Jennifer Malone: Agented Author, Free-lance Editor

IMG_0188 Jennifer Malone one of my critique group buddies, has gone from being the New England Head of Publicity and Promotion for 20th Century Fox and Miramax Films to writing for YA and MG. Jen is fun, fabulous at networking, and her stories are contemporary tales full of humor. Right after Hurricane Sandy did its thing, Jen immediatelyset up a blog and organized a successful online auction of services for writers donated by a long list of editors and authors. She is a contributing member at YAtopia. She is agented by Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and recently had an exciting editorial door open, which she has just announced at It couldn’t happen to a better person!

JAZ: Hi Jen. Congratulations on your new position as free-lance editor. How did this come about?

Thank you! I connected with another freelance editor, Jennifer Pooley, as a result of the Hurricane Sandy auction that I organized.  She happened to see my agent tweeting about it and immediately contacted me to donate her services.  Jennifer is a former acquisitions editor at Harper Collins, so you can imagine her donated critique was much sought after.   For some time now Jennifer has been offering her editorial services to writers looking for a polish- or more extensive edits- on their manuscripts and/or queries before going out on sub to agents or publishers.  Her focus is more on adult literature so she approached me to ask if she might send some of her potential clients my way who are writing middle grade and YA.. I’m a little surprised at how much I’m enjoying it so far and am hoping to bring a “fellow writer” eye to the process. I’ve been a professor at Boston University since 1997, so I think helping/teaching has gotten into my blood!

JAZ: How would an interested writer find you?

Interested writers can visit or they can contact me directly at for a quote.  My rates will reflect that fact that I am new to doing this professionally (though I certainly critique A LOT- last year it was close to 40 full manuscripts and easily more than 100 queries), I set my rates roughly 50% less than what others are charging for similar services.  I offer a developmental edit, which means I will comment on things like pacing, character development, story arcs, conflict, etc.  I don’t copy edit, per se, but if I happen to spot typos, formatting issues, word repeats, overuse of adjectives and such, I will certainly point these out. I’m working on putting together a website to list my services.

Have you previously submitted any of your work for similar literary development?

I haven’t, though I’m lucky to be part of four formal critique groups and have a slew of critique partners and beta readers that I can turn to for much-needed objective reads.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to spot issues when not emotionally attached to the work, so I often can’t see things as clearly in my own writing.  I’m grateful to have such amazing readers who have helped me immeasurably!  What I will say is that, as I’ve advanced on the road to publication, I’ve been able to exchange reads from individuals more established in the industry and I can tell you that my manuscripts have improved dramatically with the critiques I get from people who have long trained in the practice of critiquing/editing. This is not to take away anything from pre-published critique partners at all (in fact, some of my most insightful comments on my most recent YA manuscript came from a 14 year-old neighbor who beta-read for me) but there is often a level of detail that can be spotted by more “practiced” eyes that can instantly lift a manuscript to another place.

Have you been tasked with looking for specific things when you read?

I would say that depends on what the writer wants me to look for.  I will send each writer a questionnaire of sorts before beginning my read, so I can figure out where they are as a writer,  how much revising they’ve done (if any), whether they’ve had critique partners or agents read yet, etc.  For instance, I’m working with a middle grade writer now who has gotten agent feedback which she wanted more insight in interpreting. So, while I’m reading for all of the things I listed above (pacing, character development, etc.) I’m also paying particular attention to the concerns the agent had and trying to point out ways to address those issues. Because I write middle grade and YA, I also read very widely across those categories, so I can often point out comp titles or let writers know if I see trends that would impact their ms’s marketability.  For instance, I recently participated as a mentor in a contest called PitchWars, where writers “competed” to have one of thirty agented writers mentor them with a manuscript critique and help in crafting their pitch and query. We had over 1,000 applicants, which really gave me insight into what an agent’s inbox would look like. When you read 100 queries in a row, it’s really easy to spot common plots and things that are overdone.   

Do you indicate specific genres you would like to work on? Or are you open to whatever comes?

I’m open to anything, really, though my tastes tend to shy away from heavy sci-fi, paranormal, and dystopian. If a writer in those genres is looking for a straight manuscript critique, I would be comfortable critiquing it; however, I don’t tend to read as widely in those genres, so I’d have less insight into comps/market trends/clichés within the genre.

You have been keeping your finger on the pulse of the teen publishing industry, which will help with your editorial comments. What specifically do you recommend writers follow to keep their work publishable?

First and foremost, I suggest writers read whatever they can get their hands on in their particular category. That will show them better than anything else what is selling, what is modern, and what is fresh AKA what editors are looking for. I also think it’s really important to visit a bookstore (versus a library, which may shelve a particular book for years) to see what the current marketplace looks like.  Books only get shelf space for a limited time in a bookstore, so it’s a good place to get an easy snapshot of what is selling. I would go further and say visit a smaller, independent bookstore, because, with limited shelf space available to the book buyers, you can really get a sense for what is moving. I also believe there are very few publishing questions that aren’t answered somewhere on the internet (and most include funny gifs too!).  Some particularly good places to start:,, and  If you search the archives of these sites, there is an answer to almost any question a writer could have!  Publishers Weekly is the best place to stay up to date on industry news and they have a section devoted just to children’s literature.

In what ways will this experience affect your own work?

Well, that’s the jackpot question, isn’t it?!  I will have to work to strike that perfect balance between my own writing and editing, but I’m confident I can make it work. I have a calendar where I am scheduling editing on a first-come, first-served basis and hopefully that will help keep me on track!  One of the things that appeals to me about freelancing like this is the flexibility to only take on projects to which I know I will be able to devote the appropriate time. That way, if I have a tight writing deadline to meet, I will not accept editing work for that period. Which to me, sounds like a good problem to have!

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