Interview With Editor Elaine Ash
Updated: May 25, 2019
I spent a significant amount of time last year editing my manuscript with the help of professional editor and good friend Elaine Ash. It was a lengthy, but exciting process to take the rough draft of my novel and edit and polish it to something I was proud to send to my agent. Working with Elaine was different than my prior experience with editors as she places a lot of emphasis on development editing. I wanted to explain that process to my readers here, so I asked her to sit down to an interview.
Bio Of Elaine Ash
As a former editor at Beat to a Pulp webzine, Elaine worked directly with writers of all genres to develop stories for publication. Some of those writers went on to fame and fortune such as recent Edgar nominee Patti Abbott (Polis), Jay Stringer (Thomas and Mercer), Chris F. Holm (Mulholland), Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur, Delacorte), SW Lauden (Rare Bird), Kieran Shea (Titan), Hilary Davidson (Macmillan), and many more.
Today, Elaine works with private clients, helping them shape manuscripts, acquire agents and land publishing deals. Her most recent client success belongs to M. Todd Henderson, law scholar and professor at the University of Chicago. His mystery novel, Mental State*, went to #38 in Amazon Legal Thrillers while still in pre-order and went all the way to #10 after release. Elaine helped Todd land his two-book deal with Down and Out Books.
Elaine is an inspiring speaker in demand with respected organizations such as West Coast Writers Conferences, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime SoCal, the Author Learning Center, Southern California Writers Association and the Coffee House Writers Group. She leads workshops, moderates conference panels and speaks. From intimate workshops to public podiums, Elaine inspires and energizes people to act upon their creative ideas and WRITE!
Under the pen name “Anonymous-9,” Elaine’s award-winning, bestselling crime fiction is included in many “Best of” lists, and praised by T. Jefferson Parker, Ray Garton, Robert Randisi, Douglas Lindsay and many others.
Among the titles Elaine has edited and produced, Walking the Dunes with Tennessee Williams is especially notable. Authored by the late Mia Elkovsky Phoebus, this first-person memoir fills in a small piece of history dating back to 1940, when Mia shared a ramshackle house with America's great playwright, Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire). Distribution is through Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and many other outlets.
Elaine is also the inventor of Bestseller Metrics, a system that allows novelists to compare their manuscripts to the metrics of bestselling novels. She discovered this algorithm in 2016 and was personally contracted as an affiliate to Inkubate.com, a literary technology company, by the CEO, Mr. Don Seitz. Mr. Seitz also heads the Princeton (University) Entrepreneurship Council.
“Elaine is a rare talent with a combination of intelligence and personality.” Tony N. Todaro, Founder, West Coast Writers Conferences
What made you decide to become an editor?
I was a beta reader for David Cranmer. In 2007 he said he was going to set up a short story site called Beat to a Pulp. I told him it was a terrible idea because it would take time away from his writing. When he said he was going to do it anyway, I said, "Let me come on as your editor at large and I can develop stories and work with writers, and proofread them, too." At that time no short story sites were developing stories with writers, they were just throwing them up for publication. Beat to a Pulp quickly became a top short story site on the web, and I edited BTAP's first print anthology a few years later. I really liked working with writers and stories, so things progressed from there. Also, in my daily life I was freelancing as an advertising copywriter and proofreader, so I was very closely tied in with writing professionally.
What do you do in your role as an editor? Some people think that an editor only corrects grammar and spelling, but I know you do a lot more than that.
I am first and foremost a development editor and I work very differently than some editors. Most writers are familiar with copy editors who accept the story basically as it is and call out grammar, spelling and some organization of the material. I got tired of copy editing and never seeing my writers get published. I found that handing someone a set of notes and sending them off to correct their story was a bit like providing a shipwreck survivor with a raft and a set of oars and pointing them to civilization 100 miles away. The chances they were going to make it was low. So, I started offering an enhanced service where I looked at everything it was going to take for a writer and their manuscript to pass muster with an agent or publisher. I advised on the whole package. Immediately, my writers started landing agents and deals. Jonathan Brown has three books coming out this year. M. Todd Henderson had his first novel released by Down and out Books and hit the Amazon bestseller list for legal thrillers when he was in pre-order. Todd is now nominated for a Thriller Award from the International Thriller Writers, and an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America. Chrome Oxide had been kicking around the writers' groups for years until he hired me in 2018. We worked on his short stories for six months and then landed a deal with Superversive Books out of Australia in six weeks. I'm working with you, and we have high hopes for your YA fantasy. Correct?
Definitely! I loved working with you on my novel and definitely hope to be added to your list of successful authors when it gets picked up. Now tell me, why is it a good idea to hire an editor?
I can't speak for other editors, so I'll speak for myself. Most writers' groups can tell if there's a problem with a piece of writing but they may not be able to articulate it so you understand it. It's important to find out what needs work as well as what is already great and shouldn't be touched. I'm not a comma chaser, I don't give a hoot about spelling and grammar until the story is locked. Without fresh, inspired writing, there's nothing to correct anyway. Structure is my big deal, and most manuscripts are held back by rickety story structure. That being said, I've met editors who scare the crap out of me. They eschew colloquial language, they balk at certain tones of "voice" that I would embrace. I go to great lengths to preserve an original voice, no matter how unusual. If I think it conveys originality and personality, I'm all for it, no matter how many rules get broken. I'm about fresh, exciting storytelling, not rules! If it works, I go for it, and I support and protect writing that leans that way. Finally, if you're in the noir genre or experimental at all, make sure you research an editor carefully. We all have different strengths and genres that we're best at.
This has been some great information on working with an editor. In closing, do you have any other tips for aspiring authors?
I'd like to say that you can have the greatest manuscript in the world, but without a professional query letter it's easy to get passed over. I have a query letter service with a secret sauce that ensures an average 80% response rate from agents. I can just do a letter for a writer, or I can advise on their online presence which, if done correctly, can greatly improve the chances of a deal.
Thanks Elaine! I’m looking forward to working with you to edit my next piece! If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?
My website is bestsellermetrics.com and there is a contact form to email me. I’d love to hear from your readers.
* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.