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Making a Living, One Writer’s Story: Shelley Bates, Teacher and Copyeditor

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Welcome to our new series for 2012, Making a Living: One Writer’s Story, which we hope will give you ideas on how you can make a living as a writer if your writing alone isn’t paying all the bills. Link to all stories in this series.

Shelley BatesToday’s guest is Shelley Bates!

First, can you tell us a bit about what you write and your publishing history?

After I earned an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2002, my thesis novel was published by Harlequin in 2003. Twenty-one novels followed for Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette under my own name; my YA pseudonym, Shelley Adina (http://www.shelleyadina.com); and my Amish fiction pseudonym, Adina Senft (http://www.adinasenft.com). My most recent traditional release was The Wounded Heart, an Amish Quilt novel, in September 2011. I have also self-published a YA paranormal and two self-published steampunk novels as Shelley Adina, the most recent being Her Own Devices in December 2011.

What writing-related work do you do to earn money, besides writing books, short stories, etc.?

In my day job I’m a copyeditor, working on marketing collateral for Silicon Valley companies such as Apple and Symantec. I’m also an adjunct instructor in the (now) MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, coaching students in the writing of their novels.

What prompted you to find a writing-related revenue stream aside from your novels?

When the demand for copyediting started rising among self-published authors, I thought I would hang out my shingle (http://www.shelleybates.com) and try my hand at it. I really enjoy it—it’s way more interesting than editing software updates.

How did you break into this field?

Bella Andre gave me my start when she asked me to copyedit one of her Bad Boys of Footballnovels, followed by her best-selling Sullivansseries. Then word of mouth spread and I received projects from NYT bestsellers Barbara Freethy  and Carly Phillips, as well as from new authors Cecilia Gray and Lucy Kevin. I’m now scheduled well into 2012 with projects.

Do you have any advice for other writers who want to stay in the writing world, but aren’t currently making enough to pay their bills through their writing alone?

My best advice would be to make sure your work can compete with the bestsellers out there. If you’re a designer, study the covers on the bestseller lists. If you’re a copyeditor, have the credentials to offer a client (I have an editing certificate from UC Berkeley, as well as ten years of experience in editing corporate marketing collateral). Your high-school A’s in English aren’t going to cut it when your work is out there for millions of people to see—and comment on in their Amazon reviews. Because believe me, they will.

What do you enjoy about this second business?

I love getting to know authors through their work … and I really like being able to read a new book before it goes public!

Do you think having a second income from something writing-related that isn’t actually writing helps your writing career, or does it get in the way?

I’ve always had to juggle the day job(s) with my writing, so nothing has really changed. The hours I schedule for client work remain the same, whether that client is an author or a corporation. And the hours that are sacred to writing my current novel are set in stone. Getting the pages written is the first priority.

If you could earn a living from just one of these choices, which would you choose?

I’m a writer first and foremost, so if everything else went away, I would choose the books in my head and heart.

With the new world of publishing and the move to self-publishing by many authors, do you think new opportunities will open up for writing-related revenue? Where do you see a need aside from what you are doing?

The most critical unfilled need I see at the moment is a way to get product placement on the retail sites. This positioning is, of course, controlled by the retailers at the moment, but in the future I can see them offering placement for a percentage. A means for self-published authors to access that placement would be great—this is the biggest hole that literary agents could fill.

How important do you feel it is for writers to support other writers both by providing these types of services and by hiring other writers?

To be honest, I don’t think it’s a matter of hiring another writer … it’s a matter of hiring the best person with the skills that you need. If someone can give me an amazing cover, I’m not too concerned about anything else they do. However, if their brain is creative enough for both art/design and writing, I take my hat off to them. I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler :)

If writers would like to hire you, where can they learn more about your services, fees, and availability?

They can find me at http://www.shelleybates.com, where I’ve posted my rates and process, as well as all the beautiful covers of the books I’ve copyedited for my clients.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to chat with you!

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

Books by Shelley

Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She also writes the Dusty Deals Mystery series under the pen name Rae Davies. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at RWA conferences and meetings, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit her web site.

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