Q and A with Clare Diston – Human Voices

Human Voices Editorial Services is an Independent Editorial Service owned by Clare Diston and located in Bristol, UK.

[Writers note: Yes, Clare conducts business from Bristol, UK. However her company has help many writers and authors her in the US. I have worked with five or more editors and Clare is the cream of the crop and my editor of choice.  Clare has a great sense of humor and her comments on the edits and reviews are easy to understand and follow, along with being witty. Besides Clare’s sense of humor and wit I also love the fact that at times her comments are questions, to make you think and figure out what’s wrong with the highlighted text. Clare’s work is thorough and precise. Being a new author, I had a lot of questions that Clare always answered and did so in a timely manner. You will see Clare’s name on 80% of the articles and features here on IAA.

Human Voices Editorial Services offers a wide variety of services that include proofreading, editing and manuscript reviewing. In her last fiscal year Clare worked on over a million words, 32 blog posts and 12 complete books, while helping 14 students with essays, dissertations and personal statements/applications. On top of that work, she also reads 50 books a year and is an excellent blogger, touching on subject matter that helps authors, writing book reviews and more.]


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Clare Diston – Human Voices Editorial Services

Q: Hello Clare, congratulations on achieving your goal and starting Human Voices Editorial Services. You have been in business a year now, is that correct?

“Thank you! Human Voices has been my full-time job for about 9 months now, but I’ve actually been in business since 2011. After graduating from university I went back to my hometown to work out what to do next. Whilst I was temping in the local council (and really not enjoying it!) I had the idea to start an editing and proofing business, so I launched Human Voices and started out helping friends and relatives with their writing. Then I landed a job as in digital marketing at an SEO company and I worked there for nearly four years, keeping my business going at evenings and weekends, until last year I decided to leave my job and just concentrate on Human Voices. I took my business full-time almost four years to the day after I first set it up, and I haven’t looked back since!”

Q: What if someone wanted to be an editor/proofreader? What are the qualifications and education requirements?

“I’m sure there are all sorts of routes for qualifying for this kind of work, and it might even be possible to set up a freelance business like mine without any official certificates. I went into this work with a BA in English Studies and an MA in Creative Writing (which has helped me to specialise in fiction), but I knew I needed some more specific industry qualifications so I did two distance learning courses in Proofreading and Copy-Editing from the Publishing Training Centre. Those courses taught me the practicalities of proofreading and editing, and I started picking up work while I was doing those courses, so I got a mixture of theory and practice at the same time, which was really helpful.

I think for anyone interested in this kind of work you really have to have an eye for detail and a love of language. I’ve always been the type to question how a particular element of language works, and to notice misplaced apostrophes and spelling mistakes. If you find you do this naturally, proofreading and editing could be perfect for you.”

Q: Do you think it helps in the editorial process if the writer and the editor have some sort of connection – a common goal or understanding, so to speak?

“Definitely – it really helps when a writer and editor can build a good working relationship. Editing a book is such a collaborative process, and you’re going to spend a lot of time talking to each other, so it certainly helps if you get on and understand that you are both trying to make the book as good as it can be.”

Q: As a new author I had no idea what the protocol was when it came to editing. There were so many terms: proofreading, manuscript review, editing, copyediting, etc. Could you explain the steps that you suggest a new author take to get a manuscript from its first draft to a book that can be published?

“Even amongst editors, people tend to use different terms – I’m not at all surprised that it gets confusing! I usually suggest that, once a writer has a draft that they’re happy to show other people, they get beta reader feedback or a manuscript review, or both. Beta readers will suggest improvements from a reader’s perspective; editors can give you feedback about the biggest changes that need to be made with a view to editing.

Once you’ve got some feedback, return to your book, do any necessary rewrites and then begin the editing process. This is when I recommend getting in a professional for a detailed edit, to really knock the book into shape, and then move onto the proofreading (checking spelling and grammar) at the end, once no more big changes need to be made.”

Q: Anyway, give us a breakdown of what each of those processes would cost, or is it done on an individual basis?

“The costs will really vary depending on word count – some editors charge by the hour and can give you an estimate when they start as to how long it will take. I tend to charge a fixed fee by word count, and I sometimes offer a free editing sample of 2,000 words so the writer can see how I work, and so I can see how much work needs to be done on the text. In general, a manuscript review will be done for a relatively affordable one-off fee, and editing will cost more than proofreading, because it is that much more in-depth.”

Q: Would you rather do a project from start to finish, or does it matter if someone else does the manuscript review and then you do the edits, or if everything is done by someone else and you are needed only to proofread?

“Working on a project together from start to finish is a great way for an editor and a writer to form a relationship and get used to each other’s ways of working, but it isn’t essential. I have stepped into projects halfway through before and, although there is a little catching up to do, it certainly doesn’t have to harm the project. Of course, a writer might be used to one editor’s style and maybe that won’t gel with the new editor, but ultimately the editor’s job is to understand and adapt to what the writer wants, whilst still offering professional and helpful advice.”

Q: There are a lot of genres, along with subcategories of each. Are there certain genres you will not edit? What about certain scenes inside a story, which may contain graphic violence, bloodshed, sex, profanity, etc? If you do agree to edit the above, do you charge extra because of the content, like some editors do?

“So far I haven’t come across any genres I won’t edit; even genres I tend not to read for pleasure I still find very interesting to work on. I’m also not fazed by editing violent or sexual material and I don’t charge extra for it – it’s not something that’s ever really bothered me, but I can certainly see that some editors would want to steer clear of it, and I know some make a point of avoiding that sort of material altogether. That’s fine, I’m sure if I had to edit really dark or explicit things all the time it might start to get a bit overwhelming, but since I always have a good mixture of projects I’ve never found it to be a problem.”

Q: When you do a manuscript review, do you know from the first ten pages, what an agent or publisher wants to see, and if the book is going to be a good read? If it’s awful do you keep that to yourself or tell the writer if they should do total re-write? How do you handle such a situation?

“This is the beauty of the manuscript review – at that stage you can bring up the book’s biggest problems and suggest rewrites of whole chapters, or even more. If the writer sees there’s a lot of work ahead and can’t bring themselves to sit down and do it, they likely won’t return for a full edit (and if they did, at that point I’d tell them they need to fix their big problems before we can work on the smaller ones). But if they are prepared to sit down and give their book an overhaul, then that paves the way for a strong edit.”

Q: What are some of the common mistakes a new writer makes besides spelling and grammar?

” There are some technical mistakes I notice that crop up again and again. For example, sometimes new writers don’t get the level of detail quite right – they might describe something unimportant in too much detail (eg: ‘He sat up, pulled back the blanket, twisted his hips, put his legs over the edge of the bed, lowered his feet to the floor and stood up’), and then later introduce something huge without giving it any context or background.

Another thing I notice is accidental switching of perspectives, which can be very tricky to control when you’re writing and just want to tell the story. So, if a chapter is told from one character’s point of view (that doesn’t have to mean it’s written in the first person) and then suddenly the narrative voice moves into another character’s head, that can be very jarring. I’ll try to give an example. In a story told from a woman’s point of view – in which we see everything through her eyes – something like this would work: ‘She felt upset by what he had said. When they looked at each other she could tell that he was upset too.’ But this sentence does not work: ‘She felt very upset by what he had said. When they looked at each other he felt very upset too.’ Although it says much the same thing, it’s confusing because we suddenly move into the male character’s head.”

Q: As a writer we like to think that we are the most important people on the planet and our project is the only one our editor has before them. However, I don’t think that is the case. How many projects on average do you work on at a time and how much time is devoted to each in a work day?

“I tend to focus on one large project at a time (although I have been known to have two on the go) because I don’t just do book editing, I do quite a few other things as well. So when I have a large project like a book edit to do, I tend to dedicate most of my day to that, but I might take an hour or two in the morning to proofread something short or write a blog post. That’s the great thing about this kind of work – you get to choose what you do every day, and you can mix it up if you want to.”

Q: No matter the genre, do you find that all good writers have some of the same qualities?

“Yes, a good writer can pace their story so the reader is always interested, show what their character is thinking or feeling rather than explicitly stating it, and also use occasional descriptions or turns of phrase that make me stop reading and say “NICE!” out loud at my desk!”

Q: What are the major differences between US writers and UK writers?

“I have worked with both and I can’t say that I’ve noticed significant differences between the two. I suppose the main thing I’ve come across would be cultural differences – I remember when I was editing your book, A Witch’s Dilemma, there was a moment where a character knew how another character was feeling by how they drove their car, and the logic of it didn’t fit for me, but then you explained about certain driving ‘etiquette’ in that part of America and suddenly it made sense! I suppose there are cultural things like that in UK writing which don’t stick out because they’re normal to me, whereas working with US writers and writers from other countries has taught me all sorts of new cultural and social factoids I never knew before!”

Q: Since you live over the Great Pond, as we call it here in the United States, is the 6 hour time difference an issue?

“I usually work with my clients over email, which is certainly easier than trying to schedule in phone calls between different countries. I’ve also worked with writers a couple of hours ahead in Europe, and even in Singapore and Australia – it just means that you have to raise queries sooner rather than later (and not too close to the deadline!), because there can be a day’s delay between emails.”

Q: Now Clare, it’s time to let your hair down as we move from the editorial services to more of a personal tone. To start with, can you tell us a little about yourself, something that is not common knowledge or can be found on your website?

“I don’t think it’s anywhere on my online profiles that I was an archer when I was at university. I joined the university archery society and won medals in a couple of competitions. I even own a recurve bow, but it’s under my bed now and I haven’t shot it in years – I’d really love to do that again!”

Q: Now be honest here, do you ever get aggravated reading a manuscript because it is done so poorly?

“I have read manuscripts for people (not in a business capacity) which were so filled with mistakes it would be difficult to know where to begin if I had to edit them – we’re talking characters changing their names two or three times within one chapter, that sort of thing – and it does really frustrate me when the writer can’t see any of their own flaws and won’t do anything to change them.

But when people approach me to work on a manuscript then I know they’re open to making changes, so I can just roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. And even if there are lots of mistakes to deal with, there’s usually a solid story in there and I love the process of drawing it out. It sort of feels like unravelling a knotted piece of string: the whole piece of string is there to begin with, it just needs smoothing out.”

Q: As a writer we are told to read. Tell us more about the reading goal you have set for yourself, 50 books a year, is that correct?

“Yes, that’s right! I started in 2012 because I saw a documentary that mentioned how many books the average person reads in their lifetime and the number seemed scarily small, so I decided to set a concrete goal to get myself to read more. I started my blog, 50ayear, at the same time, and that really helps me meet the goal every year. This is my fifth year of reading 50 books and I don’t find it too much of a challenge any more – in fact, I’ll probably blast past 50 this year because I’ve discovered the graphic novel section in my local library and I can get through one of those in an afternoon!”

Q: Have you read anything by Mark Twain?

“I’m ashamed to say I haven’t! I went through a real classics kick when I was a teenager, but in recent years I’ve concentrated more on contemporary literature. I should definitely go back and fill in the gaps in my knowledge though.”

Q: Who are your favorite authors, past and present?

“OK, I have lots! In terms of the past, I love Thomas Hardy, Isaac Asimov and F Scott Fitzgerald, and I used to be a bit obsessed with TS Eliot. As for more modern writers, I adore David Mitchell and Philip Pullman (the His Dark Materials trilogy has my heart), and Toni Morrison and Yoko Ogawa and… I’d better stop!”

Q: When you read do you use an e-reader or do you prefer physical books?

“I have an e-reader, which I think is a fantastic invention and I’ve read lots of books on it. But in general I prefer the feel of a physical book, so I can put my bookmark at the end of each chapter as I read, and flip the pages between my fingers when I need to stop for a moment and think.”

Q: That wraps it up, Clare. Once again, thank you for agreeing and taking your time to answer the questions. In closing, is there any advice, from an editor’s view that you would like to give to the upcoming author?

“As a new writer, excited by the whole process, it can be easy to write something, think it’s the best thing ever, and then get disillusioned when somebody picks it apart (believe me, I’ve felt that way too), but remember that editing is all about strengthening your writing. Remember that common goal: both you and the editor want to make your book the best it can be, so stick up for your style when you need to, but be open to criticism and changes as well.”

Bonus Question

Q: In your answer above about giving new writers advice you alluded to the fact that you have felt that way before also. Does this mean you have written a book, and if so was it published?

“Good catch! I actually write short stories. At university I did an MA in Creative Writing and there was a lot of feedback and critiquing as part of that. In fact, one of the people I did that course with is now my writing buddy, and we still write stories and send them to each other for advice (funny how editors can find it difficult to turn the same critical eye on their own work). I’m sure I’ll publish some of them eventually!”

Connect with Clare and Human Voices at any or all the links below.

[Writers note. This  interview was originally posted to Joseph Clay -Author The Official blog on July 05, 2016. Once IAA was formed the interview was transferred to this site on 3-20-2017.]

Q and A With Tiffany Miller – The Marketing Mill

The Marketing Mill is an Independent Marketing Firm owned by Tiffany Miller and is located in Nashville, Tennessee.


[Writers note: This is a must read for Independent Authors, Artist, and/or Musicians. Using a marketing service can save you energy, time, and in the long run money. Writing and Publishing is only the beginning, your potential audience/customers’ have no idea what merchandise you have out there or even know who you are, without marketing. A good marketing firm will make that happen.]



Tiffany Miller

Owner: The Marketing Mill.


Q: First off Tiffany I would like to think you for taking time to do this interview as I know you’re busy, getting ready for the events coming up in spring. How long has the Marketing Mill be in business and how did you come up with the concept?

“Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions Joe. I started doing marketing and promoting for a friend’s business in the fall of 2013. After realizing that this is something I am really good at, he encouraged me to start my own business. I started The Marketing Mill in 2014 and the vision has grown from there.”

Q: What are the aspirations for your company, let’s say in the short-term of a year from now?

“A year from now I hope to still be working with amazing clients such as yourself, add a few clients to my clientele, and have my promotions/street team established and working with a few businesses here in Nashville.”

Q: To help those reading better understand you services, let’s use the job I hired you to do for me last October, A Book Release/Signing Party. The Marketing Mill Website lists three different services: Social Media Marketing, Promotional Models, and Event Planning/Hosting. To let others know what you get for the all three, explain what you did for me leading up to the event and at the event, along with the category each fell into.

“For your event, we used a full-scale approach. This is actually my favorite, and the most successful way to reach an audience.

(a) Social Media Marketing – We create, maintain, and manage all aspects of a company, or individual’s social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google +, YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc. For your book release, we concentrated primarily on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, targeting a specific audience for these posts. We created an event, posted about it on a regular basis, and shared it across all aspects of social media, frequently using the photos and graphics designed by the other members of your team.

(b) Promotional Models – For this event, we used the Promotional Models in two different ways: First we used them to pass out fliers at events and festivals around town. I really think this helped bring in the local audience to the physical book release party, and also brought some attention to Atomic Nashville where the party was hosted. I believe for this specific event we attended 4 different festivals, and some of them we attended multiple days. We handed out over 1,000 fliers.

We also used our Promotional Models to assist with the event. I purchased costumes that matched the characters of your book, Witch’s Dilemma, for the girls and myself to wear. I ran the wine tasting, and two other members of my team rotated out between greeting guest and passing out hors d’oeuvres. The girls and myself interacted with the customers, made sure they were entertained and had everything that the needed.

(c) Event Planning – We handle all aspects of event planning. I worked for a small law firm for 10 years where I frequently was responsible for planning large events such as anniversary parties, etc. For your event we made sure he had everything planned and running smoothly. We provided costumes for the Promotional Models, scheduled and coordinated the girls, planned the hors d’oeuvres, did the shopping and prepared the cheese plates. We also provided serving trays, ice buckets, decorations for the event, and worked with you and Atomic Nashville to make sure that they were presented in a way that satisfied everyone.”

Q: What is branding? Can and Individual be a brand? If so, what service would they need from the Marketing Mill to accomplish this?

“Branding is creating a specific image for a person or business, so yes, an individual can be a brand. The Marketing Mill can help with this. One of the features we have recently started offering to our clients is photo sessions. We are working with a local photographer to provide professional-style photographs to our clients. Of course, there is an additional charge for this service. These photos can be used throughout the web and social media to help someone develop their image or brand.

Of course it doesn’t end there: Your image is developed slowly through your posts, the events you host, every little detail and aspect of your web presence. That’s what we’re there for, to make sure you present the best image/brand of you and your company.”

Q: Can your services be personalized to fit the individual needs of the customer according to his or her profession?

“Of course! I always offer our initial consultation for free. During that consultation, I sit down with the representative from the organization, or individual, and get an idea of what they are looking for. Some people don’t need a full-scale marketing plan. Each company is different and I want our work to be an agreement that everyone is comfortable with.”

Q: I know your fees are based on the needs of the client and I can attest that they are very reasonable for what you get. When you and the client agree on services and fees, is there a contract involved?

“I generally do not ask for a contract. I do usually ask for a 3 month commitment to my services. It takes AT LEAST 3 months to get a marketing campaign up and running. I also ask that all monthly fees be paid at the beginning of the month prior to the services being performed. On larger events such as your book release, I am able to work out payment plans so the customer can see that we are doing the work and not going to run away with their money.”

Q: When time comes to pay up, what types of payments do you accept, and when is payment due?

“Currently we only accept cash and check. I am in the process of looking into other options such as PayPal and taking credit cards online.”

Q: I read a post the other day on The Marketing Mill’s Facebook page about a street team. What is a Street Team, how do they work and what service are they under?

“Our street team consist of our Promotional Models. They would be called a Street Team when they go out on the streets for a business or individual and interact with possible customers/clients to bring in business.”

Q: Besides working events and anything else listed above what other services are the Promotional Models available for?

“Our models are available for a wide range of activities. Many of the members of our team are actors, bartenders and servers, models, makeup artists, they are also available to perform activities such as handing out samples, giving presentations and distributing fliers at events such as conventions and concerts, and many other task. If in doubt, ask. We have a very talented team of girls.”

Q: I’m sure this would fall under Social Media Marketing but correct me if I’m wrong. The question is, can your services be retained on a monthly basis to handle one’s Facebook page, and other accounts such as Twitter, etc.? If so, what does that include? Use a Facebook page as an example.

“You are correct, it does fall under Social Media Marketing. I have a couple of clients that have me on a monthly retainer. I maintain not only their Facebook pages, but all of their social media. The job varies based on the type of business, but we will use a small business as an example. Most businesses want daily posts. If they sell merchandise, we create content and post information daily about their sales, specials, etc. If it is a bar or venue, we post the night’s entertainment, food/drink specials, and share this information across multiple aspects of social media to reach as many people in their target audience as possible. We also create and run any paid ads that they want created, tweaking them to make sure they are reaching their target audience. We create event invitations and promote them throughout social media. We always work closely with one member of the staff to make sure that we have the most accurate information on specials/sales.”

Q: At the top of The Marketing Mill website is tab labeled ‘Live Laugh Love Nashville.’ What is that all about?

“Live Laugh Love Nashville is kind of my baby. I created The Marketing Mill as a way to help small businesses grow. I love watching numbers go up and helping people reach their dream. Live Laugh Love Nashville is another way to do that. I currently do 2 featured posts per week. One is #MusicMonday that I believe you are going to start assisting with. In our #MusicMonday post we try to feature local, Nashville musicians that are up and coming. Nashville is not an easy place to get started, so anytime you can get your name out there and have your music heard it is beneficial. We try to give local musicians one more chance to do that. Our other featured piece is #FeatureFriday. Our Feature Friday piece features a different local business each week. There are so many new businesses coming to Nashville on a daily basis that it is nearly impossible to keep up. Our feature Friday piece gives our followers a chance to keep up with what is coming to town, and the businesses a chance to spread the word that they are here, hopefully bringing them new customers/clients. My goal is to be able to start a #WellnessWednesday post as well that will cater to the wellness aspect of the small business world, such as massage studios, doctors offices, hair and nail salons, gyms, yoga studios, etc. You can find the page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveofnashville

Q: To wrap up the business side of the interview, tell us why clients should choose The Marketing Mill for their marketing needs?

“As previously stated, I created The Marketing Mill as a way to help local businesses grow. It is not only my business, it is my passion. I love seeing local people succeed and watching something that I have a hand in grow. Our goal is to work with the business or individual to create multiple level marketing plan that is tailored specifically to their needs. We don’t do cookie cutter marketing.”

Q: O.k., Tiffany, time to let your hair down so we can find out about the woman behind the business. I read on the website you worked 6 years in customer service and most recently, you were a paralegal for 10 years. What other jobs have you had in the past. Hey, I once washed cars, and was a cook at the Waffle House, so don’t be shy.

“Well, Joe, I’m not THAT old. Let’s see, I worked retail for 7 years. 6 of that I worked as a customer service representative. For the 10 years before I started The Marketing Mill, I was a Paralegal/Legal Assistant and I drove for Uber for about a year. That pretty much sums up my career history. :-)”

Q: Were you born and raised in Nashville. If not where?

“I was born just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN and raised in Murfreesboro and Lascassas. My family has resided in Nashville for over 250 years.”

Q: What do you like best about owning your own company, and what gives you the most headaches about it.

“The best thing about owning my own company is the flexibility to be able to help my family when the need arises. If they need me to go to a doctor’s appointment with them, I am able to do that. The thing that gives me the most headaches is everyone realizes I have some flexibility. They don’t understand that I still have to have time to get things done.”

Q: I know you are a workaholic, but in your downtime what do you like to do?

“I don’t really take much downtime. When I do, I spend time with my grandparents and close friends, I LOVE to hike and canoe, and sometimes you just might hear me singing karaoke around town so be sure to cover your ears.”

Q: If you go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be?

“There are so many places I would love to see. This questions is somewhat impossible to answer. In the United States, I would love to go out West. I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon in person, so that is something I have always wanted to do. As far as worldwide, I’d have to say Ireland, Italy, and Egypt. I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids.”

Q: Are you a sports fan and if so what sport and who is your team?

“I am not a huge sports fan. If I had to choose though I would say hockey and, of course, I would have to go with the Nashville Predators.”

Q: What is your favorite food and beverage? In case you decided to take to me lunch after this, I’ll know whether to decline or accept.

“Food: Prime Rib or Wonton Soup.

Beverage: Coffee and Sweet Tea.”

Q: That brings us to question 20. Once again thank you for your time and I wish you and The Marketing Mill much success on all levels. With the strange winter we have been having in Nashville this year, what is your favorite season?

“I’m a Summer girl, so, many of my hobbies are outdoors and I absolutely LOVE water. If I can be on the river, in a pool, the ocean, or even have my feet in a creek, I’m happy.”

To see Tiffany and her team in action check out the photos from the Witch’s Dilemma Book Release/Signing party on 10-21-2016. This is the event I hired The Marketing Mill to handle.

To request more information on their services use the Contact tab on The Marketing Mill website or use the information below.

Contact Information:

 The Marketing Mill

Phone: 615-829-2434

Email: Tiffany@Marketingmill.us

Connect with The Marketing Mill and TMM Promo Team on Social Media:

The Marketing Mill




TMM Promo Team




[Writers note. This  interview was originally posted to Joseph Clay -Author The Official blog on February 22, 2017. Once IAA was formed the interview was transferred to this site on 3-20-2017.]