Thursday, August 6, 2015

Book World: Behind the Scenes {5}

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 Cynthia Shepp

Way back when, and I'm talking like a year ago here folks, I started working with the incredible team at Clean Teen Publishing and I kept hearing one name thrown around: 'Cynthia'. Cynthia-this or Cynthia-that. I couldn't for the life of me understand who this Cynthia woman was or why everyone was up in arms about her. Then I learned. Cynthia is the girl to go to with your editing woes. SEVERAL of her clients have been animate that I feature her right here on this blog, so I couldn't resist reaching out. Over the past year I have seen firsthand the incredible impact the awesome lady has on my corner of the book world. I am so excited to introduce her to you all here!

Cynthia Shepp
I’ve always had a passion for reading. Since I first opened the pages at a very young age, I was enthralled with everything about books. As I got a little older, I realized that I wanted to be the person who helped shaped them, before they were published. I followed that dream, graduating with honors from Grand Canyon University, receiving a BA in English/Literature. I have a special fondness for independent authors, as I applaud the gumption to realize your dreams on your own. If I had to pick a favorite genre of books, it would be dystopian, but I love them all. The worlds that authors create help me escape, if only for a little while.

I live in Alabama with my husband and three rambunctious children, ranging in ages from three to nine. My dream allows me to stay at home with my children, do the job I love, and be the mom I want to be at the same time. I enjoy spending time with my family, iced coffee, sappy TV shows, camping, and pretending to love Auburn Tiger football with my husband.

Interview with Cynthia Shepp

Name: Cynthia Shepp
Location: Alabama
Book World Occupation: Editor
Years in the Business: Freelance Editor, Editor-in-Chief at Clean Teen and Crimson Tree Publishing
Currently Reading/Last Book You ReadThis is actually a hard one. I am currently listening to Unleashed by Sophie Jordan. I am also working on The Innocent by Michelle Pickett, Nora and Kettle by Lauren Taylor, and a few others as well. By the time this interview is released, those books will be out and I’ll be on to the dozens of others on my schedule.

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?

In a sense, I am the handler of the book from the moment the author hands it over until it goes to the formatter. I obviously fix grammar and spelling, but I also look for correct word usage, including slang and idiom. If I am copy editing, not just proofreading, I look for inconsistencies within the story; i.e., a character's age given as twenty-three in one spot and twenty-eight in another, while offering suggestions for things such as underdeveloped characters, clunky exposition, and stilted dialogue. This includes anything that might improve the story, but isn't a major plot or character change. I also make sure sentences flow, correcting where necessary.

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

From the moment I understood what a book was, I was enthralled with reading. In school, English and Literature were my favorite subjects. I belonged to poetry clubs, have written and published poetry, and I used to write all the time. For years, I edited for free on Wattpad before I became serious about doing it full time. 

However, once I did decide to make it my career, I went to college and got a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. Regardless of that piece of paper, editing is something you have to have a knack for. It isn’t just grammar. It is the feel of a book, the way the words flow, and how the story unfolds. If you can’t see past the words, you shouldn’t be an editor.

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.

An editor is the person who shapes the book after the author writes it. Authors create worlds… editors make sure those worlds work. Authors design characters… editors make sure those characters stay true to their intended personalities. Authors put words to paper… editors make sure those words are correct and flow. 

In my opinion, having a good editor is THE most important relationship an author will ever cultivate. There is a level of trust that must be felt between an author and editor for the relationship to work. Authors put their sweat, blood, and tears into the editor’s hands, and they have to trust they will take care of it. Also, edited books sell better, receive better reviews, are recommended more, and are more likely to be read over unedited books.

Professional editing is the best thing an author can do for their book. No matter how many times an author, or their family and friends, read over it, they will not be able to look at it through the eyes of a professional. Readers want books that are easy to read, feel complete, and are professionally put together. They want well-edited books. It doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg either. There are a few editors out there who are very good who know the costs an indie author has and prices their services affordably.

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?

I’m not exactly sure I have a process. I have a repeating client list, with occasional new ones. Every client and manuscript is different. The first thing I always do, however, is make sure it is easily editable. That means changing it to Times New Roman, size 12, double spaced. After that, I do some basic find and replaces for things such as double spaces, ellipses, commonly confused phrases (such as could care less, should be couldn’t care less). From there, I just read line by line. Often reading one page three or four times, or flipping back and forth between chapter or pages, doing searches for character traits or descriptions, finding and replacing words I notice are consistently wrong, leaving comments pertaining to grammar changes, story changes, etc.

After I finish round one, I usually start all over again except on the FINAL NO MARKUP side. This way, I don’t have a million changes glaring at me, and I can go over it for readability and flow. However, the process changes with every person. It depends on their level of skill and writing style.

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?

My number-one pet peeve is OFF OF. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. It is never supposed to be off of. It is only supposed to be off.

Wrong: Get your feet off of the couch.
Right: Get your feet off the couch.

It is probably one of the most common mistakes that I see. It’s also an easy fix, a simple find and replace. Most mistakes are easy to fix if they are simply grammatical. However, I love the authors who take my grammar lessons to heart, and I can actually see their writing improve with every manuscript. It makes my insides all warm and gushy. :)

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? 

I study—constantly. I’m forever looking stuff up, consulting the ever-changing Chicago Manual of Style, surfing the web, looking in the dictionary, asking opinions… Learning never stops. Grammar is not the most sensible subject. It is confusing, frustrating, and sometimes, it makes absolutely no sense. However, that is exactly why I love it. 

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?

My advice is RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! Please do not go with someone who calls themselves an editor just because their prices are cheap. Check credentials, make sure they went to school and have a degree that in some way or form could help, check their references, look at books they have edited, and make sure they have a professional presence. If their website is full of mistakes, it is a sign not to choose them.

Make sure the editor you choose is someone you can get along with and will feel comfortable bugging with all sorts of questions. Also, make sure the editor likes the genre you wrote in.

I am available for my clients pretty much 24-7 through email and Facebook chat. This includes my freelance clients and any authors through the publishing companies I work for, which are Clean Teen and Crimson Tree Publishing. This is an important part of the editor/author relationship. The better your editor knows you, the better she or he can take care of your books. Your editor should be the most important relationship you have as an author. Make sure it is with someone you enjoy working with and who understands your vision.

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? 

I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom. Most authors write because they have to. They feel it deep inside, and the words have to be released. I’m one who doesn’t believe that grammar matters when you are first putting the words on paper. However, you should edit, re-edit, edit again, and then edit again afterward until the words are as clear as you can make them. After that, I recommend sending it to an alpha reader, who can offer first feedback. Then you should edit again if you feel their feedback warrants it. 

If you are a first-time author, I highly recommend a developmental editor, who can help you with your book structure and content. They aren’t focused on grammar, but rather on plot. After alpha and/or developmental, you would send to someone like me, for copy editing and then proofreading. Following that, I would recommend beta readers, to catch any stray errors.

I will not even take manuscripts that I believe are too messy or haven’t been given any attention. If I can tell the words have just been slapped down and no care has been given, I will pass over to the next author in line. The way you present your book to an editor is important. You may think it is a long, drawn-out process, but it is the most important one. This is your baby—your hard work—why not give it everything it needs to be successful?
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?

Pleasure reading… that’s so funny. It is so hard to actually read anymore. All I end up doing is picking the story apart in my head, editing as I go. It is just like work. Lately, I listen to audio books. That way, I don’t see the words, so I don’t work while I read. I actually thought I would hate the audio format, and that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate, but I absolutely adore listening to books. It makes chores and driving so much better. However, narrators will turn me off in a second. If I don’t like their voices, I won’t be able to listen.

My all-time favorite series is Harry Potter. I am a die-hard Potter Head. I so wish I could obliviate those books from my brain, just so I could have the pleasure of reading them over again.

My favorite genre is dystopian, and I am a huge fan of end-of-the-world books. I also love YA. When it comes to adult books, I loved The Hollows series by Kim Harrison and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. I also love old favorites such as The Secret Garden, Dicey’s Song, Little Men… Okay, I’ll admit it. I just love all books. I’m addicted. :)

10. Where can we learn more about Mrs. Cynthia Shepp

You can find out more about my services at,, or You can find me on Twitter at @CynthiaShepp, though I’m not the best twitterer? Tweeter? in the world, so I’m not there often. You can also email me at with any questions you may have.

I want to thank you, Ethan, for featuring me on your blog. I was nervous about this interview, so I hope I did okay. Thank you, too, to everyone who takes the time to read this. I appreciate it!

It's an honor to have ya Mrs. Cynthia! :)


So as you can see, Mrs. Cynthia is a busy lady, but I haven't even begun to scratch the surface. On top of her editing job, she also compiles anthologies featuring some incredible authors! Head over and grab your copy NOW!


It's been such an honor to host Cynthia here today, I hope you've all learned a bit about this amazing woman and will keep her in mind if you're looking for an editor! She's great! Huge thanks to Cynthia for agreeing to be a part of this!

Alright everyone, that's all I have for you on Cynthia Shepp 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!


  1. Thank you for featuring me, Ethan. I was honored to be featured on your blog. It was also fun. You asked such great questions! :)

  2. Great interview! Thanks for sharing your side of the story (pun intended, yes, cuz I'm funny that way).