An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. Her blog posts have been featured on popular websites like The Book Designer and Positive Writer. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.
Rebecca Henderson: What is your favorite editing experience?
Shayla Raquel: The first book I ever edited was Footsteps in Phoenix in 2010. A few months later, I received a free copy and it sits on my shelf today. It isn’t necessarily that it’s the best book I’ve ever edited, but it was the first. To me, it was physical proof that I was a good editor and that I could do this for the rest of my life.
Rebecca: How has your editing routine/approach changed over the years?
Shayla: One, I’ve learned to say no to projects that will stress me out. We all pay our dues, but I’m finally at a point where I don’t have to take on every book that comes my way. Two, I don’t answer emails immediately anymore. I’ve learned that it’s okay to wait a day (or two!) to email a client back. The world will not come to an end if I don’t respond within fifteen minutes. Three, I hired a branding coach to help me with positioning and marketing. Best money I’ve ever spent! Because of that time spent understanding my brand, I believe people are more apt to work with me. I don’t know that the routine has changed. I’m a type A, so I’ll always be juggling a couple dozen things at once each day.
Rebecca: What is your time management strategy for juggling editing, writing, and speaking?
Shayla: Oh, are we supposed to have a strategy for that? Ha! I have a daily planner that is full to the brim of tasks I must accomplish each day. Speaking engagements are scheduled several months out, so that helps. I also know that most of my presentations will be in the summer, so I can plan accordingly. Fun example of juggling: On March 23, my client launches her book, which I’ve been marketing since December. The very next day, I’ll be speaking at WORDFest in Hurst, Texas. Editing takes priority, and then I get to write for my blog or social media later. I usually write for my email newsletter on Saturdays. For my own novel and local writers’ group projects, I squeeze that in while an IV drips Starbucks coffee into my bloodstream.
Rebecca: How did you begin marketing your editing services?
Shayla: Terribly. I didn’t quite understand that the only people who cared about blog posts on grammar were . . . well, grammarians. My branding coach said, “Are you marketing to editors?” I said no. He said, “Well, stop talking about grammar so much.” Ultimately, I found that authors cared about the writing process, self-publishing, branding, and marketing. So I started talking about those things! And would you imagine? They wanted to hire me for editing because I helped them accomplish goals in their writing or publishing journeys. To more specifically answer your question, I blogged and posted on Facebook—about the wrong things. Now, I know what my community wants to learn.
Rebecca: Is there any advice you would give to yourself 5 years in the past?
Shayla: One, start going to writers’ conferences to network and socialize. Two, start a local writers’ group (I didn’t take over as organizer for the Yukon Writers’ Society until 2016). Three, understand your value. We are all worth more than we give ourselves credit for. Four, don’t feel bad about firing a client. Five, have more confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Rebecca: At what point did your business really take off? When did you realize it was something you could do professionally?
Shayla: That’s a funny story. After a mess of a co-owned shirt business, I started my company in April 2013. I had already edited 100 books for a local publisher up to that point. By 2015, I was offering more services like marketing, publishing guidance, design, etc. I will say 2015 was my first year of many, many projects. I don’t know necessarily that there was a pivotal moment when it all took off. There is no overnight success. You simply work and hustle and sweat until you create something people want to be a part of.
Rebecca: Which of your speaking events is the most memorable?
Shayla: Interestingly enough, while offering a presentation on marketing at the Enid Writers Club (the oldest writing group in Oklahoma), I was using an example from my newsletter. I quoted from it, and a lady spoke up and said, “Oh, yeah. That was good. I read that when you sent it out.” I was flabbergasted. It hadn’t occurred to me that the attendees might know who I was. It boosted my confidence and made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile. (Because how many of us wonder, Is anyone even reading my emails?)
Rebecca: It’s been said that to be successfully self-employed as a writer/editor, you need to treat your writing like it is a business. What is your professional opinion on this statement and do you find it holds true?
Shayla: What else would it be? A hobby? A hobby means you don’t get paid for the awesome thing you do. I’m very fortunate to be paid for my work, because there are plenty of editors and writers who do not charge (oof, that’s another rant for another time). As far as treating my own personal writing goals as a business, I am quite literally saying, I want this to be my regular occupation. Therefore, yes, I treat it like a business.
Rebecca: What general type of contract do you require your clients to sign?
Shayla: All of my clients must sign a contract that I send via HelloSign for electronic signatures. It has been tweaked dozens of times, and I’ve had many people request to imitate it (but I don’t give them that opportunity). It outlines the project, what will happen if the author doesn’t pay, what they can expect me to accomplish, and then some boring legalese. The best clause I’ve ever added is: “The client’s duty is . . . to ensure the word count stays within 1,000 words of its original word count after the manuscript has been turned over to you for your edits (prior to proofreading).” That has saved my butt more than once.
Rebecca: When times get rough, what sort of self-coaching thoughts/methods get you through?
Shayla: I turn to the Editor Alliance. It is my safe haven. We can rant and rave. We can get encouraging thoughts, silly GIFs, and most importantly, outstanding advice that actually solves problems. I also talk to my mom. She is so supportive and listens to my problems every day.