Interview by Lola Opatayo; copy edited by Naomi Randall Dobler
Editors BC is pleased to welcome Merielle Kazakoff, our April seminar facilitator, to the West Coast Editor. In this interview, she discusses the joys and challenges of being a writing coach, the differences between coaching and traditional editing, and her photography.
What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges facing self-publishing authors today?
One of the most common challenges authors have is how to market their book. Self-publishing means self-funding, and authors would like a return on the money they put into it. Plus, they have a story to share, so how to do so in the most widespread and effective way is another hurdle. There is a lot of competition to get noticed.
Knowing these challenges, what are some of the most significant benefits of working with these authors as a writing and publishing coach, and how do you communicate these benefits to your clients?
The majority of authors come to me initially for an edit, which is still the most important task for me. In the end, a story needs to read well for a larger audience to enjoy it. One of the first questions I have for potential clients is what their end goal is with their manuscript. This usually leads to a conversation about the plan they already have or questions about what they need to do. If the goal is to publish a book to sell, a plan is important. Each author has different needs, and an editor can sometimes be the first professional they encounter in the publishing process. So, it’s important for editors to understand this process to support their clients in the most effective way.
Have you encountered clients who are resistant to feedback? Can you share any strategies you use to build trust and encourage openness?
I find clients are really receptive to feedback. I think that since it’s their own choice to hire an editor, they want a lot of feedback—including the positive things they’ve done—to feel they are getting their money’s worth and to know they are on the right track. I always make it known that they make the final decisions and encourage them to see my edits as informed suggestions to help them succeed. I also explain that I’m approaching their work from the perspective of their future audience. I’m not going to change their narrative, just clarify any issues to help make the best version of their story. They need to understand that we have the same goal.
How can editors who are considering writing and publishing coaching handle the differences between coaching and traditional editing?
Be open to and curious about whatever comes your way. You can’t be stuck in a rigid mindset of how a story must be told. Rules get broken, and concessions are made all the time. Self-publishing is about how the client wants to tell their story and what makes them happy in the end. Editing is a part of a bigger process that writers are in the midst of. Sometimes they are juggling a lot of different tasks that you need to consider as well. You don’t need to be involved in it all, but you can encourage them throughout their journey. Sometimes they just want to bounce an idea (that has nothing to do with editing) off you or even just hear a “way to go!” on an important step they made. They’ve shared their story with you, so they trust you.
How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in the writing and publishing industry, and how do you incorporate that knowledge into your coaching practice? Can you give an example of a recent trend or development that has influenced your approach to coaching?
Since I consider myself a part of a bigger process, I’m always aware of all aspects of publishing. Social media groups for writers give a good overview of what is going on. These groups have some self-publishing writers who put a lot of time and effort into researching the publishing landscape and sharing their findings.
My clients also keep me up to date and show me the direction of learning, depending on the path they are taking. I pay attention to their processes, how they market their books, and what works and what doesn’t. It’s good to have real-world examples for new clients. There is so much to learn when it comes to publishing, and it’s okay to absorb the knowledge along the way. I also try not to interfere too much in a client’s own learning curve because it makes them stronger and more accomplished in the end.
On a lighter note, what kind of images do you love to capture through your lenses? Does photography help you to unwind from the rigours of work?
Nature is my main focus, and I love macro photography. Snails, butterflies, bees, and anything little that I can capture and share on a larger scale are fun. Macro photography requires a lot of patience and the ability to block out the world around me. I find it to be a meditative practice. I do, occasionally, take photos for authors and have photographed two book covers. I love photography because, while it is so different from my editing and writing work, every image tells a story.
Registration for Merielle’s seminar on working with self-publishing authors closes today!
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