Hiring and Working with a Book Editor
with Qat Wanders

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Thinking about writing a book to share your expertise? Writer & editor of Wandering Words Media, Qat Wanders, talks about the ins and outs of book publishing and how to make the most out of hiring a book editor.

3 Lessons We Learned From This Episode

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Kyle Gray: (00:37)

Hello and welcome to The Story Engine Podcast. My name is Kyle Gray and today on the show we have Qat Wanders from Wandering Words Media. Qat worked with me in the editing of my most recent book, Selling With Story, and I had such an incredible time with her. She added so much value to the book. She helped me see kind of gaps in my ideas and my writing and gave me suggestions for how I could improve it. And of course, she did what I desperately need, which is excellent proofreading, grammatical help, and making sure my ideas came across very, very clear.


Kyle Gray: (01:14)

She is an absolute expert in all things book editing and book publishing and works with some of the brightest minds in the business that is book business. So I’ve invited her onto the show today to share a little bit about the book editing process, how to find and work with a great editor, and some of the value that an editor can add to your book and your business that you might not have expected. So let’s hand it over to Qat. Qat Wanders, welcome to the story engine podcast.


Qat Wanders: (01:47)

Hello. Hello.


Kyle Gray: (01:48)

So we’ve got a lot to talk about. We’re talking about books today and we’ve got so many different things that I’m really excited to explore with you because you are brilliant in this area. But I want to introduce you properly and that involves having you share a story about a defining moment in your life that has really made you who you are and how you show up in the world today.


Qat Wanders: (02:17)

That’s easy for me with that defining moment. So when I was seven years old, I had just written my first ever book series, and I mean I wrote it with a colored pencil, and I illustrated it, and I made it into a box set, six books in a tissue box. And I brought it to my dad and said, “Daddy, look, I’m an author.” And he said, “Oh honey, I’m so proud of you.” And he gave me $20 and he assured me he would always be my first customer and my number one fan. So when I was a rich and famous author, he’d always be there for me to buy the first copy of my book.


Qat Wanders: (02:53)

And you know, fast forward 30 years and I became a published author and he was there to buy the first copy of my book and that copy of that first book sat next to him on his bed one week later while he took his last breath. And I was holding his hand when he did that. So that was a really pivotal moment in my life, was getting published before he died. He had three months left to live, he found out and he told me that, so it really lit a fire up under my butt to get the book published. Honestly, if he hadn’t gotten that diagnosis, I might never have done it. So that was what really got me going, was making my daddy proud. That’s really, that was my why from the beginning and to this day, with all these books that I’ve published, I still think about him when I do it because we loved books. That was our thing.


Kyle Gray: (03:52)

I have no doubt he would be even more proud of you of seeing all of the really cool accomplishments, all of the books that you’ve worked on. Give us a picture of your life right now, how you’re involved with books in so many different ways. Tell us how you help people.


Qat Wanders: (04:11)

Wow. This is a big question.


Kyle Gray: (04:14)

It is a big… It’s a big one for you because you are doing… you’re so talented. You’ve got a lot of different things going on.


Qat Wanders: (04:19)

I have my hand in a few pots here. So probably my biggest passion is editing, which is ironic. I really love editing. I love writing too, but editing is probably where I shine the most. I went to school for it, I trained, I have a lot of experience. I started in traditional publishing, so I really got into the editing process and helping self published authors put out traditional publishing quality is kind of my goal. So I have my editing team I work with, and I own an editing company, and we all came from traditional publishing, we all have master’s degrees. It’s a very elite group and we provide elite services. We also have options for less elite services for those who can’t quite, you know, meet those standards. We can help in that fashion too. But where I really pride myself is providing that high quality. My company also does ghost writing, so someone comes to us with a book idea, or maybe they have an outline, or maybe they just have a thought and they need it to come to fruition and I can help them with any part of that process. And on top of that I write a ton of my own books.


Kyle Gray: (05:29)

Wow. And I am happy to say that I’ve worked with you through the editing process for one of my books, Selling With Story, and what I kind of want to start on is you mentioned you love writing and you love editing, and some people see those as the same thing, but you see them as very different things, and it’s a very different philosophy and probably a writer, an editor, they’re very different people. Can you explain the difference between those two realms?


Qat Wanders: (06:05)

I have to use two completely different parts of my brain to do those two different things. When I’m writing, I’m in a flow. I just put on my, we’ll call it my imagination cap, and just go and I wear a different hat for editing. The editing side of me is the analytical mind. It’s where I get to use my intelligence, discernment, and just be really meticulous and OCD, because I am OCD and I love it. And picking apart things and just really cleaning it up and bringing it to perfection, whereas the writing side of me is just letting my creativity flow and I’m creating.


Qat Wanders: (06:39)

So it’s like the artist versus the thinker really, and I have both sides to me and I love creating, but I also love cleaning it up and I don’t edit my own work. I let everything flow and then it goes to my editing team. I will do a self edit on it, of course, but because I’m so attached to the work, turning on my editing, or putting on my editing cap is a little difficult when I already had the artists cap on for that book. So taking someone else’s book where they have the artists cap on, I can put on the editing cap and just go to town and it’s a completely different process. Anyone who’s written a book understands the writing and the self editing are two completely, completely different monsters and-


Kyle Gray: (07:23)

I find self-editing to be nearly impossible. It’s, I just, I go through it too quickly, it’s difficult. Some places I may be over critical and some places I’m under critical. It’s hard to really have a clear mind or to really be able to look at your own work, I think, at least for me, maybe it’s not the same with everybody, but…


Qat Wanders: (07:50)

No, I think that’s accurate with everyone. The thing is you do have to go over your work at least once or twice before it goes to your editor-


Kyle Gray: (07:59)

Oh, yeah.


Qat Wanders: (08:00)

… and I know you did that because I edited your book, so you definitely self edited somewhat, there’s no way you just word vomited it there and sent it to me.


Kyle Gray: (08:10)

I guess, yeah. Usually my process is I’ll try and get as much out as possible and then I’ll try and turn it into something that I think is coherent, and then usually I’ll let it sit and ferment for a little while and I’ll come back in with fresh eyes for one more.


Qat Wanders: (08:29)



Kyle Gray: (08:29)

Yeah, I think fresh eyes is very, very crucial to it, and it kind of speaks to the whole process itself where there’s a lot of, I don’t know, kind of ideas out there about writing a bunch of content really fast, or creating a book in a weekend, or things like that, but I think a really good process, you know, it takes time.


Qat Wanders: (08:53)

I completely agree. Although, I can write a book in a weekend, no problem, but then I’m probably going to spend six months editing that book to get it to the point  where it’s readable, and I actually have a process where I take at least one to three months away for each book I write. As of now I probably have 70 rough drafts on my computer, no joke, of the books I wrote in a flow and I’m just taking time away from them before I go back in and start the self editing process, and then it’ll go to my editing team.


Kyle Gray: (09:21)

So you have written many different books, you’re working with all kinds of people, both very high level entrepreneurs to people writing their very first book, and you’ve seen a lot of different things. A lot of the people listening to this podcast right now either have a book or may be interested in creating a book as a tool to grow their business, to spread their message, and for that specific type of author what are some of the biggest misconceptions that they approach you with, ” I’ve got this book and it should look like this.”


Qat Wanders: (10:04)

The number one biggest misconception I get is having someone think I’m going to write the book for them and I will if they hired me to ghostwrite the book, that’s completely different. Most people who come to me have already written their books, so they come with a rough draft. And some people just put together a rough draft of different concepts, it’s more like a glorified outline, and then they hand it to me and they don’t realize they have a lot of work to do after the initial round of editing. So developmental editing, if they bought the premium, full blown, “We’re going to get this to traditional publishing quality.” We start with developmental editing, and that’s when we look at the big picture issues. Frequently, it will take the author at least a month before they come back to me after making the revisions from the developmental, and that’s just the developmental review. Then we go into content editing,


Kyle Gray: (11:02)

Can you explain a couple of those steps 


Qat Wanders: (11:10)

Oh yeah.


Kyle Gray: (11:11)

Like what does the developmental review and content editing look like?


Qat Wanders: (11:11)

So the first step in the process is the developmental review and or developmental editing. There is a difference. The developmental review is more like, I read the book and then I send you a report of here is what I got from the book. Usually one or two pages. Developmental editing is a little more hands on so it’s a little pricier. I read the whole book, I make notes. Then I read the whole book again and I put comments in the margins and break it down. So maybe you need to explain this concept over here more and maybe you should consider moving this to the beginning. And so it’s rearranging the whole structure of the book. If it’s fiction, it’s saying, “Maybe you need to completely delete this character or put a love interest here.” If it’s nonfiction, which most of the books I do are nonfiction, it’s saying, “Hey, these need to be a little more cohesive. Maybe you should put bullet points here,” big picture details like that.


Qat Wanders: (11:59)

And then it’s, once you have all those comments, it’s back to the author and then the author comes back to me with usually a whole new book after that first round. Then we get into content editing and content editing is editing, this is somewhat repetitive, editing the content that is already there, that’s the difference. Developmental editing is going to fill in holes or move things around. Moving the puzzle pieces. Content editing is the content that exists in the book already so it’s very unlikely I will be suggesting you add a new chapter or you move things around. It’s going to be me going through the book paragraph by paragraph and making sure it flows, making sure it’s consistent, making sure the voice is good, making sure everything’s explained to the best extent. And if I say, “Expand on this more,” a lot of authors seem to think that I will actually rewrite the paragraph and that’s ghost writing, it’s not editing. It’s up to the author to rewrite it and then I will tweak it accordingly.


Kyle Gray: (12:57)

And that’s where kind of bringing this back to the misconceptions. I think a lot of authors out there maybe aren’t prepared for this, developmental editing, maybe they’re just hiring somebody to proofread it and so I’m sure that that could be a stumbling block. But it’s actually, I find it to be, it’s one of the parts of the process that I really enjoy that somebody else is having a critical look at your work and can improve it and really hone in the message.


Qat Wanders: (13:29)

In all fairness, you were particularly wonderful to work with. So you may say that, but not everyone feels the same way you do. So you were great at taking feedback, you did everything. Yeah, you were a wonderful client.


Kyle Gray: (13:43)

What are some of the challenges they face when facing an editor and maybe what would some of the advice that you could give them? What can we expect and how can we be prepared to make the most out of our editor?


Qat Wanders: (14:02)

I think imposter syndrome is the biggest challenge the authors I work with face. They feel inadequate when they come to me and it can be really disheartening to have an editor just rip apart your baby that you may have spent years working on or, you know, a weekend. But it’s really, you’re very vulnerable when you’re working with an editor. And I know, I’m an author too, so I do work with editors and every time I will be shaking when I’m waiting on feedback. So just accepting that the editor isn’t out to hurt you, the editor is really trying to help you make the best possible product.


Qat Wanders: (14:38)

Hopefully your editor understands that positive feedback is important as well because you have to give positive feedback because without it, the author won’t know what they are doing right and they don’t know how to continue doing those things right. So positive is just as important and really focus on the positive feedback you get from an editor and run with it. If the editor says you’re really good at doing X-Y-Z, do X-Y-Z in all your other books and maybe even integrate it into public speaking and blog posts, things like that. If you’re good at X-Y-Z, do X-Y-Z.


Qat Wanders: (15:13)

When they say we need to improve here, really pay attention to what the editor is doing and that’s the big thing. Don’t just go through the track changes and click accept all the way through. Pay attention to what the editor’s doing because that will improve not only your writing but your message down the road.


Kyle Gray: (15:30)

Do you have any examples of, I really liked the idea of how if you discover something in somebody’s book from an editor, how you can apply it to other areas like social media or speaking.


Kyle Gray: (15:43)

Do you have a specific case of somebody you’ve worked with that you could think of?


Qat Wanders: (15:48)

I know I do. I’ve worked with a lot of public speakers and a lot of times we will take their books and then rework them into a keynote, so birds eye view type thing.


Qat Wanders: (16:03)

A lot of times it’s taking that introduction to the book where it’s the personal story and relating it to their business or their message or whatever it is they’re doing.


Qat Wanders: (16:13)

So having someone really help you examine how your personal story can relate to what you’re doing can translate into everything.


Qat Wanders: (16:23)

I mean I worked with someone who helped me really sculpt the beauty of my relationship with my dad over the years to why I’m doing what I do now. And it was actually very eye opening for me even so it can be really beneficial and it’s something you can always use. If you notice you have a thing that you do specifically, like emphasizing a certain word, maybe you use a word in a weird way, just weird little quirky things that you can start doing more often and then you become more memorable.


Kyle Gray: (16:56)

I love that. And what you’re pointing at and hinting at is that there’s so much value to having an editor beyond getting rid of the typos that I think a lot of people don’t always notice. But it’s, yeah, and being in that state of mind that a lot of people are when they’re approaching editors, usually I can imagine, especially for an entrepreneur, they’re thinking something like this, “Okay, I’ve got this book, I want to get it published as soon as possible. So let’s get the editor done and let’s move forward.”


Kyle Gray: (17:33)

But can you tell me like as an entrepreneur or somebody who’s looking to hire an editor, what should somebody look for when determining, because again, like you provided a lot of value in your insights that can spill over into other areas of the business. But I don’t think every editor is going to do that and I don’t think every editor is even deserving of looking at a specific piece of work if they don’t have the right experience or background.


Kyle Gray: (18:01)

So can you tell us what to look for?


Qat Wanders: (18:03)

Look for someone who has experience in that background. That’s really, unfortunately this is a tough one because there are so many editors out there and a lot of them are claiming to be experts in fields that maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. You don’t have to have a degree to be an editor. You don’t have to have training. You can just start editing and market yourself as an editor.


Qat Wanders: (18:28)

That’s actually why I specifically only hire people into my company if they have a degree and that’s just my personal preference. There are great editors out there who don’t, and maybe they’re experts in their fields because they spent so much time reading in that genre and that can make you an expert.


Qat Wanders: (18:47)

So my suggestion would be if you’re looking for someone in, and we’re going to stay genre specific. You’re looking for someone in the genre that you wrote a book in. Talk to the editor and if they say yes, they’re really on point with that genre, ask them what other books they’ve read in that genre. Talk to them about things in that genre that you know they would know the answer to if they really were well versed in it. And you can just kind of gauge how knowledgeable they really are just by talking to them.


Kyle Gray: (19:24)

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think yeah, with a short conversation, keywords and critical things like you can know like somebody who knows a lot about golf can have a golf conversation and if you try to talk to me about the nine iron or whatever, I won’t be able to chat with you very long. And so, yeah, I can see where that advice would be really good.


Kyle Gray: (19:46)

Let’s take a little bit of a pivot and I want to hear from you about how you transformed this. You wrote your first book, made your father proud, but you’re not only like a prolific writer and creator, but you’ve built a whole writing business and editing business. Did you just start out kind of working freelance on these kinds of things and how has this evolved and what does your company look like now?


Qat Wanders: (20:14)

Again, a very big question. I started in traditional publishing, so I did sort of have a benefit that a lot of freelance editors don’t have. So when I left, I took clients with me and I had a platform already. I never had to build my business from scratch like most editors have to. I didn’t have to start on Fiverr or Reedsy. I had clients, I had a reputation. What I didn’t have was enough clients to actually make a living. I never thought freelance editing would make me money. I was a circus performer actually for almost a decade. So I did that with freelance editing on the side, thinking once I left traditional publishing, that was my career. This will only ever be a hobby. But then word started getting out that I came from that background and I was really good and I started reaching out to other editors who could help me, because in traditional publishing you have no less than four people going over your manuscript. It’s usually five or six. So freelance editors trying to do all the editing on a book by themselves it’s just not possible. You cannot provide the same kind of quality. And that’s not saying anything bad about the editors, it’s just not possible because there’s only one person.


Qat Wanders: (21:26)

So I started looking for other people in the industry and some I even worked with in that industry and everyone has a different specialization. And so I built a team from there where we each work on one section of the editing and together we work together like clockwork and we can provide better quality editing because of that.


Qat Wanders: (21:44)

And so when word started getting out that we had this team of really high end editors, word of mouth, I don’t even advertise, everything is word of mouth and I’m usually booked out pretty far in advance. And for ghostwriting, I’m booked out for a year. 


Qat Wanders: (22:00)

We’re well known in the niche because we did good work, and we don’t compromise our prices, we don’t give discounts, because then it would compromise the quality. Because we have a good reputation, and we really, really worked hard to make sure people were happy with the final product, word traveled, and that kept things moving. Now I own Wandering Words Media, which used to be a little more publishing oriented, but then I realized that I don’t like the other stuff, and we mostly just stick with editing, and that’s our sole focus. Wandering Words Media is just a premium editing company that can take self published books and bring them to traditional publishing quality, or we can work with your budget, and give you whatever you need.


Kyle Gray: (22:47)

What I love about this, is that it is a premium service, and you’re working with some of the leading minds in an author authority, I guess. You’ve got a very high-end premium service, and you command really premium prices for a lot of what you do. There’s a lot of competitors out there. It’s an extremely competitive market to work in, where you are competing with everybody. There’s the $5 fivers, and you are probably at the very opposite end of the spectrum, where you have a really premium product. There’s a lot of people out there, whether it’s in writing, in coaching, in a lot of different aspects of their business, where they face a similar problem, where there’s so many cheap, easy options out there. How do you, and I think some of what you do, and just the high quality, and the word of mouth works for itself, but how do you really command to those high prices, and what were some of the challenges, or obstacles you had to overcome to command your premium prices, and your premium position in the marketplace?


Qat Wanders: (24:02)

It is disheartening for sure. There is a lot of cheap editors out there, but over the years I’ve had a lot of clients come to me who used a cheap editor, and then they needed me to fix it, and my reputation started building. That’s when I realized, I’m not going to compromise my prices for anyone. I used to. I used to give discounts, and those clients have always been the biggest nightmares. For every client I was wasting this time on, trying to work with them for their budget and just really, you know, charge them a lot less, I was wasting my time when I could have been really dedicating that time to someone who was comfortable paying me what I am worth. With the amount of training I have, and the amount of training my team has, we can command a higher price, because we offer a better product, and people who understand that we’ll pay for that.


Qat Wanders: (24:56)

That doesn’t mean we can’t work for less. Usually what that means is the author has to do a lot more work. The people who pay my premium prices are usually the set it and forget it types. They want me to do everything, and I’m happy to. But, if you’re going to pay me a lot less, that’s fine. It just means the author themselves has to really step up to the plate, and do a lot of work, and if the author is willing to do that, I’m happy to work with them. There is a balance. I’m certainly not going to go take on $5 jobs, and honestly those people doing that are probably really going to leave you very disappointed. There are exceptions. There are editors just starting out, wanting to build up a good reputation. Chances are they don’t have really good training, though, if they’re starting out there, because most of the high quality editors have a degree in this, and they can usually move right into a job straight out of college.


Qat Wanders: (25:51)

Once you have a Master’s Degree, you are a lot higher in demand. I think that’s why I sort of sit where I am on the food chain of freelance editors because I did come from where I did, and I have the credentials to show for it, whereas not everyone does. When I compete, I’m confident that I am providing a premium product, and I’m not sheepish about it.


Kyle Gray: (26:12)

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Though I think your credentials, in your case, being educational, and I think that that’s phenomenal. I think it’s a rare thing that a lot of people actually do get to have their college education back them up properly, so props to you on that.


Qat Wanders: (26:31)

I also have an art degree.


Kyle Gray: (26:40)

I think there’s lots of ways that people can really understand their experience, and where they’re coming from, and what makes them unique, if they want to command premium prices. But it is all about that confidence in yourself, and who you are, and where you come from that brings that forward, and translates into better prices for you, better results for your clients, and a higher commitment level.


Qat Wanders: (27:09)



Kyle Gray: (27:10)

So, Qat, we’ve explored a lot about everything, from the editing business, to what goes into editing a great book. I’m just wondering if you have any closing words out there for some of these entrepreneurs, a lot of these people that you’re working with. Maybe, what is it about an author, or some qualities, or something in an author that you’re working with that you feel like will make them stand out, or are put them ahead of the batch in their work.


Qat Wanders: (27:46)

The drive to improve, number one thing that sets those clients apart. An entrepreneur with a drive to improve is going to get light years ahead of the entrepreneur who thinks he or she already has everything figured out. I run into a lot of that when it comes to editing and ghostwriting. They think they have everything figured out. But, when you come to me for editing you’re in my world, so please understand that I understand grammar, probably better than you do. However, the author is an expert in their topics, so I respect the author’s expertise, and the author respects mine.


Qat Wanders: (28:26)

When we can have that mutual understanding, everything goes so much smoother, and I noticed that they tend to really do well in their businesses, because if they’re respecting me that way, I know they’re respecting their clients, their colleagues, everything. Accepting feedback, and always being willing to improve. I think that’s been very beneficial for me as well, because I’ve gotten some pretty harsh feedback over the years. I’ve cried, but it’s been a journey, and I’m better because of it. I think that’s true with any entrepreneur.


Kyle Gray: (28:59)

Oh, me too. I think the reason I’m able to take feedback, the way that you complimented me on earlier, is through working with a startup and having somebody who really, really cared a lot about their content, looking over everything, and being very critical, and challenging me all the time. It was pretty difficult and heartbreaking at first, for sure. But yeah, it was such a valuable and powerful lesson, and I think it’ll help you much beyond just writing a good book. It translates into all areas of business, so I think that that’s an amazing insight.


Kyle Gray: (29:37)

Qat, where can we go to connect with you to learn more about you, and learn more about editing?


Qat Wanders: (29:45)

Wanderingwordsmedia.com. That’s my website. It has pretty much everything you need to know without just emailing me directly, and my contact info is on there too.


Kyle Gray: (29:55)

Awesome. Qat, thank you so much for joining us.


Qat Wanders: (29:59)

Indeed. Thank you for having me.


Kyle Gray:

Thanks for listening to the Story Engine Podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes and resources mentioned on this episode and every other episode at thestoryengine.co


If you’re looking to learn more about how to use storytelling to grow your business, then check out my new book, Selling With Story: How to Use Storytelling to Become an Authority, Boost Sales, and Win the Hearts and Minds of Your Audience. This book will equip you with actionable strategies and templates to help you share your unique value and build trust in presentations, sales, and conversations, both online and offline. Learn more at sellingwithstory.co. 


Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.