I have a book in the works.
Okay. Four books. If one can get through to see daylight, it’ll be a miracle. (Baby sea turtles face a similar fate.)
If (when!) I get to that point, I know who I want editing my stuff. Her name is Kristen Hamilton, and she’s the latest edition to the #GirlsRock gang. Hers is the set of eyes you want on the manuscript you’ve worked so hard on.
Please give Kristen a warm JAD welcome!
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Kristen: Marine biologist is the first profession that comes to mind. It was something I had dreamed of when I was very young. I also thought about being a paleontologist for a while, after the characters in my favorite movie, Jurassic Park. (Digging up dinosaur bones — cool!)
Growing up, I was always a voracious reader, and I did well on school writing assignments. I took this seriously. By around age 8, I had my heart set on being a newspaper journalist and an author (dual careers, anyone?). In fact, my mom shared this gem with me several years back: She was digging through my old school stuff and found this school assignment I did when I was 8 or 9 years old. Although I didn’t quite grow up to become a journalist and author, it’s funny to see that I’ve envisioned myself in the writing industry since I was so young.
Eli: I love that! So grateful your mother held onto it. How do you feel your perception of the writing industry then compares to how it is for you now?
Kristen: When I was a kid in the 1990s, there was no such thing as self-publishing. Amazon Kindle has completely revolutionized the publishing industry and has made publishing so much more accessible to authors. That’s not something I could have ever imagined!
Personally, I always envisioned myself at a desk, typing away, creating prose from scratch. Now, I’m on the other side of things: As an editor, I get to be one of the first to experience an author’s book and provide valuable feedback, improving the story. And that’s so cool! I’m helping in ways I never imagined as a child. I am so happy I chose this path.
Eli: When did you make the choice? Was it something in mind when you were in school?
Kristen: Actually, it’s a story of serendipity.
In May 2012 I got a job working at a local car dealership, writing vehicle descriptions for the dealership’s website. It was awesome: I had my own desk, my own computer, my own little corner where I could write. I loved it.
Fast forward several months to September 2012. I was in my last semester of college at Boise State University, set to graduate in December with a degree in English/writing. I enrolled in a writing workshop class, where every week students would share a short story they had written, and the rest of the class would critique and edit them. I didn’t like being critiqued…but I loved editing others’ work. Like, whoa.
Around the same time, the car dealership was having cutbacks, and I found myself laid off.
I came home that Friday afternoon in late September, distraught. It was my first real job in the writing industry, and I’d only lasted five months.
My boyfriend handed me the book Freelancing for Dummies. With nothing better to do, unemployed, I sat on the couch that weekend and read the book. Two days later, I started my business.Kristen Hamilton
My boyfriend handed me the book Freelancing for Dummies. With nothing better to do, unemployed, I sat on the couch that weekend and read the book. Two days later, I started my business.
And I flourished! I took every job I could get my hands on. I edited my first full-length book for $45 (cringe). I was working 50 hours each week, but I was in charge of my destiny. I talked to clients. I created my own website. I researched and set my rates. Speaking frankly, I worked my ass off! But I was invigorated by the work, the challenge of running my own business.
Looking back on it now, I’m so grateful that I got laid off, that I took that writing workshop class, that my boyfriend (now husband!) gave me that book, and that I had the drive and motivation to do anything necessary to make sure my business succeeded. And now here I am, 10 years later, still doing what I love!
Eli: We can end this interview right here, Kristen! Just kidding. That’s incredible. What was your biggest challenge to continuing your business along the way?
Kristen: Thanks. It feels nice to take a step back and say, “Hey, I did this!”
My business is my baby, and working from home is a privilege, so I’ve always taken my job seriously. And I love what I do! So when I think about the challenges facing my business, they are few and far between.
One of the biggest challenges I faced came about after I joined a local editors’ group in 2017. I thought it would be a great place to network and help each other succeed, and I arrived ready to share ideas on good business practices. But the culture of the group was all wrong, filled with one-upmanship, pettiness, and stealing ideas, and some of the members I networked with did bad business — really bad. One of them, a ghostwriter, conned a mutual client out of $35,000.
Seeing this — how people used clients as a means to an end, how people lied and cheated just to get ahead — left me disenchanted and depressed for months. I separated myself from that group. I didn’t want to be involved in that. That was a difficult time, but it made me realize what’s important to me: being honest and doing good work.
The next challenge was a few years later, during the Covid-19 pandemic. My husband and I stayed home, and with nothing else to do, I worked! The year 2020 was a busy one, and I worked more than I ever had before. But in early 2021, overworked and desperate to get out of the house, I was suffering from extreme burnout. I remember telling my husband, close to tears, “I need a break.” I was so exhausted from doing nothing but editing books that I was vaguely considering leaving editing altogether. It was serious.
Luckily, that bad case of burnout was cured with a long vacation to Hawaii in late 2021. And when I got back, I was rejuvenated and remembered all the reasons why I love my job. It was a good lesson: work and relaxation need to be balanced!
Eli: It’s awesome you were able to recognize a need there. It might have saved your career, right? So what is next for you?
Kristen: That was an important lesson: Taking breaks keeps me fresh and passionate about my work — which makes me a better editor. Now, I make it a point to take a week off every several months to recharge, clear my brain, and then come back the next week refreshed and ready to edit.
I’m booked for the next 13 weeks, which is average for my schedule. In June, I participated in WriteHive, doing a presentation on how to get your book in Barnes & Noble stores.
I plan to keep doing what I’m doing! By creating my business, I’ve built a pretty good life: I set my own hours, work from home, and love what I do. I am respected in my industry and my clients love my work. My life is amazing and I’m so grateful for it. I’ll be doing this for a long time.
Eli: This has been awesome, Kristen. What advice would you give young ladies or girls who have an interest in books and possibly editing?
Kristen: Read, read, read! I earned my bachelor’s degree in English/writing, but I learned more in on-the-job experience, partly from reading books on starting your own freelance editing business (Starting Your Career as a Freelance Editor by Mary Embree, The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman, and Freelancing for Dummies by Susan M. Drake were helpful to me) and reading fiction books to develop an understanding of the craft of writing. Pay attention to the nuances of literature and fiction, from big-picture plot development and pacing to grammar and the mechanics of writing.
A lot of it is subjective, which is where common sense and knowledge of the market (which books sell better, their writing style, and so on) come into play. So, in order to succeed in this field, you need to be a voracious reader!
Building a business is hard work, so expect a lot of late nights and long hours. Be dedicated to your professional image. Make meeting your deadlines an absolute priority — there are so many editors I’ve worked with who don’t meet their deadlines, which makes them look unprofessional. Many of my clients have said that my ability to meet my deadlines is one of the top reasons they come back to me.
Be courteous to clients, but also know your boundaries—people will try to take advantage of your kindness if you let them. (That was a hard lesson to learn for me!)
And finally: Stay humble, but know your worth. Educate yourself, be transparent, and be professional (including creating a great website and investing in some great headshots for your website and social media pages). Charge a livable wage. You’re worth it!
Hey! Good to see you in my inbox. Great interview.
Thank you! It’s been a while. So glad to see you here!
I hope this doesn’t overstep. Congrats on the Stanley Cup win.
Not even a little, and thank you. It was quite a ride!
Great interview Eli! Good to see you in this space!
Thanks, Carrie! I just had to rebrand, that’s all. Hope you’re doing well!
How inspiring! Thank you for highlighting this talented woman.
Thank you for not completely giving up on blogging, it’s great to see you back.
What Carrie said! Great interview, and good to see you here again!
Cool interview.. nice to see something you have posted again. I have also been kinda off the radar but I posted today. Hope you are well Eli! 🙂
How exciting and great interview. Been thinking about you and wondering how you are doing. Glad to see a new post from you. Keep on doing you. Peace.