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.

5 Pros and 5 Cons of Hiring an Editor

pros and cons of hiring an editor

When you’re a writer at some point you’re going to have to decide on whether to use the services of an editor or not.

There are writers out there who pride themselves on ‘not needing an editor’, and there are those who will always set aside an editing budget in their publishing schedule. But there are many writers who are unsure what editing entails and whether it’s really needed or not.

So how about looking at the pros and cons of hiring an editor?

looking at a book

Five advantages of hiring an editor:

1. An unbiased critique

When you hire an editor they’ll tell you, in a professional and unbiased manner, what works and what doesn’t. Family and friends won’t want to hurt your feelings, and beta readers may feel the same. They may skirt around certain issues for fear of offending, or they may not want to tell you that your book just doesn’t read well. Reviewers of books that you give away for free may feel that they want to give a positive review in return for the book.

There are many reasons why you may not get a thorough critique from your friends and beta readers or reviewers. A professional editor, whether carrying out a full developmental edit or a copy edit, will let you know, gently but firmly, if something really doesn’t work. They’re not only looking at the book from a professional viewpoint, as readers they’ll also want your book is as good as it can be.

Pad of Paper and Pen

2. A professional, easy to read document

When you have your book or document professionally edited, all those problems that you’ve failed to spot will be addressed by your editor. When we write and edit ourselves there are things we miss no matter how many times we go through the document. And that’s true for editors who write too!

A structural edit will uncover plot holes, pace that is too slow (or too fast) and other ‘big picture’ problems. A copy or line edit will eliminate bad grammar, spelling errors, badly constructed sentences and suchlike.

When your document has been edited your authorial voice will still be intact, but the words will flow and the reader will enjoy the experience more than with a raw, unedited manuscript. We all have word ticks, bad habits and, on occasion, sloppy writing. An editor will sort these out for you.

glasses highlighting a book

3. A chance for better reviews

You’ve put your heart and soul into your work. You’ve spent months writing your masterpiece. Why risk snarky reviews? Readers pick up on those spelling mistakes you’ve missed, the plot holes and the inconsistencies and some delight in telling the world.

A professionally edited book will lower your chances of a bad review. You will never make every reader love your work, but you can stop those reviews where ‘Mr P of Plymouth’ spots that the character’s eyes changed colour midway through the book, or the book switched from UK to US spelling in the final chapters.

thumbs up, great service

4. A better chance of being traditionally published

With so much competition out there it can be hard to be noticed by agents and traditional publishers. Even if an author bypasses a structural edit, a copy edit will make your manuscript more polished and less likely to end on the slush pile without a second glance. An edited manuscript won’t guarantee success, but it will show that you value your work and respect the agent or publisher enough to submit something of quality.

bookshelves full of books

5. It sets you apart from the rest

The majority of self-publishers still think that getting their friends, family and readers to edit their book is a good idea. Entrusting your book to your old friend who is an English teacher may seem like a no-brainer, but nothing can beat a professional job by a professional editor. Having your book edited is an investment in your writing future. It shows you are serious about your writing and you value your readers.

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Five disadvantages of hiring an editor:

1. It’s tough getting critiqued

You need a thick skin and a certain detachment. Every writer dreads getting back an edited or critiqued document – it’s your baby, you want to think it’s perfect.

The fact of the matter is, very, very, few books are perfect. There will be corrections, even if it’s just spelling, grammar or the odd clunky paragraph. When you get a manuscript back from an editor you need to have a quick look, put it down for a little while then, when you are ready, go through it page by page in a calm, matter-of-fact way. Leave emotions behind if you can and know that at the end you will have a much neater piece of writing.

editing proofreading publishing

(c) Nic McPhee Flikr

2. You may feel that your work is no longer your own

Writers love to write and, unless you are collaborating on a manuscript, the work is yours and yours alone. But you might think that once an editor starts to suggest changes that you are no longer in control.

This is where a good author/editor relationship comes in. Remember – any changes to a document are suggestions. You remain in control and although it might be unwise not to follow through with changes made by your editor, if you want to leave something then that’s totally up to you. It’s still your work, even when you work with an editor.

And don’t worry about confidentiality. A professionally trained editor would never do anything with your work other than what has been agreed upon. Your writing is safe.

loneliness of the writer

3. It’s difficult to know what kind of edit you need

Unless you work in the publishing industry or have hired an editor before, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Luckily there’s plenty of help available out there – I’ve written on the types of editor you need, as have a number of my colleagues and professional societies. You just need to take the time to do your research and perhaps ask other authors about the types of edits they have found useful. If in doubt, social media is a wonderful thing … find editors online and chat with us.

What type of edit do you need

4. It can be difficult to find an editor

Once you’ve decided on the type of edit you need, you need to find an editor. Now, it’s not actually that difficult to find an editor. There are loads of sites out there aimed at author services, but quality, and price, varies.

The best way to find an editor to suit your needs is to look for one who is professionally trained and who works in your subject area. There are editors who will happily work on anything but, if your budget allows, you may find it better to look for one who specialises in your subject, or has in-depth knowledge. Look in professional directories such as the one here for the SfEP.

Do your research. Look at an editor’s background and qualifications. See if they are a member of a professional society that vets their editors. Talk to a few editors you’ve shortlisted to see if you are compatible. It takes time to find the right editor, but when you do you can have a great, long-term relationship.

good communication

5. Editors don’t come cheap

It’s true.

There are many out there who work for content mills and will work cheaply. Some may be excellent at their job and have valid reasons for their low fees (they desperately need the work, or they’re new to the business or they need to build a portfolio), but there are many unqualified ‘editors’ out there who haven’t been trained to edit properly. Unfortunately, at the moment, anyone can call themselves an editor and set up in business.

As with many things, you get what you pay for. A professional edit may be expensive to you, but it may not be to another author. And there may be more than one round of editing needed. But if you are looking for a professional edit, look for a professional editor with training. You may choose a newly qualified editor over a more expensive, established one, but expect to pay a professional price for a professional job. You will need to budget for this.

broken piggy bank

When it all boils down to it, what’s good for one writer may not be so good for another. There are pros and cons to having your work edited, but most of the disadvantages are ones of time and perception. It does take time and effort to find the right editor, work through your manuscript and budget properly, but if you are serious about your writing a good editor can make a huge difference to your work.

 

Musings on the SfEP 2017 conference

SfEP Conference 2017

I wasn’t going to write about the latest SfEP conference.

For the past few years I’ve attended the conference, come back all enthusiastic and waxed lyrical about how fabulous it all is.

But you know what? I am going to tell you all about it, because, well, an SfEP conference shows just how a conference should be.

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Conferences in the past were, for me, spectacularly dull, staid affairs with a lot of blah, blah, blah and very few friendly faces. Everything was very professional but very matter-of-fact and, well, boring.

SfEP conferences, on the other hand, are welcoming, largely informal affairs with lots to learn. Friendly professionals mingle with each other during breaks while searching for coffee or the occasional short-term bid for freedom.

It’s something I look forward to now and would really recommend for every editor and proofreader.

So … this year … I’ll give you the pro and cons. Just to prove that is isn’t always a bed of roses.

bed of roses

I made my way to the get together at Wyboston Lakes, just off the A1 and not far from Cambridge.

Pros: Brilliantly easy to get to. I totally enjoyed my tootle down the road, singing along to my favourite songs and listening out for my new satnav app (don’t worry, it was totally legal, hands-free and away from touchies). Mind you I didn’t actually need the satnav … Wyboston really was just a straight line down the A1 for about 200 miles!

Cons: It rained, and the service stations on the A1 are pretty shit.

traffic in the rain

When I got there the venue was easy to find. Time to unload the car and go to register my presence.

Pros: Who should be there, outside the door, looking glam and unflustered? None other than the lovely Louise Harnby! There’s nothing better than meeting a friend and having a welcome hug when it’s raining and you’re slightly out of your comfort zone.

Cons: The wifi went wonky while we were there. No Tweeting! No checking Facebook. But you know what? I used my data allowance when I had to. No biggie.

welcome sign

Now I could go over the conference in tiny detail, but for the sake of your sanity I should probably just take a few snapshots. We started as usual with the AGM. It must have been the shortest AGM in SfEP history – even the new rates for next year raised few eyebrows. We all ran away pretty quickly for some R&R before drinks and dinner (although some of us, 15 to be precise, descended on Janet’s room for pre-dinner jollity). After dinner our table came third in the pub style quiz. Not the pub quiz, as we weren’t in a pub (come on, we’re a bunch of editorial types, it has to be right). A good time was had by all.

Sunday, and I started the conference off with a quick breakfast (I just don’t do mornings … the extra half-hour in bed was worth it). Oliver Kamm opened the conference with a wonderful talk. I can’t actually remember it in great detail, but it must have been good as I bought his book.

Oliver Kamm, Accidence will happen

Workshop 1 – Phil Mulryne’s session on script editing.

He concentrated on TV script editing and this was the talk I’d been looking forward to most. I’d actually spoken with Phil a few months beforehand. He works for Drama Republic and really knows his stuff and how to communicate that to a room full of editors.

Pros: It was a really interesting, engaging talk with lots of real-life examples of great editing. Having in the last few years been taught to write, as well as edit, scripts I soaked up all the information and thought it was a brilliant start to the weekend. I also now realise that I have to watch both the first and the current series of Dr Foster.

Cons: One of my dreams has now been crushed under foot. I realised that I live too far away from anywhere to ever have the hope of working as a freelance script editor (I’m also probably about twenty years too old). I had to face the facts that I will never be able to commute to a production company and work on a TV script. Don’t weep for me, I’ll live. It’s fine. Really.

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Session 1 – John Espirian’s talk on websites

I love John’s talks. He is such a generous human. He manages to impart knowledge without coming across as a ‘know-it-all’. But secretly I think he might actually know it all. I know my website isn’t working to its full potential, so I thought I’d sit in on this session and learn.

Pros: I learnt a hell of a lot. I took notes. I now have to implement those notes, get case studies, think about an email list (that’s probably never going to happen) and focus on my brand identity.

Cons: I now have to implement those notes, get case studies, think about an email list (that’s probably never going to happen) and focus on my brand identity.

light bulb moment

After John’s session I actually managed to fit in two productive things during the one-hour coffee break (and didn’t have any coffee). We had a meeting of the new SfEP Ambassadors (of which I’m one) and I nipped into a session on upgrading membership. I’m most of the way towards gaining Advanced Professional membership of the SfEP, I just need to get the hours together. If you want to help me get my hours up contact me about your project (see John, a call-to-action on my blog!).

Session 2 was all about getting the most from directory listings, something that’s quite useful for freelancers as we need to be visible to actually attract clients. I’m so grateful to Andrea Kay for giving up her space for me and swapping sessions. Now I’m not in a lot of directories, perhaps I should be (my SfEP directory listing is here, thanks for asking), but the workshop was very useful.

Conference programme

Sunday night saw the Gala Dinner, on THE best table with Beth who coordinated the conference. We had lots of laughs and were in the best position to hear the Linnets sing (editors can sing too!), listen to David Crystal give another wonderful after-dinner speech (I never get bored of listening to this brilliant man) and see Louise Harnby win the Judith Butcher Award for her ‘highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership’. Well deserved it was too, she’s marvellous.

well done

Monday started with Workshop 2 – Emma Darwin’s ‘Working with fiction and creative non-fiction and their writers’. Now this was a refresher for me, but brought up some interesting new slants. I loved Emma’s psychic distance exercise, and will probably use it in my own writing. It’s good to listen to different speakers talk about the same subject – just as every reader will have a unique reading experience, every workshop brings something new to the mix.

Session 3 – Lightning Talks. Lightning talks are fun. I love listening to people talk for five minutes on a diverse range of subjects. Highlights for me this year were Howard’s talk (who knew Elvis was so eloquent?) and Abi’s look at office spaces. I’ve always wanted a white, minimalist, office space with flowers for colour emphasis and shelves of tidiness (never, ever going to happen). Oh, and I did a talk myself on cartoons, which seemed to go down ok.

How a cartoon course saved my sanity

Loulou Brown’s biography workshop (session 4) was the other talk I’d really been looking forward to, and was the last of the conference. I’ve worked on a few biographies this year, and it’s one of my favourite types of book. I love biographies and autobiographies. Loulou has worked on so many I was fascinated. I’d love to be like her when I grow up.

Pros: The whole talk was wonderful. Plus I came away confident that my work on biography is clear, concise and knowledgeable. She also emphasised the point that unlike other editing work, biography can be all consuming and takes a lot longer. I do find myself underestimating the time it takes to work on this type of material, so I now know that this is normal and I’ll try not to do it in the future.

Cons: The session was too short. I could have listened to Loulou talk about Richard Burton all afternoon. Seriously, she worked on a Burton biog. Jealous.

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So the conference was almost over. Just time for the closing lecture by Mark Forsyth. Another witty, enjoyable talk that held the whole room captivated. And then it was all over. Time to drag my sorry ass out of the venue and start the long drive back.

My overall thoughts on the weekend and what I learned?

  • Beth and her team did a wonderful job. The venue was easy to get to and comfortable. Unless you were blessed with an executive room, (which I wasn’t), the layout was pretty compact and easy to navigate.
  • I loved meeting all my friends, (and getting to know some new ones), and having a few days to speak with real humans, learn new stuff and generally get away from the day-to-day life I sometimes love and sometimes hate. It was great to finally meet some SfEPers who I’d talked at length with, but never met ‘in the flesh’ (urgh, what a horrible phrase, why did I use it?).
  • I only had one uncomfortable moment, at breakfast on Monday, when I found myself on my own being joined by a few people who knew each other. I’m probably scary first thing (remember, I don’t do mornings), I didn’t know them and they ignored me, so I just ate up and left. Come on, that’s pretty good going. I remember one genealogical conference where hardly anyone made eye contact or spoke to anyone else for most of the weekend. Now THAT was a fun time!
  • I learned that it isn’t compulsory to drink your bodyweight in coffee (I didn’t say I didn’t do it, just that it isn’t compulsory).
  • I also learned a lot from the sessions I attended. I wish I could have gone to them all (it’s a pain having to choose only 6 out of 30 possible sessions), but there’s always next year for choosing something different.

This was a great weekend getaway, with brilliant company and interesting workshops.

  • I learned that there’s no point in worrying over what you wear. I nearly stayed in my room instead of going to the gala dinner. I’d brought the wrong boots, I looked fat in my dress and I really wasn’t feeling up to it. Eventually I took a deep breath, walked the walk and met Eleanor for drinkies. No one gave two hoots as to what I was wearing. We all had fun!
  • I learned I can actually give a talk and not pass out.
  • I learned I can actually have a mini-asthma attack thanks to a chest cold (sorry for the coughing everyone) and still give a talk five minutes later and not pass out.

Finally …

I learnt that it’s very, very dangerous to go and meet puppies on the journey down to the conference. There will be two new additions to our family in a few weeks time. Why adopt one when two are just as much fun?

corgi pups cartoon