Editorial Tips for Authors – Scheduling Work

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I hate having to turn down editorial work for projects that really interest me. I’m lucky in that I only tend to work on projects I think will be interesting, but sometimes something comes along that makes me bite my knuckles and wail ‘NooOOooOOOoo!’

The reason I end up turning the project down? A full editorial calendar and because the author wants the edit started ‘immediately’.

Now, people … you’re just NOT going to get ‘immediately’.

Nope.

It’s not going to happen unless you’ve hit the golden hour when I’ve just finished a project and either my next one has had a schedule slide or I have nothing booked in. And even then you’re more likely to get a copywriting job accepted than a copyediting job because of the timescales involved.

time is money

It’s a sad fact of life. As an independent editorial consultant I have to book work in to a schedule that allows me a steady stream of work.

And it’s not just me. Every professional copyeditor you approach will have work booked in, often months in advance, so if you want to work with them you will have to plan ahead.

So what’s the best way to ensure you get to work with the editor of your choice?

Certainly don’t expect to finish your novel or non-fiction tome and hand it straight over to an editor. Here’s what to do to respect your work and bag your editor:

pen writing

  1. Write as well as you can.

Don’t take shortcuts and think that your editor will do it for you. Sure, we *could* do it for you, but only if you have a bottomless supply of cash. Think about it … if your writing is raw and needs a lot of work you’ll have to hire an editor (or editors) for an extended period of time that’ll work out very expensive. Of course, cost is a personal thing – what one person thinks is expensive, another may find reasonable or cheap – but why distance yourself from your work by getting someone else to do what you can do yourself?

winning business

  1. Finish your project

We can’t take on work that isn’t finished.

There’s no point in approaching an editor, hiring them, then sending emails saying ‘I’ve made a small amendment’ or ‘can you just replace this section’ or ‘I’ve reread and I don’t like these sentences, please change’ etc. etc. etc. Finish your work and stop the damn tweaking. Just stop. A writer is never, ever happy as there are always things that could be changed (I’m saying this as a writer, people). So make sure you’ve finished your project and that you’re happy with it. Make the tweaks before you send it to an editor.

clean up your project

  1. Clean up your project

Once it’s finished, go though one last time and give it another spell check, get your document ready for your editor and make sure you know what to expect from the edit. Visit my free resources page to download some PDFs that will help you get ready.

stack of documents, books, writing

  1. Send the whole manuscript

This is one of the things I know worries a lot of people. Don’t let it worry you: an editor will never steal your work. But please send your manuscript as a Word document, with no watermark, and not a pile of papers!

Once you’ve decided which editor to approach you’ll need to let them see your document. There are reasons we need to see the whole manuscript:

  • To give you a quote. The beginning and the end of any manuscript is likely to be better than the middle, so we like to see the whole thing.
  • To understand what the book is about, and allow us to see if we’re the editor for you. It may be that after seeing your document an editor will decide that you need a specialist in another area. For example, I read fantasy and sci-fi, but rarely edit the genre. As a writer you can become blind to aspects of the work – an editor will instinctively know if the subject matter requires another editor.
  • To make sure the book is ready to edit. With the best will in the world, sometimes an author needs a gentle nudge towards a re-write or another revision.
  • To work on it. Don’t try to send the work chapter by chapter. This isn’t how we work. Every editor has their own way of working, but it usually relies on having the full, finished manuscript to work on. I tend to give the manuscript a couple of ‘passes’ first to clean up the mechanical aspects of editing, then I start on the nitty gritty and work through the edit – doing this chapter-by-chapter is counterintuitive.

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  1. Talk schedules

Once you’ve approached, or decided to approach, an editor who works on your subject matter or genre you have to think about schedules – yours and theirs.

Forget ‘immediately’ and think about what’s best for your book. Are you willing to go with a less qualified editor who has no work booked in but who can start ‘now’, or wait until your editor of choice is free?

Understandably you’re on a high and want your book to hit the market, but soonest isn’t always best.

Here’s what you can be doing while you wait, and let’s admit it, a couple of months will fly by!

  • Set up your author’s website. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a top publisher marketing for you, the chances are you’ll need an internet presence. Find that domain name and get yourself a little website to let people find you.
  • Set up a marketing plan. Boring – perhaps. Essential – definitely. Whether you’re self-publishing or going with a small press, you’ll need a marketing plan. Figure out how your readers are going to find you. Where do they hang out? How can you get your name out there? A good marketing plan will help you to sell your book.
  • Get yourself on social media. Get out there. Build up the hype. Get known.
Get active

Get active – perhaps not this kind of active?

Once your book is edited its journey is only just beginning. Why not get active and sort your marketing out while you’re waiting for an editorial slot?

So forget the rush to get things done as soon as possible. Get yourself a strategy, get yourself an editor and talk to them. Work out a plan and stop being so damned hurried. Your project will thank you for it.

*****

If you fancy working with me email sara@northerneditorial.co.uk and we can talk through your project.

If Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters were editors

Eye red and black

 

Since October I’ve been fully booked up with work, and have been working more hours than usual. In fact, I ended up working over Christmas and New Year, which is something I rarely do (and I won’t be doing again in a hurry).

So enough of being serious … I’ve been binge-watching Buffy with my family to relax and unwind after a long day’s hard editing. And as I sit here on my new snuggle chair (hurrah, good riddance to my old, manky brown suite) I’ve written up a bit of a silly article for the new year.

TV

If you know Buffy you might relate; if you have never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, well,  shame on you … go and watch it now. Stop what you are doing, seek it out and come back here when you have ‘the knowledge’.

Ladies and gentleman – I give you … what happened to the characters of Buffy when they decided that saving the world from vampires was a bit too much, and set up their own editing firm instead.

Shelf of old books

The Master had been defeated (again) and the world was saved from destruction. But those pesky vampires and demons just wouldn’t quit. So the Scooby gang quit instead, and while Angel swanned off to LA (again), the gang set up shop in the old school library, hung up their sign and formed themselves into a company of editors – Esoteric Editorial (not to be confused with any non-Buffy universe companies of the same name).

Here’s how they got on …

Red pencil not quite a pointy stick

Buffy – She went in for the kill, hit the manuscript hard and took no prisoners. Forget empathy, this lady would tell it like it is and go straight with a stake to the heart of the writer.

Giles – A thoughtful editor, he would use all the books in his arsenal to make the documents as perfect as possible (although he might not exactly go with the times and remain a tad archaic). His subject specialism was demonology and English weaponry of the C15th­–C21st.

Xander – A bit slapdash with his editing, he’d start and get a little bit distracted. But he made great coffee.

Willow – Meticulous in her work, Willow would spend all day looking through the manuscript, then all night worrying that she’d make a mistake.

Cordelia – Not really bothered about the writing, she was more interested in making the document look good. Cordy was the perfect designer: forget the words, it’s all good just as long as they look pretty.

pretty gold book

Angel – All angst and looking off into the middle distance, obviously he did the night shift and got those last minute jobs done … from his office in LA, away from the temptations of the library.

Oz – Would spend all of his time being very laid back and cool, then, a few days a month, would accidentally eat the manuscript and have to explain to his client that the dog ate his homework.

Faith – She’d skim it over, toss the document back and say it’s fine.

Kendra – She’d just sit in a corner with Mr Pointy, avoiding the men.

Spike – Would tear the manuscript up and tell the writer that they were an arse. Or just pour a drink on it and set it on fire.

Drusilla – Would look at the work, find something wrong then get upset and go play with her dolls instead.

burning magic book

Anya – It was all about the money with Anya … get the work done quickly and get the money (how else can you buy pretty things?). She was also the firm’s accountant and made sure the women received the same pay as the men.

Jenny Calendar – Well, she would do it all with computers and tried her hardest to figure out just why computers can’t do everything.

Jonathan – He tried to design a robot to do all the work for him. He’s probably still in the basement

Dawn – Eventually she would pretend that she was just a figment of the writer’s imagination and refuse to do the work.

Joyce – Would deny that anything was wrong.

Principle Snyder – Would occasionally barge into the office, point out all the errors, recite all the rules of grammar and writing and would make sure you knew exactly where you went wrong and how to fix it. Now.

Riley – Who cares. Really? Does anyone even remember him?

book as memories

So there you go … the Scooby Gang as editorial types.

Who says articles have to be serious?

 

 

With thanks to team Donaldson for some of the ideas. I’d write more but I’ve got more Buffy to watch.

Why Words Can Kill Your Business (And What To Do About It)

Words on a cafe wall

 

Your business thrives on words.

Ok, you might think I would say that, being an editor and all, but stop for a minute.

How do you get your message across to your clients and customers?

Fabulous, eye-catching images and words. Lots and lots of words.

Your words define you and your business.

Business words

Your brand identity is defined by the words you choose.

Your company culture is defined by the words you use.

Your customer focus is defined by the words you use too.

 

Words can entice, excite and entertain. Or they can confuse, alienate and drive away business.

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Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: bad writing can kill your business.

For example, how are your emails being received?

Email communication

The problem:

You don’t get to the point.

The point gets lost in jargon.

The point gets lost in meaningless drivel.

The emails are so long getting to the point that the reader loses the will to live.

The solution:

Don’t worry about getting straight to the point. Your recipient probably has a million and one things to do other than read your mailing. Lower the chances of them hitting the delete button by telling what you need to tell in a straightforward, professional manner.

Ditch the jargon, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If your recipient is unsure what you mean they’ll delete. Use plain language. No one ever complained about easy to understand emails.

Stop the waffle. Seriously. Just stop it.

Avoid the tl;dr culture. If you have a special offer, let your recipients know sooner rather than later. If you have something to tell them that will benefit them, tell them at the beginning. If your emails are so long they aren’t going to be read, split them up.

contact us emails

Top tip: If you find that your business emails are taking up too much time, they’re being binned before they’re read and are not giving a return on your investment – simplify the process by spending time creating templates that you can reuse. A few hours of template writing will free up your time later on and will make things so much easier for you … just remember not to leave in dummy text!

But it’s the same for all your business writing.

Your website is your virtual shop window. It’s also a way to talk to your customers and make them feel valued. Common business writing mistakes that will lose you customers and cost you money are:

Spelling mistakes

Incorrect information

Broken links and bad navigation on your website

Complicated language, jargon and inconsistencies

Information overload

As well as all the points I noted above.

Brochures, flyers and advertising material, along with your website and business communication, need to be straightforward and to the point, without forgetting that your customer is your main focus.

Here’s how you fix it, and make your business words work for you:

  writing for business

  • Take your time and really read what you’ve written. Seek out spelling mistakes and fix them, and if you’re not good with words, hire someone who is. Spelling mistakes and sloppy writing will lose you business. Seriously.
  • Take time to write your business information. Research, draft, write, read, rewrite, read, rewrite again if you need to. Don’t just write something and stick it out there (unless you’re writing very quick, to the point, blog posts that don’t pretend to be anything else).
  • Focus on your customer, not yourself. Make things as easy as possible for them. Use words they will enjoy reading, and words that are not overly complicated. Using plain English is NOT dumbing down, it’s making your writing as easy as possible, for as many people as possible, to understand.
  • Don’t tell your customers too many things all at once. Let them digest each nugget of information before they move on. And give them the choice to know more – don’t force it down their throats. Use separate pages for each area of your business.

There’s a reason that copywriters and editors exist. You may be a whizz at your business, an engaging entrepreneur with fabulous ideas, or a nuts and bolts trader of essentials, but you may be rubbish at writing. Hey, not everyone is good with words. That’s why we train to be good editors and writers. I’d make a rubbish entrepreneur.

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While your business thrives on words, try not to make mistakes like these:

The online wine shop I happened upon in my search for a fizzy German wine made from strawberries (a favourite of mine back in the 1990s when Safeway stocked it for £1.99 a bottle!), where well-known varieties of wine were spelt incorrectly. I left without purchasing. I never did find that wine.

The local restaurant who advertised in our post office, on the little TV screen that blinks at you as you’re waiting to send off your parcels, and who couldn’t spell the name of the street they were situated on. Probably wouldn’t affect trade that much, unless someone who wasn’t local was trying to find the establishment, but it’s just sloppy.

The well-known department store that accidentally missed out a digit and sold an expensive necklace for only $47. Huge mistake, which was honoured before anyone twigged what had gone wrong.

The British bank that right now has a glaring typo on their home page. I won’t put up a link as hopefully it will have been rectified by the time this post is made live. Let’s just say there’s a Northern Santa who doesn’t like surprises, but a dictionary should be on his gift list. People, respect your business and we might respect yours.

So, if you want to make the most of your business, keep potential customers engaged and have them return for more here’s what to do:

Seek out, locate and destroy spelling errors.

Keep things simple and avoid jargon unless it’s needed and expected.

Use plain English wherever possible.

Respect your clients by investing in your businesses writing.

Write for your clients, not for yourself.

Take time over your content.

And if you need professional help find a copywriter to write your content, an editor to help you polish your content and a proofreader to give it that final check.

It’s not as expensive as you may think, and good content is key to a successful business.

Contact me if you think I can help your business to thrive.