FAQ: What makes you qualified to edit my book?

1024 576 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

This is a great question and a super important one to ask about any editor you’re thinking of working with. Currently in the UK there is no official accreditation for editors (like you’d find for accountants or engineers, for example) which means anybody can call themselves a professional editor regardless of experience or qualifications, so it can be difficult to judge whether somebody is right for your project.

Proven experience and pass marks with CIEP

The CIEP recently gained chartership status which means members (like me!) will soon have the opportunity to take accredited qualifications. Until then, there are various levels of CIEP membership and editors can work their way through the ranks by taking courses, providing evidence of their editing work and passing the CIEP’s editing test. I’ve done all those things and am currently a Professional member.

Because there’s no one way to become a professional editor, you’ll find we all have a range of backgrounds and credentials. It’s important to know what sort of editor you’re looking for so you can find one whose experience and expertise matches your needs.

Recognised training in the UK and beyond

I’ve trained to be a specialist fiction editor by studying – sometimes in person, sometimes online – with various professional bodies around the world. I’ve taken courses with CIEP and PTC (Publishing Training Centre), the two most widely recognised editorial training providers in the UK, and overseas with the Editorial Freelancers Association, Editors Canada and ACES. This training has covered not just the intricacies of fiction editing but also how to help independent authors on their journey to publication, as well as how to edit for specific audiences and genres including middle grade, YA, mystery, fantasy and graphic novels. I’ve also taken lots of classes and webinars on crucial diversity and inclusion topics in publishing like conscious language and trans allyship for writers and editors.

Relevant degrees with practical applications

I also have two Master’s degrees in Children’s Literature and Novel Writing. My Children’s Literature degree from Roehampton University explored the literary, creative, social and historical contexts of children’s and YA books, from Victorian tracts to contemporary classics, and kick-started my own creative writing for young readers. When I edit your novel, I bring to it everything I learned on this MA: a working knowledge of children’s publishing, solid experience of analysing and exploring children’s and YA books at the story level, a clear understanding of the conventions associated with each age category from picture book to YA, and an absolutely unrelenting adoration and respect for children’s books. My 20,000-word dissertation, ‘Painting the Town Green: Structuralist Perspectives on the Value of Colour in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz‘, earned me a distinction and a literary prize, and taught me a lot about analysing children’s books on multiple levels. There was no theme, allusion, story goal, character motivation or author intention in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that I didn’t find eventually!

My Novel Writing MA from Middlesex University took a practical and theoretical approach to fiction writing. Modules included ‘Reading as a Novelist’, ‘Developing the Novel’ and ‘Research for Fiction’, and tutorials ran from idea generation and character development right through to pitching a book to publishers and agents. Each week I produced 500 words of creative writing in response to a prompt, such as ‘describe the topography and poetics of a setting considering its dual nature as physical, functional and emotional’ or ‘create the fictional voice of an unreliable or untrustworthy character’, and my classmates and tutors gave their critique. In turn, I critiqued others’ writing samples – something that taught me a lot about the craft and about giving sensitive, thoughtful feedback. We also considered genre, marketability and publishing trends and how they related to our own writing projects, and learned how to write an effective synopsis, blurb and cover letter. The climax of the MA was a 20,000-word creative dissertation, producing the first few chapters of a novel. I wrote the spooky mystery middle grade story of an amateur astronomer with social anxiety and embarrassing ghost-hunter parents, and it earned a distinction from my tutors. I’m still working on the manuscript six years later!

You can read more about my experience, my editing approach and some of my happy clients, or send me an email and ask me a question any time!


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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes