We had the good fortune of connecting with Michele Barard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michele, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
In 2011, I became a volunteer reviewer for The Urban Book Source. They would send me three or four novels each month, and I would read and review them under my pen name. Most of the novels were self-published. Some of them told great stories, but I noticed one weakness across almost all of them. They were poorly edited. Sometimes it was so bad it drove me to distraction, which is a big no-no in fiction. Fiction requires suspension of disbelief, much like a movie does; you have to keep the reader in the flow of the story to maintain their attention. Lose their attention and they will most likely put down the book, and possibly not pick it up again. The errors sometimes drove me to distraction. One time, an author used the wrong word and it disturbed me so much that I stopped reading, went to sleep, and the next morning threw the book into my briefcase so I could look up the correct word as soon as I got to my computer at work! When I found myself adding “Edit, edit, edit!” to almost all my reviews, I decided to start the business. I thought instead of complaining about the situation, I should offer a solution. I realized that self-published authors were having trouble getting the editing they needed for their books. I did some research and found few book editors online, and only one or two of them worked with urban fiction or street lit. Urban Book Editor was born out of the desire to provide urban book authors the opportunity to create their best work as professionally as possible because writing is a business and our stories matter. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with authors of different genres including, urban fiction, self-help, sci-fi/fantasy, and memoir. I’ve also been able to use my technical and training background to help authors develop their websites and to coach them through the publishing process.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I always have had an intense interest in politics and how the United States operates in the world, so when I went to college, I obtained a degree in International Relations. As luck would have it, I fell in love with computers during my junior year but didn’t have the money to stick around and change my major. This is where my intellectual curiosity and independence served me particularly well. One of my gifts has been the ability to see gaps in systems and processes. I have used that gift, along with my natural curiosity, to expand positions around me. I would find those gaps and learn what was needed to fill them. That is one of the reasons I love small companies. In large organizations, people often are more siloed into their job descriptions. In small companies, there tends to be greater opportunities to learn because fo the need for people to wear multiple hats. In every job I have ever had, I was able to push my learning, growing first into computer graphics, then into small computer network management, and eventually training. I learned a little coding, built websites, and then added writing and editing to the mix to do technical writing, all of which have served me well in my business.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I come from people who love to eat, so that’s what I like to take friends to do. I also like small, family-owned restaurants. One of my favorite places in the Atlanta area is Au Rendez-Vous in Chamblee. It’s a French Bistro in the most unlikely of areas situated in a small house near the Peachtree-Dekalb Airfield. I just got back from California and we’re in the middle of a pandemic as we do this interview, so I hope this lovely little place survives all of this. It’s a gem. I also love burgers and believe they are the only true American cuisine. I am a huge fan of Farm Burger, but I love to try different burger joints, so I seek those out all over town. A great burger can’t be beat. Lastly, and especially during the pandemic, I love to cook. I love to plan menus for our guests and eat, drink, and be merry together. Fun is where you create it.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom was a huge influence on my decision to start Urban Book Editor. She read all the time and always had a stack of books on her nightstand; she read mostly biographies and pop fiction. When I was a pre-teen I started swiping trashy novels from her stack of books. The first one I took was “The Other Side of Midnight” by Sidney Sheldon. I think I still have it! It was that love of trashy novels that caused me to apply to be a volunteer reviewer for The Urban Book Source, and that led directly to my decision to start Urban Book Editor. My mom passed when I was in college, but she left me with an intellectual curiosity, a love of story, and a sense of independence that has served me well.