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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Indie Authors: Here's How to Hire Bob Woodward's Copyeditor for Your Next Novel

One of the most common critiques of indie authors is that we’re unprofessional. You see the stereotype again and again – we just write quickly and throw our stuff up on Amazon or Nook without any thought to revising, editing, or copyediting. While I don’t doubt that some folks do this, all of the serious indie authors that I’ve read clearly take the time to work through the process properly.
As I was finishing the last of several rounds of edits on Band of Demons last year, I decided to hire a copyeditor. With my first book, after editing and heavily revising multiple times, I spread the job of copyediting out to several friends, imploring them to catch typos. They caught many, but not all. With my sequel, I wanted a professional to take a fresh look after the editing and revising was done to catch any mistakes that my editor and I missed. Enter Evelyn Duffy.
A journalist friend of mine suggested I ask Evelyn for help. He said she was very talented, loved fiction and – I admit this had a lot of appeal – had already copyedited books for legendary journalist Bob Woodward. After reaching out to Evelyn  at her company, Open Boat Editing, I hired her to copyedit Band of Demons.
The results were fantastic. She was quick, thorough, caught all of the small errors and provided valuable feedback more generally.  In addition to finding typos, she pointed out plot inconsistencies (which were blessedly few and easy to fix), repetitive phrasing and many other little issues that can draw a reader out of the narrative. Having her read the book was a great relief since both my editor and I had looked over the book too many times, making it harder to catch mistakes. As many of you know, pressing the “publish” button can be nerve-wracking. After Evelyn’s copyedit, I had extra confidence that the book was finally ready to go.
For those looking for a professional copyeditor, I recommend Evelyn wholeheartedly. She was a pleasure to work with from start to finish and I think indie books could benefit from her keen eye.
To help promote her work, I asked her a few questions about her company, how she ended up working for Bob Woodward and her own career as a novelist.

1) What attracted you to editing and writing? 

I come from a literary family, and there were always lots of books around. My grandfather was a renowned English teacher, and my family is full of teachers and librarians. My parents encouraged my writing - in fact, they still do: they're my first readers and best editors. 

A frank and straightforward editor, with a sense of humor and an appreciation for collaboration, is something most people are lucky to encounter once in their writing career; I was born into a family of them. It seemed a natural fit for me.

2) Can you tell us more about your company, Open Boat Editing?

Sure! Through Open Boat I've edited every kind of work imaginable. You can find info and rates at, and you can contact me via the form on the site or at

I've worked with novelists, playwrights, and writers of short creative fiction and nonfiction. I've also helped a variety of nonfiction authors on politics, history, military affairs, current events, science, and business projects. 

I've edited New York Times best-selling books, newspaper articles and columns that have run in The Washington Post, and scholarly theses - but I've also done movie scripts, websites, resumes, and even wedding invitations.

No matter the size of the project, establishing a relationship of trust with an author is crucial. As your editor, I'm on your side, and I'm here to bring out the very best in your work.

3) I particularly like the story of how that name came about. Can you tell us more about that? 

I took my company's name from one of the best-written (and best-edited) short stories in the English language, Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat". It comes from the expressive first sentence of a startlingly stark and beautiful paragraph:
"A night on the sea in an open boat is a long night. As darkness settled finally, the shine of the light, lifting from the sea in the south, changed to full gold. On the northern horizon a new light appeared, a small bluish gleam on the edge of the waters. These two lights were the furniture of the world. Otherwise there was nothing but waves."

4) You've worked with Bob Woodward. How did that come about?

During my senior year in college, I did some freelance transcribing for "In A Time of War", a moving book by Bill Murphy that followed the lives of West Point graduates serving in Iraq. Bill had worked as Bob's research assistant, and when Bob began writing the book on the Bush administration that would become "The War Within", Bill recommended me. 

5) What was it like to work for a journalism legend? 

It's never boring. The job has been an unfolding education, and I'm grateful for the amazing opportunities. It's also given me an unfiltered view of leaders and events that's indelible. 

6) A lot of self-published authors skip the editing and copyediting part of the process. Is this a mistake? Does everyone really need an editor? Why? 

This question reminds me of a time in high school when several hundred free shirts were handed out to students for some public event. I can't remember what the occasion was, but I recall with perfect clarity that the printer of the shirts left the "L" out of "public". Everybody needs an editor. 

The saying goes that he who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. The same is true of writers who publish without editors. At best, you're missing out on a second pair of eyes to catch embarrassing mistakes. At worst, you're depriving yourself of the chance to make your good work great.

7) Are you open to working with any genre or are their particular ones you prefer? 

I actually really enjoy genre-hopping. Reading works on varied subjects I might not otherwise come across expands my mind and keeps me sharp; it's my favorite part of the job. 

I have lots of experience with current events and political books, and I enjoy working on them. Fiction, particularly young adult fiction, is a particular passion of mine.

8) I saw you mention you are working on your own novel. Can you tell us more about that?
I'd love to! It's a fantasy adventure story for high-school age readers with a strong heroine at the center of the action. It's about a young girl named Anne who is forced to flee her homeland when her father, a tyrannical king, orders her killed to clear the way for his new male heir, and her fight to return and take her place as queen.

I've also written a number of short stories and had a one-act play, "Nighthawks", (based on the Edward Hopper painting) staged at The George Washington University. 

9) Will it be traditionally published or are you going the indie route?
My aim is to finish it first and explore all my options after that (and hopefully while working on a new story). I'm open to anything!

10) What are some of your favorite books?
My favorite book is "A Christmas Carol", by Charles Dickens. This little book captures the essence of human nature; we've all got a little Scrooge in us sometimes, but hopefully we manage to be more like him at the end of the story as often as possible.

Other favorites of mine are the "His Dark Materials" series by Phillip Pullman, anything by John Irving, and "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this blog - interesting and relevant questions. Also great to know about an editor with whom you've had experience.