Interview with editor Philippa Donovan
Read our interview with editor Philippa Donovan. She gives great answers to how she do and can help an author. She established Smart Quill, an editorial company, in 2011. Since then she has worked with around 300 authors and recommends to a stable of 50 literary agents based in the UK, Australia, and the US. In 2014 she was named Publishing Rising Star and is Editorial Consultant for the Authors' Club at Soho House West Hollywood.
-Tell us a little about your daily work, what is it exactly that you do? And why have you chosen this path?
I absolutely adore working with authors, and I found that various roles in publishing took me further away from them. So I decided to forge a consultancy where I could work with them one on one - personalised and bespoke author services. This consists of structural editing, copy editing, agent recommendation, and book to film/tv adaptation guidance (as I very recently moved to LA!).
-How do you help an author?
It depends what stage they are at. If early in the writing process, help looks much like early editorial feedback and thought on development. If the manuscript has been tightened and honed, it is more about next best steps to approach publication.
-How do you motivate a writer?
It involves getting them to reconnect with the reason they starting writing in the first place. The business of publishing involves a vast amount of rejection, not just from agents and commissioning editors, but even readers who now get to review direct sales online. Part of my role as an editorial and literary consultant is help put this rejection into a larger context and keep them focussed on their love for the process of creation.
-What is your approach on constructive feedback for a writer?
That everyone is learning, and no one is perfect. Even the greats like Harper Lee and Ernest Hemingway had editors to whom they entrusted their work. There is no such thing as a natural born talent in writing. It requires, practice, and learning, and dedication.
-Some writers may be sensitive and question every edit you make, how do you handle that?
Interestingly this does not seem to happen to me! I think the writers who use me realise that I have a lot of experience, both within the industry and now extrapolated to new ventures like digital publishing and tv/film adaptations. So they know that I have come to the edit with great passion and committment. Sometimes they ask for clarification on certain points, or ask if a way to resolve an issue might work. But it is never a situation where they resist each and every note. I think the key here is that my authors know I am on their side - we are a team, and I work to support them.
-what is your advice for writers?
Write something, anything, every day. Even if it is just 500 words, or a poem, or tangential ramblings that have no place in any larger body of work.
-Is there any kind of writer/author that you can’t help?
No. I truly believe that everyone has the capacity to use their unique voice in the written word to express themselves.