5 Questions for...Stacy Ennis
Written by
Five Questions
July 2013
Written by
Five Questions
July 2013

Stacy Ennis is a book and magazine editor, writer, book coach, and speaker, and now author of The Editor's Eye: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Book from Good to Great (May 2013 / Night Owls Press). Her greatest joy is helping people achieve their book-writing dreams, and she has had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of authors in a variety of genres. Here, Brooke Warner, Publisher of She Writes Press, asks her about her book and for her insight on the editorial process.


Brooke Warner: Tell us a little about your background in writing and editing and what inspired you to write The Editor’s Eye.

Stacy Ennis: I like to think my career started when I wrote my first poem in second grade. But I suppose my professional career really began in college, when I wrote and edited for my university’s alumni magazine. I graduated from college with a bachelor’s in writing and moved across the world to the Dominican Republic, where I ran the high school English program at a K-12 school in Santo Domingo. In the years since then, I’ve edited numerous articles and books, was the founding managing editor of a lifestyle magazine, and served as the executive editor of the Sam’s Club magazine, Healthy Living Made Simple. Now, I work with a wide range of clients, from independent authors to book presses to celebrities.

The Editor’s Eye was inspired by a workshop I did a couple of years ago at a writing conference. After my talk, people literally lined up to talk with me throughout the two days of the conference. Going into the workshop, I figured no one would be interested in learning about editing. After all, editing is usually an afterthought to most authors, right? I realized then that there was a huge need for author education. It’s my hope that The Editor’s Eye helps make the book-writing process easier and more enjoyable for writers.

Brooke Warner: As a writer yourself, when did you discover that you had a knack for editorial and decide to become a book coach? And what’s the primary difference between being an editor and a book coach?

Stacy Ennis: I can’t pinpoint the moment when I realized I could edit for a living. I do remember editing my first book, though. It was exciting to be able to combine my background in literature and literary theory with my experience in education, writing, and editing.

Since I was a teacher, becoming a book coach was a natural shift. Book coaches serve a number of roles: educator, cheerleader, organizer, researcher, slave driver…okay, I’m kidding about that last one. The thing I love about book coaching is that I’m helping people realize their dreams. Many writers have great ideas but don’t know the practical steps to realize those ideas. That’s where I come in.

As for the difference between an editor and a book coach, I discuss that in detail in The Editor’s Eye. But the main difference is that a book coach typically works with a writer from idea to print, supporting the author throughout the entire process. He or she will typically assist in outline development and help keep an author focused and on track while writing a book, as well as offer advice on publication, marketing, and other steps that take place later in the process. A developmental editor, on the other hand, is usually involved early in the book-writing process and helps with idea development, outlining, and writing coaching, as well as does the first edit of an in-progress manuscript. After that, though, some writers will move to a different editor for later editing stages. (I describe the four editing stages in my book.)

Brooke Warner: Do you have any tips on finding an editor to match your needs? What kind of resources should writers use? What qualities should they look for in an editor? 

Stacy Ennis: My number one suggestion is that authors look for the right editor, not just a good one. Editors are as varied as the books they edit, so finding someone with experience related to the genre the author is working in is critical. Here are a few additional tips for authors: 

  1. Ask for references or testimonials. A degree in writing, editing, or journalism is great, but also make sure that a potential editor has a list of happy clients who can vouch for his or her skill.
  2. Work on a chapter together. This isn’t a sure-fire way to evaluate skills, but working on the first chapter as a “sample” of the editor’s work is a good way to see if he or she will be the right fit for your book. Don’t expect to get this for free, though.
  3. Ask questions. An editor can be the most important part of transforming a book from good to great. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: What is unique about your editing process? What makes you a good fit for my manuscript? I provide a list of questions to ask in The Editor’s Eye.
  4. Look in the right places. Ask friends or colleagues for a referral. If that’s a dead end, check with local or regional publishing houses that publish in your genre; many presses will be happy to recommend the freelancers they use. You can also head to a local bookstore and find books in your genre. Flip to the “Acknowledgements” section to see if the editor’s name is listed. Finally, if none of those work out, you can check out organizations like The Editorial Freelancer’s Association (www.the-efa.org) or a local editor’s association.


Brooke Warner: Do you recommend hiring an editor before writing a book?

Stacy Ennis: Absolutely! It’s a radical concept to most authors, but hiring an editor before writing a book is one of the best ways to increase the chance of publishing success.

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t walk onto a golf course and play 18 holes without ever swinging a club or taking a lesson, would you? It’s the same with writing a book. Learning the process is its own challenge. With a book coach or developmental editor, it’s so much easier because he or she has already been through it dozens or more times.

Brooke Warner: What’s the best advice you give to authors just getting started?

Stacy Ennis: Plan, plan, and then plan some more.

Us writers tend to believe in the Writing Fairytale. It goes something like this: One day, Writer sits down at her computer. Suddenly, she feels an overwhelming energy come over her. She’s overcome with creativity. She begins typing, words pouring out of her, forming perfect paragraphs, then chapters, and finally…a book! It’s pure perfection! She’s waited for this moment all her life.

Sorry, folks. It just doesn’t happen that way. (But it would be nice if it did, right?) That’s why planning, in the form of an outline, is so critical.

Not everyone thinks the same, and not everyone plans the same way, either. So, it’s important to know that there are a lot of options when it comes to outlining a book. Some people like to write detailed outlines, some like to create flow charts, others like to jot notes on index cards and then arrange them later. It doesn’t matter how it’s done, just that you do it.

Then, when those inspired moments do strike, you’ll have somewhere to put your great ideas.

To learn more about Stacy Ennis and her new book, The Editor's Eye, visit her website, www.stacyennis.com.

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  • Thanks for this interview, and all the great advice.

  • Mary L. Holden

    Congratulations to Ms. Ennis on writing and publishing a book that will serve all editors and writers well!