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Why should editors and proofreaders attend the London Book Fair? Tips from two first-time attendees

This blog post discusses tips and impressions from two CIEP members attending the London Book Fair for the first time. Should you bother with all the seminars? Is it worth handing out business cards? And isn’t it all a bit overwhelming? Let’s hear what Aimee Hill and Andrew Hodges have to say …

Our first London Book Fair

It’s spring in the UK and the London Book Fair in early April was an energising way to start socialising in person again! This year was our first Fair, and we showed up not knowing what to expect. Even knowing how huge the event was, the size of the hall was still astonishing. Here are some tips and advice to help you navigate the event.

Aimee says …

Come with goals

Turning up to the London Book Fair with concrete goals is essential. Whether it is worth it depends entirely on what you want to get out of the Fair. And the whole event is so large and bustling that, without goals, it is very easy to wander around aimlessly staring at the rows upon rows of stands.

Find out who is visiting and meet them

Twitter is a great source for finding out who is at the Fair before you go. While I was there, I met up with some other editors I know, including Andrew Hodges, past course mates who had found themselves in the same industry, and in-house publishing people who I’d previously only chatted to on social media. It is a valuable chance to say a quick hello to connections.

Go to seminars that interest you, but don’t overdo it

The seminars throughout the event are invaluable. There are few better ways to get insight into the industry than the talks that LBF put on. If you work with independent/fiction authors, the seminars hosted at Author HQ give insight into the different concerns and interests of your clients. They are also all recorded, so you can catch up on the ones you missed and rewatch the ones you were too tired to pay attention to. Extra tip: if your goal for the Fair is just to go to these seminars, there are digital tickets that give you access to the recordings without having to trek to London.

Be emboldened to socialise

In my opinion, networking is just a fancy word for socialising. While the Fair is primarily a corporate, work-focused event, there is space for getting to know a diverse range of people across the industry. Informally, the queues for coffee are long enough that you are likely able to strike up a conversation with those around you. In a more organised sense, the Wednesday offers opportunity for drinks socials all over the fair. In particular, both the Society of Young Publishers and the Independent Publishing Guild provide space for people to get together.

Andy says …

First impressions

After all that online networking and professional development in a box room under the stairs, it felt amazing to be around people! I spent the first hour walking around grinning, dazed by all the stands and people there to discuss books. Was it smaller than usual? Was Author HQ normally three times the size? I had no idea, and I didn’t care. It felt massive and a bit ‘out of this world’.

When I described it to a friend, she said the book fair sounded like a political party conference: its core had a corporate feel, with people paying lots of money for stands … and with loads of interesting stuff happening around the edges.

There was a traditional publishing crowd brokering deals in a part of the Fair we weren’t allowed to access. I got a small taste of this when I met a representative from a German publisher promoting titles to be considered for translation into English.

The logistics

If you have a long train journey to get there, two days will probably be enough. Don’t forget to bring water and preferably a packed lunch. Chairs for visitors are in short supply, and as Aimee points out, while you can sit down to watch all the interesting talks, don’t overdo them as you may end up feeling fatigued!

Where should editors hang out?

Well, that depends on your goals. If you want to network with publishers, there are loads of stands to visit. My favourite place was Author HQ, where the indie authors were mostly hanging out. There were great talks on energising the writing process, publishing successes with Amazon KDP, and on making UK publishing less London-centric.

My experience in book translation inspired me to hop over to the literary translation centre too. Broadly speaking, the translators felt closer to academia and activism, while the indie author crowd were more entrepreneurial. Despite their differences, both crowds were bursting with creativity and a love of books!

ALLi’s tenth birthday party was a highlight, where I chatted with several indie authors. I learnt a lot about the relative merits of different publishing services and by the end of the evening we were discussing reversals and character development in short stories.

I was sad the CIEP didn’t have a stall at the Fair this year, but the pandemic is far from over and the decision to wait was sensible. I bumped into Alison Shakspeare and got chatting to Aimee Hill over coffee, and it was good to know there were other CIEP members there.

Is it worth it?

Was the LBF an investment that will bring me a return? In the narrow sense, I have no idea, and that’s not why I went. My reason for attending was to get to know and understand how publishing works a bit better. This wider-picture perspective will inform my future edits and interactions with publishers and indie clients.

And that’s why you should go – at least once.

The Fair has given me a taste for in-person events now, and a new-found energy. Next up is Cymera in June – bring it on!

About Aimee Hill

Aimee Hill supports independent authors with communicative line editing. She primarily works with science fiction and fantasy authors.

About Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges runs an editorial business called The Narrative Craft in Edinburgh, UK. He loves line-editing fiction and ethnography and enjoys chatting with science fiction and fantasy authors about worldbuilding and point of view issues whenever he can.

 

 

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.

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Photo credits: wall of books by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash, London Book Fair by Andrew Hodges.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

What do authors really want from their editors?

By Kasia Trojanowska

What motivates you in your job? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you open a manuscript you’re about to start working on? When sparring with an author client over points of style or the order of chapters, who or what is at the forefront of your mind? Is it the reader? The text? Is it your professional ego (however unacknowledged)? Or is it, perhaps, the author?

I’m going to be bold here and submit that success of any professional in any job comes down to the success of the relationships they can build. ‘Know your clients’ is being drummed into us as the single most important rule of business. Who are those clients? And what do they really want from editors they invite into their creative process?

Not long ago, I met with one such client group – writers. I asked them about their expectations and worries around working with an editor and, very generously, they responded. There was a lot for me to digest, not least one biting comment from an author feeling like they were just ‘a mark for additional income on the side’. Ouch! I hope none of my clients ever said that about working with me, I thought.

So let’s look at the feedback in a bit more detail. Several themes came through particularly strongly: collaboration, expertise, empathy and trust. Of those, the majority aren’t easily quantifiable. It’s hard to know after just one email exchange what it’s going to be like to collaborate on a book edit, which can take months. But I believe it is worth trying. In the authors’ words: ‘I’ve always wanted a collaborative effort with somebody honest and enthusiastic’; ‘I would prefer to have an active part in all decisions regarding editing’; ‘I would expect a partner’.

An interesting insight for me was that, perhaps contrary to what myriad self-publishing services would have us believe, the traditional publishing route is still the goal for many authors, even those just entering the field. For that, they need to impress the gatekeepers – agents and commissioning editors: ‘Agents can be very picky.’ A helpful steer is what they’d seek from an editor: ‘I would like to work with a well-connected editor who can help me get published’, ‘I think the editor needs to have an in-depth understanding of what agents and publishers require’ and ‘I’d want someone with … an eye on the market to … give [my work] its best chance of publishing success’. This type of service can come in the form of agent introductions, collaborations with various publishers or providing well-researched, well-grounded market advice. What that would mean for an editor is cultivating relationships in the publishing world: networking, learning the ropes (by taking part in seminars, webinars, book launches, author meetings), going to conferences and being aware of the latest publishing trends. It can add another string to your bow and quite an exciting one at that.

Perhaps less surprisingly, authors are also interested in the more down-to-earth editing know-how: ‘guidance on structure and plot’, ‘help [me] polish the work’, ‘make sure that the work is structurally and grammatically correct’, ‘an informed point of view’. These are all skills we learn by taking part in CIEP courses and other editorial training.

Then, there are the concerns of putting their work into the hands of another. These to me centre around that most intangible of qualities, trust. ‘How to find a good editor?’ was a theme that came through a lot in the comments: ‘finding the right chemistry and a mutual respect’, ‘I worry that I might get the wrong editor who won’t see the book the way I do’, ‘[I’d worry] that the working relationship wouldn’t be strong’. I feel these come down to what the artist Louise Bourgeois called ‘the final achievement … communication with a person.’*

When I shared with her that I was working on this blog, writer Lauren McMenemy responded with an elegant reflection:

‘The relationship between author and editor is almost as important as that between the author and their story. The editor is the one that can get the piece polished – not perfected – and ready to set free, which is the author’s goal. The delicate balance between helpful and pushy is one the editor must carefully tread, but we as authors must also be in a mindset to trust our editor and know that we’re both working towards making the piece the best it can be.’

Taking the time to understand our client and their needs, having clear terms of service (so that both sides know what to expect) and making sure they feel they can trust our editorial expertise are all at the heart of a fulfilling relationship with our authors. If you can top that up with advice about what can get an agent interested and what can help an author get a foot in the door and win them a publishing deal, you’re guaranteed a host of satisfied clients. And your professional ego will thank you, too!


*Cited in Siri Hustvedt (2017) A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, London: Sceptre, 27.

I thank Sutton Writers, who hosted me at their meeting in January 2020 and provided invaluable insights which inspired this blog. Lauren McMenemy is one of the group’s coordinators.

Kasia TrojanowskaKasia Trojanowska is a copy-editor, proofreader and text designer, an Advanced Professional Member of CIEP. She’s incurably curious about the world of publishing and is always looking for ways to be more helpful to the editorial and writer communities.

 


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Photo credits: Cogs by Bill Oxford; pencils by Joanna Kosinska, both on Unsplash

Proofread by Andrew Macdonald Powney, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Working with self-publishing authors: expectations and implementation

Self-PublishingIn this post, Sophie Playle looks at the practical elements of working with self-publishing authors.

Note: This post has been written with editorial professionals in mind. As with any type of client, it goes without saying that it’s important your skills are fit for purpose. This post doesn’t go into the foundations of training and finding clients, but instead looks at what an editor might consider when working directly with self-publishing authors.

1. Assessing the project for the right service

The number one thing to remember about self-publishing authors is that most of them do not know much about the editing industry. Their main job is to write, after all. They’re often aware that they need editorial help to self-publish professionally, but are not sure exactly what this entails.

Many writers will think they just need a quick proofread to catch any typos when the reality is that most would benefit from a development edit and a copy-edit first. These terms are often unfamiliar to writers, and since there are so many editors offering slightly different variations of the same service (which is also often called something slightly different), a little confusion can only be expected.

Communication is key with self-publishing clients. (Well, all clients, really!)

Ask what the client wants to achieve, and what they expect from your service. Take a look at a sample of the work – this is crucially important. Remember: there are no gatekeepers here, so the quality of work will vary greatly.

If you believe the client’s expectations don’t quite match what the project needs, open a discussion on why you think this, and how you can help.

Alternatively, if you can’t help – for example, if the client really needs a development edit but you specialise in proofreading – decline the work and point them in the right direction, whether that’s to an editorial friend who offers a different service, or to the SfEP directory of editorial services, or some other resource.

2. Assessing the project for compatibility of style

This might be most relevant to fiction writers, but in my experience many self-publishing authors are looking for an editor who ‘gets them’. They want to feel that the project that they’ve poured their heart and soul into, possibly over the course of several years, is in safe hands and that the editor isn’t going to mess it up.

An independent author doesn’t have the assurance of a publishing house that you’re going to do the best job. They only have their own assessment of you and your editing skills – based on recommendations and what they’ve gleaned from your public professional presence. They want to know they’ve made the right choice.

In fact, the client’s freedom to choose a compatible editor with whom to work is a benefit traditionally published authors often don’t get.

It’s in the editorial professional’s best interest, too, to work with compatible clients. For development editors, this might mean working with an author in your genre of interest. For a copy-editor, this might mean working with an author whose style you understand. There’s nothing more horrifying to a writer than to receive an edited manuscript in which the editor has stripped out all nuances of their voice.

Working with compatible clients means you can do your best work, and your client will feel they are in good hands.

How do you assess for compatibility? You might want to offer a sample edit – paid or free, that’s up to you. You might want to get to know your client and find out more details about their project through email or phone conversation before you commit to working with them.

There are lots of ways to go about this. The result should be that both you and your client feel confident that you understand each other.

3. Setting boundaries and looking after your client’s emotional needs

Self-publishing authors often require a little more reassurance and communication from their editors. They usually don’t have an agent or a publisher to answer their questions – they rely on you for your professional knowledge of the industry.

You’re often their main professional contact, and this means they have one burning question they want to ask you: ‘Is my work any good?’

I’ve heard varying opinions from freelance editorial professionals on whether or not we should pass judgement on a self-publisher’s work. Do we refuse projects if we think they are of unpublishable quality? Or should we simply do the job we’re being paid to do?

On the one hand, we are not gatekeepers. And whatever we say in response to this question would be purely opinion. (If I’d been asked whether 50 Shades of Grey would have been a success, I’m confident I would have said no!) We’re being paid to conduct a service, and so that’s what we should do. The rest is out of our control.

On the other hand, if a self-publisher asks for our thoughts or hires us for our professional skills, don’t we have an obligation to pass on our professional opinion? Isn’t that what they’re paying for? (Or should they only expect this if they’re paying for a critique?)

It’s a conundrum. There’s no right answer. My one tip? Make sure you communicate with your author. Don’t offer unwanted criticism (or unwanted mollycoddling), and let your author know your stance on the issue before you begin working together.

Be clear on your professional boundaries from the outset. You’ll be working directly with the creator, and this person will be emotionally invested in the project and possibly not have much experience of navigating the publishing world as a professional business owner (a hat self-publishers must decide to wear if they want to be successful). Clear terms and conditions are key. Look after yourself, as well as your client.

In summary, self-publishing clients have slightly different needs to other kinds of clients, and these should be taken into consideration. The main things to think about are whether they are commissioning the best service for their project, whether your editing style is best matched to their writing needs, and the emotional and professional boundaries you will address in the working relationship.

When it comes down to it, these are all issues of consideration and communication. I hope these pointers will help you and your self-publishing clients get the most out of your work together.

Sophie Playle profile photographSophie Playle, of Liminal Pages, is a freelance editor who specialises in fiction and often works directly with writers. For brownie points, connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. (Please note: No real brownies or points will be awarded.)

Proofread by Samantha Stalion.
Photo credit: kodomut

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

Originally posted in January 2015; last updated February 2022.