Interview with Freelancing Editing Rockstar: Rachel Johnson
Rachel Johnson is a professional and freelance editor who holds a Bachelor's degree in publishing studies from Illinois State University. She works for Pearson Education in the math department as an assistant editor. She has several years of experience in editing fiction, nonfiction, and technical writing; both online and in print. Rachel currently lives with her boyfriend in Evanston, Illinois.
Mrs. Vee: How did you get into editing? What kind of professional or educational training do you have?
Rachel: I first became interested in editing when I was a sophomore in high school. I had a teacher in English who stressed the importance of grammar and structure in writing, and also shared her love of marking in red pen with the class. I thought, wow, I'm not the only one! I hadn't really thought about critiquing as a profession because honestly, I didn't know that one could make a career out of editing professionally. So, I focused my last years of high school on English and English literature. While applying to colleges, I saw that Illinois State University offered a concentration within their English department called "Publishing Studies." I couldn't have been more excited. ISU is one of the few colleges in the country that offers publishing as an undergraduate concentration. So, I completed the four year program and graduated in May of 2009 with a Bachelor's of Arts in Publishing Studies.'
Mrs. Vee: How did freelancing come about?
Rachel: In college, friends and classmates often approached me to review their papers before they turned them in. This is what sparked my interest in freelancing. I thought, how cool, you can not only help someone find happiness with their work, but you can also get paid to read a wide variety of genres. So, I decided that I would offer my freelancing services to anyone I met who was in need. I'm still somewhat new to it, but it's a nice addition to my professional experience.
Mrs. Vee: Did you always want to be an editor?
Rachel: I've wanted to be an editor as long as I can remember. Granted when I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian...but even in elementary school I've loved reading and writing. That's the foundation to a good editor, you have to love the literary arts. During my years at ISU I gained a great deal of love and respect for publishing not only as a business, but as an art. Also, when I saw the movie 13 Going on 30 that sealed the deal for me. Jennifer Garner's character was an editor and she got to wear really cute clothes to work. I was sold.
Mrs. Vee: What kind of services do you offer with your editing, how much does it cost, and what kind of work do you edit?
Rachel: The most basic service that I like to provide is proofreading. This means that I review your manuscript or article for conventions, grammar, spelling, and consistency. I don't touch the content, but only fix the glaring errors. However, if the author needs a bit more help, I can copy edit, which means digging deeper to review questions of style, rewriting parts of the manuscript that may not be as strong, and ultimately helping the author get to a point that they are confident and happy with their work. Copy editing is much more intensive than proofreading is, and requires a lot more communication between the author and the editor. I charge hourly, so proofreading is less expensive. My rate ranges from $10-13 an hour, depending on the manuscript. I will edit anything; fiction or nonfiction manuscripts, articles, technical writing. It's all good.
Mrs. Vee: What is the biggest mistake that you see people use when editing their work?
Rachel: Tenses are a big issue with most writers. It can sometimes be difficult to word things the way you are hearing them in your head without switching tenses. You just have to be very aware of what tense you are writing in from your very first word and make a conscious effort to stay within that tense.
Mrs. Vee: Where do you see your career taking you within the next 5-10 years?
Rachel: Within the next 5-10 years I would like to still be editing. I'd love to get into literary publishing or magazines. I wouldn't mind being a freelance editor, as long as the work was steady. Freelancing is great because it gives you the option to work where ever you need to be, at your pace.
Mrs. Vee: How do people get a hold of you to discuss editing their work?
Rachel: I am very reachable. Facebook or email is the best way to reach me... how dorky! But it's true. I'm always open to take on new projects or to answer questions. I'm also a big on text messaging. It's a sickness, really.
Mrs. Vee: What books do you usually like to read and is that the same for what you like to edit?
Rachel: I love to read. Chuck Palahniuk and Ernest Hemingway are my two favorite authors. I tend to lean towards darker stories and realistic fiction. I do like the occasional creative nonfiction book too. Recently I read an excellent book about the 1999 Columbine massacre titled Columbine by Dave Cullen. Then, I had to go back and read Jodie Picoult's fiction take Nineteen Minutes. I like to edit all sorts of things though, I'm an equal opportunity editor. I like to keep my mind open to new genres and types of work.
Mrs. Vee: Favorite book, movie, TV show?
Rachel: My favorite book is probably Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk or Night by Elie Wiesel. I was honored to meet him my senior year of college...I almost died. It was the coolest thing that's ever happened to me. I like stupid movies that make me laugh...the two that I could watch over and over again are How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Zoolander. As far as TV goes, I watch a lot of South Park and Curb Your Enthusiasm. My boyfriend and I also like to take in the occasional Man vs. Food marathon (over dinner, mostly) and I would never turn off an episode of America's Next Top Model. Everything I like is a guilty pleasure, haha.
Mrs. Vee: Famous last words?
Rachel: My dad always told me, no matter where you go, there you are. I try to remember this every day. Also, don't be afraid to not know something. Ask someone. Learn something.
**On a side note. Rachel did edit my manuscript and because of it I have had multiple requests from agents! She is pretty much a rockstar and may have been my roommate in college... Ok so yes, yes she was my roommate which makes her even more of a rockstar.
Circa Sophomore year of college (literally about 4 years ago. We thought we were hot and we literally were since our dorm didn't have air conditioning!)