Tuesday 23 September 2014

From the Editor's Desk: Introducing Iola Goulton

We're starting a new series on the blog today called 'From the Editor's Desk'. We will occasionally feature freelance editors in our Tuesday posts. Iola Goulton, an ACW regular, has answered a few questions regarding her freelance editing business.

Narelle: Do you trade under a business name?

Iola: Yes—Christian Editing Services. You can find me online at, or on Facebook.

Narelle: How many years have you been freelance editing?

Iola: I've been working as a freelance fiction editor for a little over two years. Prior to that I worked as a human resources consultant, a role that always involved a lot of reading, writing and editing reports. My first job included responsibility for a monthly client newsletter—and that meant doing everything. Maintaining the database of paid subscribers, sending invoices, planning the publication schedule, writing and editing the articles, desktop publishing (anyone remember Adobe PageMaker?), printing mailing labels, and stuffing several hundred printed newsletters into envelopes each month. 

Narelle: Where are you based? (Your city and/or state and country.) 

Iola: I live in a city called Tauranga, in New Zealand, and I work from home. I can see the Pacific Ocean from my office window—as long as it's not raining too hard. There's a reason New Zealand is known for being clean and green, and it's because of all that rain!

Narelle: Do you have editorial experience from working with publishers? (If yes, please provide the publisher’s name, your length of employment, and your roles within the organisation.)

Iola: I've done some freelance editing for Even Before Publishing (now Rhiza Press), but I haven't worked for a publisher. Unless you count advising Oxford University Press on human resource issues? However, I've been writing, editing and publishing reports for my whole business career, and I've always been a keen fiction reader. Freelance editing combines my professional skills with reading my favourite genre.

Narelle: What kinds of writing do you edit (e.g. novels, articles, poetry, non-fiction) and what genre/s do you specialise in?

Iola: I specialise in adult and young adult fiction, whether written specifically for the Christian market, or written by a Christian for the general market. I mostly read Christian fiction, and a lot of freelance editors don't want to edit "religious" or "inspirational", so editing Christian fiction seemed a natural niche for me. 

In terms of genre, I read everything from romance to speculative fiction, and my editing reflects that. Having said that, I've also edited children's fiction, memoir and non-fiction books, articles and blog posts (my years of writing non-fiction articles. There are a few areas I wouldn't be comfortable editing, and I have turned down requests to edit poetry and a cookbook—those are stepping too far out of my comfort zone, and I want to give my clients the best possible service.

Narelle: What kinds of editing do you do? Do you specialise in certain types of editing?

Iola: I offer Manuscript Assessments, copyediting and proofreading. I'll explain those a little more—I've found different editors use different terms.

A Manuscript Assessment is an appraisal and critique of a novel, providing feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the plot, structure, characterisation, point of view, dialogue, interior monologue and other potential issues. 
The Manuscript Assessment will highlight strengths, and provide the author with specific areas on which to focus the revision of the manuscript. This is most appropriate at the completion of the first draft.

Other terms for a Manuscript Assessment include structural editing, developmental editing, book doctoring or critiquing (I choose not to say it's a critique, because many people read that as criticsm. It's not—the purpose of a Manuscript Assessment is to show you specific ways you can improve your manuscript).

Some authors don’t want an assessment of the full novel, so I also offer an assessment of the opening chapters (up to fifty pages, or 12,500 words). These opening chapters are the most important, as this is the passage which has to hook and engage first your agent or publisher (in order to be offered a publishing contract), then your reader (to purchase the book).

Copyediting includes a line by line edit to look at sentence, paragraph and chapter length; identify repetition of words or ideas; ensure consistent point of view, style, tense and voice; ensure language and tone are consistent with the location and time period of the novel; and undertake basic fact checking against reputable internet sites. Copyediting assumes the basic plot and structure are solid—if an author isn't sure about those basics, it's better to start with a Manuscript Assessment.

Proofreading is the final step in preparing a novel for submission to a publisher or agent, or before self-publishing. Proofreading includes checking for spelling, grammar, punctuation, hyphenation, capitalisation, missing or incorrect words, and other typographical errors. It's a basic once-over to ensure there are no glaring errors, and assumes the novel has already been through extensive self-editing, revision, and at least one professional editor (whether me or someone else).

Narelle: What books have you edited? (Please list up to 8 books, including the book title and author name.)

Iola: You can get a complete list on the Projects page of my website, but here are a few:

A New Resolution by Rose Dee (winner of the 2013 CALEB Prize for fiction)
Truly Free by Carol Preston
Henry's Run by Amanda Deed (shortlisted for 2013 CALEB Prize for fiction)
The Greenfield Legacy by Rose Dee, Amanda Deed, Meredith Resce and Paula Vince (shortlisted for 2013 CALEB Prize for fiction)
The Celtic Stone by Nick Hawkes
Spiralling out of the Shadow by Michelle Dennis Evans
Imogen's Chance by Paula Vince
Unshakeable Assignment by Celeste Meyers

Narelle: Who are some of your clients? (Please list up to 8 clients who may be published or pre-published, and include their blog/website address.)

Iola: As well as the clients above, I've worked with Elaine Fraser, Rita Stella Galieh, Mary Hawkins, Catherine Hudson and Crystal Mary Lindsay, and a number of pre-pubilshed authors.  

Narelle: How do you edit? (eg. Paper, Word with Track Changes, etc.)

Iola: I copyedit in Word using the Track Changes and Comments features. In the last year, I've worked with clients from Australia, Greece, New Zealand and the United States, so everything is done via email. I would work on paper if required, but so far I've found everyone is happy to work with Track Changes. 

A Manuscript Assessment is slightly different. I don't make any changes on the manuscript, but provide a detailed editorial letter (usually 10-12 pages, but often more), covering what needs to be improved in the manuscript, and giving guidance and examples around how to improve it.

Narelle: How can a prospective client contact you to receive a quote on your editing rates and services?

Iola: The best way to contact me is via email, at My Manuscript Assessment fees are standard, based on word count, while my fees for copyediting and proofreading depend on the sample edit.

Narelle: Do you offer a free editing sample, with no obligation? If yes, what does this encompass?

Iola: Yes. I offer a free sample copyedit o
f the first 2000 words (or up to 5% of the total word count, whichever is less). This enables me to see the level of editing a project requires, and therefore provide an accurate fixed fee quotation for copyediting. It also gives me enough information to tell if the book is ready for copyediting or whether it would benefit from a Manuscript Assessment first. There's no point in copyediting a manuscript that has got major point of view issues, for example. It needs to be revised first.

A sample edit also enables the author to see the standard and style of my work, which will help them decide if I'm the best copyeditor for their project. 

About Iola Goulton

I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree in marketing and have twenty years’ experience in human resources, including writing and editing a company newsletter, developing a government website, contributing chapters to a professional text, and writing and proofreading more client reports that I can count.

I have always loved reading—I have a personal library of over 700 Christian novels, and I read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. Editing combines my professional background and personal interests. With Christian Editing Services, you can be sure your novel is being edited by someone who reads and knows the genre.

I am a married mother-of-two, living in the sunny Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. I play the horn in the local Brass Band, do scrapbooking and cardmaking as hobbies and attend a local independent evangelical church.


Iola, thanks for visiting with us today. We welcome our blog readers to ask any general questions they may have in the comments. Please contact Iola Goulton directly using the contact information listed above if you have a specific question regarding a particular project or manuscript


  1. Great idea, Narelle to interview Iola. Always interested in finding out more about members of the ACW team.

    Iola, how have you found stepping out of the Corporate world after 20 years to working independently? What do you miss?

    1. Hi Ian

      Stepping out of the corporate world wasn't exactly my plan (although I suspect it's an example of how life isn't run by *our* plans). I had worked partly from home for around half my professional career, so adapting to working from home wasn't a big change.

      The big change was not having people to ask if I had a question (e.g. an IT issue), so having to learn to do some of those things myself, and not having the social contact with colleagues. Fortunately, I discovered Facebook and several great online writing and editing groups, including Australasian Christian Writers.

      The best part is being responsible for myself and not having to do 'corporate' things like submitting weekly timesheets, or getting my expenses done by 4pm on the first business day of the month. :)

  2. Great idea, Narelle, and I have to say I love working with Iola, she always backs up her advice with sound, up to date industry trends and offers humour that makes editing my manuscripts more enjoyable.

  3. Loved the interview! What astounds me Iola, is how you manage to do so much in the same 24 hrs we all have :) Great questions, Narelle.

    1. I think it's simply a matter of prioritising my procrastination. :) I work well to deadlines, so try to manage time and projects so I have a lot of mini-deadlines. I think it's easier when I know someone is waiting for my work (like with editing), rather than writing a book, which is a far more open-ended task!

  4. Great idea for a series Narelle and thanks Iola for a great explanation of what you do. It's obvious that you have a lot of happy customers :)

    1. Thanks, Jeanette! And thank you for referring me to your friend - I appreciate that.

  5. I'm always happy to get an M/S assessment from Iola. Thanks for this interesting series, Narelle.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Rita, and thank you for the endorsement!

  6. Recommended this blog and your editing and manuscript assessment to a writer contact, Iola. Thank you so much for all your time and expertise with my manuscript which I hope to be able to get back to in another few weeks. Just wish I'd know about you before my Baragula single titles were published!

    1. Thank you for the referral, Mary. I have heard from your friend, so will get back to her shortly. I'll look forward to seeing your new book soon!

  7. Great feature Narelle and Iola!

    1. Thank you, Cherie. Narelle's questions certainly got me thinking!

  8. I really enjoyed learning more about Iola and her editing services. Thanks Narelle and Iola. :-)

    1. Thanks, Dorothy. I'll look forward to reading posts from others as well - we all have different editing specialties, and it will be good to know who I can refer people to if they are enquiring about something I don't edit (like poetry, or academic editing).

  9. Thanks, everyone, for your comments, and thanks, Iola, for sitting in my hot seat :)

    It can be hard for writers to discern if a freelance editor is qualified, experienced, and the right fit for their project. Will the editor give you value for money and provide the services you need? Which books have they edited? Who are their clients?

    This was the inspiration behind our new 'From the Editor's Desk' series. We believe it's important for writers to research their future editors. Thanks also to Iola for helping me to refine the questions.

    This is a long term project, and we'll be featuring Australasian freelance editors who edit Christian books.


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