From the Vault: An Interview with Author Roz Morris
Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Walking along a busy London street, it’s not only Roz Morris’ Phoenix-red hair that makes her stand out but also her palpable energy. She has that magical quality of talent and experience.
Employed as a major literary consultancy’s senior book doctor for over 15 years, and teaching creative writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper, she has a wealth of editorial skill. Her Nail Your Novel series is highly regarded.
It doesn’t stop there. As a best-selling ghost-writer, 4 million of her books have passed through readers’ hands. Her own fiction work—My Memories of a Future Life and Lifeform Three—proves she has a visceral understanding of story.
Settled into a café table on a busy London street, we talk about her views on the rise of the indie author and its effect on the role of editors.
“Self-publishing is a mixed blessing. It’s highly competitive, and not just for authors.
“Lots of people are coming onto the market and setting themselves up as editors with very little, if any, qualifications or experience. They’ll undercut everyone else, sometimes to get the work, but often because they know they can’t justify the rates of an experienced editor. It’s not enough to just be nice and friendly. You have to know what you’re doing.”
During our conversation, we discover that we both worked on the same manuscript: The Village: A Year in Twelve Tales by J.J. Anderson. I completed the developmental edit under the watchful eye of Victoria Mixon, and Roz—in a separate contract—completed the copy edit.
I ask how challenging it is to go into a developmental edit with an indie new to the editing experience.
“I was talking to Victoria about this the other day. An editor should never underestimate how much it takes out of you. We have to be very sensitive to the author. It can be exhausting.
“But as a copy editor, I feel I can really get my hands on something and change it. It’s also easier to set a proper rate and charge by the hour. Developmental editing is more difficult because you don’t know how long something will take until you see it.”
Are indies more impatient than those on the traditional path?
“If an author hasn’t been through the publishing process before, they have no idea how long it takes. Some indies contact me wanting to publish by the end of the month. One asked me to do a ‘light’ proof read, but there’s no such thing.”
And how has traditional publishing changed from an editor’s perspective?
“I think traditional publishing has lost its focus on developing authors. There’s not as much nurturing. Publisher’s used to spend a lot on that aspect, but not so much now.
“A few one-stop shops have appeared offering a range of publishing services. Some even claim to be publishing deals. It really is a case of buyer beware and hard to judge if it’s good.
“Personally, my first edits with an author are more like in-depth writing tutorials than ‘just’ an edit.”
And it’s not just indie editors that authors should be wary of.
“We’re going back a few years, but I once worked for a literary consultancy that charged authors £4 per one thousand words for a developmental edit and paid the editor just one third of that.
“If an author had previous contact with another editor through that consultancy, I’d always ask for a copy of their editorial reports. It was appalling to see that some of these editors didn’t know the difference between showing and telling. And that was from a consultancy.”
So how can indie authors and editors choose the right partner?
“As an editor, I’ve learned to pick projects carefully so I’m in tune with the author and not tied to an agent’s or publisher’s agenda. I’m interested in working with authors who are committed and interested in developing their writing.”
And are indies more or less motivated than other authors?
“I tend to find that the authors who attend my Guardian Masterclasses—and some are still looking to be traditionally published—are highly engaged, committed, and willing to be told to be patient.
“Some marketers advise indies to focus on getting books out, but the indies doing it properly—taking their time to get it right—are the guardians of where publishing is going. They understand it’s an art and they’re committed to quality and originality. And that’s the beauty of self-publishing because traditional publishing can’t always take a risk, which is a shame because books stay with you precisely because they’re unique.”