For the audience out there, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Noella “Enne” Handley. I’m a linguist, speculative writer, and TTRPG designer, and I am also a freelance editor and proofreader.
Thats an impressive set of skills! We’ll have to talk in the future about some of the other things on the list there. What got you into roleplaying games?
I actually got into roleplaying games through my interest in linguistics. I learned about the game Dialect by Thorny Games and backed it on kickstarter because it was about language and linguistics. When I received the Dialect book, I looked up the games that they mentioned as inspirations for the games such as Microscope by Ben Robbins and the Quiet Year by Avery Alder. I started finding more games by finding other games by those designers. However, I had nobody to play with! None of my friends were into games, and I was nervous about GMing games I hadn’t played and didn’t have a good grasp of yet. I googled to see if I could find an online gaming community, and found the Gauntlet Hangouts, and started to play games with the Gauntlet community.
What led you from getting into games to doing editing work on them?
I’m a writer and love creative work in general, so I first got into writing for games. I wrote a module for the More Kittens expansion of Glitter Kittens by Stentor Danielson and Cheyenne Grimes, and contributed to the “Wish You Were Here” Zine by Adam Vass. Since I’m a good writer and have always been proofreading papers for my friends in college and grad school, I became interested in doing freelance editing work. Since I was active in the Gauntlet community, I posted about it there. I ended up getting hired by Jesse Ross and Lauren McManamon to edit their game Girl Underground since I knew them through the Gauntlet, and they knew I wanted to get into editing work.
I’m going to overuse this metaphor sooner than later, but: for a lot of people, editing is like security. People recognize when it’s missing, or when something has gone horribly wrong, but don’t really know what it’s actually about. For something like Girl Underground, what does the job of editor look like?
There are different kinds, or levels, of editing. Broadly speaking, these are developmental, or content, editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Developmental editing is when you are helping the writer improve the game (or story) on a high level. For example, if you were doing developmental editing for a novel, you would point out what plot points weren’t working, or how a character’s development could be changed. For a game, this could also include working on tweaking the mechanics. During copyediting, you are editing for language use and structure at a smaller level, and also catching typos, spelling mistakes, and grammar mistakes. Proofreading focuses on fixing typos, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, and small formatting issues before the work goes to print (or gets published digitally). There is some overlap between copyediting and proofreading.
For Girl Underground, I did a combination of copyediting and proofreading. I focused on catching those typos and spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as commenting on sentence structure and language use.
So for a larger project, you’re likely to have people in each of those roles, but in a smaller project you’re going to see a lot more crossover?
Most likely. It really depends on the project and the budget.
So looking at copyediting and proofing. Is that going to be something you’re doing throughout the project, or will that be handled closer to publishing? I would imagine that would be fairly late in the process, vs developmental editing.
Copyediting and proofreading would be done at the earliest when a complete draft of the project is ready. Usually later. For example, in trade publishing, proofreading is one of the last steps completed before a book goes to print. Proofreading is done after all major changes are complete. If more big changes were made, you’d have to proofread all over again!
There’s been a lot of discussion on social media lately about standard wages for freelance writers. If you don’t mind me asking, what is considered the standard rate for editing? And how does that change between the different types of editing roles?
The Editorial Freelancers Association has a list of standard rates on their website: https://www.the-efa.org/rates.
- Basic copyediting – 5–10 ms pgs/hr – $30–40/hr
- Heavy copyediting – 2–5 ms pgs/hr – $40–50/hr
- Website copyediting $40–50/hr
- Developmental editing – 1–5 pgs/hr – $45–55/hr
- Substantive or line editing – 1–6 ms pgs/hr – $40–60/hr
- Proofreading – 9–13 ms pgs/hr – $30–35/hr
There are also different ways to charge. The rates listed are by hour, but you could also charge by the word, or a flat rate for the project. It really depends on the project and the client. Developmental editing is higher paying according to this, and proofreading the least paying, but proofreading is much faster to do than developmental editing.
Between adventures, supplements, core rules, etc, I suppose there is quite a bit of variance on the types of projects an editor could be asked to work on?
Oh yes. For TTRPG projects, I have done core rules of a text, the basic rules cheatsheet, as well as character sheets.
When you’re being sent things to work on, what tends to be the format? PDF’s in early layout, or some kind of text documents? Getting into the nitty gritty, how do you send back changes and notes?
It’s a mix. Sometimes I get text documents in Microsoft Word or Google docs, and sometimes I get sent files in PDFs. If I get sent text documents in Word or Google docs, I use the track changes feature to make changes and notes. On PDFs, I use the comment feature. I highlight the word or portion I am talking about, then put a note next to it with the suggested change.
For someone just getting started, what would you say are some common pitfalls or things to look out for?
Don’t underestimate the value of your work. It’s good to have a sliding scale so that you can accommodate the budget of a client, but be careful not to undercharge. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price with a client. Also, set out the terms of the agreement clearly in writing, including both the payment as well as the tasks of the job. This can be in an email, but I always sign contracts with my clients to keep my bases covered.
From the other side, what should a writer or publisher be thinking about when looking to hire an editor?
Many editors have specialties that they are knowledgable about. For example, I do developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading for speculative fiction, tabletop RPGS, and academic work in the humanities and social sciences. If you are looking for an editor, either with google or a database of listings, look for someone whose expertise matches your project. Also, remember that editors work to help your work be its best, not trying to chop it up. Also, look at the standard editing rates outlined by organizations such as the editorial freelance association, to get an idea of what your budget should be for the project. Good editing is necessary for your project to succeed, so don’t skimp on the budget.
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with me. Before we get going, are there any projects you’re working on now, editing or otherwise, you want people to keep an eye out for?
I just started a substack newsletter, starowl.substack.com, for my writing! It is like a Patreon, but with text-based posts. I’m planning on launching paid subscriptions in the beginning of November. Content will include RPG material, short fiction, essays on speculative fiction, TTRPGs, and geek culture, and book reviews.
And where can people find you on social media?
You can find me on twitter @noellarh !
Last but not least, if people are interested in hiring an editor, how should they get in contact with you?