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Amber Jones Barry

Amber Jones Barry is a freelance editor with more than 10 years of editing experience. After obtaining a journalism degree from The University of Georgia, she spent six years working in magazine publishing. In 2008, she began her journey into the freelance world. She has since provided her editing services to various companies and organizations across the country, from nonprofits to advertising agencies to national magazines to book authors.

MOST IMPORTANTLY What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box?

I think the easier way to answer is about what I am not looking for. Fantasy, horror and hard-core science fiction are not best for me. I tend to want to make everything too real. Also, I just can’t bring myself to read books about cancer, whether fiction or nonfiction (even one written by a friend of mine!). Otherwise, I’m open to anything. I can’t wait to see what amazing genres and topics we receive!

What is your writing and editing background?

After getting my journalism degree, I worked on staff as a writer and editor for multiple magazines over the years. I eventually moved on to freelance work, doing both writing and editing for various organizations, companies and publications. My love of editing far surpasses that of writing, so the bulk of my work is related to that. It eventually took me toward book editing, which I’d long been interested in pursuing. I’ve helped numerous authors with books, many of which I’ve worked with repeatedly. I love getting to know the authors and developing a great working relationship.

What are your major editing accomplishments?

I have edited for top organizations in their respective fields, but more importantly to me, I have inspired authors to take their books to the next level. One got so much out of my edits and suggestions that he recommends me to other writers on a frequent basis, even years later. Many of my authors have had me edit multiple books; one has done several series, entrusting me with all 12 books.

Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?

I aim to be an uber-reader for each manuscript I edit. On the first read, I take advantage of being that first-time reader. That's when I'm especially sensitive to big-picture issues such as plot holes, inconsistencies, etc. After that, I can read it as someone who better understands the story. This thoroughness gives the authors a comprehensive view from the readers' perspective (and of course with an editor's expertise). Then the writers can make any needed adjustments to ensure readers are taking away the intended vision for the book.

What types of books do you enjoy working with?

“Real” characters are important to me. I need to feel like this is someone that could actually exist (whether in their actions, words or motives); otherwise, I can’t get into the story itself. I also tend to enjoy books with deeper, more dramatic story lines (but not necessarily more conflicts) ... and if humor is an included element, even better!

What are the most common mistakes you see in new writer's ​work?

Many new writers forget that the reader isn't in their heads. In other words, the author may intend for something to be thoroughly explained (or even mentioned) yet forget to actually include that information in the text. Or, similarly, authors may overuse pronouns. Too many "he" or "she"/"him" or "her" references lose the reader. As an author, you know what character you're referring to, but make sure the reader would too. Any of these types of issues can lead to confusion and frustration for the reader, making them feel left out of the story. 

Also, be careful that your wording doesn't sound forced--especially in dialogue. If a sentence feels too formal or stiff, it won't come across as natural and can jar readers.

What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?

How necessary it is! No writer does it perfectly the first time...or even the fourth. Extra pairs of eyes are essential to catching what you can't see when you're so close to something. And when you have those extra eyes, especially in an editor, don't be afraid of criticism (though you should expect it to be constructive; if it's not, find another editor). Criticism is valuable and inevitable; it's meant to help you, your book and your readers. Better to find problems now and fix them than have readers find them and get put off from your story. And remember, if you don't agree with a suggestion or don't understand something, ask about it!  

What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?

Make every word count! If you're not succinct with your wording, your intended meaning can get muddled or lost. 

What is the most important consideration in selecting a book editor?

You need to feel like the editor will make positive improvements to your work while also keeping it yours. You should also feel comfortable with how they make their comments; in other words, if someone seems either too harsh or too pussyfooted for your taste, you likely won’t take their notes as seriously as you would otherwise.

Why would a writer need a book editor?

Anyone who writes needs an editor, even those writing short marketing snippets. A trained eye can catch things someone writing their own work cannot (even if it’s an editor doing the writing!). And since books can be so complex, both in storyline and writing style, having a qualified person to improve it is essential.

What do you do for fun that does not deal with the literary scene?

My two girls keep me busy! We’re often going to one activity or another. And I love all the craziness. When we can, we love to travel. And during downtime I’m typically doing house projects or volunteer work.

Seriously, we need to know your favorite meal and why?

Sushi is always high on my list. Really, any type of seafood is my meal of choice. I just love the taste and the atmosphere that typically goes along with it.

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