Questions for a Book Shepherd, Author, Editor: Jacqueline Simonds
How and when did you get into publishing, Jacqueline, and what’s your current position?
I have been in publishing since 1999 when I could not find a publisher for my historical adventure novel Captain Mary, Buccaneer. I read Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual cover-to-cover… and still screwed up a lot. But my husband and I found publishing to be a real adventure. Through Beagle Bay, Inc. (named for our barky dog), we published twenty-one books and worked on many others in varying capacities, from consulting to editing to book design. Right now, I am focused more on consulting (book shepherding).
How would you describe book shepherding?
Book shepherding is consulting from manuscript to finished book, and sometimes beyond the launch. The book shepherd may or may not provide direct services. Sometimes they use their well-worn Rolodex (wow, that dates me, huh?) to acquire publishing services the client needs.
What do you find satisfying about helping self-publishers?
I love helping self-publishers embark on their publishing dreams! They are always so enthusiastic and excited; sure they will conquer the world. I recall how it felt. My job is to help them achieve their goals, while teaching them how the real world works. Too many people, I think, tell authors their imagined projects can’t happen. Sure it can. You just have to know how to accomplish it!
What advice would you give editors interested in expanding their skills to encompass more publishing services?
Never stop learning new things. Be open to new areas. I certainly didn’t start out as a publisher (although I was an English major and worked on the college lit magazine) and it never occurred to me I’d end up in book distribution. Listen to opportunities when they come along. Say yes instead of no. You can always change your mind if it doesn’t work out!
Any favorite editing tips or techniques?
I am primarily a developmental editor. I don’t use track changes any more. When the tool first became available, it was only in red: the color of a school teacher “correcting” a paper. An editor should never make the author feel as though the editing process is about showing what is wrong. It’s about helping the writer achieve their goals and perfect their voice. (My proudest moment as a developmental editor was when a client told me I was like his auxiliary brain. He said I’d helped him to write the book he hadn’t quite gotten out the right way. Score!)
What is the most memorable project you’ve worked on?
We did a project called Women in Shadow and Light (out of print now, sadly), a book depicting in photos and words how women who had been abused came to reclaim their beauty and dignity. It won an IPPY [Independent Publisher Book Awards] book of the year.
If you weren't publishing books, what would you like to try as a career? What's a job that fascinates you?
Recently, I’ve decided if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably be an architect. But then I thought, Hey, isn’t that just editing houses?
Check out the rest of the Q&A series for more editor interviews!