Author Archives: marketing

There’s more to being a proofreader than the ability to spell…

In 2017, to celebrate the launch of our three-level suite of proofreading training courses, the then SfEP (now the CIEP) ran a competition to ask people what they had discovered about the profession of being a proofreader and why training for the role is important. Our winner was Stephen Pigney, who was making the move from academia to launching his business as a freelance proofreader. Here is Stephen’s winning entry.

Wiser now than I once was, I make this confession of former folly: for a long time I believed that proofreading required little more than the ability to spell and punctuate, a sound grasp of grammar and a hawkish eye for detail. A text, a red pen (most likely of a metaphorical and digital kind) and someone reading and correcting the text: this was the image my mind conjured up of proofreading. The process was, I supposed, simultaneously interesting and mechanical. Perhaps it is natural to imagine unfamiliar professions in simple ways; no doubt many consider an aptitude for quick thinking and persuasive argument sufficient to make a lawyer. If such misconceptions encourage ventures into a profession, then they are not without merit. We all have to begin somewhere, and simple-minded confidence is not the worst place to start. So it was that, self-assured about my abilities and knowledge, I forayed into proofreading – and soon learned that I knew far less than I had imagined.

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I discovered that there is more to proofreading than meets the eye. I had been mistaken to think only of a proofreader’s relationship with a text, for I had missed how the proofreader stands at a crucial intersection between different people. The eyes of a hawk are not enough; the proofreader needs to see a text as an author, a typesetter, a publisher or a reader sees it. Proofreading is a delicate art of facilitating communication; it consists of honouring and respecting an author’s voice, a typesetter’s skills, a publisher’s vision and a reader’s needs; it requires precision, judgment, tact and informed understanding. Texts are complex artefacts, embodying language, ideas, creativity, design, meaning and (frequently) commercial intention – and this is before they take on life in the hands and minds of their readers. In the process that begins with an idea and ends with a publication, the proofreader has, perhaps uniquely, both an intimate relationship with the text and a connection with each interested party. Yet – and this too must be learned – the ideal proofreader must strive for invisibility: proofreading is noticed not when it is done well, but when it is done ineptly or badly.

‘…proofreading is noticed not when it is done well, but when it is done ineptly or badly.’

There has been much more I have learned: how to follow a brief; how to mark a text; how to work with various formats; how (and when) to raise a query; how to use style guides. I became familiar with numerous resources and how to utilise them; I became acquainted with typographical and publishing conventions, with workflow, schedules and project management, and with the role played by budgets and timescales. And I learned how different texts have varying requirements and present distinct challenges. A marketing brochure, a retailer’s catalogue, a local newsletter, a scholarly monograph, an illustrated book, a blog post, a glossy magazine feature, a novel – all have their own characteristics, demands and potential complications.

A gradual accumulation of experience has contributed to my growing knowledge. Above all, however, I have benefited from training. Good training (such as that offered by the SfEP [now CIEP] or PTC, with their extensive resources, expert tutors and industry recognition) is about professionalisation. I did not so much learn this as have it confirmed: fortunately, when I set out to establish myself as an editor and proofreader, I had the good sense to put training at the heart of my plan. It was through training that my understanding of the proofreader’s role deepened; it was through training that I learned skills and best practice; and it was through training that I became familiar with a wider range of texts than I would have encountered through practice alone.

Acquiring, improving and reinforcing skills and knowledge is reason enough for my professional vision to focus on training – especially given the rapidly changing and digitally evolving world of writing and publishing. But there is much more to training than this. To join a training programme is to connect to a body of knowledge, practice and experience; it is a gateway to recognition, status and a community. It is also about building and strengthening self-confidence. As a freelance proofreader, endeavouring to manage and grow my business from scratch, robust training has given me the confidence that I can develop the skills, expertise and flexibility necessary to enhance my reputation, market myself successfully and, most importantly, provide an exceptional proofreading service. This is why training has been and will remain important to me: it constitutes the fertile foundation from which my business can flourish and my practice can excel.

Stephen PigneyStephen Pigney is a former (although still part-time) academic historian. After many years of occasional proofreading and editorial work, in 2017 he set up his full-time editorial business (stephenpigney.wordpress.com). As well as editing, he enjoys thinking and writing about many topics, and even pens occasional fiction. He is based in London.

 

Posted by Margaret Hunter, marketing and PR director

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

 

Originally published May 2017; updated June 2021.

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The makings of a successful conference

By Margaret Hunter

Birmingham city centreWell, the SfEP 2016 conference is over. Editors and proofreaders across the land (and beyond) are catching up on sleep, trying to remember what’s on their to-do lists and enthusiastically writing up reports on their blogs. We’re striking while the iron’s hot and putting some of that learning into practice by writing five-year plans, testing out some new macros and even trying to get better at ‘selling’ ourselves and developing positive self-worth.

It was a really great conference this year! What made it so good? Other members of the SfEP have already praised the excellent session presenters and keynote speakers, the great venue and food at Aston University, and importantly each other for being open to sharing and discussing and generally being lovely people.

I’d like to give a shout out too – and a big thank you – to our sponsors, exhibitors and raffle prize donors. Let’s face it, how many of us usually take any notice at all of the list of sponsors printed on the back of our conference folder, or the various flyers tucked inside? It’s easy to go into automatic ad-blocking mode. Occasionally some offer or useful resource might catch our eye but sometimes they don’t seem to be all that relevant or interesting.

The thing is, at this year’s conference delegates DID notice – and appreciate – our sponsors and exhibitors, which is fantastic, and as it should be.

I lost count of the number of times I heard people say that PerfectIt is one of their essential editing tools. If you don’t know what it is, get someone in your local SfEP group to give a demo. You won’t look back!

The lovely people from Out of House Publishing not only sponsored us but also ran a well-received session on the current state of educational publishing and how editors and proofreaders fit into the process. Did they panic when half of the intended panel couldn’t make it at the last minute? Not visibly – they just got on with it, adjusted their presentation and gave us all lots of food for thought.

One organisation doing great work that some of you may not have come across is the Book Trade Charity. It exists to help anyone who has worked in the book trade in times of need. Kat Trail says she had a lovely chat about the charity’s work with its chief executive. For example, the BTBS can assist people who have been made redundant from publishing firms or are otherwise struggling financially, such as helping with deposits for flats, grants for training and so on. It also has its own housing complex, The Retreat, for ex-book trade folks. Well worth supporting!

A constant plea heard on the SfEP forums is ‘How can I get my first paying jobs?’ If you want clients to find you then you need to be findable. Our friends at Freelancers in the UK offer members of the SfEP a generous third-off discount on a listing in their online directory. For £20 a year it’s a no-brainer – get yourself listed!

A familiar face at SfEP conferences, Ann Kingdom represented our sister organisation the Society of Indexers. A common message in many conference sessions was about reaching beyond your comfort zone, challenging yourself to expand your business and move into new areas beyond core proofreading and editing. Indexing is a skill that would suit many of us, and it’s a professional skill that we want to see thrive and survive. Could that be your next challenge?

We’re all used to raffles where the prizes seem to be the unwanted items won at the donor’s last Christmas party. But not so the SfEP raffle! Every prize was fantastic, including books by keynote speakers David Crystal, Lynne Murphy and Susan Greenberg, books by session leaders, a copy of PerfectIt, and a fabulous prize of a two-day InDesign course donated by Certitec. Wow!

As if that weren’t enough, what really got people talking was the AMAZING goody bag from Cult Pens (‘The Widest Range of Pens on the Planet!’ – and I think we had a fair selection of those in the bag!). Just check out the Twitter feed mentioning @cultpens! Said one (normally entirely sensible) experienced editor:

This fab goody bag makes up completely for the hours I have spent every August in Asda, WH Smith and other venues spending loads of money on pens for CHILDREN. These are MY PENS.

Cult Pens goodby bag at SfEP conference 2016Some free pens and books may seem like a trifling thing, but our sponsors’ generosity made people feel good. And that all added up to make this one of the best SfEP conferences yet. Roll on 16–18 September 2017 at Wyboston Lakes – put the date in your diary now!

Margaret HunterPosted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Banishing the marketing heebie-jeebies – conference session preview

By Louise Harnby

If you’re a new entrant to the field of editorial freelancing, and you’re attending this year’s SfEP conference in Aston, I hope you’ll join me and my co-presenters Liz Jones and Sue Littleford at our speed start-up session: Things newbies need to know. Together, we’ll be rattling through some top tips to help you with three pillars of editorial business building: finance, pricing editorial work, and marketing. I’ll be handling the marketing section.

banish doubtI know that business promotion gives many newbies the heebie-jeebies, and so, with that in mind, I’ve based the presentation around the questions that I’ve been asked most frequently by anxious marketers-to-be. In this way, I hope the session will be as much about what I think you should know as what you think you want to know!

I want the session to be as accessible as possible, so I’m throwing in a couple of promises, too – there’ll be no marketing jargon and you needn’t have any prior experience of business promotion whatsoever. It’ll just be me talking to you – one editorial freelancer to another. If you hear me utter words such as ‘utility’, ‘drill down’, ‘marginal’ or ‘basis of segmentation’, you have permission to throw things at me!

So what are those frequently asked questions?

  • What is marketing? I don’t have a clue where to start!
  • What do I say? How do I structure my marketing message?
  • What promotional tools or activities work best?
  • How do I get noticed and stand out from the crowd?
  • Should I promote myself as a generalist or a specialist?
  • How do I combat my marketing nerves?

Using those questions as my guide, I’ll provide you with one definition and five frameworks to banish those heebie-jeebies and provide you with a structured way of developing your editorial marketing strategy with confidence and even, I hope, a little excitement.

There’ll be a handout, too, that includes a summary of what’s been discussed and a list of useful additional resources to help you on your editorial marketing journey, including the latest combined edition of my business books, Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus (all conference attendees will be entitled to a one-off 20% discount voucher for use against a purchase of the PDF).

Liz, Sue and I will be presenting on Monday, 12 September 2016, between 1.30 and 2.30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there. [There are a limited number of conference places left if you haven’t booked yet, but do it soon!]

Louise HarnbyBased in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader with 24 years’ publishing experience. An Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), she specializes in providing proofreading solutions for clients working in the social sciences, humanities, fiction and commercial non-fiction. Her customers include publishers, project management agencies, professional institutions and independent writers. Louise is the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour and the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers, Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, and Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus.

Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Editorial project management: what, who, how?

By Hazel Bird

project managementAn editorial project manager (PM) can have a lot of control over how a book turns out. As such, project management can be a rewarding and enjoyable way for experienced copy-editors and proofreaders to expand their editorial horizons. For less experienced copy-editors and proofreaders, it can be beneficial to have an understanding of everything that PMs juggle when working on a project. But what does project management involve, who does it, and how does a copy-editor or proofreader get started on the path towards working as a PM?

What is project management?

In publishing, project management refers to the tasks involved in overseeing the journey of a manuscript from the end of the writing process to printing and/or electronic publication. However, within that broad definition, there is great variety in what a PM might be asked to do. Tasks may include some or all of the following.

Dealing with freelancers and other suppliers:

  • arranging for a manuscript to be designed, copy-edited, typeset, proofread, indexed, and converted to electronic outputs
  • creating briefs for each person carrying out the above tasks
  • maintaining a list of freelancers and suppliers
  • giving feedback
  • approving invoices and making other financial arrangements.

Dealing with authors and other stakeholders:

  • keeping everybody and everything on schedule
  • attending project meetings
  • keeping stakeholders updated
  • negotiating solutions when problems arise
  • sourcing and checking permissions.

Taking overall responsibility for quality and consistency:

  • sourcing or chasing missing content
  • collating corrections, arbitrating where necessary
  • checking that corrections are made and managing any knock-on effects
  • maintaining a project-specific style sheet and/or ensuring a house style guide has been consistently applied
  • checking artwork
  • problem solving – both by anticipating issues and fixing unexpected blips.

Who does these tasks?

Traditionally, project management was almost entirely carried out in house. However, changes in the publishing industry mean these tasks are now sometimes sent out to freelancers and other entities. Other changes have led to entirely new roles being carved out.

  • In-house person: Some publishers still keep all project management tasks in house. Others might keep certain aspects (e.g. creating a typespec or design; sourcing permissions) in-house and engage an external PM to manage copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, and indexing.
  • Freelance project manager: A freelance PM may be briefed by an in-house editor to do some or all of the tasks above. The PM may work with a high degree of independence or may work closely with the in-house contact, who may be managing other aspects of the project simultaneously (see previous point). A freelance PM may also be the copy-editor, proofreader, or typesetter of a project.
  • Packager: Often a typesetting company, a packager usually manages large numbers of titles for publishers, often fairly independently after an initial workflow has been agreed.
  • Copy-editors and proofreaders: Increasingly, copy-editors and proofreaders who work with self-publishers are finding themselves doing – or deliberately setting out to do – tasks reserved to PMs in more traditional publishing workflows, even if they’re not providing a full project management service. For example, they may do the copy-editing themselves and then arrange for proofreading. Alternatively, independent authors often want an editor who can provide a whole package of services, right up to uploading the final files and helping with details such as Amazon author pages.

How do I get started?

Becoming a PM requires a lot of experience and knowledge, and excellent organisational skills. While publishers who hire PMs will almost certainly have their own comprehensive workflow documents for you to follow, it’s still important to have sufficiently broad experience and training to enable you to properly plan a project and manage issues as they arise; as the above list of tasks implies, project management is a lot more than following a checklist.

Butcher’s Copy-Editing (UK-oriented) and the Chicago Manual of Style (US-oriented) both contain a great deal of general information on readying a manuscript for publication. In terms of training, the Publishing Training Centre (PTC) runs courses on digital project management and editorial project management, and these can help to boost confidence in one’s skills. You can also get training in Agile and PRINCE2 qualifications (not specific to editorial work but recommended by editorial PMs Emily Gibson and Zoe Smith).

There is no single way to find project management work, just as there is no single way to find copy-editing or proofreading work. Advertising in the CIEP Directory or another professional directory may lead to clients finding you, though many PMs seem to enter the field via a chance encounter or incrementally through offering additional services to existing clients. Experience in house isn’t essential, but it does seem to be common.

Project management work can be rewarding in terms of the breadth and depth of involvement it allows. And, even if you don’t aim to offer a full project management service, it’s still beneficial to be aware of what it involves.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird is a project manager and copy-editor who handles over 5 million words per year, mainly in the academic humanities and social sciences. She started out managing encyclopaedias at Elsevier and went freelance in 2009. When she’s not editing, she is generally roaming the Mendips or poring over genealogical documents.

She blogs at the Wordstitch blog and tweets as @WordstitchEdit. Find her at ciep.uk/directory/hazel-bird and wordstitcheditorial.com.

Posted by Margaret Hunter, CIEP marketing and PR director

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

Specialist Q&A – Secondary science: editing chemistry

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Sarah Ryan is a freelance copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialism: secondary science – chemistry.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I started out working in Germany as a scientific editor on two chemistry journals. Here I used my chemistry knowledge and learnt editorial skills on the job. After five years I moved to the UK for a job in educational publishing. After seven years in-house I went freelance.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I started work in educational publishing in 2001. In 2008 I went freelance and it was then that I mainly started working on science books and resources. I have a chemistry degree so that was why I chose science editing, and why I often ended up with the chemistry projects.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

Editorial experience, plus in-house or publishing courses, would be the starting point. I have a chemistry degree and PhD and these were useful to get into the area. Once working in the area, one job will often lead to the next. A science teacher with editorial skills is another way to go.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

Most educational publishers use freelancers for the editing and proofing work (and for other work too sometimes). I have built up contacts at several publishers, and I gain repeat business that way. I also approach publishers on a regular basis if things are looking quiet. Once in this area, it does tend to be busy and I often regrettably end up turning work down. Science publishing happens in waves, and if you know when these are (by checking publishing or educational websites), you can time a speculative request for work for when there is work to be done.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I love working with authors and there are several I have worked with for many years through many curriculum changes. I enjoy the variety that even a niche area can bring. I have worked on books, podcasts, videos, teacher files to mention but a few.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

All of the publishers tend to be publishing to similar deadlines so it can be a bit feast or famine. It also means a lot of repetitive projects – six revision guides all at the same time, followed by three A level text books!

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

Nothing stands out as a worst job, but the worst jobs generally are the ones with the tightest deadlines and when the manuscript is not in as good a shape as you were led to believe. Editors often need to make up the time lost by late delivery by authors so sometimes I am left feeling that the book is not as good as it could have been. Best jobs are the opposite, or working with a really imaginative and talented author.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Know your chemistry. Most of the people who work on the project will not be scientists so it is important to pick up the science errors. Also, don’t expect it to be all about the science – a lot of the time I am preparing artwork lists, filling in meta data sheets and not much actual science at all!

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

The pay in educational publishing compares favourably with other areas of publishing – it is OK. Science editors are appreciated and this can end up paying better than other areas with less specialism.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

Sometimes people get so caught up in the subject they retrain as a teacher! There are also writing opportunities, sometimes for electronic projects. And schools publishing is expanding all the time with many more opportunities in online publishing.

Sarah RyanSarah Ryan is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP and has been in the publishing business for 20 years (I were a mere babe in arms back then). Moving from academic chemistry to school science has been an opportunity to stay working in an area I enjoy while staying close to how science is being presented to the next generation.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Specialist Q&A – oceanography and medicine

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Cathryn Primrose-Mathisen is an onscreen copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialisms: oceanography and medicine.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

Following university, I worked for Fugro GEOS/OCEANOR for 14 years. I was involved in metocean measurement and real-time monitoring projects, holding roles such as project/sales manager in Trondheim, operations manager in Houston, and senior oceanographer in Singapore. I also completed many fieldwork visits, installing and servicing instrumentation on moorings and offshore platforms, as well as reporting the results and presenting them at conferences. I worked with very different clients, such as oil and gas companies, governmental organisations and universities. In terms of medicine, when I was younger I used to work in the summer holidays at the health centre where my mother worked as a GP.

I have been freelance copy-editing/proofreading for about six years. I specialise in science, technology, business and medicine. I have copy-edited numerous scientific articles both pre- and post-submission to journals, and I have copy-edited books about, for example, climate change, marine ecology, earthquake engineering, international relations and clinical diabetes. Over the past five years I have worked with a local doctor providing English language review of his PhD thesis as well as articles that have been published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and the BMJ.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I have specialised in these areas for most of my freelance career. Initially, I took The Publishing Training Centre’s ‘Basic proofreading by distance learning’ course and joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I marketed myself as a proofreader, emphasising my academic qualifications (MSc Oceanography, BSc (Hons) Geography) and the subject areas I studied at university (climate change, palaeoceanography, geopolitics, culture etc.). It soon became clear that I was a more natural copy-editor and that I had a broad range of both academic and commercial experience. A couple of my proofreading clients asked whether I would like to do some onscreen copy-editing work and it grew from there. I studied Barbara Horn’s Copy-Editing and decided to supplement my knowledge of MS Word by taking the SfEP’s ‘Onscreen editing 1’ course. I plan to take the level 2 course when I can.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

A sufficient academic grounding enables you to know whether the flow of a text is correct for the fields in which you specialise, helps you to communicate with the authors, and helps you to spot obvious mistakes. My master’s degree has helped me to obtain projects, but it is not a prerequisite for all clients.

One of my best commercial clients contacted me specifically because I had spent a great deal of time working offshore on oil rigs. They knew that I was familiar with the stringent health, safety and environment procedures found there. Similarly, one of the PhD theses that I copy-edited last year was about project management, and the client contacted me because of my previous commercial experience.

A close family member has diabetes type 1 and uses an insulin pump. The system is similar in many ways to the real-time metocean monitoring systems that I installed for Fugro, and we troubleshoot it in the same way.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

I started by approaching some of the larger academic publishers and replying to job announcements sent via the SfEP. Over the years I have built up my experience and have maintained a good relationship with my clients, leading to repeat work.

I upgraded my SfEP membership so that I could obtain a directory entry and have received some good leads from different types of clients in this way. I have also experimented with other directories, finding some more suitable than others.

My aim is to continue to expand my commercial base. I have attended the SfEP’s ‘Getting work with non-publishers’ course, which has helped me to clarify my goals. I will soon be working with a local business mentor to help me build my business network in the cities closest to where I live, and I have also joined my nearest chamber of commerce (Norwegian equivalent of). Last year I attended the Aqua Nor conference in Trondheim, Norway, and this year I will be attending the Oceanology conference in London. I am fortunate that our local business development organisation Bindal Utvikling AS is providing some financial support.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I enjoy being able to make use of my university and work experience to help clients from around the world. I particularly enjoy copy-editing articles about data collection during fieldwork and the subsequent presentation and analysis of results.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

Cross-referencing many pages of tag numbers proved ‘interesting’, but I found that the key was to develop and apply a clear and logical sequence of actions.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

The worst job I had was really two and this was very early on in my freelance career. I naively accepted two large proofreads that overlapped and I did not anticipate delays with the first one. This led to very long days and nights.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Do not overestimate your potential earnings. Also remember that you may not be able to focus properly for more than about four to five hours a day on a long-term basis.

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

Pay from my commercial clients is generally higher than from my publishing clients. I aim for balance in my work and family life, and I enjoy going for a walk in the hills at lunchtime.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

Over the next few years I will increase the marketing of my rewriting and website copy-editing skills. I shall also continue to reach out towards the aquaculture industry, where my skills and experience can also be used.

I have recently completed my own print-on-demand book of landscape photographs and have used design software to compile a recipe booklet for fundraising for a school class.

Cathryn Primrose-MathisenCathryn Primrose-Mathisen is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in science, technology, business and medicine for everyone from individuals to multinationals. Following a successful commercial oceanographic career around the world she now lives in Norway and helps others to acquire more customers, sell more products and services and/or present clear safety and technical information or scientific results. She walks wherever and whenever possible. Find out more at: www.cathrynprimrose.com, www.sfep.org.uk/directory/cathryn-primrose-mathisen and www.linkedin.com/in/cathrynprimrose

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Christina Harkness

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Beyond the proofreader’s remit?

By Liz Jones

When proofreading materials for book and journal publishers, we are not always presented with a thorough brief and there is often a tacit understanding of what the role of the proofreader includes … and what it does not include. The CIEP sets out some commonly understood responsibilities of the proofreader and the copy-editor in the traditional publishing process. However, it’s apparent that these roles are becoming increasingly fuzzy in the academic publishing world.

In 2015, a discussion arose in the SfEP forums on the thorny topic of whether a proofreader should check references in an academic book as a matter of course, and exactly what that checking should entail. The original poster referred to a proofreader being expected by a client (an academic publisher) to cross-check a reference list against the in-text citations. Many experienced editors weighed in on the debate, and gradually a consensus emerged. The general understanding was that such detailed checking of references should be part of the copy-editor’s role, not the proofreader’s. In an ideal world the proofreader would then simply need to read the reference list, checking for small inconsistencies of styling or typos. Several posters said they would perform spot-checks of a few citations during such a proofread to ensure that the reference list seems to be in accord with the main body of the text. It was also pointed out that it is certainly not the proofreader’s job to check the factual accuracy of references, or even that authors’ names are spelled correctly.

work stressThe problems start when a proofreader finds (perhaps through performing spot-checks) that the references have not been properly edited, or that other errors are present, perhaps as a result of formatting. In more extreme cases the proofreader may suspect that the text and associated references have not been copy-edited at all. In this case, the proofreader is presented with a difficult choice:

  1. They can carry out the proofread as briefed and within budget, but without doing any work that might be considered beyond the remit of the proofreader. The proofreader knows that some errors are likely to remain, but decides it is not their responsibility to make the text perfect, and is not willing to reduce their hourly rate to compensate for shortcomings earlier in the publishing process.
  2. They can go beyond the standard proofreader’s remit in order to bring the book up to a publishable standard. This means the proofreader carries out a proportion of what might be considered ‘higher-level’ copy-editing work, while being paid as a proofreader. It may also entail significantly more time being spent on the job, reducing the hourly rate still further.

Neither of these solutions is ideal. As editorial professionals we tend to be hard-wired to want to help the client produce excellent work … but at the same time, as business owners we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

What should make a proofreader wary?

Sara Peacock, former chair of the SfEP, provided examples of the problems she sometimes encounters as a proofreader:

  • None of the citations cross-checked against the references list.
  • References wildly inconsistently presented, with lots of missing information.
  • Bullet lists inconsistently presented, in terms of capitalisation and punctuation.
  • Figures not correlating to text in terms of style and sometimes content, or the text referring to coloured portions when the figures are reproduced monochrome.
  • Inconsistent capitalisation in headings.
  • Lists of what is to come in the text not corresponding with the text that actually follows.

These are clearly the responsibility of the copy-editor, but as a proofreader, we do not know the reasons behind problems we may find with copy-edited text.

Experienced editor, trainer and long-standing SfEP/CIEP member Melanie Thompson made the point that errors might be ‘potentially down to problems of the files not being imported correctly (tracked changes carrying across by mistake) … Could the author have been given back the [copy-edited] file and undone a lot of the good work? And then of course there’s the possibility that the publisher/client never had the material copy-edited in the first place …’

Veteran editor and SfEP member Kathleen Lyle pointed out that ‘one problem is that things can happen to the references in the gap between copy-editing and proofreading – for example, an author may decide to add some new references to bring a chapter up to date. Depending on the publisher’s workflow this new material may be dealt with in-house and not be seen by the copy-editor; this could well cause discrepancies of style or content between text and list. As a proofreader I’d expect to pick up discrepancies of style in the text or list, and cross-check any strange-looking items.’

From these comments alone it is clear that text may appear badly edited for a number of reasons, including lack of time and budget, or technical glitches. There is also the possibility that the copy-editor lacked training, or tried to get away with providing substandard work due to other pressures. It is also a fact that many in-house editors and project managers are very pushed for time and may not be able to closely monitor and assess the work of all their suppliers on every job. (I say this as a former in-house editor.)

What can we do?

If we find ourselves presented with poorly edited text as a proofreader, there is a third way (beyond the stark dilemma presented above).

First, we can establish the brief. Gillian Clarke, trainer to many editors over several decades via the SfEP and the PTC, said simply that ‘it is hugely important to establish from the very beginning exactly what the client wants’. This can help at whatever stage in the process we are working. If the client hasn’t provided a clear brief, consider sending them your own checklist of tasks covered by proofreading (and not).

Assuming that the brief is clear, you can then try the following if presented with text from a publisher that needs a lot more attention than a straightforward proofread.

  • Assess the work: Does the budget cover what you need to do? Is it within your capabilities in the time allowed? If the answer to these questions is yes, and the job is fairly self-contained, you might decide in that case simply to get on with it and provide feedback for the publisher along with delivery of the completed work.
  • Raise the issue: If the budget and schedule do not allow for satisfactory completion of the job, or if you feel the work goes beyond what you are comfortable doing – in short, if there is any reason why you think a job is not possible within the given parameters – tell the client straight away, and wait for their response before proceeding. If they don’t answer first time, try again – this is important.
  • Ask for more money/time: If the client can offer more of either or both, the issue might be resolved in the short term, enabling you to complete the job.
  • Adopt a pragmatic attitude: If the client will not budge on money or the schedule, and you decide to proceed with the work, be strict with yourself about what you can and can’t do with the available resources, make sure the client is aware of this, do the job and move on.

However you deal with the job, you should make it clear in your handover notes to the client what the editorial shortcomings were when the project reached you, and what you had to do as a result. Be clear and matter-of-fact about the ways in which you needed to go above and beyond in order to complete your work, without making assumptions or personal attacks. You need to do this because the client might otherwise remain unaware of the issue. However, you don’t need to start telling them what to do with this information.

Questioning clients and (re)negotiating rates can be daunting, especially for newer proofreaders and editors. It’s also tempting for proofreaders just starting out to go above and beyond to try to impress new clients and secure future work. This is where discussion in the SfEP forums, on other online platforms or with your local group can help enormously.

Summary

This really all boils down to the simple question of whether the proofreader should have to compensate for inadequate copy-editing. It’s the client’s budget or yours – something has to give.

However, it also has wider implications for our industry, perhaps most pressingly in the academic publishing sector. A lack of investment in careful editing by trained professionals may help publishers balance the books in the short term, but the eventual outcome will surely be a drop in the overall quality of output, and a growing reluctance among the more experienced proofreaders to work for certain clients at all, which would surely be much more detrimental in the long term.

Next controversial topic: how far should a proofreader go in checking an index …?

Liz JonesLiz Jones (www.ljed.co.uk) has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade non-fiction and educational publishing, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

 

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

The SfEP became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) on 1 March 2020.

Originally published November 2015; updated June 2021.

Who would contact your clients if you died?

By Luke Finley and Laura Ripper
This is a fully collaborative effort, but Laura did more of the research and organisation and Luke more of the writing up, so when ‘I’ is used it refers to Luke. Anything in quotes was contributed by others in one of the many discussions we started on this subject.

We’re all going to die!

That may not come as a surprise to many of us, but it’s not something we like to dwell on. That’s probably why the topic jumped off the page when I read the workshop handouts from the 2015 SfEP/Society of Indexers joint conference.1 I’m usually fairly organised, but here was a major piece of advance preparation that I’d never even considered.

Discussions online (including on the member forums: https://forums.sfep.org.uk/read.php?2,81561) led to an ever-growing list of considerations that many of us had avoided facing up to, but among the slightly sheepish admissions were a few impressive people with clear and practical plans in place.

Further research revealed a wide range of advice and online resources for putting together what one contributor dubbed DEATHnotes. We can’t hope to cover every aspect of this can of worms here, so we’ve gone for DEATHnotes for Dummies: a summary of the most pertinent questions and practical steps, with some pointers to further information and advice.

The ‘why’

If you haven’t made these kinds of plans yet, you might wonder how necessary it is. For most of us, our priority is how we want our grieving loved ones to deal with our mortal remains and share out our stuff. But if we don’t leave instructions about business matters, it’ll probably be the same grieving loved ones who have to deal with the fallout. Major tasks like informing a bank or mortgage provider may be on their radar already. But would they know, or think to ask about, who provides your web hosting or exactly which company you were actually working for when you said ‘I’m doing a copy-edit for Taylor & Francis’?

Then there’s the question of professionalism. Most of us work alone; there’s no colleague, line manager or admin support to pick up our unfinished tasks. Even if you’re so pragmatic and unsentimental that you’re not concerned about your own reputation after your demise, you could argue that the reputation of the wider profession (and the CIEP) is well served if it’s the norm to have contingency plans in place.

The ‘what’

Nominating a responsible person

Even if you’ve made plans, is a family member the best option? Leaving them with this task at a difficult time ‘might not be the kindest thing to do’. And ‘what happens if you’re in an accident together?’ Is your next of kin IT-literate? Do they understand your business processes in detail? As one person pointed out, ‘a fellow editor would be in a better position to help [my clients] by recommending someone to finish the work or pointing them towards the SfEP Directory’.

A trusted friend or colleague may be a fairer, more practical option. Many of us have working relationships with other editors, often working on similar types of material, who may be ideally placed to take over work or find someone else who can. If you don’t have a trusted friend or colleague, or don’t want to burden them, the site MyLawyer (https://www.mylawyer.co.uk/) suggests using an accountant. If you use one already, they’re likely to be familiar with your business.

The key thing is to identify someone. If you don’t, it may be left to the legal folk to figure out. They’ll do it slowly (no help to your current clients) and expensively.

Plan what information you need to pass on

As a minimum, this is likely to include:

  • Client contact details. Is it clear who your contact is within a firm?
  • Current and forthcoming projects. Is your record of these linked to contact details? Are regular clients included?
  • Passwords. It doesn’t matter how organised your records are if no one can get at them. Do you have a separate record of passwords and usernames for your PC, website, cloud storage, directories, email accounts, social media accounts and password-protected documents?
  • Advertising. Your SfEP Directory entry, entries in other directories, business Facebook page and other social media profiles could continue to bring new work in if they’re not taken down. Some sites have processes you can set up in advance: for example, see Facebook’s Legacy Contact options (under Security Settings) and Gmail’s Inactive Account Manager.
  • Detailed preferences. For example, what do you want to happen to your online presence? For many of us these days a large part of our lives is lived online. Simply having it all deleted might suit some people, but most people will have slightly more complex wishes than this.
  • Financial information. This includes outstanding invoices, payments received for work not yet done, and possibly money owed. A comprehensive spreadsheet storing this information alongside contact details and current projects is worth the effort. (There are some good templates online which you could adapt, such as Louise Harnby’s: http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog-the-proofreaders-parlour/editorial-annual-accounts-template-excel.)
  • In what order? For example, you may not want clients to find out by reading a message on your website before they’ve been told personally.

Keeping it up to date

MyLawyer suggests reviewing the information you’ve prepared regularly, but this sounds like one of those chores that always gets pushed to the bottom of the list. The more you can tie things in with the job-monitoring or invoicing systems you use already, the better.

The ‘how’

As well as deciding what you want done, you need to consider how to make sure it’ll all happen smoothly.fire safe

Storing and retrieving the information

Store your DEATHnotes separately from any instructions for retrieving them, and keep both somewhere secure. You don’t want a notice pinned to your office door with ‘Burglars – start here!’ splashed across it. But someone needs to know where it is, otherwise it could be months before they crack your filing system or locate the papers you carefully hid behind a disused filing cabinet in a room marked ‘Beware of the Leopard’ (to misquote Douglas Adams).

Suggestions for storing retrieval instructions included:

  • regularly reprinting or emailing them to someone else
  • keeping them on a non-networked, non-password-protected computer that others can access
  • using an old-fashioned notebook
  • simply telling the responsible person where to look.

Approaches to storing the detailed information ranged from comprehensive spreadsheets or mind maps, to a few key pieces of information on a whiteboard or stuck to the fridge. One thoroughly prepared contributor has ‘a fire safe with all my important documents in it’, along with ICE [in case of emergency] documents containing instructions covering personal and business matters.

MyLawyer recommends writing a ‘letter of wishes’ with detailed requests about winding up your affairs. You can update this easily and cheaply, without needing to involve a solicitor – but make sure your will mentions the letter so people know about it.

Information security

There are two levels to this. First, you need to make sure the information survives after you’ve gone. The fire safe suggestion is helpful if it’s a house fire rather than a collision with public transport that carries you off. If your information is stored electronically, ‘making use of the cloud’ will get round the risk of your laptop going under the wheels with you.

Second, you need to think about the risk of information falling into the wrong hands, even while you’re still alive. One contributor suggested using ‘an encrypted storage facility’. Password-management programs (see http://lifehacker.com/5529133/five-best-password-managers for some suggestions) automatically generate passwords more secure than anything you can come up with, and you only need to keep track of one master password. The security implications of writing this one password down anywhere that’s accessible to others are worth bearing in mind, though.

There’s always a balance to be struck between ease of access and security of information. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable with here, but some of the links below may help.

Testing it out

A trial run of procedures with your responsible person, making sure they understand and can navigate your filing systems, is worthwhile. (For added realism, you could put ‘Police line – do not cross’ tape across your office doorway while you carry it out.)


In short

  • Keep clear records. They have to work for you in the present, but if they’re too idiosyncratic they won’t help others in the future.
  • Choose the right person for the job. Make sure they know what they’ve agreed to.
  • Write a letter of wishes setting out how your instructions should be acted on. Refer to it in your will.
  • Review the detailed information and the letter of wishes periodically or whenever your circumstances change.
  • Put the time in now. We all hope our disaster plans will never be needed, and many won’t, but if you can tie in this advance planning with effective business systems, you might save yourself time and effort in this life, too.

What next?

There were many aspects of this topic on which people wanted more information or support. Some of these point to a possible future role for SfEP (and comparable professional organisations). Any of these might make a good subject for future blogs, for starters:

  • a template document or process for members to use
  • a sample letter of wishes
  • a way of storing ICE contacts for member
  • a toolkit or practical guide
  • more advice on emergency planning for a variety of worst-case scenarios, for sole traders and for limited companies
  • more advice on managing your ‘digital footprint’
  • what’s the client’s perspective on all this?
  • what happens if it’s the client who dies?

It’s clear that there is no one best way to approach this. We hope this overview acts as a catalyst and starting point, and that the links below help you get stuck into the detail. Ultimately, it’s a matter of deciding what fits best with your way of working, the nature of your business and clients, and whoever will be dealing with them after you’ve had your date with the double-decker.

Useful links on succession planning

Notes

1 The question was posed by SI member Jane Read during her session on ‘Having a good relationship with your clients’.

Laura RipperLaura Ripper (www.lauraripperproofreading.com) began working as an editor in 2004, and has been freelance since 2012. She specialises in plain English and is a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

 

Luke FinleyLuke Finley (www.lukefinley-editorial.co.uk) set up Luke Finley Editorial in 2013. He works for a wide range of clients but specialises in social policy. He is a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

 

Proofread by CIEP Entry-Level Member Susan Walton.

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

Originally published October 2015; updated January 2022.

Taking editorial tests for clients

By Liz Jones

editing testsSometimes a prospective client will ask you to complete a test, either in competition with other editors for one ongoing editorial position, or for admission to their pool of regular freelance editors. Opinion is divided among editors about the usefulness and ethics of these tests. Should we be required to take them? Is it something of an insult if we can otherwise demonstrate that we have the necessary experience and skills? And is it a waste of our valuable time … or is there perhaps more to it than that?

Although I am rarely required to take tests for clients (most of my work is repeat business or comes via recommendations), I am sometimes asked to complete one if the client is completely unknown to me, or if the work requires particular skills that can only be seen in action.

For instance, I recently completed a test for a client I had approached about an ongoing copy-editing position. It turned out to be quite a palaver – the test itself was absolutely reasonable (in fact I thought it was a very good test), but to be able to complete it I had to install the latest version of InDesign (until that point I was deluded enough to believe that I had the latest version). This, it turned out, also entailed updating my entire operating system. I also needed to buy the Kindle edition of a well-known style guide, and do my best to absorb the relevant parts of it in the time available. Finally, I had to learn a few new ways of using my freshly updated software in order to complete the test.

Was it worth it? Well, I hope it secures me the work, but even if it doesn’t on this occasion, I don’t begrudge the time I spent. Here’s why.

Benefits of taking tests

As I hope I have just demonstrated, taking a test for a client can be a very useful form of CPD. I certainly learnt things, many of them about software that I have been using regularly for the last ten years, and I have a shiny new operating system. It was interesting to work on a particular type of material, some aspects of which were a departure for me. I also learnt aspects of a style guide that is new to me – though it reminded me very much of one that I already knew, which helped. Above all, the thought of someone looking critically at each and every editorial decision I made focused my mind on trying to get it just right. In an ideal world I would approach every job with this level of intensity.

Aside from the CPD aspect, editorial tests can be a great way in for new freelance editors. If people ask me about the best way to find work when starting out, I often recommend that they seek out clients who require them to do tests. If you get as far as taking the test, and pass it, this can negate the need to provide a long list of experience, which can obviously be a barrier for those new to the profession.

When to be wary

Personally, I wouldn’t be happy to take a test for every prospective client. I would rather know as far as possible that I definitely want to work for the client before putting in the time required to do a test properly. There’s also a limit to how long I am prepared to spend on a test. A length of a thousand or so words is OK. Ten thousand words is too long, in my opinion. I don’t think a reasonable client would ask me to take a test that took up more than an hour of my time.

Finally, I would want to be sure that the test is a genuine test. This has not happened to me (probably because of the nature of my client base), but I am aware that some editors have been sent a section of a longer work as a test … only to discover that others they know have been sent different sections. One suspects that some unethical authors might think it possible to get an entire work edited for free in this way.

How to approach a test

Not everyone likes tests, but there are ways to make them less painful. Take your time to read the instructions provided. It’s clear that if you ignore these, you won’t impress, but more than that – the instructions can provide valuable clues about what the client wants. Are there specific points of style mentioned? Do they want you to provide an idea of the time the test took to complete? Do they want you to quote for the work?

It helps to become as familiar as you can in a short space of time with the existing output of the client. Do they have similar material published on the web? If they do, this is incredibly useful in terms of understanding the tone to aim for when editing; it can also solve a few style riddles.

Finally, try to forget you are doing a test. Easier said than done, I know. But once you get into the rhythm of the work, try to enjoy it and just do the best job you can – as if you were editing for your favourite client, on a topic you find fascinating, at a fabulous hourly rate, on a really good day. You probably won’t achieve this state of being until the end of the extract (especially if it’s only a thousand words long).

For this reason, and others, do check over your work again at the end. And again. I don’t always read things multiple times when I edit in real life – it depends on the parameters of the job – but for a test, I certainly will. This is your one chance; try not to blow it. You’ll probably find that the first half of the test piece is not as good as the second, and can be tightened up no end with another pass.

What to take away?

Well, of course, you hope you get the gig. But whether you do or not, I hope I have shown that a test can be a positive and useful experience in various other ways, too.

Liz JonesLiz Jones (www.ljed.co.uk) has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade non-fiction and educational publishing, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

 

Proofread by Sandra Rawlin.

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

Top tips for healthy home working

By Lisa Robertson

A year before I wrote this post, I had a desk-based job in a busy, open-plan office. Phones were ringing, people were chatting, and there was always somebody getting up to make a cuppa. I’d march up and down the office to go to meetings or to look for someone on the top floor of the next building. In fact, it’s amazing I actually got any real work done.

Since making a career change and going solo, I’ve been particularly obsessive about monitoring my working time. Of course, this is really important for paid projects. But I also keep track of time spent on reading, forums, training, marketing, admin, etc. If I get side-tracked or go and put the kettle on, the timer stops. I know that the time I record is now all ‘real work’, as opposed to the distraction-filled days I had in my previous working life.

But is this really a good thing? I only work a couple of days a week at the moment, so I try to cram a lot into that time. I find that I am now sometimes sitting at my desk for longer periods of time than I should be. My eyes struggle to adjust to the outside world when they stop focusing on the computer screen. My legs need a good oiling before I can get up again. So, although more of my time could now be counted as productive, that’s not necessarily the whole story. Taking those little walks at lunchtime or allowing myself to go and load the washing machine could be of benefit to my overall productivity as well as my health.

About a month ago, I worked some long hours on an intense project with a tight deadline. I knew I was doing myself damage, but it was only for a few days and I just had to get through it. I couldn’t take proper time out, so I decided to experiment with something: every time I got up to make a drink or to go to the loo, I jumped up and down 50 times to get the circulation going again. Needless to say, this was a ridiculous idea (especially if done on the way to the loo) but it got me thinking: I really need to factor in some distractions – particularly physical ones – as this no longer happens as naturally as it did in the open-plan office.

I put out a plea on a then SfEP (now CIEP) forum and there was a great response. Here is a summary of top tips from fellow members for healthy home working:Dog on rollerskates

  • Get a dog. This was overwhelmingly the most popular distraction people recommended on the forum. Dogs are friendly company, they take you on compulsory walks and (apparently) they can sit on your feet when you’re working in the winter. My cat is not quite so accommodating.
  • Work flexibly but be disciplined. Undoubtedly, one of the perks of self-employment is flexibility. But that flexibility needs control, so we must be disciplined about how we use it. If we are early risers and are able to get things done by lunchtime, great; but we must remember to take the afternoon off and not be tempted to log on again later. If we are tied into the school run at 3.30, we can spend a few quality hours with the children and maybe catch up later. It has to be each to their own, depending on workload, personal preferences and home circumstances, and we must each take the time to think about what works for us, ensuring we have sufficient downtime.
  • Get physical. Whether it’s a swim, a run, the gym or a walk with the dog, a physical break is the perfect contrast to all the hours we spend being sedentary. One member on the forum confessed to running up and down the stairs in her block of flats for a break, and now one of her neighbours has followed suit. Maybe my jumping up and down idea wasn’t totally ridiculous, after all.
  • Stay hydrated. This is one that I do abide by. Staying hydrated keeps me feeling alert and less lethargic. It also means I need to get up from my desk more frequently, either to make a drink or to go to the bathroom.
  • Look after your eyes. Timing and length of breaks away from computer screens is not set down in law, although it is certainly advised from a health and safety perspective. One SfEP member sets 90 minutes as a strict maximum; another uses an online tool (http://protectyourvision.org/), which badgers you every 20 minutes to take a break. The Health and Safety Executive advises to:
    • Stretch and change position.
    • Look into the distance from time to time, and blink often.
    • Change activity before you get tired, rather than to recover.
    • Take short, frequent breaks, rather than longer, infrequent ones.
  • Look after your back. Similarly, regular breaks will help you care for your back. The HSE also advises on desk setup, which will help with posture and alignment. Two forum respondents highly recommend the Alexander Technique (alexandertechnique.com/) to help ease the strains we put on our body by sitting down at a desk for long periods of time.

Maybe reading this has tempted you to head out to the gym or visit the local kennels. But if that’s not your thing, think about what is. Whether it’s baking, ironing, shopping, having a coffee with friends, or something else, make sure you look after yourself.

Thank you to everyone who contributed on the forum. The full thread can be viewed by CIEP members on the Off topic forum: https://forums.ciep.uk/read.php?13,81989

Lisa RobertsonLisa Robertson set up Editwrite in April 2015, after working for a local authority for over 14 years in various children’s services planning and commissioning roles. She offers a range of editorial and writing services, including document writing consultancy. Her specialist areas are children’s services, the public sector and charities. www.editwrite.co.uk

 

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