How it works:

What does an editor actually do? And how does the relationship between the editor and author shape what a book will become? 

Here's an overview of how it works.

We talk. I like to begin each project with a brief phone consultation to learn more about a writer’s vision for the book and goals for sharing it with the world. Will the writer pursue traditional publication, or self-publish? Knowing these goals helps me shape my feedback.

I read. Good editors are careful readers. When I read a writer’s manuscript, I assess several things. First, is this novel working as a story? (Do I feel emotionally invested in the protagonist’s journey? Are the stakes high enough to keep me turning the pages? What are the big questions this story is trying to answer?) Next, how is this novel structured, and how is that structure working to advance the plot? What about the architecture of scenes or chapters might need to change? Finally, how is this writer using all the tools at his/her disposal to create the world of this story? (Point of view, voice/tone, pace, tension/conflict, description, dialogue, and language.)

I comment. Oh, do I comment. Using the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word, I address the answers to the questions above in the margins, and make concrete suggestions for how to solve problems in the text.

I compile my evaluation. Once I’ve read the manuscript and made my comments, I synthesize that information into a plan for revision. It’s helpful for writers to know what to tackle first, what possibilities exist, and how to make necessary choices. I am committed to providing specific, actionable feedback that gives writers a lot to work with. Almost anything that’s wrong can be fixed, as long as the writer is willing to do the work.

We talk again. Once the writer has received the documents and taken time to read through the evaluation and comments, we schedule a follow-up call to go over any remaining questions. After this, it’s time to get to work!

Imagine what you could do with a detailed, workable plan for revision.


Manuscript Evaluation

The world of book editing can sometimes feel like a mysterious locked room. Let's change that. 

I developed my approach to manuscript evaluations based on what I’ve learned in more than fifteen years’ experience across multiple roles in the publishing industry, including in-house editorial positions with two publishers, work as a contract editor, and my writing career as the author of four published novels.

The role of the editor is to question, challenge, support, and dream alongside you as you work to create the strongest possible version of your novel. It is a partnership that can change the course of your work. The sooner we get started, the sooner you will be moving closer to achieving your goals.

The Comprehensive Manuscript Evaluation includes:

  • Queries and comments throughout your manuscript
  • A detailed editorial letter to guide your revision
  • 30-minute follow-up phone consultation to talk through your plan

What Clients Have to Say

I am so fortunate to be doing work that I love, and I’m grateful to hear that my editorial feedback really helps writers:

Kelly is always my first reader—before my agent, my editor, even my husband. She has a tremendous gift for seeing straight through to the core of both the problems with and potential of a story, and making specific and wise suggestions to take a story to the next level. Best of all, she delivers even the toughest of editorial advice in a straightforward but supportive way that encourages me to move forward and make my writing the best it can be.
— Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters and The Light of Paris

“Word Bird was an invaluable step on my journey to publication. While immersed in the writing process, we often lose our objectivity. Kelly’s razor-sharp eye and vast knowledge of story structure provided suggestions I otherwise would have missed. Thanks to Kelly’s evaluation and feedback, I was able to strengthen my draft and my craft, eventually receiving multiple offers of representation.”

Lori Nelson Spielman, internationally bestselling author of The Life List

Kelly goes the extra mile in proving professional input that is itself well worth the cost she charges for an extensive manuscript evaluation. I highly recommend her to both the novice and seasoned writer.
— Paul Andrew, author of Ankathata’s Freeze

Even published novelists need a second trusted, expert set of eyes to read their work. I count on Kelly to provide thoughtful insight and help me solve problems in my work.”

Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of The Funeral Dress and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in working with Kelly is that the author is far too close to see his work for what it is. I have come to trust Kelly’s critiques and guidance implicitly. I can say without reservation that in the year and change that I have worked with Kelly, I have been given an education on writing. Whether it involves style, technique, or voice, our relationship is one of student and mentor, coach and quarterback. Every writer, no matter their experience, needs to have such a relationship. Kelly is my editor for life.
— Jim Smurawa, The Child of Atitecos: A Novel of Guatemala