Get Inspired

Journey of words: from teenage editor to thriving entrepreneur in Black literature

Meet Tia Ross, the owner and founder of WordWiser Ink, a woman-owned, Black-owned boutique editorial services firm established in 2000 in Texas. Her team provides services across both public and private sectors. The firm’s expertise encompasses copyediting and proofreading for various domains, including technical, medical, and business documents, as well as fiction, nonfiction, digital content, and dissertations. Discover how she started her business.

Tia Ross, the owner and founder of WordWiser Ink Editorial Services editing on Kailua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Tell us a bit about yourself; what was your dream when you started your business?

At age 16, I began editing for U.S. military recruiters. By age 19, I was proofreading for lawyers and business owners while pursuing my passion for fiction. As I engaged with writers’ networks and critique groups, the demand for skilled freelance editors who understood the nuances of Black authors’ language and style became evident. This coincided with the rise of self-publishing, though not everyone recognized the need for professional editing. My deep love for Black literature drove me to contribute to the solution. I honed my skills, studied diligently, and committed to offering top-notch editing services, particularly for self-published authors. I didn’t consciously choose business ownership; it chose me.

Can you please elaborate on your statement regarding the nuances of Black authors’ language and style? What defines Black authors’ language? How is it distinct?

It’s a known fact that the nuances of the language and style of Black people are shaped by a rich and diverse cultural heritage. It often transcends, naturally, to Black literature, transferring a unique history and context that influences linguistic characteristics. One need only read works by authors written in African American Vernacular English (AAVE)—for example, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, or Margaret Walker’s Jubilee—to see this in divine form. Here are a few aspects that define our language and set it apart from others.

1. Black authors often incorporate cultural references, idioms, and symbols that are specific to our communities and experiences, adding depth and authenticity to our writing.

2. We have the influence of oral tradition passed down through generations from which many Black authors draw in their storytelling. This can manifest in rhythmic and engaging prose or in the use of dialects or vernacular speech patterns.

3. Black literature frequently explores themes of identity, race, and social justice. Authors may use unique narrative techniques to convey these themes effectively, such as the use of multiple perspectives or nonlinear storytelling.

4. Code-switching, or the ability to switch between different languages or dialects within a single conversation, is another common feature in Black literature along with adoption of a unique narrative voice that reflects our cultural identity and worldview.

5. Historical events, such as the African diaspora, the civil rights movement, and the Harlem Renaissance, have left a lasting impact on Black literature. For those who incorporate historical contexts into their works, it naturally impacts choice of language and themes.

Understanding and respecting these and other nuances, particularly AAVE, is crucial for editors working with Black authors as it allows for preserving and enhancing the authenticity and cultural significance of their writing. Black editors are special because no one speaks our language nor innately understands our culture, our dialect, our perspectives—our unique voice—like we do. No one understands us more than we do. One of my favorite quotes: “Black people must speak for themselves; no outside tongue, however gifted with eloquence, can tell their story.” (Thomas Hamilton) Only we can speak to us in ways that only we can comprehend—and that’s both with and without words.

It’s worth nothing, however, that these elements are not exclusive to Black authors, nor do they apply to all Black authors uniformly. They are simply a few of the characteristics that can be observed in the work of many Black writers which can result in unnecessary queries and inaccurate editing from non-Black editors who are not the target audience demographic and are thus not meant to understand.

Tia Ross, owner of WordWiser Ink Editorial Services, hosting a writers’ retreat in Aruba


What were your first steps in starting your business?

My legal background guided me in setting up my business correctly. I registered a DBA (Doing Business As) with the county clerk, crafted a business plan, distributed business cards in libraries and bookstores, and informed my writers’ network about my new venture. Websites weren’t prevalent for another few years, so I didn’t design my first editing business website until 2000. I later incorporated my business with the Texas Secretary of State.

What is your mission?

My mission is to be a trusted collaborator for writers seeking to refine and elevate their work. I enhance my clients’ readability and impact, clarify their ideas, eliminate errors and redundancies, ensure consistency—all while maintaining their unique voice and preserving authorial vision.

What other programs or services do you currently offer?

I’ve created five programs to enhance the creative and professional journeys of both writers and editors. These include personalized editor coaching sessions, writer accountability groups, editor retreats, and both group and solo writers’ retreats in captivating locales across the globe. In fact, I’m currently on a global tour, exploring various destinations throughout Africa, Oceania, S. Asia, and Europe and selecting venues to host future events as well as recommendations for my travel agency clientele. I also own an event and travel planning consultancy, Boss Events & Travel, through which we provide site sourcing, contract negotiation, and event technology services for conferences—such as EFACon, the Editorial Freelancers Association conference, and Dreamin in Color, the Blacks in Salesforce conference—retreats, incentive programs, and expos, as well as group travel planning and support.

Tia Ross, the owner and founder of WordWiser Ink Editorial Services sits next to the EFA rollup.


Knowing all the things you know now, are there things you would have changed in the first few years?

If I could revisit those early days, I’d channel more energy into proactive marketing, robust branding efforts, and emphasizing expansion, recruitment, and agency development. I also wish I had fully recognized the increasing demand and opportunities for Black freelance editors. Initiating the Black Editors Directory well before its 2017 launch would have offered crucial support and promotion for many fellow freelancers and book coaches, helping meet the escalating demand in our field. Having some foresight about my future as a nomadic editor would also have been incredibly valuable.

״I’d channel more energy into proactive marketing, robust branding efforts, and emphasizing expansion, recruitment, and agency development.״

What do you think was a ‘game changer’ for your business?

As a self-taught web developer in the late ’90s, I pioneered an organization for Black writers and created an award-winning website which earned accolades from organizations such as Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, and BookZone. This online presence became my primary marketing tool. While I wasn’t initially aiming to scale my business, the internet’s growing popularity, my strong search engine rankings, and the effortless lead generation through my writers’ network sustained my success without active marketing efforts.

״This online presence became my primary marketing tool.״

What advice would you give to your past self before opening your own business?

My top advice to my past self, as an editing services business owner, is to prioritize preventing burnout. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is paramount. Because I’m so passionate about reading and editing, it’s easy to get lost in a riveting manuscript, much like an avid reader engrossed in a novel late into the night. Initially, as I juggled my business alongside other commitments, I failed to set clear working hours or allocate personal time. I was working in law firms during the workday and editing after work with no consideration for my overall well-being until I hit severe burnout levels around my 15th year in business. It’s vital to establish boundaries to protect both professional and personal well-being, especially in the demanding realm of entrepreneurship. Maintaining mental and physical health is not just beneficial for personal fulfillment but also pivotal for sustaining any thriving business over the long term. In 2021, I embraced the life of a nomadic editor, exploring breathtaking destinations worldwide. If I could chat with my past self, I’d emphasize how editing—combined with technology—opened doors to this adventurous life I’d envisioned. I’d stress the importance of taking it more seriously and transitioning it from a mere moonlighting gig much earlier in my journey.

״Maintaining mental and physical health is not just beneficial for personal fulfillment but also pivotal for sustaining any thriving business over the long term.״


Tia Ross, the owner and founder of WordWiser Ink Editorial Services

What are the next steps for your business?

I have a guide and accompanying workbook for aspiring editors being released in December. In So You Want to Be an Editor… But Can You Edit? I provide valuable insights on how to assess your editing potential, choose the right editing path, and obtain proper training and mentorship.

I’m also expanding my editors and writers retreats business, increasing the number of retreats per year as well as launching several new programs within them. For example, I am a certified yoga instructor and have designed a program to help writers (and others) to transfer stress and anxiety (such as that which causes writer’s block) into creative release at transformative retreats that combine yoga, meditation, and writing (or journaling if they’re not writing for publication). My dream is to own my own retreat center to host retreats for editors and writers (others’ groups as well as my own) and writing residencies.



Tia Ross is the owner and founder of WordWiser Ink Editorial Services.

*The purpose of this page is solely to provide information and should not be considered as financial advice
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice; you should consult a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.