Cristen Iris (she/her).

Cristen Iris is an award-winning developmental & substantive editor, author mentor and brand strategist, and former ghostwriter.

She believes that writing and editing are a way of life, the constant creation and refinement of thought and action that leads to our highest level of contribution.

This belief; her personal journey, including discovering at the age of 49 that she’s autistic; and her 9 years in the publishing industry compelled her to establish My Zone of Competence and create The My Zone of Competence Approach to writing, publishing, and promoting high-impact, commercially viable nonfiction books.

Cristen specializes in working with subject matter experts and creative thinkers who are dedicated to their work and to the readers their books serve.

Her clients have contracts with Big 5, academic, and respected traditional model independent publishers. Some have found satisfaction and success within the hybrid-publishing model or as self-published authors. They’ve earned more than 60 book and writing awards. Their bestseller rankings include New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon Charts. Several of them consistently (week after week, month after month, and for several years in a row) rank between #3 and 100 in one or more of their Amazon sales categories. National media coverage includes the TODAY Show’s Read with Jenna, Parade Magazine, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Variety, and New York Post. And their books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Cristen is a committed publishing professional for committed authors because:

          This is her passion.

          This is her livelihood.

          This is her legacy.


my perspective

Everything I know about crafting compelling and commercially viable nonfiction I learned from studying novels, screenwriting, and the crafts of acting and cinematography and working with successful publishing and film professionals. I use my industry knowledge and experience to help clients stand out in a crowded marketplace.

As a developmental & substantive editor, I'm focused on all aspects of crafting a high-quality nonfiction book (substance, structure, style, and more), all while keeping the needs, goals, and interests of the reader or viewer top of mind.

As a neurodivergent who works with both neurotypical and neurodivergent clients, I have a deep understanding of my clients' needs, fears, and cognitive patterns, and I care very much about how each clients' lived experience affects them as they write and market their work.


my statement of values

I value autonomy within community and am, therefore, an inclusive businessperson. I do not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, country of origin, age, marital status, disability, religious or political affiliation, gender identity, or sexual orientation in any of my activities or operations. 

My clients and I agree that without intellectual integrity and respect for human dignity, our work has limited value. Therefore, we place the wellbeing of readers in the forefront of our minds and agree to focus our efforts on educating and empowering them.


my personal, educational, and professional background

I grew up in a home without a television but with hundreds of books. Our evenings were spent listening to my father or mother read to us--Louisa May Alcott, J.R.R. Tolkien, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Johann David Wyss, and many more. We were encouraged to read aloud, and I learned early on the pleasure of capturing an audience's attention and shaping their experience with a text through the combination of written and spoken word.

Not long after reading a WWII trilogy about a group of young freedom fighters, I began to write my own novel. Approximately three chapters in, I realized it was derivative at best and plagiarized at worst. Perhaps that was the day this editor was born. I was 12.

My first job was working for a small newspaper where I started as a survey taker and worked my way into ad layout. Many years later while studying anthropology, I worked in a university bookstore where I learned the ins and outs of textbook returns and met my first publishing industry insiders. The entire experience was interesting, but I saw a future related to my area of study.

I graduated magna cum laude from Boise State University with a degree in anthropology. I'm particularly interested in medical and socio-cultural anthropology and public health.

On the professional side, prior to going back to school and after graduating, my background includes investment sales and personal and institutional (university) risk management and insurance.

While at university, I discovered and fell in love with public health and medical anthropology but found the academic and government agency opportunities--as interesting and important as they are--too constraining.

I've always been entrepreneurial and with the encouragement received from professors and publishing professionals I chose freelance writing.  Shortly after my first piece was published, I stumbled into developmental editing and then ghostwriting and saw their potential to satisfy both my creative and business itches and do work that impacts people's lives.

I became interested in the film industry through the many excellent books I read about the craft of writing, most of which were written for screenwriters. I started using the fundamentals of screenwriting when structuring ghostwritten books and helping clients and workshop participants do the same. Results in the form of awards and media attention followed. When I started writing about films and filmmakers and meeting them at film festivals, I found a new creative outlet and dynamic group of thinkers and feelers that I wanted to engage with as a peer and collaborator.

On the personal side, members of my family and I are autistic and ADHD and work in the neurodivergent community. I credit my success to my lifelong, intense fascination with words and my neurodivergent creativity and monotropism and am grateful to be married to someone who respects my autonomy, appreciates my differences, and supports my efforts to learn, grow, and meaningfully connect with people.