#ThrowItForwardThursday: Meet Tessa Shapcott, Editor Extraordinaire

Tessa ShapcottWoot! It’s the final #ThrowItForward Thursday of 2015! (But don’t worry – 2016 will be chock full of other editors, bloggers, fellow authors, designers, and anyone else who helps promote authors, so stay tuned…)

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been a year since I first hired the marvelous Tessa Shapcott to help me whip A Man of Character into shape. It seems like yesterday, and yet so long ago, as well!

I can’t imagine my writing life without her, and am so very grateful not only for Tessa’s outstanding editing instincts, but to Katy Regnery for first recommending her to me (and to Tessa for agreeing to take me on!). My books would not be half of what they are without Tessa’s keen eye for plot and character development issues, y’all. So it’s only fitting that I take time to honor her, and get her to share a little bit about herself (surprise! She’s also an author!) with you on this Throw It Forward Thursday.

How long have you been working as an editor?

HarlequinI’ve got over thirty years’ experience as an editor. After leaving university, I started my working life as a secretary in a London literary agency, then became a children’s books editor for a while, specializing in teenage fiction. Later, I spent many years working for Harlequin Enterprises in their British office, looking after the Mills & Boon romance series, including Harlequin Presents. I left Harlequin in 2013 to freelance and write, and have been working with a growing list of clients from different genres ever since.

What drew you to editing? 

I come from a family of journalists, so words are in my DNA. I did toy with the idea of becoming a newspaper reporter but realized that I wasn’t tough enough for some of the assignments! Then it struck me that I had been a voracious reader and watcher of movies from an early age, and working with writers and the craft of storytelling, and dealing with amazing fictional characters, would be just perfect.

What kinds of editing do you do, and of them, is any one type your favorite?

I’m a fiction editor, specializing in genre and women’s fiction. I particularly love romance, being fascinated as I am by human relationships and I’m also an eternal optimist.

About how many clients do you work with regularly? Are you open to new clients?

I have a regular client list of approximately 25 authors. I am open to new clients if I can accommodate their timelines with my availability.

TVTVFinalEbookCoverDo you have any big name clients you’d like to brag about? Any romance writers in general you’d suggest we try (whether you edit them or not!)?

I love working with all my regulars; they’re all wonderful people and fantastic storytellers. But Katy Regnery, Kylie Gilmore, Jennifer Faye and Mimi Barbour, who are all NYT/USA Today best-sellers, deserve special mentions. Also Kristine Mason, who writes wonderfully chilling thrillers. All are self-published, and I would thoroughly recommend their books.

What’s your take on traditional versus indie publishing for a new author? Can an indie author produce a book comparable in quality to what comes from the professional houses? 

I would say that, for sure, there some indie authors who are absolutely competing head-to-head with traditionally-published writers.

What has interested me since I started my business working with indie authors is the quality of most of the self-published work I see. I think what happens is that traditional publishers—like any branded business—are obliged to build niches within the market and so they set boundaries for what they will and won’t take. Many self-published authors just don’t fit in a particular box, but it doesn’t mean to say that they are not worthy of publication. And what’s more, I am blown away about how intuitive and savvy indies can be about marketing themselves to readers and achieving sales.

I think the book market is currently the most exciting it’s been for a hundred and fifty years, with the two streams of traditional and indie.

What do you wish authors understood about editors?

writingThat an editor’s criticism is a gift! No-one writes the perfect novel straight off. So try not to be too precious or crushed if you get developmental tasks or revisions; put your ego aside and embrace what your editor is trying to tell you—she’s just wanting to help you get the best out of your book. She’s there to act as a professional reader, to show you the strengths and weaknesses of your work. There’s a well-known maximum amongst editors: the more revisions we give you, the more likely it is that we feel you’ve got something worth publishing!

What advice would you give a newbie author when it comes to editing?

Good freelance editors tend to get booked up well in advance, so do plan and approach your editor with plenty of time to spare to avoid disappointment. I am usually booked out 3-4 months ahead. However, I find myself having to turn away at least one new writer a week who decided a couple of days before they needed to get their manuscript edited, and who expects that I can begin work the next day. I should add that good freelance editors will also be juggling a number of projects/authors at any given time.

wifeineverysenseYou’ve told me you write as well as edit! Tell us about your own work!

I write romance under the pseudonym Joanne Walsh, and publish with Entangled Indulgence and Tule Publishing. I am loving doing it! My heroes are alpha males and I love to pit them against determined heroines in intense, passionate relationships. I write about international backgrounds (Italy and Greece are favourites), and like my characters to go through journeys of self-transformation emotionally.

How does your editing experience impact you as a writer?

That’s a very good question! I’d say that, having started writing, I am now a better editor because I understand now exactly how it feels to be edited, to struggle with deadlines, characters that won’t behave and words that don’t come. And there’s nothing like the exhilaration of getting your novel published. It’s definitely humbled me a little!

You live in England. Is there a big difference in the romance markets, from what you know, between the US and the UK?

Not a great deal actually. Authors can be best-sellers on both sides of the Atlantic if they have accessible voices and write about engaging characters and universal emotional truths and themes.

Thank you so much, Tessa! I feel unbelievably privileged to be one of your regular clients, and am so grateful for everyone you’ve done for me in whipping A Man of Character and A Matter of Time into publication-worthy shape.
Here’s to a fruitful 2016 for both of us, and for all of the authors with whom you work!