Taking Review Requests: Yes but only if I've reviewed the author in the past. Interviews and guest posts are open to new-to-me authors. Please see my policy before requesting.

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• My review policy and contact info is located OVER HERE.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Interview Time! Sharon Stogner from I Smell Sheep Branches Out!

I wanted to do something a little different on the blog this year and shine the spotlight on some of the unsung heroes of the book world. I'm talking Freelance Editors, Cover Designers and even Swag Designers (Swag doesn't make itself you know). If you do one or more of the above, let me know I'd love to have you on the blog!

Kicking off my Unsung Heroes Interviews is someone many of you may know. She's talented, funny and oh so nice. She's an infamous blog owner*wink* and now she's branching out into the editing world! In case you don't know about Sharon Stogner, here's a quick bio in her own words:

I started blogging/reviewing 4 years ago. In 2010 I became the other half of I Smell Sheep with Katie Dalton. We love anything and everything paranormal romance/Sci-Fi/UF/Horror/mystery/fantasy, you name it we are either reading it or watching it. My favorite genre is Urban Fantasy, the darker the better.

I was a
beta reader in a wide range of genre
for a couple of years. Encouragement from the authors I worked with convinced me to
become a freelance editor at the end of 2013.

I received an undergraduate degree in biology from UNC Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in Microbiology from NCSU. I have been married for 21 years and chose to be a stay at home mom for our two girls who are now 12 &18. I am a 2nd degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. I rarely cook, which my family is grateful for. I love cereal and spaghetti, but not together.

Find Sharon: 

Adria: Hi Sharon, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Sit back, get comfortable and don't mind the wacky noises coming from the other room, that's just my pet dragon. *grins*
Sharon: Ooo! We have a dragon over in my blog’s FB group. His name is Jake and he tends to set the newbies on fire.

Adria: Okay so I lied about that dragon bit, he's actually a big black, hairy dog that snores so bad it sounds like a dragon.
Mr. Pud

Sharon: ERMERGERD! So cute!

Adria: So for anyone who doesn't know, what exactly is a literary editor and how did you begin editing book?
Sharon: A literary editor works with an author to make sure a book is not just technically written well (grammar, word choices, punctuation, sentence structure), but also that the book as a sum of its parts works. Does the story make sense (plot holes and inconsistencies) does it flow well, are the characters developed correctly? Most people don’t realize books in large publishing houses generally go through 4 separate editing steps. I have a page on my website that describes the 4 basic steps: content editing, line editing, copy editing and proof reading.

I started out beta reading for free. The authors suggested I become a freelance editor because I had a talent for it. Because I also run a review site I am well connected to the publishing industry and have a great relationship authors in many genre. This is an often overlooked element of editing. Your editor should have a working understanding of the industry and a feel for what readers expect and want in a book.

Adria: I'm starting to get a little intimidated by you Sharon. Lol.
Sharon: wait till I show you my set of industry voodoo dolls…oh wait, forget you heard that!

Adria: You now have your own editing service website (Devil in the Details). Why did you decide to branch out on your own and what were/are some of the challenges of starting your own business?
Sharon: I loved doing beta reading for authors for the same reason people like putting together puzzles. That satisfaction of taking all the pieces and making them fit correctly to make something awesome. I was doing a lot of editing work for free (as a beta) and everyone told me I should start charging. It too me two years to make the decision. I was basically afraid to do it. As a free beta no one could complain about my work and there was no pressure to meet deadlines. If an author paid for my services, I could be held accountable for my work! I could be blamed for the failure of the book. I spent a lot of time doubting I was good enough to charge for my services. I still do sometimes.

My biggest challenge is self-doubt. I was lucky enough to know a lot of people in the industry and got some great advice on what to do and how to go about it. I set up the website (with the help of author Dani Harper) then put the word out. Paying for an editor is a scary experience for an author because you never know how good of a job they will do until you have already paid. So they are cautious and always asking around for recommendations from other authors. That makes word of mouth the only way for me to get jobs. It is a slow process, but if I do a great job it will eventually grow to the point where I will have to turn away work. But that could take a year or more. Another important thing in starting a business like this is to get people’s attention. I came up with what I think is a clever title and Dani Harper came up with my logo. The combination will get authors to take a look.

Adria: In your opinion as an editor, what is the most common mistake authors make when writing?
Sharon: Thinking they can self-edit, only needing to do one round of edits, or a copy editor is all they need. As far as mistakes made while writing; having a favorite word or phrase they over use is common. Like the hero is always “sighing” or everything is “intense”. Also using the words “that” and “had”. Authors can usually delete 70% of those words. Just doing that will make the writing tighter and flow better.

Adria: There’s been so much back and forth about traditional publishing versus independent publishing. One of the biggest issues seems to be the lack of a professional editing on indie books. As an editor what would you say to people who feel that they can "self-edit" their own work and it's good enough to publish?
Sharon: You cannot self-edit. No one can. You cannot do one round of edits. Having someone copy edit is not the same has having your book edited. The sad thing is authors will get slammed by reviewers for this and they still don’t believe it. When a reviewer says the editing was bad, they aren’t just talking about dotting I’s and crossing T’s. They are talking about the content editing and line editing too.

Adria: So far, what has been your favorite project (book you've edited)?
Sharon: Like authors, the book I am currently working on is my favorite. An editor should want the book to succeed as much as the author does. I consider them my babies like a doting auntie. Believe it or not my favorites are the ones that I find the most problems with. That means I am helping the author take book that would most certainly fail and giving it a fighting chance.

Adria: Is there a certain goal that you've set for yourself as an editor that you have yet to accomplish?
Sharon: I would love to get a reputation as a great editor and be able to make enough money to make it worth all my work. Right now I charge less than most freelance editors as I build a reputation. I would like to be able to charge more and be worth the price.

Adria: Definitely intimidated now.
Sharon: is it the fangs? Cause I can totally hide those!

Adria: What's the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
Sharon: Ack! The last book I read was Shona Husk’s Lord of the Hunt and even though I am not a big PNR fan her story hit all my guilty pleasure buttons: forbidden love and the Fae.
Adria: Haven't read her before and even though I've got a good mountain of books that need to be read I gotta ask you, which book of Shona's would you recommend I start with?
Sharon: The Goblin King! Her first and my favorite. You will be wishing for your own goblin by the end ;) 

Adria: You also co-own the fabulously quirky review site, I Smell Sheep (which I also review for cause you and Katie are awesome that way), how do you find the time and energy to review books, movies, comics and now offer editing services?! You must be some kind of alien superhero or something because I got tired just thinking about all that you do!
Sharon: I don’t know!!! I was doing lots of beta work before and since the editing service just started and isn’t too busy yet, that hasn’t changed anything. I don’t get to read as much as I use too. That is why you and our other reviewers are so important! If it weren’t for you guys we wouldn’t have reviews I am a stay at home mom, otherwise I don’t think I could do it all. I am hoping to make enough money editing that I don’t have to find a part time job out of the home. Gotta kid going to college next year.
Adria: Verdict? Adria is lazy and can't multi-task. Sharon has to be some form of superhero. Must investigate further.
Sharon: Shhh! I told you not to mention the “powers” if that gets out I won’t get a moment's peace!
Adria: I love reviewing for you guys! You've allowed me to try new authors (Felicity Heaton), and be able to get ARCs of some of my favorites *cough* Laura Wright *cough*
Sharon: lol, you have no idea how much we appreciate your help!

Adria: I have a few questions for you from fellow bloggers and a few authors, I hope you don't mind!

Author Stacey Joy Netzel asks: What is your turn around time on a manuscript and how far in advanced are you booked?
Sharon: My website has all that info including price per word. In general, short stories take 2 days, novellas 4 days and novels 7. I usually get them done quicker, but I like to have a buffer. I like to get the first two pages to look at. Once I know how extensive the edits will be I can give a hard deadline. I also try not to work weekends because I have a family. Since I am new I don’t have a lot booked. I have the next two weeks filled, but most authors say I will need you in a few weeks! I have a calendar on my site where I will start posting booked jobs. That way authors can see if I am open when they need me.

Blogger Crystal Cuffley asks: Have you ever edited for a popular author? What is the process you go through to edit?
Sharon: Yes, my website has a page with all the authors I have worked for. I save the original document in a file and make a copy named edit(title) and work only on that version. Always good to have the original available. 

I also use track changes for authors who use it, otherwise I do inline edits where I use red text and comment right in the manuscript. I just start reading, and the way my mind works I lock onto everything from punctuation and word choices to consistency of the story time frame and character development. It is the ultimate form of multi-tasking. I am a line and content editor so I am looking at the big picture as well as line by line issues.

Reader Amanda asks: Have you ever had a manuscript that was so terrible in terms of grammar, punctuation etc that you just couldn't get through it?
Sharon: Yes, back when I was doing beta for free I had one I just couldn’t do because I would have to change so much the author would have to put my name on it too! My job isn’t to do your rewrites. I also just hada job for some whose first language wasn’t English…that was a learning experience! I put in over 10 hours of work and made $33. *headdeak* From now on I will have to add a surcharge if edits are that extensive.

Reader Tasha asks: What's the worst part of editing?
Sharon: Worrying I won’t do a good job and the author won’t think I was worth the money.

Reader Diana asks: What's the most valuable thing you've learned as an editor?
Sharon: How hard it is to have your work judged! I could never write a book and put it out there for people like me to review.

Okay I think that's enough for the more serious questions. Let's have some fun shall we? *cracks knuckles* It's time for the lightning round!

Red Wine or White?
Neither! Don’t like wine. Would go with Crown Royal and Coke.

Print or E-book?
Both! Depending on the situation. Paper for sitting in my chair at home. Ebook for out around town or at the gym.

Reality Shows or Original TV?
Original shows.

Hamburger or pizza?

Horror or Sci-Fi?
All in one!

Cows or sheep (Oh noes I went there!)
Not even going to deem this with a response… ;)

Adria: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Sharon: I had no idea how hard interviews were to fill out! Now I feel bad for all those authors I have tortured over the years (not really ) Check out my editing site, leave feedback, share it with anyone who might be interested. Check out I Smell Sheep. If you are a nerd and romance junkie we are for you. J Thanks for letting me take up some of your blog space! Sheep out!

Adria: You know you love to torture them Sharon!
Sharon: Till they scream like little girls at a Justin Beiber concert 

Adria: Thanks for stopping by Sharon, you're a blast to chat with and I'll have to torture have you on the blog again sometime!

If you're interested in hiring Sharon you can check out her site, Devil in the Details at the following address: http://devilinthedetailsediting.blogspot.com/

You can also check out I Smell Sheep, where yours truly is a humble serf to Katie and Sharon ;)


  1. lol, love the supersheep image! thanks for letting me talk :)

  2. You're welcome Sharon! Hopefully business takes off for your and we can do another one in a couple of months :) Also, if you ever have some big hoopla going on with your business and need some promo let me know and we can do something for that too. Always willing to lend a hand :)

  3. Sharon is a fabulous editor. She doesn't just make changes but teaches you why they are important. I would have such a terrible book without Sharon's help and guidance.


I love hearing from you and will always try to get back to each and every one of you as soon as I can. If you have a blog, leave a link so I can stop by and say "Hello!"