Interview with Gary Smailes from @BubbleCow Copy Editing

We’re committed to bringing you insight from industry insiders. Continuing our interview series we’re delighted to post this interview with Gary Smailes from BubbleCow Copy Editing.

We met Gary through Twitter and have been delighted to get to know him and are grateful for the support he has provided so far.

Read the interview with BubbleCow…

Q1:  For the benefit of the members of can you tell us a little more about what you do, your team, and your expertise?
A1: The official line is that BubbleCow provides professional copy editing for writers looking to submit to agents or self-publish their own book. The reality is that we try to offer more than this by helping writers to navigate the publishing maze. Not only do we blog regularly, but we have active Twitter and Facebook accounts. We even provide live chat on the site for any visitors with questions or problems.
The company was set up by my wife Caroline Smailes and I in 2007. We are both published writers in our own right and were freelance editors prior to setting up BubbleCow. We now employ other editors on a freelance basis and we are hoping to expand the team later this year.

Q2: From your experience, what advice would you give an aspiring author about how they should go about self-editing their work in the first instance?
A2: We always advise that writers don’t think about employing a professional editor until they have exhausted all other avenues. They should be self-editing and looking for beta readers long before they part with their hard-earned cash.
As for self-editing advice I would suggest that they consider investing in a text-to-speech tool such as TextAloud. This software will read back your writing, allowing you to hear the words while reading them onscreen. It’s a great way for hearing mistakes that your eyes miss.

Q3: In your opinion, what challenges do unpublished/indie writers face in their dream of becoming published?
A3: I think the main problem unpublished writers face is that the publishing industry is currently in a state of panic. The development of e-books, the rise of the kindle and the decline of bookshops has forced publishers to adapt a business model that has worked for generations. Publishers are set up to sell to bookshops with real bookshelves; now this is changing, no one knows what the ‘correct’ next step will be. Naturally, many publishers have reacted with caution, reducing their budgets for new books and taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach.
The good news for writers is that this is a golden age for content creation. People are reading more than ever and writers are in demand. The problem is that the way the content is consumed is changing.
If I had to go out on a limb I would say that we are looking at another 12 months of uncertainty before any kind of stability re-enters the market. Whether the days of mega advances and huge book deals for debut writers are gone, I have no idea!

Q4:  How do you think the publishing industry will adapt to new and emerging technology over the next five years?
A4: I think that we are going to see the role of publishers change. Five years ago publishers provided three things for a writer. They provided the capital to get the book printed, they provided distribution into bookshops and they provided marketing. However, these three channels are all under pressure, and this means publishers must change.
I think the next breed of super publisher will not be focussing on technology but instead thinking about editorial. We will see the rise of publishers as a brand, with their choice of book becoming something we trust.

Q5: What are your thoughts around the new community for writers’ unpublished work being launched by
A5: Writing communities are as old as writing, and it is a natural progression for these to move online. has the potential to offer something different by providing a real path to new readers. If any book is to be a success it needs to begin with a core of hardcore followers, who are prepared to champion the book. It may be that can do just this and give writers the kick-start they need.

Q6: What top writing tips can you give the aspiring authors on
A6: I would offer three nuggets of advice. The first is to write the kind of books you want to read. I recently wrote a series of four books called BattleBooks for Franklin Watts. When refining the idea of the books (Fighting Fantasy meets famous battles) I really did try and think back to the kind of book my 12-year-old self would have wanted to read.
My second nugget is to be very aware of the genre in which you are writing. Don’t be tempted to try and write across genres – instead focus on producing books that fall clearly within a defined genre. This will make it far easier to either find a suitable agent/publisher, or, if self-publishing, locate potential readers.
My final nugget is to not get caught up in technology. When writing your book it makes no difference if you are intending to send it to an agent or upload it onto the Kindle. All that matters is that you’re producing a book that people will want to read. Once you have a well-written book, with a clearly defined readership, the rest will fall into place.

Q7: In your opinion, can aspiring writers and authors afford not to engage with readers in this age of Social Media?  What are your top tips for these interactions?
A7: An online presence is essential for all new writers. In a recent interview with Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers in the US, he explained that they didn’t consider taking on new writers unless they had a proven social media platform – read this interview here. Add to this the fact that most publishers have slashed their marketing budgets and that self-publishing writers need to find a way to market their books, how can any writer not consider using social media tools?
My main tip on this subject is as follows: a writer should first set up a blog/website from which they can interact with readers and sell their books. They should then look at setting up two or three ‘channels’ to feed this blog. My suggestions for the channels would be Twitter, Facebook and one other channel that matches the writer. This might be YouTube, Quora or regular participation on a site like By providing valuable content for and interacting with potential readers of their books, writers can quickly build a following of loyal fans.
This is the exact technique we used to build BubbleCow and is the reason we have just short of 10,000 Twitter followers and thousands of subscribers to our blog.

Q8: Any final thoughts for the members of
A8: Best of luck.

Thank you for your time and professional insight, Gary.  Much appreciated.

BubbleCow offers a Professional Copy Editing Service.

Read more of our interview series here:

Interview with author Harry Bingham from The Writers’ Workshop

Interview with author & writing teacher Terri Giuliano Long

Interview with Giuseppe from 40kBooks

Interview with Emlyn from Novel Publicity

Interview with Helen from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy

This entry was posted in Articles, Editing, Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>