Over the past year or so, Sophie Playle has become one of my closest friends. We first met in person shortly after I wrote this blog post (yup, she was one of my ‘writer friends’ in Norwich), and she was there in Berlin with me when I was inspired to write this blog post. Sophie’s a fiction editor, and she’s primarily who I turn to when I have a question about my business (many of the design and copy tweaks on this site are here because Sophie told me how to do it better).
What I’m trying to say is: I love her. And if I wanted to write a fiction novel, she’s the first person I’d turn to for help. Given the immeasurable help she’s given me in areas that aren’t her specialty, I can only imagine how epic the advice would be on the thing she actually makes a living from. I know she’ll read this and cringe because she’s one of those annoying women who doesn’t realise how brilliant she is, so I’ll stop gushing and get on with things. I interviewed Sophie about her business and lifestyle because, although Untamed Writing is about how to make a living writing, I figured you guys would find it interesting to hear from someone who makes a living editing. Because, you know — words! We love ’em! Anyway, here it is:
What do you do?
I help fiction writers craft books worth publishing – by offering manuscript critiquing, editing services and online courses.
Funnily enough, it’s easier to pin down what I do more than what I am. I normally say I’m an editor, but after developing an online novel writing course, I’m also a writing tutor. I also consider myself a solopreneur and business owner.
How did you get started?
I have this theory that most people go freelance for one of two reasons: they either fall into the role through necessity, or they buck against the status quo of having a ‘normal’ job. I’m pretty sure most people in the Untamed community will fall into the latter category. Me too. *fist bump*
Fresh out of university and with the geekiest love of books, I enthusiastically pursued a career in publishing. I landed a job at the biggest publishing company in the world, which so happened to have its headquarters in my hometown. What are the chances, right?
I was so fortunate to get a foot in the publishing door. It’s a hugely competitive industry. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t quite in the niche I was after. Instead of working with fiction, I was working with university textbooks.
It soon became clear to me that it was going to be hard to jump ships into fiction publishing, and by this point I’d realised how hands-off commissioning editors really were with the texts. I wanted to work with books, not around them. Plus, working nine to five (I know you just sang that line) really sucked.
So I quit my job, enrolled on a creative writing masters degree and did a long-distance learning course in copy-editing. During this time, I still worked freelance for the publisher, and I slowly started building up a client list of my own.
How has your business evolved since it began?
My business feels like a Pokémon. [KM: LOVE a Pokémon reference.] Every now and then, it will enter what I like to think of as a new phase of evolution. I started out freelancing under my own name. I would edit anything that came my way, and then somehow fell into copywriting, too, because money.
Then I decided I really wanted to focus on fiction. I rebranded to Playle Editorial Services and took all the copywriting stuff off my website. It just didn’t make sense to try and offer services to two very different markets.
Over the years, I kept developing my brand image and refining my services. But when I decided I wanted to start offering courses, I realised my current brand wasn’t flexible or encompassing enough to allow my business to go in the direction I wanted.
So after a long time thinking No, I can’t change everything about the business I’ve spent years of my life and hundreds of pounds developing, I realised I would stagnate if I didn’t do what I knew needed to be done. I changed my business name to Liminal Pages and completely overhauled my website.
What was your life like before you started your own business?
I felt as though I lived in the office, and I was always tired – despite having only a fifteen-minute commute. I lived at home, and kind of dreaded moving into my own place knowing that 90% of my salary would then have to go on extortionate rent and bills.
What are your favourite parts of your business and lifestyle?
When I get feedback from my authors saying how happy they are with the work I’ve done for them. That lights me up. It really does.
As for the lifestyle, I frickin’ love that I’m my own boss, clichéd as it is. I can run my business the way I think is best. I can work the hours that most suit me, give myself days off if I really need them, choose who I want to work with, and work from anywhere.
That last bit I’m taking advantage of at the moment, as I’ve been travelling around Europe for the past six months, living out of a rucksack and working from my laptop. (Follow me on Instagram to see some of my travelling highlights.)
And the worst parts?
You have to build up your confidence and resilience. Without a big, established company behind you and colleagues to have your back, you have to be sure about your abilities and the business decisions you make. That can be hard – but it’s also pretty awesome when you do start feeling sure about things. I guess that comes with experience and an accumulation of small, brave decisions.
Also, I learned the hard way that some industries have more money in them than others. And to tap into the money that’s there, you really have to work in a certain way – and if that way doesn’t work for you, things can get difficult. I’ve found myself in that situation. My way out of it was to really understand myself (what I want, how I work) and start thinking less like a freelancer and more like an entrepreneur.
What does a day in your life look like?
I usually don’t set an alarm and get up between 8-10 o’clock, depending on how well I’ve slept. After breakfast, I head to the co-working office, if I’m staying near one wherever I am in Europe. Back in the UK, I had a separate office in my house. Then I work for about six or seven hours, with a short break for lunch.
I spend about three to four hours a day immersed in a manuscript. Any longer and my concentration flags. The rest of the time I’m responding to enquiries and doing sample edits (both of which can take up a lot of my time), or working on other bits and pieces to keep my business running – creating content, networking, learning, (occasionally) bookkeeping, website maintenance, etc.
I’m currently in Croatia, and I walk home from the co-working office along the seafront at sunset. It’s stunning.
What’s next for you?
My long-term plans include building a team of editors to help me take on more authors (I’m currently booked up for the next six months!), and I’d like to create even more online courses so I can help as many writers as possible.
At the moment, I’m gearing up to run my novel writing course, Conquer Your Novel, again. If you’re writing a novel but are struggling to finish it, this tutored course is designed to help you develop a final, publishable draft. I got a lot of great feedback from the writers who took it last, and I’ve made it even better than before, so I’m super excited about it.
Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Karen! [KM: You are WELCOME!]
Sophie Playle is a qualified professional editor, writing teacher and steampunk airship pilot. (One of those things may be a lie.) She has an English Literature BA from UEA and a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. She’s also a published writer, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Escalator Literary Prize for Fiction.
You can now sign up to the next session of Conquer Your Novel at the early bird rate, which’ll save you a whopping £100 – before the price returns to normal on Sunday 11 October. (The course starts on Tuesday 20 October.) If you’re an aspiring novelist, YOU NEED SOPHIE.