Do You Remember?


Earlier this year, I accepted a new client who had never been edited before. From the start, there were problems. She couldn’t follow the payment plan, which was bi-weekly. I gave her multiple opportunities to “get it right” before she did, but I didn’t start working until she paid in full. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t about to lose money over a person who wasn’t serious and who thought everything was funny. “Oops, I’ll have to pay you in two weeks. I put the money on the wrong prepaid card. Sorry.” I’d get these messages for weeks before I said “You have to pay by this date or I’m not taking the job.”

Her “manuscript”, and I use the term so loosely, rope should be involved, was a fucking MESS. I don’t exaggerate about the written word, ever. Mess, disaster, and “manuscript from hell” are words I’d use, and did, to describe the torment of having to work for this demanding, rude, insensitive, know-it-all who’d never been edited and is going to tell me, after 20 years of experience, how long a “dirty manuscript” on a first edit should take. I know people who have taken five years to write a book they were proud of.  When it was edited a year after completion, so as to be thorough, at least they knew it wasn’t crap.

I’ve given her weekly updates, sometimes bi-weekly. I’ve done everything to be highly communicative, receiving responses like “Okie”, because apparently that’s how she spells “Okay”. Did you just empathize with me? Communicating with this person was like talking to a crash test dummy.

When I contacted her this morning to let her know that I’m moving and would complete her manuscript once I was settled in to my new place of residence, she claimed she’d given me two different deadlines that never existed. I know they didn’t exist because I never committed to a deadline, and she never specified one in the contract, or in conversation. It was 100% never discussed. I have a very sharp memory and yes, she bitched once, but I flat-out explained how much work was involved in her manuscript, and how time-consuming it was as it is not my full-time job.

Today she decided she’d prefer to part ways and “go a different road”. I returned the “dirty manuscript” with all of my notes and for the first time in 20 years, allowed myself to say “Good riddance.” I was the epitome of polite and respectful, but her demands during one of the worst years of my life and her deciding to “part ways” is a blessing. If I told you how much I got paid for this edit, you’d cry. Never again will I allow myself to be demeaned or disrespected by someone who thinks they’re the next Stephen King.

I had a moment where I felt like a failure. I have NEVER, not once, returned incomplete work to someone, but when a person is completely unwilling to work with you, to read their work before submitting it, etc., then I don’t feel it’s my responsibility, once they get vile, to do more than say “Here you go. Good luck.” Clearly she has NO idea how the industry works, what is and is not marketable, and that without a team behind me, yes, editing takes time. She said she wrote this manuscript in a few months and that “everyone who read it loved it”. It was barely a first draft, leave alone a fourth re-write. I can tell when someone is half-assing something. Even if they’re a New York Times Bestselling Author, I can tell when something isn’t properly thought out before submission.

So from here on in, I am only accepting proofreading, beta reads, and critiques. My writing focus now returns to my novels, which are quality. My creative focus will move to my career change because while I will always be a writer, I need more to keep me going. I need something daily that makes me feel like I have purpose.

A word of advice: Editors aren’t your punching bag and they don’t deserve to be shit on. If your editor is having a bad year, it’s okay to suggest moving on so that they can focus on their own life during a crisis, but it’s not okay to be a bitch to them. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Be respectful. Even more, if you’re barely paying them, you have no right to bitch about time unless you split everything up into chapters and allow them to work and submit chapters back to you as they complete them, because that’s when things can work in a much smoother fashion.

I highly recommend splitting your files up into chunks, perhaps a few chapters at a time, that way you’re communicating properly with the person who will be tending to your “baby”. Also, ask them to do a read-through before they edit, that way they can give you a fair price and an estimated time of delivery. Don’t freak out if the book that took you years to write takes nine months, or longer, to edit. I do a proofread, edit, fact-check, and then I double-check the work, so yes, it’s time-consuming.

The person you’re hiring is a flake only if you never see any results and never hear from them again, but a person who communicates with you regularly is being honest.

If my editor was having a bad year, I would never show them such disrespect. Shit happens, and it’s not the other person’s fault. If you want to hire a trained monkey who will kiss your ass, perhaps you should check out your local zoo.

I’ve never been so happy to delete someone’s work in my entire life. That probably sounds horrible, but at the end of the day, I shouldn’t want to remove my head off my shoulders because I was doing my job. No one should feel that way.

When someone tells me their story is SO good that it will be picked up traditionally and I’m editing it shaking my head “No, not in this lifetime.”, that means it will be 99 cents on Amazon Kindle. Granted, I’ve read some fantastic stuff for $5 or less on Kindle, but I’ve also been mortified by a lot of it.

Anyone who reads this sees my work regularly. They know I don’t eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, and when you see my writing style, you can see that I edit it thoroughly. I’m human. I have the occasional typo, I’m quick-witted, educated, and willing to admit my faults.

Today, I say “C’est la vie.” Write what you want to write, but disrespecting an experienced, talented editor is unacceptable to me. One migraine less to think about. I’m moving on.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



The Low Bid


If you’re any kind of freelancer, you know, all too well, what the “low bid” means. In today’s market, it is something I find utterly distasteful. You cannot put a price on creativity, but apparently many people are going around claiming they cannot afford it. Okay, then don’t ask for it for free, and don’t disrespect those of us who work our asses off doing what you are incapable of.

A few years ago, I had a long-term client leave me for $100 less PER YEAR so she could go to another editor. It was a big contract. Instead of talking to me, she waited until the final month of the contract and while we were in negotiations to renew, she told me she had found someone willing to charge $100 a year less than her current contract, which was paid out in monthly installments. It wasn’t $100 a month less, it was $100 total. That’s less than $10 a month in “savings”.

If she had told me ahead of time that there was an issue, I would have dropped the yearly price in order to keep the job, but overall, it wasn’t worth the argument once she’d drawn the line in the sand. If you have no loyalty to me, I will have absolutely none to you in kind. My NDA’s with this client have expired, but I have never publicly or professionally told anyone what she did, and I’ve never called her out, despite the fact that I find it deplorable. If you’ve been a client for more than a month, I tend to be pretty loyal and helpful, but this was the epitome of insulting and disrespectful. It also showed me the level of this person’s character. “I wish you well, but you’re on my shit list.”

We are all working with budgets these days, and that is a result of daily life, the job and housing market, and the economy. It is not uncommon to see people with calculators at the grocery store, myself included, or a bag full of coupons. It doesn’t phase me at all for someone to ask me to work within their budget, but when you try to cheapen my, or someone else’s hard work, that’s when it pisses me off.

I have people who come to me with jobs, thinking that a penny is worth 1000-5000 words of editing. In most cases, that is several pages worth of work, and it could very well be more than an hour of my time. So, not only is the answer no, it’s HELL NO. Yes, they can hire someone in a different country to do it, someone whose first language isn’t English, but I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for, in all things. Unless an article of clothing is actually on sale, I suspect that the lower price means it will need to be replaced in 3-12 months. I liken it to buying a bra at Walmart. It might be $10, or less, and who doesn’t want to save money? But it won’t last as long as the $80 bra I got on sale for $25 that is well made, and is something I wear often, something that I’ve had in perfect condition for 6 years. That’s a simple fact. You DO get what you pay for.

Low bidding an editor who spends months on your work or a graphic designer who you’re asking to make miracles happen is disgustingly disrespectful to me. You want sixteen different things done, but you expect it done for pennies.

I have a graphic designer I refer work to because she has the experience, work ethic, and talent. I don’t care if it’s a brand logo, a t-shirt design, or a book cover. If you lowball her, I am going to hunt you down. If you’re going to disrespect her, I am going to find you and make your life extremely unpleasant. If you’re selling a product, I am going to personally make sure no one I know buys the product. With a book, I say “live and let live”, but I will never forget the rudeness or the disrespect. I have a LONG memory and if you’ve made my shit list, walk very carefully through life. I am not afraid to speak up or speak out.

I am open to working with people who get it, who realize that fairness and decency go a long way. But today, and from here on out, I am unwilling to work with ignorant assholes who will go behind my back, or the back of those they are referred to, and expect us to demean ourselves for a buck.

I am not a whore for my line of work. What you choose to make out of that is your issue, not mine.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Professional Headaches


I am not known for my patience. If you’re not a child or a “little” (“Hello littles!” That’s how I talk to animals.), my tolerance for you is probably slim to none. God help you if slim leaves town.

People’s expectations are unreasonable, especially when I am given work that requires hours and hours of face time. There are only so many hours in a day. You can only write “rewrite” and “revise” so many times in a day. You can only make so many corrections that are crucial to the development of a story, and point out major errors before you slowly start to lose your mind. And when you do, if you’re like me, you take a few days to breathe. Unless I’m on a tight deadline, I am going to include some self-care in the mix, or I’ll kill the clients and no one wants that…or do they?

You ignore the “Is it done yet?” questions that have about as much impact as on you as “Are we there yet?” You try not to say what you really think and feel. You wait a few days and then you respond as professionally as humanly possible, but how many times do you really need to say “Please, let me work. This is way more than what I signed on for.” to the same person? How many times do you have to repeat yourself about how they should have read their work in advance of sending it to you? Yet, perhaps it’s nerves, impatience, what have you, but it is fucking annoying to constantly be asked the same damn questions. I’m exceedingly mature, so when people far older than I are immature, it’s an immense turn off, be it personally or professionally.

If you give me something and ask me to read it, be prepared for an honest answer when you inevitably ask “Is it good?” I used to ask people if they wanted my opinion or the truth, and to be careful with their choice. I no longer ask because whether it’s one or the other in terms of delivery, it is still the unadulterated truth. Dunkin Donuts and I have not teamed up to sugar coat your day. Mmm, donuts…

Editors still have lives. I work hard, but when I need a break it is usually due to my health or personal responsibilities. I cannot be glued to my laptop 24/7 looking at the same material every single moment. One, it’s not healthy and two, it’s important to get up and move when you work at a computer all day. Sitting is the new cancer, at least according to the medical professionals I know. I don’t know about all of you, but it makes me uncomfortable hearing the two words used together, so it’s not uncommon for me to walk away and do a load of laundry, or cook, watch the birds and bunnies in the backyard for a while, or simply shut the computer down for a few hours and focus on other things. I’m human. Moreover, I’m a human-being who suffers from Fibromyalgia. The days I can sit at all are miraculous. My pain gets worse each day, so I’m not receptive to whining from others.

I can either do something right the first time or not do it at all. If you consistently annoy me, you can pretty much guarantee I will be unavailable for future projects. I’ve already done enough work for 20 paychecks, not one. It’s hard not to be frustrated knowing that.

For future reference, too many people think they’re writers. Puking ideas onto paper does not make you a writer. Cohesive storytelling is a gift. Having honest people in your life who encourage the good and let you know when something is awful is also important.

There are days I wish I was an unprofessional hack. 😦

For those of you that messaged me about cutting off so much of my hair: I am almost certain today that it’s too short and I hate it, but I am trying to give myself time to get used to it. In turn, I am off to play with the Topstyler and see if that makes a difference. If it doesn’t, I am changing the color to blue until it grows back. Right now I am pretty sure I look like my brother with hair. 😦

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


How To Be A Client An Editor Wants To Work With

Author’s Note: These are all true experiences. I will never name names, but I’m not going to filter my honesty either. If something I say here offends you, then you probably don’t want to be a writer. 


Not every client I work with is a breeze, but a small percentage are truly fabulous (One I had this week was wonderful.). There has been a tiny percentage over the last 20 years that have enraged me with their constant inquiries, rude comments, whining, tantrums, or those who simply do not understand the process.

It’s 2015, so I think it’s important for writers, especially new writers seeking publication by any means, to understand that editors are human beings. We have families, we have things that go wrong in our lives, and no matter how much we may love what we do, we’re just like everyone else. We have bills to pay, we have responsibilities, children to raise, meals to prepare, animals to care for, homes to clean, clothes that have to be washed, etc. Why would you treat your editor as a lower life form and expect them to respond well to you? I wouldn’t treat a stranger the way some people treat their editors, so here are a few things I feel are crucial information for you to have.

If you’re about to work with an editor or are currently in the process, even for the smallest project, here are some surefire ways to be a good client and not make said editor contemplate a move to a Brazilian rainforest (Another good goal is not to end up on a list of clients they’ll refuse to do business with in the future.)

#1- Don’t call or e-mail within 15 minutes of sending them your manuscript to ask if they’re finished. I JUST started. I’m on page three. Why are you asking if I’ve read the entire thing that you JUST sent to me? Precisely how does one get it into their head that a non-magical entity has just inhaled 100,000 words (or more) in 15 minutes?! It is annoying to the point of something more severe. Here, let me whip out my magic wand…  Don’t do it, and if you’re thinking about doing it, lock your phone in a drawer and change all of your passwords to stifle yourself.

A good editor will update you during the process, there is no need to nag. You may find yourself so excited that you can’t help but constantly send your editor messages, but eventually, even the best editor is going to lose their patience with repetitive questions. The only time it’s acceptable to keep track of them is, if by some strike of lightning, you never hear from them again, which happens to people on occasion. However, a person that responds to you and keeps you updated is working, and you probably aren’t their only job, so be patient. Take this from a person who is being nagged every few days by a client. If strangling were legal…  

#2- Don’t say rude, insensitive, inappropriate, idiotic shit. If an editor lets you know right away that they are dealing with any kind of emergency (We’re people, life/shit happens and it’s not always good.) decide whether or not you can hold out. If they are in the middle of the work, let them finish. Continuity is important. Hiring another editor to do what they’ve been working on is a headache because that person will only start from the beginning and make changes more suitable to their style, and that’s additional time, and money, being spent.

If they just started working and you’ve barely paid them, it’s okay to move on if need be, but don’t take hostility out on them or, if you agree that you can wait, don’t send them messages every few days, or weekly, to ask about the progress. Let them work. If I have to stop what I’m doing to answer your repetitive e-mails, I might not be pleasant, polite, or anywhere near the word “professional”. I might give you one word answers. If I respond three days later, that does not mean I was ignoring you. It means I was working. Don’t make assumptions. 

#3- Realize that every freelance editor does not have a team behind them and/or a slew of assistants. I’m a one-woman show. There are days I knock out 25,000 words in the editing and/or proofreading process and there are days I am only able to get through a few pages. The dirtier the manuscript, the more face time it requires.

#4- Read your work in advance before you submit it. You might even want to read it twice. Use spell check. Hell, use a grammatical tool so I don’t stare at the page flabbergasted by your complete and utter lack of knowledge regarding the use of the English language. “Did she actually write “ancestory” instead of “ancestry”? I think I’m having a stroke. (This happened to me Thursday.) That is not a typo (look at where each letter is on your keyboard), it’s someone trying to sound out a word and failing, miserably.   

#5- You may have a few self-published titles under your belt, but that doesn’t make you a writer. Yeah, I said it. Anyone can self-publish. If you don’t have an audience to sell to and a solid story, don’t make it out to be more than it is. There are some exceptions to this rule and they are people who have properly marketed themselves as a brand. I know a few of them and their decency measures up to the quality of their writing.

#6- You cannot self-promote anything that isn’t edited, clean, and ready to go. It’s childish and unprofessional, and it’s not going to work in your favor the second a prospective agent Googles you and finds your blatant self-promotion, for a book they may or may not want to buy, in places they probably don’t want to see it. They might like your chutzpah, because you will need those skills later on, but they’re not going to want unedited excerpts on every writing web-site from here to Calcutta. Know when to hold things close and even better, know when to keep your mouth shut. Unless something is a done deal contractually, zip it. Afterwards, I’d still refrain.

#7- Write what you know. If you’re choosing a place you have never been and will never visit, you’re not going to capture the essence of the most crucial things, and a local resident or someone who has been there is going to pick up on that immediately. There may be a lot of competition to write about things in major cities, but if you’ve actually made the statement that Johns Hopkins University and their respective Hospital are in New York City when it most certainly is not (Hello, have you ever heard of Baltimore, Maryland?! Unless I’ve had a recent lobotomy, they’re both still there.), I strongly recommend NOT making New York City your setting. (Yes, this happened. I had to walk away from the crazy because insistence does not make something truth.)

#8- Speak to me, on the phone & in e-mails, the same way you want to be spoken to. If you’re incessantly rude, eventually even the nicest person is going to snap. Ultimately, treat people the way you want to be treated, in all things.

#9- You may love your editor, but he/she is not your bestie. Unless we’re genuine friends outside of work, I cannot take time to counsel you on your marriage, friendships, parents, or children. Not when you constantly ask me “Is it done yet?” It’s NOT a piece of chicken.

#10- An editor who knows his or her shit is going to push you to be better. We are going to tell you to re-write, revise, and altogether tell a better story. It’s our job to dissect what you’ve written and help you make it into a cohesive, readable body of work. Telling you it’s the most fabulous thing I’ve ever read when it is not and kissing your ass for writing it “in three months” is NOT in my job description. I can tell when something took no time at all.

#11- There is a relatively long list of words I will cut out of a manuscript the second I see them in an overly repetitive fashion. “Very”, “Awesome”, “Seriously”, “Really” “Totally”, “Umm”, “Just” “Ya” as opposed to “Yeah”, are merely a few. The deal-breaker is “Alright”. I flip my lid every time I see it and you’re out there calling yourself a writer. Don’t insult me, I’ve been writing for 28 years and I’m almost positive I have always known that “all right” is two fucking words, not a creative amalgamation for the lazy. If ever I DID make errors like that, there was always someone present to correct me.

The occasional slip-up is not the end of the world, but if you regularly use the word “Y’all”, or any variation thereof, please exit stage door left so I don’t throw something. I realize it’s a part of some people’s daily vernacular, but if you’ve written it into a book that does not take place south of the Mason-Dixon line, I’m cutting it.

#12- If you want five hundred pages edited in 1-3 days, you’re either looking to hire a machine or highly intelligent zoo animals. Let me know how that works out for you. (This is a regular request. These are the same people who think this level of editing shouldn’t cost more than $30 U.S., not Canadian. I would rather starve for a week than do that much work for so little money. That’s not even my current hourly rate!)

The very best editor for you is someone you have fostered some sort of professional, communicative relationship with, maybe even someone you know who edits and who you have come to respect, but it’s not the person you picked out of a line-up as the cheapest person for the job. Unfortunately, sometimes you get what you pay for and other times you find someone amazing. It’s the luck of the draw.

At the end of the day, I do not have all the answers. I have 95% of them, but not all of them. 😉

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


I Wrote Today…Be Thrilled

I am in excruciating pain. From the top of my spine to the top of my thighs, I cannot stand the torturous pain that only seems to get worse with every passing minute. After a point, you really have to ask yourself an important question: Do I take ANOTHER pill or do I pray this will stop at some point? It’s been quite some time since I’ve wanted a morphine drip, but right now, it sounds good.

While this pain attacks my being relentlessly, cutting off my early (for me) bed time by waking me up, I actually sat here for over an hour pouring over what shall forever be dubbed as “the manuscript from hell”. At this point, I can honestly say I am forcing myself to work and get it done. I am NOT enjoying myself in any way, shape, or form. I keep thinking about all the Biotin I will have to take to replace the hair this manuscript is costing me. God help me if my work ever tortures another individual so much! 😦


On a more serious note, a fellow writer had her first book hacked by someone claiming to be an editor in India. After three months of “editing”, he hacked into her Amazon account, tried to pass the book off as done, and then stole her credit card information and, to my understanding, maxed out her card. He damaged her files to the point where she has just lost a year of hard work, work she cherished beyond measure. So now, she’s lost a book she was proud of AND she has to file all kinds of reports to avoid identity theft, and get her credit card charged back and replaced. This is nightmarish, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone ever again.

I want everyone that is a writer to be VERY careful when hiring an editor. I highly recommend sticking to your country of origin and asking for a contract and non-disclosure agreement. That is my standard method of dealing with all of my clients and while some of them may drive me insane at times, I have never, not once in 20 years, released their names or discussed what their work was about. It’s okay to say your job is driving you nuts, but as an editor it’s crucial to my reputation to protect my clients’ work.

At the end of each day, I don’t OWN their manuscripts. I can ask to receive credit as the editor for those that self-publish, but three months after a job has been completed, I release my hold on any and all files. I keep them for that short time period on the off-chance they will need me to fix something or need a backup copy, but after that, I delete the work. I have no rights to it whatsoever, and each contract states that.

If you’re writing a book, back up your files to something external. A thumb drive, a microSD card, an external hard drive, etc., and put a hard copy on a CD or DVD, and put it in a safe place. If you can put it in a safe, I highly recommend that as an option. Don’t EVER allow someone to access your work remotely. Do not give passwords out! Shield everything you put your name on and protect it with your life. There are seriously evil people in this world that are, without question, predators to some extent. Do not allow yourself to become a victim of anyone professing to be something that are, quite clearly, not.

There are plenty of legitimate freelancers and there are even more that are simply liars. Aim high when searching for someone legitimate to assist you with something so important. If you have any questions, I am happy to assist where I can.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Nightmares In Editing


I am an immense fan of what I call the “clean manuscript”. That means the manuscript doesn’t require me to do any of the following: Lose hair. Attempt to remove my eyeballs with a fork or melon baller. Grind my teeth. Slouch over my laptop in sheer disgust. And those are just a few of my reactions to having to work on the dreaded “dirty manuscript”. Clean manuscripts allow me to do my job properly, efficiently, and the result is always a pleased client, which is what both client and editor should desire as the end result.

The cleaner the manuscript, the quicker it will be returned to you. I am happy to correct all minor things I catch, all major things, and provide you with extensive notes regarding readability, plot, etc. It’s my job, and I do it well. The reason I loathe the “dirty manuscript” is because it requires months of attention. Most people have never re-read their original manuscript, they just turn it over to me and expect me to make it readable and sellable. I’m good, but I am not a miracle worker. If you give me a manuscript that requires rewrites, revisions, and overhauls, the blame does not reside with me. In fact, I don’t see why there needs to be blame at all. It is what it is. I cannot polish something that isn’t a diamond in the rough, or even a high quality gemstone.

The best way to get the right results in the editing process is as follows:

A- Work your story, and write it well. Outlining helps for some, and distracts others. Do what works for you. Everyone is different in this respect, and that’s okay.

B- Always use proper spelling and grammar. Do not use slang. When in doubt, use a thesaurus and/or a dictionary. They will be incredibly helpful tools for you at all times.

C- It is NOT beneath me to remind you that “alright” is NOT a word. Every time someone tells me they’re a writer and they use words like “alright” or “anyways”, I die a little inside.

D- I hate over-use of any particular word, especially in the same sentence or paragraph. If I see it twice in the same sentence to describe something or someone, I’m cutting it. I will tell you in my notes precisely why I cut it and correct you when you do it again and again.

E- Be open to any and all legitimate suggestions from your editor. After all, a good editor wants you to succeed.

Many writers struggle with spelling, proper tense, punctuation, remaining in one point of view at a time, and grammar. These are things I take note of and assist with. I always double-check spelling for the country of origin, or the country in which the author is seeking publication. American English is different from British English, which is also used in a vast majority of countries far away from the U.K. Some people request I edit in American English and others request British English. I’m good with both, but I do suggest that a person have two separate copies when they are looking for representation with agents more than one market.

When in doubt of how good or interesting your work may or may not be, hire a beta reader. You do not want friends, family, or the lady down the street to tell you how fabulous your work is before it has even seen an editor, but you DO need someone who will tell you the absolute truth and has no vested interest in your work.

Many people report how much others loved their story (read: family and friends), and then I read it and shake my head in disbelief because it’s as if someone spit random thoughts onto a page, as opposed to being a cohesive story that one can follow without suspecting they’ve lost their mind. You might very well be able to find someone willing to beta read for free, but I believe in paying someone who has absolutely no connection to you whatsoever. You’re paying for a critic, and their overall opinion. You can be specific with them about what their role is. It should cost under $50-$60, and is generally less than half that, depending on the person’s experience. I have seen people hire as many as ten beta readers and as few as one. It is a relatively small investment to help you better yourself as a writer and it helps you produce a better product overall.

Some people think it’s insane to seek out a beta or three, but I have had many authors publish work and then come to me later on to ask me to beta a new project, saying they wish they had done that with their first body of work, or their second, but that now that they know more about writing, they don’t see how people can simply go to friends and family. They’ve grown as writers and want to produce a better product. I agree with them, and applaud their candor.

I do plenty of beta work. I’m extremely honest when I do it for people because I know how hard it is to get the truth out of others when it pertains to something so close to your heart. I have been lucky to always have people tell me the truth. No one has ever kissed my ass in regard to anything, leave alone my work.

Your immediate instinct might be to listen to the praise you receive and run with it, but I’d listen for the constructive criticism and the person who is honest enough to point out the flaws and give you detailed feedback. Ultimately you can take opinions with a grain of salt and a shovel full of sand, but this is a crucial step. Some people prefer alpha readers who read chapters as they are completed. I have done that for people, usually reading one chapter at a time or a dozen chapters at a time, but I prefer to beta because I don’t end up feeling like I am somehow missing some huge portion of the story that will eventually be written. I also prefer material that isn’t raw. Plus, I think it’s good to encourage new writers to complete their projects and push them in the right direction in regard to their strengths. Not only is it good karma, it’s also genuine. There is room for everyone in the community. You are not going to be perceived as my competition because the only person I have to compete against is myself. It’s my job to write what I write and write it well, just as it is your job to do the same with your work.

Writers who believe they can edit their own work because they don’t want to pay someone is one of the saddest things I see. Not that long ago a friend sent me a copy of her completed book. I was, and still am, happy for her, but I didn’t have time to read it right away. I remember reading a few pages initially and then not being able to pick it up again for a while because I was busy. Late one night, when I was unable to sleep, I decided to give it a shot. I became slightly engrossed and then reached a portion of the story that annoyed me beyond words. She’d taken a conversation we’d had years ago and used it as an idea in her story. Initially, I was LIVID. Then, the more I thought about it, I decided that she probably didn’t recall the conversation, or who she’d had it with, and had simply logged the idea in her head. I really don’t think she had any malicious intent behind it, because if she did, then why send it to me if she knew I’d see what she wrote and flip out on her? It’s not even worth bringing up, so I have chosen not to mention it when I do give her feedback on it. However, my point in all this is that she didn’t pay for an editor, she had friends beta and edit for her, and so while I was reading, I found spots where the entire thing needs to be corrected and revised. Luckily, the mistakes are minor and only a very discerning eye would notice them, but I saw them and winced because I know this book is important to her.

I had a potential client tell me she couldn’t afford me. Okay. I went so far as to offer her a reduced rate and she still insisted that I was too high (publicly she told others I had the BEST prices). Freelance editors normally charge between $1000-$5000 for their services. My rate was significantly lower, but I reached a point in dealing with her where I said to myself “I am NOT going to price myself any lower simply to get a client. I work hard, this is not a game, and I have bills to pay, just like anyone else.” She, and many others, believe they can “do it themselves”. These are the very same people who want free advice from someone with experience and don’t listen to a word you say, because they’re convinced they know it all, which is the height of ignorance.

I don’t know it all, but I have the experience. I’m not perfect, but I’m open to learning. By proxy, we should all be learning something new each day.

Some days I write. Some days I edit. Some days I cannot get out of bed. And yet, I’ve never submitted anything that might make someone want to tear their eyes out. I suspect it comes from having excellent English teachers and from not having any one, ever, gloss my work over.

I’m grateful to those who helped me perfect my voice and even more grateful to those who encouraged it. It’s one of those things that helps me spot all the diamonds and gems that might never see the light of day without the proper encouragement.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


In Some Situations


In some situations, you are the problem. In others, you are the problem solver. In the last week, I have been both the problem and the problem solver, but I’m proud of myself because I found a way around the problems and managed to solve them without losing my cool, yelling, screaming, or “unleashing the beast”.

It’s no secret that I have a temper. Push me and I will push back so hard, you’ll be in another country before you know what hit you. Over the last few years, I’ve worked really hard to dial back the temper and be a less anger-based person. So far, so good.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no angel and certain situations and people call for anger, but the day-to-day stuff does not. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” couldn’t be a more true statement or wiser advice. However, there’s a time and a place for every thing.

This past week I’ve struggled with my health, with work, and with things in my personal life. I’m concerned about my health, but all I can do is pray for the best and handle things as they come my way. Work, by comparison, is uncomplicated. I find it interesting how very specific projects land in my lap, and they’re 100% in my wheelhouse. It just goes to show you that the right people find you at precisely the right time. I truly have no explanation for all the batshit crazy people, but that’s life. There’s no true rhyme or reason, it simply is what it is.


I’d like to thank all of the new followers that have come on board over the last few weeks. It’s so lovely to see readership grow in a positive way. 🙂 I also have to thank those of you following on Twitter. Feel free to follow and let me know what else you’d like to see here.

For now, all I can say with certainty is that stress and snow are causing me to not sleep well. Every night I have intentions of being in bed at 9:00 PM. Thus far, that’s just not working out and it’s driving me insane. Generally writers and insomnia go hand in hand, but because it screws up my days so badly, I am hoping this stops really soon. I’d rather write and edit all day as opposed to finally be hitting the pillow as the sun is rising. It’s not healthy and it’s disrupting so much that days just seem to blend into one another. I hope this coming weekend will be a breakthrough for me. Even if that breakthrough means I have to take a few sleeping pills to re-set my internal clock, I’m willing to do it. I simply cannot go on like this, it’s no way to live.

Work is going well. There is something wonderful about a writer that wants cohesiveness throughout their entire body of work and in turn, only wants to work with an editor that is honest, that pushes them to be better, and that truly knows their stuff. Working with an editor can be difficult if you’re unsure of yourself or you’ve heard only good things about your work prior to handing it over to a professional. It can be jarring for some people, and for others, it’s about revising, releasing, and moving forward. Detaching from your work is hard at times, but it’s the only way you grow as a writer.

I’m grateful to be booked up and to be sent projects I am highly knowledgeable about. I’ve taken way too many jobs where I didn’t know all the things I should have known about the subject matter, but because they were only critiques or proofs, I didn’t have to be, I just had to give my honest opinion and correct errors that had previously been missed. Editing is completely different. I’ve been very lucky to be sent things I know a lot about. Sometimes, especially in situations such as these, knowledge is power. Knowledge helps you make someone a better writer, a stronger storyteller. In turn, you come away feeling good about yourself too and then it’s not “just a job”.

Not everyone is a writer. Most people are born with the talent and the ability. It’s the creative voice and the creative mind unleashed. It’s not for everyone, and I think it’s important for people to realize that. I read plenty of manuscripts that make me cringe and many that make me smile. Okay, so the larger percentage makes me cringe, but you get my point.

Talent is what sets everyone apart. I may not be talented like five other women in the same room with me, but I know my skill-set very well and I’m not going to make myself small for anyone. I’m already short enough. 😉

Enjoy the rest of your week my lovely bunch of nuts.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Apparently, Some People Can’t Read Warnings…


I think I make myself incredibly clear. Clear to the point of overly repetitive! I’m starting to think I should come with a warning label, because some people are so stupid they cannot read the simplest of statements.

If you read my editor’s profile I strictly state that I will NOT do sample edits. I have done a few, but over time you see that the job you just did a sample for ends up going to someone else. It’s always the person with a lower bid. It’s not about how good you are, it’s about someone saving a few dollars. That’s fine. C’est la vie. However, I have now made it mandatory, part of my own personal policy if you will. I don’t give my work away for free, nor should anyone expect me to do so.

I received an inquiry late last night, complete with a chapter. Not only did the person not ask me anything, they simply said “Can you do a sample page? Thanks.” (I’d like to say that request wasn’t riddled with spelling errors, but it was. A simple request, filled with errors in spelling and grammar. For a second I said to myself “Do I just do it, or am I competing against two dozen other people?” The thought of losing out to someone else over a few dollars made me stand firm. I finally replied “I will only do the sample if I am the only person you are considering for the job. No one worth their salt gives their work away for free. Thank you” That’s not me being a bitch or egotistical, it’s laying down some important ground rules.

I’m always polite and professional, but I truly don’t think anyone worth their salt should give their work away for free. I will work with a person until they are happy with their manuscript, but I don’t think I should have to posture and/or bow down to whatever it is they’re looking for in a “sample”. If you’re hiring someone, read their bio. Look at their list of experience. Choose based on that. I might not always choose the person with the most experience, because sometimes they aren’t the right person for the specific genre, but I will choose the person that instinctively feels right in my soul.

My bio says “27 years of writing experience, nearly 20 years of editing experience.” (January 1st is my 20 year mark. 🙂 ) and lists all of my qualifications and precisely what I specialize in. It also clearly states that I no longer do sample edits because the practice has become unacceptable to me, not to mention it is frowned upon by the employer. Even they tell you that 99% of the time when you do a sample for someone, you will never hear back from the person and not to give your hard work away for free. For me, it’s really not worth it. Yes, I want the job, but I am not going to beg for it, not with an extremely long list of experience backing me up. Choose me because I am right for the job, or choose someone else. Either way, it’s okay.

As a writer, I am extremely careful who I share my work with. I don’t care who you are or how much trust I have in you, my work is MY WORK and there’s a line I simply will not cross. There are only two sets of eyes that have ever looked at my fiction work, and one set of those eyes is my own. Some people have seen brief excerpts or quotes, nothing more.

You really have to be careful to protect your work and shield it. There are thousands of cases in the court system for copyright infringement. There is always someone claiming to own a story when it was simply shared with them in friendship, or as a fresh set of eyes. I sign non-disclosure agreements to protect other people because I respect that they’ve worked hard. I do not want or need their ideas, and it is not my right to steal their work. My word is my bond, but if a piece of paper will also protect a client, then so be it. I feel the same way in kind because I have worked immensely hard on every single thing I’ve ever written.

I was lucky, because I was taught about copyrighting very young. New writers know next to nothing about how to protect themselves or their work, so I often have to step up and say something. Not everything you read on the Internet is true, so when in doubt, ask someone who has some experience.

Many new writers share their work via blogs and various platforms through social media. Therein lies your first mistake. Be a writer, share new material on blogs and social media, talk about new projects, but do NOT release privileged work until it has run the gamut with literary agents, editors, and/or you have already chosen to publish it yourself. Do extensive self-publishing research and don’t fall for any crap. Again, when it doubt, turn to someone knowledgable.

Above all, don’t do anything for work that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. A sample edit might seem fine to a lot of you, but to an experienced editor who already has a sample of her work posted to her profile, it is a grave insult. I won’t whore myself out for a “maybe”, nor will I whore myself out for a “yes”. If a person cannot show you respect, then you probably don’t want to work for or with them. Remember that. Your personal integrity is so much more important than anything else. It’s something someone can only take from you if you let them. I choose to keep my integrity in tact.

UPDATE: Integrity & Intuition will not lead you in the wrong direction. This person sent a chapter of her work out to every single person, 37 in total. I filed a complaint because clearly she wants free work if she’s doing that, and I usually get sent a prologue or a first chapter, never something in the middle. I was sent chapter 12, and the warning bells went off inside my head. She has listed the same job 4 times. They immediately flagged it and told me to continue reporting anyone that violates the terms of service because I could accidentally be booted for following the rules when I haven’t done anything wrong, but it’s hard when you’ve got 10 million customers and workers to be on top of every single incident. I feel better knowing I did what’s right. Always read the rules. It takes a few minutes, yes, but it gives you knowledge and shows you’re not a moron! I’m many things, a moron isn’t one of them.   

copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Saturday Morning Humor

I have been lucky (and not so lucky) to read a LOT of books long before they were ever published. The other day I was asked how crucial the editing process is. I said “As an editor, making sure your work is properly edited and not riddled with mistakes and errors is of the utmost importance. I cringe whenever I see something poorly edited.” I expected no response whatsoever, because really, why would I?

Then I noticed that what I said DID raise a comment, and it went a little something like this “Then how do you explain Fifty Shades Of Grey being published?!” I had the hardest time not laughing. I go from speaking from experience to being blamed for work I didn’t even edit! I’m pretty damn sure I was not credited as EL James’ editor, and if I was, I want a retraction, STAT.

I did respond to the ludicrous comment, only because editors aren’t publishers. We can push something and market it to death to a literary agent, but even that really isn’t our job. Marketability is not what I get paid, or in this case blamed, to do. However, as an editor, I do believe in letting the author know precisely how marketable their work is and which direction to take it in.

I’ve told people exactly which agents to submit queries to. A lot of people are first-time writers, have never been published, and even though they have a finished product, they have absolutely no idea what to do with it after the first edit. I advise, but unless I’m on contract, I do not do more than an extremely thorough edit with notes. In most cases, I am the first edit or the last before submission. Some books, while incredibly brilliant, never see the light of day. That is why more and more people are self-publishing and/or going through smaller publishing houses. It’s not an easy process, yet people seem to believe that it is because way too many idiots are on the New York Times Best Sellers List. Only 60% of them have true talent (Hell, I read their books!), and sometimes the numbers are higher or lower, depending on the month. Hand me a book, I will find the errors in the editing and grammar. And yes, it always makes me cringe.

As the consumer, and this goes for me as well, if you don’t like something, don’t fucking read it. Save your receipts, return whatever it is you disliked, and get something new or get a store credit. But don’t blame the editors of the world for what other people write!

copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.