Kelsey Wiseman: Freelance Editor

  Photo courtesy of  Alexandra Kay Photography

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Kay Photography

Name: Kelsey Wiseman

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: University of Puget Sound Class of 2010, BA – English Literature and German Literature. Minnesota State University, Mankato Class of 2013 MA – English Studies.

Current Location: Gilbert, AZ

Current Form of Employment: Retail full-time and Freelance Editing with Wiseman Editing, LLC

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work in middle management at Target and freelance through my LLC, Wiseman Editing. In the past I have worked in my undergraduate library as a desk assistant, with university newspapers as a copy editor, and on Shoutwire.com as a content editor. Each of these jobs had me doing something different and I enjoy that. I also like that much of what I have done has been around the printed word.

Shoutwire had me submitting original posts and acting as a moderator and spam filter. With Shoutwire I had the freedom to write about whatever I wanted to as long as I felt it would appeal to the masses that frequented the website. In that vein I wrote about such important topics as Robot Unicorn Attack, the Kool Aid Man comic books I found, what the best kind of super power would be, and how technology has drastically changed in such a short time span. My favorite piece, however, was about how Twilight was taking over the marketing of such classics as Wuthering Heights by stating it as “Bella and Edward's favorite book.” I still think it is a brilliant marketing attempt to create a larger fan base for classics using the cult fanaticism of Twilight readers. Granted, I also still think the majority of said fanbase wouldn’t be able to understand Wuthering Heights and am also still miffed that the two have become connected in such a way. I had so much fun writing for these guys because of the freedom that I had to produce original content and I am sad that the website is no longer functional. It was unpaid and taught me that there are a lot of different ways one can be an editor.

Currently, and for the past three and a half years, I work in retail. I like the stability and benefits that come with a steady job and the flexibility that the schedule gives me to work on my business. I have spent hours in meetings and on the phone with authors, people I have worked with, and my design company in order to get my website, wisemanediting.com, up and running. Additionally, I have spent hours finding the right forms and people to talk to in order to become an officially recognized business in the state of Arizona. Not to mention the networking. I don’t think I would have been able to work a standard 9-5 job and find time to go about the legal proceedings that are involved with incorporating and networking for an LLC. I actually decided I wanted to do freelance over working in an actual office, even though it means less time in my day is devoted to editing. I like to set my own hours and have the freedom to pick what projects I would like to be working on.

With the LLC, I work on a contract basis. An author will send me an enquiry and I will send them back an estimate based on word count, level of rhetoric, genre, level and type of edit, and time I will need to commit to the piece. I do not always win the author over and getting over that rejection is difficult, but not insurmountable. When I have a contract, I set aside time to work on the piece outside of my work schedule and hammer out edits. Usually I work with digital copies, but I have had to send hard copies back and forth through the mail.

As for what the future holds? I don’t know. I think I would like to eventually work with a publishing house, but I also think that indie publishing is taking off and big publishing houses will eventually die off. Either way, I am excited to see what will happen, because we all know that there will always be people who want to tell stories and share them with the world. 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

The stories of how I found any of my jobs is fairly standard. Either someone told me they had heard about an opening or I was actively looking for a job. Applying for any job is a terrifying thing.

I do remember applying for the editing jobs with Shoutwire and Bookmen Media Group (a company that I infrequently work with through my LLC for contracts) being the most scary simply because I wanted them so badly. I didn’t have any idea what either one of them would entail as far as time commitments or day to day duties, but they both seemed to allow me to garner more experiences in a field I wanted to be in and that was the most important thing to me.

I’m not sure if this is standard for most, but the application process was fairly informal for both. Shoutwire had placed an all call on their website and I simply emailed the man who was running the site with my information and why I thought I would be qualified to act as an editor. He answered my email by asking me to come up with a handle and letting me know that I needed to post at least one original piece a month. There was no real interview and there was no obligation to work with them any longer than I wanted.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

BMG was similar. I had a friend who was already editing for them and she passed my name along and told me I should contact them. I emailed my resume and a cover letter to my contact and she called me back within a few hours and we talked briefly before she asked me on. I think it was so simple with BMG because they have so many different editors. They send out manuscripts to several editors at a time and whichever estimate the author chooses is the one who edits the piece. I also think that working with BMG has been good for my own career because I have had to be clear in my estimates and my interactions with both BMG and the authors I work with. I have found more of my own stumbling blocks working with BMG than with any other and have used these interactions to modify the ways in which I do my business.

I have made all of the common mistakes. I have overcharged, I have undercharged, and I have communicated poorly. However, I have been able to use all of these mistakes to make myself a better business woman.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

College was a way for me to dip my toes in, I guess. I worked on newspapers and I have taken all kinds of classes on technical editing and analysis of literature. I can tell you what makes a good book and I can help steer people on the right track for their stories. I enjoyed the workshops we did in my undergrad because the focus was on the story and not just the mechanics of grammar and punctuation. I enjoyed the technical editing courses in my grad program because they covered things like how to properly use Word and how to frame pricing for manuscripts.

As far as extracurricular activities, I found a lot of them on my own and I was asked to participate in several others. I acted as the editor of the final write up and data display for an article my international technical communication class wrote about technology usage in China. This was eventually published in Techniques, the university’s chapter in STC, in the fall of 2011. Through my work with this course, the professor approached me and asked me to help him head up and run a separate study and present it to the university. These experiences helped me learn how to frame academic studies, how to ask for grants, how to use a more passive voice as is normal for science texts, and how to put together and present presentations outside of my normal body of work.

My grad school newspaper only had me come in once a week to copy edit whatever articles had been submitted. In addition to copy editing I also wrote A&E pieces. My specific set of parameters had me covering events that were put on by Student Affairs and I enjoyed having a more focused brand of writing.

In my undergrad I found out one of my good friends was writing a novel for her independent study and hounded her into letting me edit for her. She ended up self publishing (the book is called “Rosebound” for those of you who are interested) almost a year after she graduated. I still remember shaking so hard when I first held the published copy of it I was so excited.

While working on The Trail, the university paper of Puget Sound, I was given one specific section of the newspaper to copy edit. This paper allowed me to make content suggestions to the authors in their initial writing stage and then copy edit the final layout before we went to print. This was satisfying because I was able to actually talk with the writers and understand exactly what they were trying to get at in their pieces. It also helped that I had the satire section and we had a little bit more freedom in what we submitted.

Overall, I don’t think it was the classes that really helped me along so much as the connections and experiences I found for myself. Don’t get me wrong— working with the newspaper and taking classes helped me tremendously with the academic, booky side of things, but the people I met and the time I was able to spend going after things myself really helped to show me that life isn’t going to hand me the perfect editing career. If I want this, I need to make it happen.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree? 

The best advice I can give is to network. Go outside of your comfort zone and say yes to projects that will allow you to meet a different group of people. Look for the meetings to attend for like minded individuals in your area. Is there an authors’ workshop? Attend it. Do you have a vague connection to a newspaper? Use it. Is there a local association for writers/editors in your area? Join it. Get yourself out there and get known. It’s hard and it’s scary, but it’s the only way to really get out there and make a name for yourself. It is much easier to find a job if you can say that you have put in time and effort and have solid recommendations on your side, especially if some of the recommendations come from someone/someplace that is known and respected by your potential employer. 

Visit Kelsey on her professional website, Wiseman Editing.

Posted on February 25, 2014 and filed under Editing, Writing.