lost some readers in the interim.

4. I’ll be honest, the editing world is one that I know very little about except for how much my author friends fear it. Can you walk us through your editing process a bit?

Sure. Actually, from my standpoint, it’s a complex process that I try to simplify for the authors who hire me. Although I freelance for Clean Teen/Crimson Tree Publishing, most of my projects come from self-publishing authors. The majority is repeat or referral business. Not every writer and editor are suited to each other’s styles, so I require 5-10 pages of the manuscript from each prospective new client. I provide a free sample edit that serves two purposes … the author can see first-hand how I work and the types of suggestions/changes I make … and I can use that information to customize a price based on the number of words in the manuscript. When I’ve received a new manuscript, I open a simple spreadsheet to use as a style sheet. It’s a place to keep a list of character and place spellings and physical attributes of characters. This is also where I maintain the author’s preferences for those gray areas I mentioned above. When I’m done with the first edit, I email it back to the author and he/she accepts or rejects the changes I’ve made and returns it for another round or two. The final is sent back to the author (or on to the publisher). Depending on the size of the manuscript, the complexity of the edits, and the pace the author chooses to work on their portion … this process normally takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks. I try to work straight through without interruptions but will set a first edit down in order to complete one being returned for subsequent readings. Those are usually on a time schedule for the next steps of formatting and publishing, so I try to expedite them.

5. As someone in such an important part of the business, I’m sure you see some great and some… not so great, work. What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to editing? What are some of the easiest to fix or most common mistakes that you see?

I really only have one pet peeve in editing. That’s when I’ve taken the time to write clear margin comments, explaining hard-and-fast grammar rules and the author chooses to disregard them on the next round of editing (or doesn’t take the time to learn and apply). Part of my job is teaching and when writers revert back to all their old habits (especially when it’s only been a few days), it doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings about putting the extra effort in to help. Sometimes, it’s more complex than just remembering one or two rules, and I understand that, but if none of what I’ve taught is applied, it makes me wonder how serious the writer is about his/her craft.

The easiest errors to correct are also the most common ones I alluded to in the previous paragraph. Items such as proper use of commas and periods in dialogue tags and what constitutes a dialogue tag. Repetition is the most common error I see and fix. Example: David looked for his brother in the back yard while the others looked inside. It’s obvious here, but you’d be surprised how many times this happens. An easy fix might be: David searched for his brother in the back yard while the others looked inside. The difference is subtle, but to the reader it might be humdrum and although each word means almost the same thing, they should provide the reader with a different perspective of what each character is doing.

6. Grammar, editing, and punctuation rules are ever-changing. I know I’ve had to learn numerous rules multiple times during my time as a student, how do you keep on top of this ever-changing realm?

Yes, they are. And even words have changed. When I went to school (in the dark ages), the word “ain’t” wasn’t in the dictionary and I was told that “dove” was only a bird, not the past tense of “dive.” During my years working at newspapers, we referred to AP (Associated Press) style books, although each large company adapted their own style based on the standards. When I switched to in-house publishing work, we used a version of CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style). I don’t remember the particular edition, but I now own and refer to the 16th as a reference source. I also use Jane Straus’ 11th edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. These books are published with new versions for a reason – times change and with them come variations of what’s acceptable in the printed word. Also … what’s considered mainstream on social media, in emails, in business correspondence, or nonfiction … isn’t proper for fiction. It’s a constant learning process to stay current. Since being asked to edit for a friend several years ago, I’ve taken random online courses and attended seminars (IndieRecon was great the past few years) to learn new techniques and trends. I even purchased a refresher “diagramming sentences” workbook. Knowing parts of speech and how they’re applied is essential to my craft. Keeping all the above in mind … the majority of basic grammar rules haven’t changed much during my time in the business. It’s up to the editor and author to decide on a style and maintain consistency within the manuscript and/or series.

7. What advice would you have for an author who is looking for an editor? What criteria do you think is most important when searching? With so many to choose from, how is an author to decide who best to help perfect their manuscript?

One of the first questions should be whether the editor accepts your genre or POV and if they have room on their calendar. I have several preferred genres and will work with others, but I don’t edit present tense novels at all. (It’s just a personal thing. My brain won’t allow me to read without mentally changing every verb to past tense). Each author deserves an editor who is knowledgeable and comfortable working in that particular genre. I always advise authors to talk to their author friends and beta readers for recommendations of an editor. Obtain a few free sample edits and discuss style likes/dislikes with the editor(s). Make a list of questions to ask prospective editors. Find an editor who works in your price range. Ask about payment policies. Most editors I know require at least a 50% deposit upfront and the balance “prior” to sending the first edit back to the author (at least until the professional relationship is established). Once an edit is in the hands of the author, the incentive to pay is minimized. Some editors accept payment plans after the first few manuscripts and the preferred method of payment seems to be PayPal (although not by every editor). I host a private group of editors on Facebook (our own moral support system) and we offer referrals based on requests we get from potential clients. Since I don’t edit present tense (and most of that is romance), I check with the group to see who’s available and interested and provide the author with a list of names.

8. What words of wisdom do you have for the aspiring authors out there who may be scared of their abilities? I’ve heard multiple authors say that their editors are superheroes who have saved their works from the brink of destruction. How ‘edit’ savvy does an aspiring author need to be? 

More great questions. Writers (authors) should let the creative sides of their brains do most of the work and not worry about the first few drafts being grammatically correct. Too much concern about getting it right during that part of the process can actually ruin the story. Then most editors will advise writers to allow it to rest (a week or more). Get away from it – you’ll have a fresh perspective when you open the file again and you’re guaranteed to see errors you can’t believe you missed on the previous pass. Read it out loud. This is an old trick that works. After seeing the same words and sentences for months or years, most writers read things into a manuscript that aren’t there. Follow that up with friends or family members who can check it over and provide input (on the story or grammar). In my opinion, if a story has merit and the characters and plots are viable … the grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation can be fixed. Sadly, as editors, we don’t accept every manuscript. Sometimes that’s due to the lack of connection to the manuscript or genre … other reasons might be that the story itself needs too much work or the writer simply needs more practice. The most honest thing an editor can do for a writer in those situations is to decline the project and make recommendations to a writing group or critique group. Sometimes all that’s needed is for the author to read, read, read, and read more and pay attention to the grammar and structure as they do.

9. As an editor, I know that you read constantly for work. When you do get a chance to read for pleasure, what are some of your all-time favorite reads?

Although I always enjoyed school (and particularly English), I didn’t read as much then as later in life. When I did, it was usually nonfiction (biographies of famous people in history). Some of my favorite fiction novels are classics: all of Jane Austen’s works, Little Women, Spencer’s Mountain, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye. During the past ten years, I became a fan of fantasy, time travel, and paranormal: the Twilight Saga books, Outlander series, Hunger Games series, some of the Harry Potter books (I love them, just haven’t read them all yet). And today, some of my favorite authors include: Debora Geary (Modern Witch series), Deborah Harkness (All Souls trilogy), Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse-yep, all 13 – but I never watched the TV series), JR Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood), Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Molly Harper (Jane Jameson series), Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments series), and a YA series by Rachel Vincent called Soul Screamers. Anyway, you get the idea. My other favorite genre is mystery/suspense/crime drama: all the Richard Castle books, Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher books, and Carl Hiaasen's books. Although I don’t seek out romance books specifically, I do enjoy ones with a lot of humor (or sarcasm) thrown in for good measure: Alice Clayton (the Cocktail series) comes to mind first.

During the past several years, it’s difficult to go from reading all day to picking up my Kindle. I rarely watch TV, so most of my off time consists of either listening to music or one of a few hundred audio books on my iPod.

10. Where can we learn more about Mrs. Kathy Lapeyre?

Even though I have a website and Facebook “page,” most of the time I post author-related posts on my personal page. When I have time, I try to include editing tips for anyone who’s interested.

*Mrs. Kathy has also asked that I let all authors know that she is more than willing to answer any general questions you may have about the editing industry. Please do not hesitate to contact her via the links provided at the top of this interview.*


I'll tell you what guys, this may be my favorite BW:BTS interview so far. I know next to nothing about the editing world and Mrs. Kathy has just really opened my eyes to an entirely new side of the industry. Her answers were spot-on and a phenomenal insight for others like me who are interested in all the fun facets of the book world. I'll tell you what though, these brilliant folks are greatly under-appreciated, can you imagine editing an entire novel? I can't even hardly edit a term paper correctly. I have massive amounts of respect for editors and all of the hard work they put into their craft. Next time you speak with an editor, be sure to send them lots of positive energy and virtual hugs, I know I sure will! 


Alright everyone, that's all I have for you on Kathy Lapeyre during this week's Book World: Behind the Scenes! I hope you've enjoyed learning a little bit more about some of the BTS work that goes into making our favorite reads awesome! Be sure to join us next week when we meet another amazing industry professional! 

Thanks so much for stopping by. Until next time, Happy Reading!


Are you an author? Do you work with an incredible someone who holds a career in one of the above fields? Are you a blogger who has worked with one? I want to honor those awesome people!

I already have a handful of interested parties lined up, but I'd like to add more. If you would like to nominate someone for a spotlight, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Interested parties are encouraged to fill out the Google Doc by clicking here or to contact me (Ethan) directly by shooting an email to

Google Doc:

I think this is an incredible opportunity to show readers and the rest of the bookish community just how much work goes into making a book successful! Let's give those unsung heroes a moment in the spotlight!

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