Author Archives: Information Team

Proofreading children’s books

Children’s books are simpler than adult’s books so they’re easier to proofread, right? Well, no – in some cases, as Margaret Milton explains, they’re much more complicated because there is so much to consider.

When family, friends, parents on the school run or indeed other CIEP members ask me what I’ve been working on this week and I say that I’ve been doing crosswords, or counting stickers in an activity book, or reading a picture book, they often look at me with confusion and sometimes a little bit of envy. When I started out in publishing, I didn’t really have an idea of the type of editing I wanted to do. I had initially trained as a primary teacher so, in the end, it made sense that I wound up editing children’s non-fiction and educational texts. From the outside, it may seem like a bit of a skive; however, there’s a lot more to it than one might think.

Words, words, words (or not!)

With children’s books (fiction and non-fiction), there are often few words, but this is usually the very thing that can trip an editor up. You need to read, read and read again. I personally also like to strip the text out of the file sent by the publisher (usually a PDF) and put it into a Word file, then run a spelling and grammar check. This gives me an extra assurance other than my own proofreading.

Also, in lots of these types of books, there are words set in a decorative font. These should be triple-checked as this is often where spelling mistakes are made. This is especially true if the words have been illustrated rather than typed because they can be misspelled, or the original word from the manuscript can be left in as well as the illustrated word inserted.

It can be assumed (unless the brief informs you otherwise) that the copyeditor has assessed the text to ensure that the level of language is suitable for the target age range and also checked the factual information. However, if something does strike you as overly complicated/too simplistic/factually incorrect, then mark it up. Better to be over-cautious than not.

A picture paints a thousand words

If you have been tasked with proofreading illustrated books, there are certain things that you will be expected to check. One of the main ones will be reviewing the illustrations alongside the text.

By proofreading stage, the illustrations will have mostly been signed off by the designer and the in-house editor. However, the proofreader will be expected to mark up discrepancies, for example if the text reads that the girl held a silver cup in her hand, but the illustrator has coloured it gold. In cases like this, it will be up to the in-house team to decide whether to change the text or have the illustration re-coloured.

The proofreader will also be expected to review the readability of the text against the illustrations. It’s often too late for a font style to be changed, but should you feel that words will be difficult to read (for example on a dark sky background), then you can mark this for the designer. You should also mark up where words overlap illustrations or if there is an obvious gap, as text may have fallen out of a text box in the InDesign file or disappeared during conversion to PDF.

In slightly more complicated non-fiction and educational books, the proofreader will need to review photographs alongside the text, asking questions such as ‘Does the image suitably relate to the text?’, ‘Does it convey what the text is explaining?’ and (an especially important one for educational books) ‘Is there a suitably diverse range of genders, ethnicities, abilities and so on?’

Flapping about

Paper-engineered books (books with flaps, pull-out sections etc) are often tricky, as the flap or pull-out is presented to you on a separate page from the page it will be stuck to. Therefore, you will need to marry the two up and ensure that what’s on the front of the flap aligns with what will be under it. As it is two-dimensional, it is sometimes difficult to picture what goes where, especially in large, non-fiction titles with multiple pull-out and lift-up sections. Publishers will not expect you to print out the pages but on the odd occasion it might be helpful to do this if you are finding it difficult to visualise. A second screen can also be helpful in matching up the various engineered elements to their final locations.

Fancy doing some origami?

Activity books may seem, in principle, like a great fun editing job – and a lot of the time they are. However, there is a huge number of elements that need to be checked to ensure that the activities work and children (and adults) won’t get frustrated. (We’ve all been there, where there’s a piece missing or there’s no actual way out of a maze!)

The proofreader must do all the activities to ensure they work. Ask questions such as:

  • ‘Do all the answers to the crossword fit the boxes?’
  • ‘Are all the words present in the wordsearch (and have any naughty words crept in by mistake when it was generated)?’
  • ‘Are there spots to place the stickers and are the stickers all on the corresponding sticker sheet?’
  • ‘Are there definitely six differences between the two images in spot the difference?’
  • ‘Do the origami instructions work?’

… and so on.

Think about time management

A children’s picture book or lift-the-flap book may only have 10–50 words so it would only take about 10 minutes to read. However, the amount of time needed to check the varying elements should be taken into consideration. An activity book might only have a few hundred words, but once the proofreader has checked that every activity works and everything is in place then this will increase the proofreading time estimate.

For the most part, publishers will set their own rate for proofreading work but if you are quoting for a job yourself then don’t work simply from the word count!

Time management is also important regarding how you spread your work out across a week. For example, you may wish to read a picture book two or three times, but over a few days in order to have a slightly fresher eye each time.

Finally, don’t forget the basics!

Checking that activities work and the paper-engineered sections are correct is important, but obviously shouldn’t be to the detriment of checking the basics. Things that so commonly cause problems such as headers, footers, page numbers, copyright information, author and illustrator names, and the title should all be factored into the proofreading time and given as much importance as the ‘fancy stuff’!

About Margaret Milton

Margaret Milton is a proofreader and project manager specialising in educational and children’s non-fiction books. She is a Professional Member of the CIEP and has worked in publishing in-house and freelance for over 15 years.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by Karolina Grabowski, children reading by Mikhail Nilov, both on Pexels.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Providing editorial services to non-profits and businesses

In this post, Hazel Bird looks at some of the ways in which proofreading and editing for businesses and non-profits differs from working with ‘traditional’ publishers and independent authors.

Ultimately, providing editorial services to a non-profit or business works the same way as providing editorial services to a publisher or independent author: you talk to them about what they want, check that matches what you can deliver and then carry out the work to the brief. But, in reality, working with non-profits and businesses can feel quite different from working with publishers and authors, in terms of both how you do the work and how you interact with your contact.

These tips are based on my experience working primarily with UK and European non-profits operating around the world.

Getting and scheduling the work

The stereotype is that businesses and non-profits will make you jump through endless hoops before they’ll give you any work and then will want their project done yesterday. In my experience, they have a range of onboarding and scheduling practices, just like publishers (who themselves are not immune from ‘hoopery’ and asking for demanding schedules).

But it is certainly true that the larger businesses and non-profits are more likely to require you to go through a procurement or tendering process, where you might submit a bid for a contract and perhaps have an interview. It’s important to find out how your target clients contract work so you can make yourself visible to them – otherwise, if you wait to be contacted by your dream client, you may be waiting a while!

Another key difference is that businesses and non-profits are less likely than publishers and authors to even know that they might benefit from editorial services. As such, some will approach you directly (for example, through the CIEP Directory if you have an entry) but in other cases there is scope for using your contacts and marketing (for example, via social media) to reach clients who might not otherwise come to you naturally.

Diary: editing for businesses and non-profits

Understanding your role

I wrote a bit about this topic in an earlier post on moving into a new editorial field. In summary: while businesses and non-profits may have clear ideas of what they want to achieve via editorial work, they may have less of an idea how to achieve this. You may therefore find that your role involves a degree of educational work.

But, at the same time, it’s important not to make assumptions. Some smaller communications teams may be working with an editor for the first time, whereas some global organisations have editorial policies and processes to equal those of any publisher (and vice versa). Ask questions to understand how you will fit in.

Part of asking questions, too, means understanding the nature of the changes you are expected to make. As any editor who has worked outside the traditional publishing workflow knows, ‘proofreading’ for a business or non-profit may be more like traditional copyediting (or even developmental editing!). Conversely, though, when a business or non-profit commissions you to ‘proofread’ their text, they may have an especially restrictive definition of the work – for example, to avoid the document having to go back to a sponsoring body or key stakeholders for a further round of approval.

It’s therefore vital to ask questions to ensure you are comfortable with the level of work required and to avoid doing undesired work.

Matters of style

Businesses and non-profits are increasingly likely to have an in-house style guide of some nature. You might also encounter:

  • glossaries, which tell you exactly how certain words are allowed to be used
  • lists of proscribed words or phrases, hopefully with suggested replacements
  • tone tools’, which go into detail about the tone of voice and mode of address that the organisation uses in its communications.

We editors often talk about picking up an author’s tone of voice, but with businesses and non-profits this is more likely to be about picking up the brand’s voice (remember that a brand is not just a commercial thing – most non-profits will consider themselves to have a brand too). Whereas publishers will often be happy for authors to write however they like as long as they stay within the bounds of respectful discourse, businesses and non-profits are more likely to have quite stringent ideas about how their text should ‘feel’.

The good news, though, is that once you’ve absorbed this ‘feel’, it’s a relatively straightforward matter of applying it across all the work you do for the organisation (as opposed to picking up a new voice for each publisher’s author you work with).

Communications and queries

Some businesses and non-profits will follow the traditional three-step pattern where you send them the edited document with queries, the ‘author’ (or a nominated member of the communications team) answers the queries and sends the document back to you, and then you absorb the replies and return a squeaky-clean version ready to be sent to the client’s design team. But, in my experience, it is more likely that businesses and non-profits will request a single-stage service where they simply receive the edited document with your queries and then action them as they see fit, without your input.

If this will be the case, it’s helpful to make your queries extra clear and always offer solutions, to make the client’s tidy-up work as easy as possible. Remember, they may have very little editorial experience and so be unaware of options or approaches you find obvious.

Be prepared, too, for the possibility that your ‘proofread’ may actually be followed by huge revisions – for example, if a non-profit’s policy paper is on a tight schedule and the client decides to get proofreading done while they await revisions from a key stakeholder. If you’re aware in advance of what the revisions might be, you can take account of them in your editing and provide suggestions along the lines of ‘if X changes in Y manner, you might also want to consider changing Z’. But often this is just a case of accepting that your meticulous proofread might not be the end of the road for the document and leaving the door open for the client to request further support later on if they need it.

Man working on a laptop: editing for businesses and non-profits

Completing the work

Some businesses and non-profits have very specific invoicing requirements – for example, to comply with a funder’s auditing schedule – so try to learn any restrictions on timing or formatting requirements (such as level of detail required in the breakdown of tasks) in advance. Some will require you to register on a payment portal or similar. As with working for publishers, it’s a good idea to get hold of the name of a person in the finance department so you can chase overdue invoices directly, if needed.

When it comes to post-project assessment of your work, in my experience this is an area that differs hugely from working with publishers. In a publisher–editor relationship, it’s usually the publisher that is considered the expert (rightly or wrongly!). In contrast, in relationships between editors and businesses or non-profits, it’s more likely that the client will consider you the expert and simply go with whatever you have suggested (unless it is obviously wrong or contrary to the brief). This puts more of a weight of responsibility on your shoulders, so it’s important to feel you have the confidence to make decisions without an editorially trained project manager waiting in the wings to check your work. But if you do have the confidence and appropriate experience, it can be an immensely satisfying way of collaborating with clients.

Embrace the variety!

Given editors’ traditional place within the orbit of publishers, it can be tempting to see businesses and non-profits simply as ‘not publishers’ and lump them together accordingly. However, in reality they can be as diverse in the ways they handle their editorial needs as they are in their focuses and operations. The old adage ‘it depends’ plays out in work with businesses and non-profits, just as it does in all editorial work. As always, the key is to ask questions and check we understand our role.

About Hazel Bird

Hazel BirdHazel offers editorial services that empower non-profits, charities, businesses and authors to confidently share their expertise and impact. An editor since 2009, she aims to see the big picture while pinpointing every detail. She has been described as ‘superhuman’ and a ‘secret weapon’, but until Tony Stark comes calling she’s dedicating her superpowers to text-based endeavours.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by Sean Pollock, diary by JESHOOTS.COM, man with laptop by Headway, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Improve your website’s SEO and push it up the search results

Search engine optimisation (SEO) helps your website climb search engine result pages. In this post, Debbie Emmitt offers easy steps you can take to maximise the chances of your own website being noticed.

I love web data, so SEO is a constant source of fascination to me. That’s why I wrote my book Improve Your Editor Website. But I appreciate not every editor is a web nerd like me! Let me help you make sense of the world of SEO for your own website.

Why bother with SEO?

SEO is a must for any editor or proofreader who takes their online marketing seriously. What’s the point of having a website if no one can find it? Most web users don’t click to Page 2 of Google search results; few look past the top four or five results on Page 1. Do you?

Graph showing decline in click-through rate after Page 1

Graph from Advanced Web Ranking, showing the sharp decline in click-through rate (CTR) after Page 1 of search results, using statistics from August 2022.

The tips in this post will give your website a better chance of making it onto the first page of search results.

1. Write engaging, high-quality content

Google uses AI called RankBrain that notices dwell time (how long people stay on your page) and click-through rate (how many people click through to your page from search results).

Take a few minutes to ponder the following questions, then include the answers in your site content:

  • How do your services help people?
  • What do you offer that is unique? This may be connected to your services, to you as a person, or both.
  • What do more established editors who work on similar content to you include on their site that people may be searching for? (Only use their sites for inspiration; do not copy content under any circumstances. Not only is this highly unprofessional but also all online content is protected by copyright.)

2. Add alt text to images and captions to videos

Your page content needs to be readable by search engine spider bots (bits of code that ‘look’ at your site to determine what it’s about).

To please these critters, add meaningful alt text to your images to accurately describe the image content. Make sure videos have good descriptions, ideally with captions or a transcription, or both.

All this ‘behind-the-scenes’ text serves double duty. Search engines love it, and it boosts the accessibility of your site, as screen readers can only make sense of text-based content.

Laptop showing Google home screen

3. Include relevant keywords in your content

Including the keywords your audience is actively searching for will attract your target users, who are more likely to convert to email sign-ups and enquiries about your services.

Firstly, work out the relevant keywords for your site. What search terms are your visitors using to find your content? What problem or question can you solve?

Keywords to consider for your site are:

  • your editing or proofreading services (eg genre, topic, level of editing)
  • your location (clients may prefer a UK-based editor, for example, if they’re writing in British English)
  • types of English you work with (UK, US, Australian, Canadian, etc).

Next, include these keywords on relevant pages. The higher up the page they appear, the more search engines will take note. If you pinpoint a primary keyword per page and put it in the URL, title and first sentence of that page, this will do you plenty of SEO favours.

However, don’t go overboard and flood your content with repeating keywords. This will make for a poor reading experience and may count against you.

4. Include compelling content in your search engine snippet

The page information in search engine listings is your page title, URL and description. Make these as inviting as possible to encourage people to click.

Debbie Emmitt's search engine listing

How to do this? Try this quick bit of research over your next cup of coffee:

  1. Enter a search term people may use to find your site, then look at the Google Ads or sponsored search results (promoted boxes at the top of the page). It can take a few attempts, as ads aren’t available for all search terms.
  2. Notice the keywords in their page titles and descriptions. As people are paying for these spots, the ads you see are probably the winning results of testing and therefore stand the best chance of getting clicks. If there aren’t any Google Ads or sponsored links showing, look at the top search results.
  3. Use similar words in your page titles and descriptions, but be careful not to directly copy the content, and ensure the keywords are relevant to your site.

5. Use inbound, outbound and internal links

All these types of links contribute to SEO.

Inbound links (external sites linking to you)

The higher a site’s quality (and the higher it ranks in Google), the better it is to have a link from it to your site. Steve Napier, SEO consultant, has provided an extensive list of what makes a quality site.

Some ways to attract quality inbound links:

  • Get active on social media – Include your web address on your social profiles. While a link from Facebook or X (formerly Twitter) is not considered a high-quality link, it creates traffic to your site, which helps your SEO.
  • Comment (usefully!) on relevant blog posts – Include a link to your site. Make sure it doesn’t come across as shameless marketing, but as a genuinely useful link pertinent to the blog post and/or your comment.
  • Be a guest blogger – Politely approach the owners of blogs where your target audience hangs out and offer to write a guest post. Make sure a link to your site is included.
  • Go on podcasts – You can announce your web address on the episode, and it can also feature in the episode blurb on your host’s site and/or in the show notes.

A woman browsing on her mobile

Outbound links (from your site to external sites)

Outbound links, especially high-quality ones, can have a positive effect on your SEO, as proven in research such as this 2020 study by Reboot.

Some tips on using outbound links:

  • If you have a blog, link out to one to three relevant web pages per post. The external content will ideally expand on ideas you have touched on but haven’t covered in detail. This adds value to your post.
  • Moderate comments on your posts before publishing them. This will ensure low-quality or spam links aren’t auto-posted to your site and don’t negatively impact your SEO.
  • Force outbound links to open in a new tab, so if your visitors close that tab, they keep your site open. Simply add target=“blank” to the end of the link in the HTML (code) or tick the box ‘open in new tab’ when creating the link in your content management system (CMS).
  • Some outbound links can harm your SEO, such as affiliate links. Tell search engines to ignore these links by using the ‘nofollow’ attribute on the link. Either add it to the HTML if you know how to do this or toggle the relevant option in your CMS.

Internal links (between pages on your own site)

These are good for SEO because they encourage people to explore your site and stay longer, which search engines will notice.

This is the easiest link tip to implement because you know your site content, so can easily pinpoint places to add internal links.

6. Optimise your site for mobile

Given the rise in mobile browsing over the past few years, your site must be optimised for mobile if you want to improve your SEO.

Graph showing how mobile usage is significantly greater than desktop

Graph from StatCounter, showing how mobile usage is now significantly greater than desktop.

In July 2022, Google completed its switch to mobile-first for all websites. This means it crawls sites using a smartphone Googlebot, rather than a desktop one. If your site doesn’t display properly on mobile, it will be demoted in Google search results.

Follow these tips to ensure your site doesn’t lose SEO points as far as mobile is concerned:

  • If your site has a legacy mobile version, remove it and make sure your desktop (default) version is responsive (displays well on mobile and other devices).
  • Don’t hide content behind a ‘Read more’ drop-down to make your content shorter for mobile users. Search engine spider bots can’t index this hidden content.
  • Employ a mobile-first attitude. Design for mobile primarily, not as an afterthought. You can check your site for mobile friendliness using Google’s mobile-checking tool.

Other considerations

There are lots of other ways to improve your site’s SEO, including making sure your content is well laid out, easy to navigate and written with the user in mind.

It’s debatable whether frequent updates have a positive impact, so this isn’t worth worrying about if you don’t have a blog or other content that could go out of date. Focus on providing quality content and links rather than worrying about constantly publishing new content.

If you’re now suffering from information overload, please don’t panic! Just work through the tips a day or week at a time, and you’ll see your visitor figures improve.

My book Improve Your Editor Website contains everything you need to know to keep your website appealing to your target readers, looking professional and acting as a friend to search engines. If you find it useful, please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks!

Related content

Do editors and proofreaders need a website? by Louise Harnby

Focusing your website on your ideal client by Sue Littleford

Improve Your Editor Website – a comprehensive guide by Debbie Emmitt

Free website advice on my site!

About Debbie Emmitt

Debbie EmmittDebbie Emmitt is an editor and proofreader of web content, fiction and non-fiction (with a passion for editing books set in France!). She’s also a debut mystery author.

With two decades of experience working with web content, she’s keen to share her web skills with the editing community.

Join her mailing list to enjoy 20% off her book ‘Improve Your Editor Website’ and other perks.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Header image by Lalmch on Pixabay, laptop showing Google home screen by Firmbee on Unsplash, woman browsing on a mobile by Anna Shvets on Pexels.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

A week in the life of a children’s fiction editor and proofreader

Becky Grace is a freelance children’s fiction editor and proofreader. In this post she describes her unconventional route into the industry and how an average week unfolds.

An unconventional background?

For 15 years I taught politics and sociology in a secondary school in Kent, until I decided it was time for a complete change of career. Considering my teaching specialisms it might have made sense to focus solely on editing and proofreading educational textbooks, but my time in schools – and my additional role as a literacy coordinator – had sparked a passion for children’s literature. With no formal background in publishing and editorial work, I set about retraining with the courses available through the CIEP and fiction-specific courses provided by other editors (Louise Harnby and Sophie Playle have some amazing courses in this area). At the same time I embarked on a masters in publishing.

Changing career and retraining in your forties is quite a daunting prospect but thankfully I wasn’t doing it alone. Quite coincidentally, my sister was going through her own career change and we found we were heading in the same direction. We set up a freelance editorial business with a focus on children’s fiction, and Inky Frog Editorial was born. Our specialisms complement each other perfectly: Jess works with picture books, early reader chapter books and middle grade novels; I focus on middle grade and young adult novels. It is a partnership that works well for us.

As someone completely new to the publishing industry, I honestly found the best thing to do was to throw myself into the CIEP and learn everything I could. I volunteered to coordinate my local CIEP group and have now joined the CIEP’s Learning and Professional Development Committee. From reading fact sheets and guides, to taking the courses and attending the conference (albeit virtually), I have immersed myself in the world of editing and proofreading.

Over the last few years of running the business, I’ve realised that there’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ week, which is perhaps what I love most about my job. I’ve also discovered that I’m not as unconventional as I thought. Many of the editors and proofreaders I have spoken to have transitioned into this profession from a range of different careers. That’s the beauty of the colleagues I have worked with: everyone brings different experiences, specialisms and strengths to the work they do.

girl reading children's fiction

What’s different about proofreading and editing children’s fiction?

Unless you have children or grandchildren of a certain age, it might have been years since you last read a children’s book. Friends will often talk to me about the books they are reading with their child and these books normally fall into one of two categories:

  1. Books the parent read as a child (Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton)
  2. David Walliams

There are obviously exceptions to this rule – and for that we are grateful – but the average adult’s knowledge of today’s literature for children is rather limited. Children’s books today are so vast, diverse and exciting; we are living in a new ‘golden age’ of children’s literature. There is obviously a great deal to be learned from reading the ‘classics’ of our youth (Frances Hodgson Burnett, Philippa Pearce, Alan Garner, LM Montgomery, to name just a few) but the market for children’s books is so very different today, as are the children themselves. Knowing today’s children and the books that they read is vital for any writer of children’s fiction. The first and most important advice we give to anyone we work with is this: read.

At Inky Frog Editorial, Jess and I work with writers who are polishing their manuscript before sending it to agents (or reworking it if the first round of querying wasn’t successful), as well as writers who want to self-publish. Just as with adult fiction, when editing a children’s book we will look at theme, genre, plot, structure, pace, characterisation, dialogue, point of view and more. However, with children’s books, there are additional factors that writers need to be aware of. Does the writer understand the huge difference between books for toddlers, books for early readers, books for tweens, books for teens and books for young adults? This difference shows itself not just in age-appropriate language, but also in age-appropriate content. Do writers understand the mixed market for children’s books? Who are they targeting: the children, their parents, their teachers, school librarians? Is the writer aware of how children’s books have changed since they were a child?

girl browsing children's fiction

A ‘typical’ week

The week starts with an email from a CIEP colleague who has found my name in the IM Available list (a brilliant resource). She has been contacted by a potential client who is looking for someone to provide a light-touch edit and proofread of their picture book, but the editor’s own calendar is fully booked. Now, picture books are most definitely out of my comfort zone. It would be incorrect to think that editing or proofreading a picture book is easy. Absolutely not. With a children’s picture book – especially one that is being self-published – there is a duty on the part of the author and editor to create a book that is age appropriate in terms of content, tone and language; there should be an understanding of the composition of the page, looking at the relationship and interaction between words and pictures and the use of space on the page. And don’t even get me started on picture books that rhyme! (Or are meant to rhyme.) But perhaps the hardest thing to master with a picture book is telling a full, rounded, engaging story in under a thousand words. With her masters in children’s publishing, Jess is perfect for a job like this. I make the introductions and hand the project over.

I then turn to a scheduling discussion with one of my regular clients, an author of fantasy adventure middle grade novels. The second book in the current series is due to be ready for a proofread in the next couple of weeks and I need to check that we are still on course for the dates I have put aside. If my workflow needs to be amended it will be helpful to know this in advance. This client is self-publishing rather than pursuing the traditional publishing route, and we have consulted with her previously on matters beyond editing and proofreading, such as writing a series, cover design, marketing and promotion, and more.

My next meeting of the week is an interesting one. A word-of-mouth recommendation from an existing client, this is a new writer who is part-way through a crime procedural novel. Crime procedural? I hear you ask. That’s not for children! Correct. This client is indeed writing for adults (although children definitely love a good murder mystery) and while we market Inky Frog Editorial specifically at writers of children’s fiction, I also work on adult fiction. The client isn’t hiring me for a full edit or proofread, she is instead looking for some advice and guidance on her story ideas. Her goal is to enter her work-in-progress to a crime fiction competition. We talk about plot, structure, pace, action, suspense, characterisation and how to write a synopsis. She has some fantastic ideas and I can see the beginnings of a great story.

Although not specifically in the realms of editing and proofreading, we also offer a book coaching service. One of my longest-standing clients is currently writing a historical dual narrative and our coaching session is the last appointment of the week.

The ‘extra’ jobs

My working week generally involves far more than working directly with clients. I deal with the usual admin jobs of quoting and invoicing, accounts, emails and blog writing. I am sourcing guest bloggers for my website, one of whom has written an outstanding piece on the subject of branding and design for authors. I am also launching a literary festival in my town with a team of book enthusiasts, and I spend much of my time in conversation with authors, publicists, sponsors and venue owners, taking on more of a project and event management role.

I am also a firm believer in continually improving my skills and staying up to date with developments in the world of children’s fiction. To this end I recently attended a writing workshop with award-winning children’s author Lucy Strange. While this course is targeted at beginning writers (of course I want to write a children’s book!) it is also invaluable CPD for a children’s book editor.

I regularly take on work outside the realms of fiction. With my background in education, I am happy to take on proofreading and copyediting work in the education sector, both on websites and in course materials. It’s important to know your limitations and when it is best to pass on work to a colleague, but it’s also important to have confidence in your past experience, your range of abilities and to recognise all of your strengths.

About Becky Grace

Becky Grace is a children’s fiction editor and proofreader, working on all genres and specialising in middle grade and YA fiction. Prior to training as an editor and proofreader, Becky was a teacher for 15 years, a career that ignited her passion for children’s fiction.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by Picsea, girl reading by Johnny McClung, girl choosing a book by Suad Kamardeen, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Working together

One of the CIEP’s greatest strengths is its collegiality and mutual support. This extends to our members helping each other to find and succeed in work. Here are six ways we do this.

  1. Advising and encouraging
  2. Sharing information
  3. Supporting each other’s work
  4. Sharing opportunities
  5. Employing each other
  6. Working collectively

1. Advising and encouraging

The CIEP’s online member forums include a Newbie forum, where less experienced members can introduce themselves and ask questions about any aspect of being an editorial professional. These first questions often concern the best way to go about finding work. More experienced members respond with advice, encouragement and tips. These responses tend to reflect the same key themes:

  • Get trained, so you have the knowledge and confidence to offer your services.
  • Join a CIEP local group – in-person or online.
  • Check out CIEP resources, including our fact sheets and guides. These are free to members.
  • Think about how you will market yourself, including identifying the area of editing you will concentrate on. This might reflect your existing expertise (a field you’ve worked in, perhaps) or even your personal interests (for example a hobby like gardening or cookery).
  • Don’t limit yourself, either. If you have trained in proofreading, consider adding copyediting to your training plan. This is because sometimes a client will ask you to ‘proofread’ a document which also needs elements of copyediting to get it ready for publication.
  • Tell everyone you know that you are setting yourself up as an editorial professional. This may get you your first clients.
  • Use the ‘search’ function to find similar threads in our forums – there is already lots of advice there. There’s also a pinned post near the top of the Newbie forum, ‘Newbie FAQs and Collated Wisdom from CIEP Members’, that includes invaluable tips and suggests some great resources for when you’re starting out as an editor or proofreader.

2. Sharing information

Within the CIEP member forums, information is shared about all sorts of editing- and proofreading-related subjects, from tax rules and software glitches to the use of commas. But CIEP members who aren’t registered for our forums can also benefit from the wisdom and experience of other members. Most of our fact sheets and all of our guides are written by CIEP members. The information in these resources aims to equip our members for work, from setting up a freelance business and getting your first clients to editing in specialist areas like scientific articles, cookery books and legal publishing.

Many of the topics covered in our bank of resources are explored at a deeper level in our range of training courses which, again, are designed and delivered by CIEP members.

And there’s more information in our vast collection of blogs which are overwhelmingly written by CIEP members. Our blogs cover almost every editing-related subject, many of which are related to gaining work. Use the ‘search’ function to see what you can find. The Flying Solo series, written by Sue Littleford, author of the Going Solo guide, is particularly useful if you’re just starting out.

3. Supporting each other’s work

Suzanne Arnold and Nadine Catto met through the CIEP London group during lockdown and realised that they lived round the corner from each other. Nadine says: ‘We started meeting up with a few other editors and have all become great friends. As Suzanne and I live very near, we often go for walks together. We have collaborated on a few work projects as well.’ Friendship and work combine, as Suzanne describes: ‘It is a regular (and very valuable) sounding-board thing and sometimes even a bit of informal accountability. But it’s not structured or planned – it’s two friends bouncing ideas around and sharing links to online resources etc and the “agenda” is very driven by what’s going on in our lives on any particular day.’ The connections created by their local group help them both. Suzanne says: ‘There’s a lot of informal help behind the scenes – on a more mundane level, too, such as messaging saying “does this sentence look right to you?” And that often involves the wider group of CIEP friends who live locally.’ Sometimes this informal help extends to pet-sitting: Suzanne feeds Nadine’s cat when she’s on holiday.

In contrast to this more informal growth of connections within a larger formal group, some CIEP members decide to set up their own small accountability groups. In a CIEP blog, ‘Accountability groups: What? Where? Why?’, Eleanor Abraham says: ‘It’s good to have other perspectives, but sometimes you don’t want 150 slightly different opinions, but rather the chance to talk things through with people you trust and respect.’ Eleanor’s group has an hour-long meeting each month, which suits the busy lives of its members; Erin Brenner’s accountability group has a monthly goals check-in and in-person and online retreats. Erin writes: ‘We’ll refer each other for work and collaborate on projects. Some of us have even partnered for new business ventures, and we regularly discuss opportunities to do so.’

Two women working on a laptop together

4. Sharing opportunities

From recommending other people for work to advertising jobs they can’t themselves take, CIEP members often share work opportunities with each other. This happens on our member forums: on the Marketplace forum and local group forums in particular.

As Erin’s accountability group does, many members also recommend colleagues who possess the skills a client will need. Most people who have been editing or proofreading for a while have had the experience of being asked to suggest someone else if they’re too busy to take a job. Directories can help here. The CIEP has a directory of Professional and Advanced Professional Members, but some of our local groups also have their own directories of CIEP members which list their experience and specialisms. It also helps to pre-empt clients’ requests for recommendations to develop our own list of editors we would happily recommend if we can’t do a job.

5. Employing each other

A step beyond recommending our colleagues is employing them to do something for us. In ‘Reflections on the self-publishing process’, Kia Thomas describes commissioning two other CIEP members to help her publish her own novel, and they in turn report on the experience. The project went so well that Kia is planning to use the same team for her second novel.

Kia went about finding Judith Leask, her editor, ‘not just a good editor, but the right one for me’, by ‘asking CIEP members who were looking for more experience in fiction to put themselves forward for the job’. It can be a great approach to work with other editors who are at this stage of their career – for you as a ‘client’ and for the person you’ve asked to do the job. Judith says: ‘Being chosen by Kia to edit her novel was very exciting, because I knew I’d learn a huge amount from her, and that turned out to be true.’

The CIEP has a system for encouraging its members to work with other members who are keen to gain more experience: IM Available. This is a list, refreshed every fortnight, that includes any Intermediate CIEP members who are available for work, with details of their training, skills and experience, so that other CIEP members can employ them – to edit or proofread their own writing or to help with a surplus of client work.

6. Working collectively

Another way to deal with work that is too much for one editor or proofreader is to work in a partnership or a larger collective.

One such collective is Editing Globally, which, through six editorial professionals, spans the globe’s time zones but also the full range of tasks related to getting a publication produced: manuscript evaluations, project management, translation, developmental editing, line editing, fact-checking, copyediting and proofreading, formatting and design. This 24/7, end-to-end service can make it easier for a client to hit a tight deadline. Janet MacMillan, one of the editors in Editing Globally, is a fan of team working:

Editorial teams come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from a team like Global Editing to informal, ad hoc, two-person teams who work together to complete a job over a timescale that would be impossible for one person. I value being able to work with trusted colleagues, whose expertise and knowledge I learn from, and I believe that learning makes me the editor that I am. No matter the size or shape of the team, being able to work with others expands an editor’s knowledge and skills.

Make the most of the editorial community

Freelance editing and proofreading can be lonely work. It pays off – sometimes literally – to reach out to your professional community. If you want some more ideas about how to do this, download our fact sheet ‘Making the most of the editorial community’, which is free for CIEP members.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: hands together by Hannah Busing on Unsplash; two women working together by CoWomen on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Flying solo: The perpetual, invisible interview

In this month’s Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford gives plenty of advice on how editorial freelancers can find more work (and make themselves more findable).

As a long-time recruiter in my previous, salaried life, I’ve not been surprised to see many stories in the media over the last few years about recruiters not hiring the person who’s objectively best for the job. Instead, they hire the person they like the most, or the person that’s most like them, or who seems to best ‘fit’ the culture, or presents as probably the least risky.

It’s the same with freelancers.

As we do our networking on social media, and our cold-emailing, and even our networking in person, we don’t necessarily know who is in the market for our services right now, at the moment we show up in their feed or their inbox or their face.

Unless we’re responding to a job ad, or there is unusually helpful information about their freelancer pool on their website, we won’t know exactly what gap the people we’re targeting as potential clients are trying to fill in their roster.

In the week I started work on this post, I attended a most excellent and timely webinar with LinkedIn expert Louise Brogan, of which more later.

I’ve also just reviewed Brittany Dowdle and Linda Ruggeri’s Networking for Freelance Editors Workbook: Practical Strategies for Networking Success, which is well worth a look if you’re all at sea about how to market yourself on social media, at in-person events or via your website.

Let’s run through some questions to ask yourself when you’re looking for work.

Who do I want to work for?

There’s actually a wrong answer to this, and that’s ‘anyone and everyone’. Even if you’re brand new to freelance editing and proofreading, you need to be selective, otherwise you’ll have a painful time trying to work out your marketing message.

Need an illustration? How many fish-finger ads do you see in the high-fashion glossy magazines? How many haute couture fashion houses advertise in trade magazines for the fishing industry?

Those are rather crude examples, true, but I’ve made my point: everyone eats, everyone wears clothes, but they don’t eat the same things, nor do they wear the same things, and if they’re reading about their part of the food industry, they don’t want people pushing their fancy frocks and vertiginous heels.

The people seeing misplaced ads are not receptive to the message.

So – who will be receptive to your message? Publishers, packagers, indie authors, businesses, NGOs, educational establishments, students? What kind of publisher, packager, indie author, business, NGO, educational establishment, student?

Where do my ideal clients hang out?

It’s no use being a whizz on App A if your clients are mostly on Apps B and C.

It’s no use relying on word-of-mouth and recommendations until you have a solid enough client base to generate sufficient work for you this way.

What groups can you join on social media that your ideal clients already populate?

A targeted approach to displaying your wares in front of the right people will generate more leads than the scattergun method of pitching up anywhere and yelling about how great an editor or proofreader you are to people who simply aren’t listening.

How do I reach my ideal clients?

That’s an ‘it depends’ if ever there was one!

When you know where they are, through browsing social media actually looking for them, for instance, you have to get in front of them.

Good marketing isn’t cringy. It’s presenting a possible solution to people who have the kinds of problems you’re able to solve, and letting them know you’re there.

Happily, marketing ideas have moved on a great deal and the notion of ‘selling at’ people thankfully seems to be debunked, because that idea is at the root, I think, of a lot of people’s discomfort with getting themselves out there and noticed.

On social media, the emphasis now is on having conversations. Authentic, genuine conversations.

Start following the companies and the people you’d like to work for, and register for alerts for when they post. Comment on their posts, don’t just hit a reaction emoji button. Converse with them. Move up to connecting with them more closely (if that’s how the particular platform works), when the time seems right. Keep yourself in their eyeline by being responsive, friendly, knowledgeable and genuine.

I say to follow the companies and the people – but remember that the companies are made up of people. There’s a person on the other end of their social media, their employees frequently have their own personal social media accounts. Companies don’t buy from companies; people buy from people. People read your cold emails (or don’t, but that’s another issue), people read your posts and your comments and form a view about whether you could help them out.

Social media – content marketing – is a slow burn. And that’s why you have to show up consistently, and reasonably frequently, so that you’re nudging potential clients to notice you. Once you have some kind of relationship going, you might then choose to message or email that person, but never do that as soon as you’ve made your first connection. That’s selling at people! It’s transactional, not conversational, and it’s self-serving, not a genuine relationship.

Cold-calling and cold-emailing

Ditch the cold-calling. Potential clients are unlikely to want to drop whatever they’re in the middle of and prioritise your wants. Email, instead.

If you want to work for publishers, the annual Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is your friend, for UK- and Ireland-based clients. There’s also a Yearbook for children’s publishers. If you know of similar publications in other territories, do please let us know using the comments.

Use the Yearbook, plus the companies’ websites and social media to figure out who you should contact. If you’re still in doubt about who runs their freelancer pool, call the switchboard and ask for a name (make sure you get the spelling right!) and an email address.

Keep your email short and to the point, though never brusque, of course. Explain who you are, what you can do and how you can help. Adapt your CV to the client, so the subject matter that the client publishes heads your list of specialities. Remove distractions that make you look like a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

How can I be findable?

If your ideal clients are indie authors, it’ll be more a matter of them finding you rather than you finding them.

This is where content marketing and social media are strongly in play. Hang out in writers’ groups – the right kind of writers’ groups. If you work in romance, maybe give the sci-fi crowd a miss. They’ll not be receptive to your message. Again, no hard-selling. Solve problems, give advice, be visible and be findable.

Pay attention to your profile details in social media (that applies to everyone, no matter who your ideal client is); include current contact details. Make it tremendously easy for people to contact you via your website and any online listings you may have.

Use your website to showcase your abilities and describe the problems you solve for your clients. Make your website about your ideal client, not about you. What is your ideal client looking for? Write about that. Be smart around SEO.

What should I write about?

Louise Brogan gave me some brilliant ideas in that webinar I mentioned up near the start of this post.

Start typing a question about editing into Google (this works with other search engines, too). What autofills? What appears in the list of questions people ask, or related searches that will appear right at the bottom of the first page of hits?

What questions are people asking in their comments on relevant podcasts, YouTube videos or in social media threads? Ask non-editor friends what questions they have about your job.

Look at other editors’ websites to see what they have in their FAQ sections; look at the public-facing content the Institute puts out to generate ideas for your own posts and blog articles. What are the comments about on Amazon’s gazillions of writing and editing books?

Answer those questions.

It doesn’t matter that every other editor has already answered them. The potential client is reading your post, your comment right now. Not your competitors’. And if they then go and look at your competitors, they may prefer your take on the solution to their own problem, or the way you express yourself, or how friendly and approachable you look to them in your profile pic. Or do you want your potential clients to come to your website, or your other online profiles, and find tumbleweed?

Writing: finding work as a freelancer

How quickly will all this work?

Finding work is a long haul, especially when you’re getting started, so if you have any specialist expertise, use that to get your first few jobs, even if that subject matter is not something you want to keep on with.

And because it’s a long haul, start your social media presence and begin working on your website as soon as you can. Don’t put it off until you feel ready to launch yourself on the world, fully formed as a professional editor or proofreader. Start small and grow, test out what kinds of posts get noticed, and which don’t. Get used to making time every week, if not every day, for some kind of marketing activity.

Remember that the best time to do your marketing is when you feel you’re too busy to make the time to do it. Leaving it until you have done all your work and really need some more, right now, is a truly bad idea.

In summary

To shine in your perpetual, invisible interview, be findable, be you, be genuine, be helpful, be knowledgeable. You never know who is looking, when, nor exactly what they’re looking for. Even when you’re in an editors-only online space, you don’t know who is looking to subcontract a piece of work. Spend time on your socials (the relevant ones!) and your website. Keep things fresh and current.

People do want their books and articles and marketing materials and annual reports to look good and reflect well on them. You can help them with that, can’t you? Go tell them!

Resources

Brittany Dowdle and Linda Ruggeri’s Networking for Freelance Editors Workbook: Practical Strategies for Networking Success

John Espirian’s Content DNA

Louise Harnby’s several books on content marketing and finding work

Sara Hulse’s Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business

Sue Littleford’s Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by Edar on Pixabay, fashion magazine by Cleo Vermij on Unsplash, writing by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

A finer point: Redundant words and phrases

For August’s A finer point, Dan Beardshaw takes a closer look at redundancy in writing and how we can improve concision by dealing with superfluous wordage.

‘Redundancy’ in writing refers to using more words than necessary or repeating a meaning across multiple words. Spotting and removing redundancies is a regular editorial task that aims to improve concision. Concise writing is both easier to read and stylistically appealing, and a message can have more impact without the distraction of reading unnecessary words. In this post I will highlight some common redundancies and ways to fix them, as well as cases for recasting or leaving them.

In order to

The phrase in order to can often be replaced with to.

Copyeditors remove redundancies in order to make text more concise.

The longer version is commonly used and may be considered more formal, but using to instead doesn’t imply informality when used in a formal context, and there’s no clear distinction in meaning between the two forms. The to that in order to can substitute will always be part of a verb in the ‘infinitive of purpose’ form. This use of to means ‘for the purpose of’ just as in order to does.

How in order to is used can affect any decision to change it. For example, fronted to-infinitive clauses are correct but less common, and may read more naturally with in order to.

To make text more concise, copyeditors remove redundancies.

In order to make text more concise, copyeditors remove redundancies.

In the event that

The same sense can be expressed here by the simple conjunction if.

In the event that If the train is cancelled, a replacement bus will be provided.

This phrase may, like in order to, be considered more formal. But if isn’t necessarily informal here either. Some might consider the longer form more polite – in the above example, it could imply a sense that everything possible will be done to avoid the inconvenient outcome. But if a message of that kind is essential, it may be better recast and expressed directly instead of expecting readers to infer it from a wordy form of if.

Due to the fact that

Similar to the previous entry, due to the fact that inflates a conjunction – in this case because.

Redundancies are removed due to the fact that because they make the reader work harder.

Considering the frequency of a word like because, word count could grow considerably over the course of a manuscript with habitual use of the wordier version. And again, there isn’t a clear case for the simple conjunction being less formal.

While we’re on the subject of this redundancy niche, it’s worth mentioning another commonly inflated conjunction: despite the fact that can be replaced with although, as can its six-worded synonym in spite of the fact that.

The reason why

At first glance, this might appear to be an obvious redundancy, and why can usually be cut.

The collapse of the economy was the reason why they lost the election.

But the case for treating it as a redundancy is less clear. In a related post, Patricia T O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman argue that the why in this phrase is a conjunction comparable to for which:

In this expression, “why” is a conjunction and means “for which” or “on account of which,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.).

The noun “reason” in this usage means “cause” or “the thing that makes some fact intelligible,” Merriam-Webster’s says.

“Reason” in this sense, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is commonly used with “why,” “that,” “for,” or an infinitive. So all of these uses are correct:

(1) “The reason we left early …”

(2) “The reason why we left early …”

(3) “The reason that we left early …”

(4) “Our reason for leaving early …”

(5) “The reason to leave early …”

The authors’ case illustrates how this potential redundancy differs in form to most others – the ‘extra’ word why here adds an optional part of speech that isn’t strictly tautological and wouldn’t be considered extraneous in equivalent cases, such as that in option 3. The post also notes the longevity of the usage, dating back as far as 1484.

a gift-wrapped box

Free gift

Gifts are always free, so the free in free gift is clearly redundant. This is a common category of redundancy in which a word or phrase directly duplicates the meaning of another. This kind of tautology might be considered a more precise definition of redundancy.

Brief summary

Following the flawed logic of free gift, the adjective brief repeats a meaning already contained in the noun it describes. The same could be said of brief moment.

Personal opinion

The redundancy here is that the sense of ‘personal’ is already implied by the pronoun that opinion will usually be joined to when referring to an individual. My/Your/Her/His/Their opinion all tell us who the opinion belongs to, so personal adds nothing to the meaning. Distinction from shared opinions isn’t necessary, either, as that would be similarly indicated by, for example, the board’s opinion or simply consensus. A related redundancy here is consensus of opinionof opinion can be discarded.

Absolutely essential

In this case, an adverb duplicates the meaning of the adjective it describes. An author may have intended to add emphasis, but essential is already an emphatic adjective with an unmodifiable meaning – absolutely essential makes no more sense than slightly essential.

In conclusion

Redundancies are commonplace across most genres of writing. Removing redundancies can enhance the style, clarity and readability of a text. But it’s worth determining any specific reason the author may have for using one and, if there is a good reason, considering the options of either recasting to avoid the unnecessary words or leaving as is.

Resources

https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2012/09/reason-why.html

https://www.thoughtco.com/common-redundancies-in-english-1692776

https://forge.medium.com/close-proximity-end-result-and-more-redundant-words-to-delete-from-your-writing-3258be693a3d

Butterfield, J (ed.) (2015). Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 693.

About Dan Beardshaw

Dan Beardshaw

Dan Beardshaw is a development editor, copyeditor and proofreader, specialising in ELT and education publishing. He is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: rubbish bin by Cup of Couple; gift by Kim Stiver, both on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Forum matters: Finding work

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

The topic of finding work is one that arises frequently wherever editorial professionals chat, and CIEP forums are no exception. Whether they are new to the field or are more experienced and seeking fresh opportunities, forum members often turn to other members for suggestions. And with most members needing to seek more work at some stage, everyone is usually willing to share advice and information.

Gaining experience

A recent discussion on how long it takes full-time freelance editors and proofreaders to get regular work covered lots of bases. The consensus seemed to be that building a freelance business takes time, and that it took several years for most to establish themselves in terms of a steady stream of work and adequate income.

Contributors to that discussion and others shared their experiences of how valuable word of mouth, cold calling, finding a niche, directory entries and having a website were. One mentioned the importance of local networking events, and there’s lots of information about networking within the CIEP on the CIEP website.

How someone goes about finding work may vary depending on their niche(s), but one discussion on finding academic editing work reinforced the importance of word of mouth and networking. The topic of packagers/agencies also came up in this discussion and in a more recent Newbie query, and while some editorial professionals find the rates low and turnaround times tight, they acknowledge that such work provides the opportunity to gain experience, which then attracts other clients. Several members suggested contacting faculty members and university departments who may have their own proofreading and editing needs and who may also be involved in publishing academic journals. University presses also got a mention.

Jobs in the marketplace

Members can find work in the Marketplace forum when other members post information about one-off jobs they have been offered but cannot take on. The time it takes ‘[CLOSED]’ to appear at the front of such posts is a measure of how quickly the work is taken up, so it’s a good place to check regularly in case something in your niche becomes available – before it becomes unavailable!

Members posting jobs usually take a few names of people who contact them directly and mark the post ‘[CLOSED]’ when they have enough responses. They will ask for some information – perhaps website/profile details and anything about your experience that may be relevant to the specific job. If you are the person posting the work, it’s helpful to read the pinned How to avoid post removal and Marketplace guidelines topics first.

Woman using laptop and smiling while drinking from a mug

Tests and testimonials

Sometimes members post about editing tests they have taken, or sample edits they have been asked to do. It’s worth noting that while a ‘poor’ performance in a test or sample edit may knock the confidence of a newbie, even experienced editors and proofreaders have ‘failed’ such editorial tests, and one discussion showed that while tests may match you with a potential client, one bad experience does not mean you’re a bad editor.

Keeping an up-to-date portfolio and collecting testimonials are other ways to set yourself up for finding work. In one discussion, the topic of better ways to organise a portfolio and the value of having a portfolio came up. In a discussion in the Fiction forum (which you will need to subscribe to), the value of testimonials and how they might be organised generated interesting responses.

CIEP guides and courses

Many forum members find CIEP resources helpful – directly or indirectly – in guiding them as they seek work, and some of these get a mention in the forums. One that newcomers to freelance life may find helpful is Sue Littleford’s Going Solo Toolkit and the CIEP guide Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business. Many other CIEP guides are useful in helping an editorial professional learn more about finding work, including Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business by Sara Hulse. You can find an overview of the CIEP guides here.

Finally, there’s training. Many new editors and proofreaders posting for the first time in the Newbies forum will be undertaking courses, but many experienced professionals also see courses as a vital part of their continuing professional development, making them more attractive to regular and new clients.

For up-to-date discussion about this and more, you won’t go far wrong when you network on the CIEP forums!

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: open laptop by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash; smiling woman on laptop by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Talking tech: Collaboration tools

Following on from his informative piece about how we can use apps like Todoist to help us with the publishing process, Andy Coulson expands his research to collaboration tools, investigating how they can help us in finding work and integrating ourselves into project teams.

We have been working with collaboration tools for years – arguably chalkboards and flipcharts were ‘collaboration tools’. However, by using the web and cloud services, modern collaboration tools have changed and expanded this practice enormously, so you no longer need to be in the same physical space as your colleagues and/or clients. And the ability of computers to store and search information adds even more functionality to them.

Collaboration tools are an increasingly important part of remote working, allowing people to work together to share information on a common goal or project. For us freelancers, these tools allow us to become a part of the team in a way we have not been able to do as easily in the past, so learning to use them effectively as part of ongoing CPD is becoming useful for finding work – and if you come across a client who uses collaboration tools to run projects and you are already using them, then you have given yourself an advantage.

With so many of these tools about, clearly you cannot be an expert in them all – so it is important to step back and think about what job you might be using the tool for; some clients might also have preferred collaboration tools and may offer training. When I am looking at this sort of tool, I have found it useful to think about them in terms of the core job they have been built around doing. For example, Todoist is a to-do list manager at heart, but has plenty of collaborative features that would allow you to organise the workload of a team and manage information about those tasks. For the purposes of this piece, I am going to use three very broad categories: storage and editing tools; communication tools; and task and project management tools.

Storage and editing tools

Many of you will have used Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive to store files online, but they also allow you to share those files. Google Drive takes this a step further, giving you access to a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool so you can work with others on a document. I’ve had a few projects where the style sheet or tracking spreadsheet has been in Google Drive and several people have been working on it in real time, so you are consistently looking at up-to-date information – one of the benefits of online collaboration tools.

One feature of Google Drive I particularly like is the suggesting mode. On a recent job, I was asked to add to the style sheet in suggesting mode as I made styling decisions. These changes then get adopted or rejected by the editorial managers. It proved to be an effective way of handling style queries.

Some of you will also have come across Microsoft’s SharePoint, which is a full document management system. SharePoint offers more advanced features than OneDrive and offers a much higher level of security to manage access and create work groups. It also allows you to create and edit directly using the cloud-based versions of the Office 365 tools and, as with Google Drive, you can edit collaboratively.

These storage and editing tools are probably the most familiar for us as editors, and the easiest to get to grips with. Most of us use Office, and will have some OneDrive storage bundled with that – so this, and by extension SharePoint, should have familiar features. Google Drive is quite user-friendly, but there is still a bit of a learning curve as you work out how to do various tasks. The systems described here are sufficiently common that there is lots of good support and guidance out there: just ask Google!

Person on a video conference call

Communication tools

Many of us have grown used to a range of communication-based collaboration tools, such as Zoom and Teams, since the pandemic. These use video, voice or text and can be used between individuals or with groups. I suspect the use of these types of tools will increase for freelancers, so they are an important group of tools to get familiar with. The two examples below – Teams and Slack – are both supported well by resources online.

Teams is part of the Windows infrastructure and is integrated into Windows 11. It aims to be a ‘teamwork platform’ by linking into other Microsoft tools like 365 and Outlook, so you have one place where you are working with others. It uses channels to create structure, so for a given project you will join a particular channel. Within this you can then have access to information – such as files, folders, calendars, chat channels, video conferencing – that relate directly to the project. This ability to create project-related online environments quickly and easily is one of the reasons collaboration tools have become so popular with businesses, and why, as freelancers, we need to be willing to learn to use them.

Like Teams, Slack organises information in channels, each of which has a group of users and focuses on a project or theme. Rather than traditional email, the main communication is via a messaging channel that can support quick ‘huddle’-type meetings using audio and video, and screen and file sharing.

Task and project management tools

Finally, I have looked at applications that are focused on managing tasks or projects, allowing a team to see what needs to be done and who is doing it. Three tools that exemplify the range available are Trello, Basecamp and Asana.

Trello is a useful tool for freelancers. Like my favourite task manager, Todoist, the collaborative features do not get in the way of its task management tools. Trello uses a kanban model of organising tasks where tasks (or ‘cards’ in Trello parlance) are moved between lists – typically to do, doing, done – giving you a quick visual overview of tasks. It includes lots of useful project management features such as calendar views, and you can attach files and notes to cards. In terms of collaboration, tasks can be allocated to team members, you can track progress and you can have conversations about tasks using comments. Trello’s boards can also be used to organise individual projects and focus on particular teams. It also supports ‘Power-ups’, which are integrations with other tools (such as Google Drive) to extend the capabilities of the system.

person using Trello on a laptop

Basecamp has a lot in common with Trello, but is built much more around supporting a team from the outset by enabling and organising communication between team members, and managing lots of projects within a small team. Each user has a dashboard that lets them see the projects they are involved with, their calendar and list of tasks. Clicking through to a project lets a user access Basecamp’s core tools: a message board (a bit like Slack’s threaded messages, focused on the project), a card table (similar to Trello’s boards, lists and cards), document and file storage space, to-dos, campfire (a space for more informal discussions and chats), and automatic check-ins (a way of quickly asking questions of a team; for example, doing quick status updates). Basecamp’s approach is built around making it easy for teams to organise their work and reducing the administrative overhead, which is what a good collaborative tool should do.

Asana offers a similar range of features to Basecamp but is focused on larger organisations. Describing itself as a ‘work management system’, it is intended to help juggle projects and routine work across a business. It has a lot of reporting features to support managers, as well as providing the Basecamp and Trello-type tools to allow individuals to organise their own work, or for a team to organise a project.

The range of collaboration tools and approaches clients take can be confusing, especially with so many available: so what do you do? I have found that although some do work well, many of them can feel very cumbersome for solely personal use. Using collaboration tools regularly, however, will help you to adapt if you are asked to use a particular tool as part of a project. Remember, though, the tools themselves build on good work habits: if you have those, then it doesn’t need too much change to adapt to using a different tool.

About Andy Coulson

Andy CoulsonAndy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of the CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising in STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by Christine @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash, person on a video conference call by Anna Shvets on Pexels, person using Trello on a laptop by cottonbro studio on Pexels.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Overcoming perfectionism

In this post, Harriet Power discusses some ways of thinking that editors and proofreaders can use to disentangle themselves from the pursuit of perfectionism.

Many of us editors and proofreaders are perfectionists. I’m one of them. But while I think we should care about our work and that high-quality work is important, the trouble comes when this shifts into beating ourselves up over our mistakes, or spending extra unpaid hours on a job to get it just right, or feeding the sense of inadequacy that comes from imposter syndrome.

Here are some of the ideas and ways of thinking that have helped me to relax a bit and become less beholden to perfectionism.

Humans make mistakes

We all make mistakes: it’s just a human trait, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s an important part of how we learn: by making mistakes through trial and error, we learn how to do better next time. (One of the worst mistakes I ever made in-house was to send a book to press without the author’s name on the front cover. WHOOPS. Thankfully the author accepted my heartfelt apology, and it wasn’t too big a deal for the publisher because it was a school textbook where the author’s cachet was minimal, but you can be sure I learned my lesson from that.)

Linked to the idea that we all make mistakes is the fact that as (human) proofreaders and editors, we can’t catch everything. Some things will inevitably slip through the net.

This is something that the publishing system acknowledges. It’s why there are so many eyes on a book: the copyeditor isn’t expected to catch everything, and neither is the first proofreader, and so on. If a human could do a ‘perfect’ proofread, and a typesetter could do a ‘perfect’ markup, then we wouldn’t need three or four or even five proofreading rounds.

I’ve worked on school textbooks in-house where there were so many pairs of eyes on them: a development editor, a copyeditor, reviewers, the authors, in-house colleagues, proofreaders, and there’d still be reprint corrections. At first this was dispiriting, but the fact it kept happening helped me to realise that mistakes are just inevitable and perfection is impossible.

Publishers aren’t paying for perfection

Publishers usually have to compromise on quality in some way and they do this consciously. They choose not to pay for a separate development editor and copyeditor, they squash the schedule, they cut budgets: they choose to make a book that is OK, or even good, but rarely perfect.

Often there’s just not the budget to pay for the extra work that would elevate the book to the next level, and I think publishers realise that for the majority of books, those extra hours aren’t worth the investment anyway. Because readers (generally) don’t demand or expect perfection, so it’s not worth the time, effort and money that it requires.

So if the publisher isn’t shooting for perfection, then you shouldn’t feel you have to either.

This wonderful article by Jeff Reimer puts it much better than I can, and is well worth a read.

A project is simply a project, neither a sacred trust to better the world nor a consecrated burden the publisher has placed on their shoulders to ensure the book is a masterpiece. A job is a job is a job.

woman reading under a tree

Readers are more forgiving (or less observant) than you think

Most readers are going to forgive or not even notice a few slips here and there, like the odd typo or clunky sentence or stilted line of dialogue.

I’m not saying that these things don’t matter at all – they do, and lots of them can accumulate to break a reader’s immersion in the novel, or make the how-to guide harder to read and understand. But a few slips here and there really aren’t the end of the world. Readers generally care more about the bigger picture, like whether the story’s any good or whether the text gives them the information they need.

This is something I’ve noticed when reading non-fiction books. Some of them have what I’d call significant flaws – issues that I’d try to fix as a development editor – like unnecessary waffle and repetition, unclear examples, etc. But these books still do hugely well and get 4+-star ratings on Amazon.

Maybe a good analogy here is a musical performance. A hard but important lesson to learn as a musician is that individual mistakes genuinely don’t matter (and half the time the audience doesn’t notice them anyway) – what matters is the overall performance. I’ve done performances where I’ve completely fallen off the tune, played bum notes, forgotten the chords and more, and people still come up afterwards and say ‘that was amazing!’ I think the same is true of reading a book: it’s the overall experience that matters. So don’t sweat too much over the small stuff.

Authors are allowed to write the books they want

This is something it took me a while to accept once I started working with indie authors, because previously I’d just been working in educational publishing, and educational publishers will usually intervene and rework a textbook if the author’s done a bad job (or has simply failed to write to the brief). But I think educational publishing is something of an outlier here and often it’s important to remember that it’s the author’s book.

When I first started doing development edits for indie authors, I think I had a tendency to go overboard: to try to make the book ‘perfect’ and in doing so bombard the author with tons of comments and things to fix. But I suspect this just overwhelmed them and I was asking for too much from them. So now I try to remember to rein my suggestions in. Because I can still help an author to make a book better, even if it’s not going to be perfect, and that’s OK.

The book is not (just) your responsibility

It’s the publisher’s responsibility, and the author’s, and the proofreader’s, and the typesetter’s, and so on. You don’t have to carry the weight of ‘perfecting’ the book on your shoulders alone.

Sign saying wisdom with perfectionism crossed out

Editing is subjective

If you give a manuscript to five different editors, you’ll come back with five different edits. This truism is something a lot of us freelancers hear without being able to witness it first-hand, but it’s something I’ve actually seen while working in the CIEP information team. If three of us in the team review a proof, we’ll all comment on different things. I don’t think that makes us better or worse editors than each other – it’s just that editing is subjective and we all notice different things.

The corollary to this is that we can’t all notice everything.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses

This is another way of looking at the idea that we can’t all pick up on everything. Every editor and proofreader will have some things they’re better at than others: that’s just a part of being human. We can’t be perfect, great or even good at everything.

I’m not great at the intricacies of grammar, I don’t know enough about the self-publishing process, and I really need to organise and formalise my workflows better. These are all things I’m slowly working on, but in the meantime I try to play to my strengths and do a decent-enough job otherwise, and make peace with the fact that I simply can’t be brilliant at everything. (And the positive feedback that I receive suggests that my clients don’t expect me to be brilliant at everything and don’t care that I’m not.)

Even regular people deserve to make a living

This freeing idea comes from Jennifer Lawler, who wrote this short post on LinkedIn about imposter syndrome. Never forget that even ‘regular’, far-from-perfect people (i.e. the majority of us) deserve to make a living.

Once I embraced the idea that I didn’t have to be special in order to deserve not to starve, it freed up a lot of mental bandwidth to do the work to the very best of my ability and not fret otherwise. Letting go of the idea that I have to somehow be A-MAZING all the time actually allows me to have a more realistic perspective on my abilities and to (so ironically) do better work.


I can’t claim to always follow my own advice, but I hope some of these ideas will help you if, like me, you think it’d be healthy to disengage somewhat from your perfectionism. If you’ve found other strategies that work for you, please share them in the comments!

About Harriet Power

Harriet Power develops and copyedits nonfiction books and educational materials. She is a commissioning editor for the CIEP information team, and a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.
Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header by Ann H on Pexels, woman reading a book under a tree by Pramod Tiwari on Pexels, sign saying wisdom with perfectionism crossed out by geralt on Pixabay.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.