How to Write a Good Edit Letter for a Book (Plus a Template!)

25 May

Critiquing an entire book can be daunting. I remember how nervous I was about the first full novel I ever critiqued. I wanted so badly to get to the heart of the novel and help the author figure out how to make it better. Even now that I am a full-time freelance editor who has worked with many published authors, I still look for ways to improve my edit letters so that they are inspiring, kind, honest, and thorough, but not overwhelming. 

Recently, I’ve seen a few people ask on social media about how to write better critiques. I’m not saying I have a magic formula figured out, but I write a lot of edit letters, and I’ve developed a template and system so that I am not reinventing the wheel each time I write a letter. Of course, I customize these as needed, especially when I work on a memoir or non-fiction book instead of fiction.

Why should you trust me? Well, for one, my clients say they love me. You can read testimonials and reviews from them on Reedsy. For another, many of my clients have been traditionally published, I have my Masters of Fine Arts, and I worked for literary agent Carrie Pestritto, who is now my agent. I am always open and learning, though, and would love to see your comments about how you approach edit letters!

So, here is how I approach writing edit letters for my editing clients. 

The Emotional Angle
Before I get into the nitty gritty, a note about the emotion of writing edit letters. My end goal is not to show off how good I am at critiquing someone (see: Guy in Your MFA). My end goal is to inspire an author to improve their work. It’s hard to be inspired when you’re crying, so I always endeavor to make my edit letters positive. I’m not going to go too deeply into the emotional element because this would get even longer, but I loved this post from Michelle Hazen on the topic. In the explanation of my process and template, I’ll briefly touch on the ways that I make sure I am being positive and thoughtful. 

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Live Copyediting Webinar Video + Transcript

25 May

Ever wanted to see inside the mind of a professional copyeditor as they improve a piece of writing? Check out the webinar I did last week with my friend and fellow copyeditor Julie Artz! Julie and I walked through viewer-submitted excerpts and explained our copyediting process.

Reedsy, a database of freelance publishing professionals, hosted the webinar, and over 500 people tuned in live.

You can access a written recap of the webinar on Reedsy’s site.

Want to book an edit with me? Simply contact me at tracycgold@gmail.com.

Editing Client Book Launch: Gary Vikan’s “The Holy Shroud”

20 May

Congratulations to Gary Vikan for the launch of his book “The Holy Shroud: A Brilliant Hoax in the Time of the Black Death.” It was a joy to work with Gary on this book. Judging from my email history, I’ve been reading drafts of this book for Gary since 2016. The world of publishing is long and winding and it is just so exciting to finally hold this book in my hands. It’s published by Pegasus Books, and it’s a beauty, with an insert of color photography.

Four years, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg for Gary. He has been working on the research behind this book for decades as he has searched for a way to debunk one of the world’s biggest hoaxes.

If you like a good detective story, you’ll love this book about an art historian who digs into the centuries of corruption and greed that drove an intricate piece of art to become falsely famous for apparently being the Shroud that Jesus was buried in. Even though carbon dating has long proved this impossible, crowds of millions still flock to see the Shroud on display and claim that it is a true relic. The research Gary presents in this book shows not only when the Shroud was made, but how, and by whom. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t Jesus’s true burial shroud.

Gary is going to be doing a virtual launch event on Thursday, June 4th at 7 pm, with WYPR’s Tom Hall. The event will include a brief reading, Q&A with Tom, and audience Q&A. If you’d like to hear from Gary, please register by using the following link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIqde6qqDIsGNH24BW5CfLr2e5Om_lTkZud

Gary is also happy to set up custom virtual events for organizations and book groups. He’s a funny, engaging speaker. You can contact him via his website.

*Book link is an affiliate link to Amazon, which means I’ll get a few cents if you buy it!

Webinar on Building a Kidlit Career

6 Apr Building a Kidlit Career Panel information

One of the reasons I was extremely excited about my regional SCBWI conference was because I was going to moderate a panel with Linda Sue Park, Melanie Conklin, and Susan Muaddi Darraj. Sadly, the conference was cancelled due to Covid-19. This was absolutely the right call, but I was bummed not to get to meet these writers and others who were planning to attend.

In happy news, these wonderful authors agreed to hold the panel as a webinar despite new homeschooling responsibilities and Covid-19 chaos.

Join us on Monday, April 13th at 7 pm for a lively conversation about publishing. You’ll have a chance to ask questions if you tune in live, or you can watch the recording later. Susan and I are also offering limited critiques.

Register here: https://mddewv.scbwi.org/events/webinar-building-a-kidlit-career/.

A Book Deal in the Time of Coronavirus

26 Mar

The evening of Thursday, March 12th, Covid-19 was grabbing hold of the United States. I was sad that my regional SCBWI conference had been cancelled, and fretting about whether we should even see my parents and in-laws for my daughter’s birthday party on Sunday (we didn’t).

I had finally decided to stop checking the news, social media, and my email to hang out with my toddler and dog while we waited for my husband to get home from work.

Then I got a text message from my agent, Carrie Pestritto: “Tracy, check your email :)”

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14 Tips for Working from Home

17 Mar Keyboard

With many people working from home for the first time due to Covid-19, I thought I would share my tips as a veteran work-from-homer. I love working from home and have been doing it for almost 10 years. I am, perhaps, uniquely suited to it, so what works for me might not work for you. I actually prefer not to have much interaction with other human beings during the day, don’t have a huge problem managing my time or staying on task, and work as a freelance editor, so I don’t have a large team to communicate with. However, I’ve had some challenges over the years and have figured out what works best to keep me happy and on task.

Here are my tips:

1) Have a room in your house with a door that closes to be just your office if you can. I know this isn’t possible for a lot of people, but it’s so nice to be away from the kitchen, tv, and bed to avoid snack/entertainment/nap distractions.

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How I Got My Picture Book Deal (Yes, I Have a Book Deal!)

17 Dec

I’ve been sitting on this secret for a long time: I am so excited to announce that my debut picture book, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” is coming out from Familius in 2021! It’s going to be a board book, illustrated by Adele Dafflon. I am psyched to bring this book into the world for babies and toddlers to chew, and potentially even read. I decided to wait to announce the deal publicly until Familius had chosen an illustrator—and I’ve been waiting since July. I’m so happy I finally get to shout about it, and I could not be more excited that Adele will be illustrating the book. Her style is whimsical, bright, and simple: perfect for babies. Check out her gorgeous Instagram.

There’s a whacky story behind how I got this book deal. I’ll start at the beginning. I’d always thought I’d love writing picture books—I wrote poetry and fiction, after all. But I never tried to write a picture book until I had my daughter and found myself reading multiple picture books every day, or rather, reading one picture book multiple times a day (one week it was Brown Bear, right now it’s Jill Twiss’s Marlon Bundo). Suddenly, picture books were pouring out of me. I wrote them in the notes of my iPhone and periodically emailed them to myself. 

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11 Things to Bring to the Hospital When You’re Having a Baby

4 Nov Rob, Tracy, and Ava at the Hospital

I had a planned C-section and thought I was well-prepared for my trip to the hospital to deliver my baby. After all, the timing wasn’t a surprise. However, we somehow managed not to use most of the things we brought, and ended up needing many other items which my husband went home to grab (or ordered online).

We did use the basic stuff the hospital told us to bring, like phone chargers and a going-home outfit for the baby. But I learned quickly that lots of other items would come in handy, especially with the longer hospital stay associated with a C-section. Here are the items the hospital didn’t tell me about!

Links to Amazon below are affiliate links, meaning I’ll make money if you buy these products. I am recommending them because they worked for me; if you want to try them, buy them through these links and you’ll help me keep my baby in diapers

1. Bring a pumping bra.

I felt like healthcare professionals assumed breastfeeding would go well, when most women I talk to had trouble with it. Breastfeeding is a struggle, and if your baby can’t latch well, you might have to use a pump to increase your milk production in the hospital. If you think you’ll ever pump, you should invest in a bra that lets you pump hands-free. There are many different brands of these, and some women just cut holes in an old sports bra, but I tried that and could never get it tight enough. I loved the Simple Wishes pumping bra. It’s theoretically one size fits all, but once my milk came in I needed the plus size version. For reference, I gained a lot of weight at the end of my pregnancy, ending up at around 200 pounds (I’m 5’8”). The plus size bra was also nice to have because I could wear it over clothes or my normal bra.

2. Bring a water bottle that won’t spill in bed but that you can manage to drink out of with one hand.

I couldn’t get my huge Nalgene open with one hand or grasp it well while nursing. I was extremely thirsty and because of my C-section, it hurt to get in and out of bed, so it was nice to have something that could stay in bed with me without spilling.  Sometimes the hospital tray was out of my reach or there was no one to refill my water cup. A water bottle I could manage with one hand would have been nice. We have these CamelBak bottles at home and should have brought one!

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Doing an Unworkshop at the Highlights Foundation

10 Oct The Barn at Highlights Foundation

I am writing this from a comfy couch in my very last hour at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA (and posting it from home a few days later!). This is the second year that I’ve teamed up with a group of writing friends that I met via Pitch Wars to do an “unworkshop” at Highlights’ lovely facility in the mountains, and I wanted to share my experience for others interested in booking a stay.

You probably know Highlights from their wonderful magazines for children, but they also have a campus where they offer workshops for writers, work with groups to provide custom events, and offer “unworkshops” year-round for writers to make their own retreat weekend. In an unworkshop, writers come to campus whenever they want, and use their time however they want. Highlights provides delicious meals, which writers can eat while chatting with other unworkshoppers, or take back to their cabins to enjoy in solitude. The campus includes a beautiful barn with meeting rooms and a dining room, several one-writer cabins with private bathrooms, a farmhouse with five rooms and five bathrooms, and a lodge with a meeting room and several private bed/bathroom suites. Each room has a chair and desk for writing, plus bug spray and a flashlight!

When you arrive, there is no official check-in. You just find your name on your cabin/room and the key is in the door.

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Picture Book Giveaway for “Nita’s First Signs”

7 Oct Baby reads "Nita's First Signs"

As my baby becomes a toddler, we are learning lots of new sign language together to help us get along until she can communicate with words. We love reading “Nita’s First Signs” (affiliate link) written by Kathy MacMillan, illustrated by Sara Brezzi, and published by Familius. Honestly, learning a few basic signs myself was a challenge I had to conquer before teaching them to my daughter. “Nita’s First Signs” is parent (idiot) proof, and made learning signs like “milk,” “more,” and “all done” very easy for me, and thus for my daughter. It’s a wonderful board book with sections that pull out to show details about each sign.

Book for toddlers about sign language

I give this book to my friends who are expecting new babies, so I thought it would be a great book for my first official giveaway. Besides, I know Kathy from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she’s amazing, so I’m always happy to boost her.

So, how do you enter to win this book? Sign up for my newsletter (below) before 10/15! I’ll pick a random subscriber to win a copy and announce the winner in my newsletter. I’ll reach out for your address, and send the book to you anywhere Amazon offers free Prime shipping. 


I promise you won’t get inundated with email—I plan to send emails once a month, max. They’ll be stuffed full of great resources about writing, editing, the publishing process, and parenting, with a side of news about my own writing career (and future giveaways)!

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Here are a few pictures of my daughter and my dog being adorable with our copy of “Nita’s First Signs”! (Don’t worry, I’m sending the winner a new one without any baby boogers or dog slobber!)

Baby reads "Nita's First Signs"