PEN Membership Level
How did you get your start as an editor, and how long have you been editing?
After being a SAHM for many years, I got back to writing in about 2007 by joining Faithwriters, an online group for Christian writers back in the days before Facebook became popular. One of the big draws of Faithwriters was their weekly writing challenge, and I gradually wrote my way up from Beginner to Master level. I’m a natural fixer, and some of the challenge entries lacked good grammar and spelling, so I took it upon myself to learn more about US editing. It’s a little different to UK styles, but not vastly, so it was easy enough to grasp, despite my being raised in Ireland and not immigrating until 1995. (I really had no idea how little I knew though, and I gasp sometimes when reflecting on low-quality editing jobs I charged for back in the day.)
My first editing job was for a woman in church who had written a memoir, and other jobs seemed to flow from there every few months. It wasn’t until a few years later, after trying to write ads and bios for businessmen on oDesk/Upwork, that I settled on the plan to establish my editing business properly. I also had no excuses left for not working because the kids were fairly self-sufficient at that point, gosh darn it!
What are your areas of focus, and why did you select them?
While I started with editing, my “fixer” tendencies kept clamoring for attention, and I started helping authors find cover designers and typesetters. Over time, I learned how to do this myself, perhaps also because I wanted to make my own books look good. (I’ve self-published a book of short stories, three Christian workbooks, and a novel.) Now I have a small team of freelancers who help me do everything for authors—from developmental editing all the way through to self-publishing and advertising.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Level4Press hired me to write a historical fiction novel, so I do that in the mornings. It’s being looked at right now by a developmental editor, so I’m enjoying the long break. After lunch and a dog walk, I check up on the eight to sixteen projects in progress and make sure all my authors are happy with the work and amount of communication. Then I do a few hours of editing, have dinner, and do more editing and admin until bedtime. I always take weekends off.
How do you manage your time?
Having the Asana dashboard has helped tremendously. I’m very visual, so seeing what needs to be done and the timeline for each project somehow makes everything feel more organized. I also have good accounting software and a bookkeeper. If I get behind on a project, I know I can rely on my freelancers to help me catch up. I will confess that I get very distracted with Canva, imagining what an author’s cover could look like. Sometimes I play hooky and take a day off just because.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
I love excellence, so seeing a finished book on Amazon and knowing it looks great and is edited properly is incredibly satisfying. Also amazing is having the support of CEC and PEN members. At the risk of forgetting someone, Liz Smith and Cathy Oasheim have been fantastic encouragers and helpers.
What is your biggest challenge in being an editor, and how do you work through this?
Most of the manuscripts I get are not in great shape. Fortunately, I have a really good development editor who does a readthrough and gives pages of feedback, and most authors are willing to spend the extra amount to get that guidance. For those who turn that down, it’s hard knowing their books won’t be as good as they could have been, but they are the ones to make that choice, so I let the angst go.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Accept now that you’ll never know it all; you’ll never edit any book to perfection, but the faster you learn, the better you’ll be. Take as many courses on the PEN as you can. Send some of your editing work to a Gold member, so they can go through your edits—for a fee—and see if you missed anything.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve coauthored a book I love about a man who met Jesus while on an acid trip and how his life played out in the decades that followed. It is full of love and miracles, and even thinking about it makes me smile. I hope Tripping into Love is read by many and doesn’t die the usual invisible death of most Christian nonfiction.
Where can people find you online or on social media?
About Sally Hanan
Sally was raised in Ireland, lived in Spain for a year, and now lives in Texas. Her work history includes a nursing degree, secret shopping, Uber driving, and copy editing. She’s been writing all her life, with a number of self-published books out in the world. She’s written five novels, four of which will never see the light of day, and rightly so.
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