For the readers out there, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Andrew Marquis Hartis, or just Marquis. I’m a freelancer at the moment, with a focus on editing and writing. For the former, I’ve done editing for roleplaying games, novels, technical documents, and other works. For the latter, I write historical fiction, fantasy, and my own roleplaying game material.
What got you into roleplaying games?
I first got into roleplaying games in High School, but before that, I had started forum roleplaying online in Middle School. The jump to what was then a very homebrewed 3.5 D&D was pretty easy. I took a long break after that though, and until my sophomore year in college when, watching YouTube streams of people’s games, my interest was rekindled.
From starting as a fan, what got you into doing editing work in the industry?
I’ve been writing for a long time, which got me interested in the written word. But, when I was getting my undergraduate degree in English, I wondered how I could use it in a way outside of teaching. Luckily, in my final semester, I was approached by the Dice on Ice publishing company, who wanted me to work as the main editor and consultant for their kickstarted 5E book, Crifoth. It was a big leap, but ultimately one that came just at the right time.
I think for a lot of people, editing is a bit of a black box, like security. People recognize when it’s missing, or when something has gone wrong, but don’t really know what the normal process is. For something like Crifoth, what does the role of editor look like?
I wore a few hats for that project! First and foremost, I had to make sure that the mechanics of the game–based off of D&D 5E–were solid, balanced, and sensible. This required a lot of double checking core D&D books and other publications as references. Beyond that, I did a lot of work on ensuring that the writing style was clear and evocative, that terms were used consistently, and that any typos I could find were removed. I also helped them refine a lot of their ideas, and helped focus the project so that what really made it shine could be brought out.
In your experience, is that the standard role of an editor, or does it tend to vary project by project?
It varies project to project. I think for most projects, it’s more expected that an editor will be looking at the material to make sure it reads not just properly, but evocatively as well. The mechanical design work I did was a special add-on, and the idea-focusing work is more applicable to trade fiction.
I imagine that probably has to do with the size of the project too. Big teams can hire specialty roles more.
Yep! Not just the size of the project, but at what stage the editor is brought in too. For Crifoth, I was brought very early in the books production. If you’re handed a book that is already completed, there’s a lot less influence required of you.
It sounds like you’re pretty flexible in the work you’re willing to do. When you get hired to work on projects, is there usually a clear idea of what type of work you’ll be doing, or do you have to define what you’ll work on?
I always make sure that the work I’m doing is very clearly outlined before I get started, and ask for questions along the way. It’s important that I don’t step outside my bounds, and instead focus my intention fully on what my employer needs me to do.
That makes a lot of sense. Given this is an industry and a job, if you don’t mind me asking, what do industry standard rates look like? How does that change given the type of work thats being requested, and how has that changed as you’ve gotten more experience in the field?
There’s a huge variation, so its hard to give a definite answer. Depending on the length of the project, the nature of it (Is it a book? Mechanics document? Essay? Report? Study?) and so on, the prices can vary pretty wildly. Its always good to assume that for any long document (200 pages or more) you’re going to be spending 1-2 K at a minimum.
I’ve seen in a lot of discussions people talking about rate per word. It’s always struck me as interesting, since most fans talk about the size and weight of a book. It usually isn’t listed on the back cover or index. It’s something professionals seems to be able to guess at and amateurs have a hard time with.
Rate per word is one of the best ways to go about things, particularly getting paid for every thousand words. For RPG books, which have 575-625 or so words per page due to the double column format, you can usually get a good idea for how much it will cost to edit any given book.
That seems like a really helpful way to look at it for people just starting out. Are there other common things to look out for or to avoid for someone just getting started in the industry?
In my opinion, the biggest thing to avoid is working outside your area of expertise without being prepared. When you get a new project, always do research on it to figure out what it’s about, what the manual of style usually is, and so on so that you can be as knowledgeable as possible about the work you’re doing. The skills and knowledge for editing trade fiction don’t always cross apply to RPGs or technical writing!
For the other side of the aisle, what should new writers or publishers be thinking about or talking about when they look to hire an editor? Are there common misconceptions they should try to avoid, or things they can help an editor focus on the right needs for their project?
Always be very clear in what you want us to do! If you want us to focus on the mechanics, then know we’re focusing mainly on that, and not on proofreading the work. We are also only human; no editor I know has a 100% rate of no typos in a work. When you hire an editor for a big book, consider hiring a second proofreader on top of that.
Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview. Before we get going, are there any projects you’re working on now, as an editor or writer, you want people to keep an eye out for?
And thank you for having me! I have a kickstarter coming out soon! It’s an art book, fantasy setting, and rules supplement for D&D 5E called SCAVENGER. Also, a YA novel I edited is coming out in November! Look up DISCORDIA by T.M Critzer for more info.
And where can people follow along and see what you’re working on?
Last but not least, if people are interested in hiring an editor, how should they get in contact with you?
Emailing me is the best way. My email is ahartis (at) uncc (dot) edu