Anonymity And The Copy Editor: Is It Time To Be Recognised?

hidden, anonymous, sculpture, book, editor, copy editor

As an editor I often like to remain anonymous.

As a copy editor I feel that I’m just polishing the author’s intentions and getting their ‘real’ story out there. We all know what it’s like to be tongue-tied, that feeling that you know what you want to say but you just can’t get it out. That’s what I’m helping with. As a copy editor I know the constructions, the words and the layout. I know how to help. As that’s my job I usually don’t see the need for acknowledgement in a book I’ve worked on.

Sometimes this is because I feel I’ve done my job, been of help to a lovely author or publisher, and I prefer the anonymity.

Sometimes it’s because so little had to be done to the text that I feel an acknowledgement isn’t necessary.

Sometimes it’s because the book isn’t in my normal scope so professionally I don’t need the acknowledgement (it might dilute my public professional goals).

Sometimes, very rarely, it’s because the job was a nightmare and I don’t want to be acknowledged for fear it will impact negatively on my professional standing. Examples are when the budget or timescale was so tight that only triage editing was possible and left behind a lot that I felt needed addressing. Or perhaps the author decided to ignore my suggestions. Or even added stuff to the final edited version after my input was finished (oh yes, it happens). It’s very easy for an editor to be ignored and yet have their name on a final product that falls way beyond their normal standard.

And yet, most of the time, acknowledgements are not needed because I’m an editor, that’s my job and as long as I have done a job well I am happy with my lot.

anonymous copy editor

But I’m beginning to wonder if the anonymity of editors is becoming a problem.

I’ve seen this with my base profession. I trained as a librarian and information specialist. I spent my professional working life as an academic librarian explaining to people that no, I didn’t just stamp books. A librarian is so much more: we train; we handle budgets; we collate, curate and keep vast collections; we deal with the public, students and academics; we disseminate information; we are academics, counsellors, psychologists, analysts, shopkeepers, managers, lifelong learners and gatekeepers of the world’s knowledge. No, we don’t just stamp books.

And yet, librarians are a dying breed. Due to their anonymous nature, and the belief that now the world has Google anyone can be an information professional, librarians are no longer seen as vital. Library assistants are now running libraries. The librarian as we know it is endangered, as are the libraries they once ran and cherished.

library, books, reading room

And the same thing could soon be happening to editors. Because many of us don’t feel the need for acknowledgement, either through author acks or being noted for our role somewhere in the book, the world is beginning to forget why we exist.

The market is saturated with books. How many of those publications are self-published without editorial help? We’ll never know because copy editors are barely mentioned. The editor thanked profusely by the author in a traditionally published book is usually the publication editor who steers the project, the copy editor remains largely invisible.

I decided to pick ten random books from my shelf, to see if I was perhaps barking up the wrong tree. They are a mix of factual non-fiction, biography and fiction:

Two had no acknowledgements at all.

One praised an editor for meticulous and insightful editing.

One, a massive historical tome, mentions everyone except the editor and indexer, both of whom must have worked their fingers to the bone.

In one the proofreader was thanked, but not the copy editor.

A design book gave thanks to designers but not the editorial staff.

One thanked the publishing team as a whole, so that’s ok.

The last three gave no mention of the editorial staff at all.

 

That’s 1/10 giving acknowledgement to the editor, two if we’re feeling generous.

blank books on a shelf

 

But how much of that is down to the copy editor saying no to being acknowledged, or not having any relationship with the author at all? And is it really cause for concern? Are book acknowledgements that important anyway?

Just like the internet quietly brought down librarians, it is potentially doing the same for copy editors. I’ve come across conversations where self-publishing authors have said they don’t need to pay for editorial help when they have Hemmingway, Grammarly and spellchecks to do the job for them. Don’t get me wrong, these are wonderfully useful, but you can’t slavishly follow them, and using them instead of a professionally trained human editor is asking for trouble.

So we come back to anonymity, and we have to ask ourselves these questions:

Are copy editors anonymous because

  1. they really don’t need to be acknowledged,
  2. they don’t feel the need to be acknowledged,
  3. they’re rarely asked if they want to be acknowledged,
  4. they don’t want to be acknowledged,
  5. acknowledgements are personal for the author?

Should editors:

  1. make acknowledgement part of their contracts,
  2. broach the subject of acknowledgement with each new job,
  3. ask to be acknowledged,
  4. ask not to be acknowledged,
  5. expect to be acknowledged.

shy editor

And how should we move forward as professionals doing a job where many of us prefer to stay in the background?

I expect that as time goes by, if we are to survive as a valued profession, we need to uphold professional attitudes, become ambassadors for plain, good quality written language and champion excellence wherever possible.

We may need to step out of the shadows and shout about what we do and why it is valuable before, like librarians, we are sidelined and people settle for ‘good enough’.

 

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments whether you’re an author or editor, let’s get the dialogue started.

How To Get Away With Murder

(and romance, mystery, history, fantasy …)

 

novel writer tools

By making your book as good as it can be, of course (what else did you think I was talking about?).

Ok, now that I have your attention, you weren’t really going to publish your book without getting it edited first were you? You know, deep down, that your book deserves it.

Here’s why:

  • Readers will quickly desert you, even if you’re the best storyteller in the world, if they can’t get past the typos.
  • They will also desert you if what made perfect sense in your head fails to unravel properly on the page.
  • Readers will make you sad if they post shitty reviews on Amazon, because they really couldn’t get past the typos and spaghetti-like plot (and that’s if it even gets past Amazon’s new standards).
  • Your reputation as an author will suffer if you don’t publish the best possible version of your book.
  • Your second book, and third and fourth, will ride on the reviews of the first.
  • You’re unlikely to hit the best-seller list with a badly written book that no-one cares about.

reading a book

What you put into your book is, more often than not, commensurate with the way it will be received. And that sometimes means spending money. It’s tough, but it’s true. You can also have the best written book in the world, but if it’s hiding behind a lame cover or badly formatted text it won’t get noticed either – but that’s an article for another time.

I know what you’re probably thinking – you’re an editor so you would say that. Well, yes, obviously. But editors get their books edited too, by other editors, and they pay the going rate for it. Now why would they do that if it wasn’t worth it, especially as they edit for other people and in theory could edit their book themselves?

It all boils down to this: you’ve spent, perhaps, years writing your book, editing it yourself and getting friends, family and beta readers to read it, you believe in it and are proud of your efforts – so why the hell send it out into the world without making sure that it’s as perfect as it can be? It’s like wearing a Chanel suit and walking around with a cheap supermarket carrier bag instead of a proper handbag … eventually someone’s going to say something and it won’t be kind.

Still not convinced?

We’ll here’s what you get for your money when you hire a professional editor:

  1. Years of experience working with words.
  2. Professional knowledge of the publishing industry.
  3. An eye for detail and a flair for accuracy.
  4. Someone who will be honest with you without worrying that you’ll be upset (I say honest, not mean, we’ll tell you what friends and family won’t, but we’ll also tell you how, or help you, to fix the problems with your book).
  5. Someone who will work with you to make your book the best it can be.

It’s not just spelling mistakes. There are different types of editor. The ones most often used by self-publishers are: development editors who will help you with your big picture (make sure your story works), copy-editors who work with the spelling, grammar, punctuation and consistency of your text, and proofreaders who take that last look over to make sure everything is as good as it can be.

author writing her novel

So, down to the nitty-gritty …

Will it be expensive to hire an editor?

Well, it can be, but if you prepare your manuscript as much as you can before you send it to an editor it will be less expensive (and expensive is subjective anyway). That means formatting it properly, running it through a spellcheck and getting as many people to read it and give you feedback as possible – then, and only then, should you approach an editor.

Will it be worth it?

Hell, yes. It can mean the difference between a well-crafted, well-presented book that you are proud of and something that would end up on the slush pile. A copy-editor will help you polish your words, while a developmental editor can help you sort out those fiddly plot holes, and for crime writers that could mean helping you get away with murder (on paper only, obviously!).

Still not convinced? Take a peek at this author earnings report from Feb 2016 to see what the independent author is up against.

As a self-publishing author you are up against a LOT of competition, there are literally millions of books out there competing for the attention of the buying public, so if you want to be seen it makes sense to produce a professional standard book. Hiring an editor may not propel you to the best-seller list or make you millions, but it will give you a better chance than if you go it alone.

 

10 Killer Confidence Tricks To Help You Succeed (And Why Girls Need Them)

believe in yourself anything is possible

We all know that confidence comes in waves. One morning you’re on top of the world, then imposter syndrome comes to bite you on the bum and makes your life a living hell.

While I expect that lack of confidence comes equally to everyone as adults, the Guide Association (Girlguiding) last year released the results of a poll of 1,627 girls and young women that shows a dramatic loss of confidence as girls get older. By the ages of 17–21 only 31% feel confident in themselves, while only 35% believe they have the same chance of succeeding in their careers as males.

This is backed up by a study in the journal Science that shows girls start to see themselves as less talented than boys by the age of six. This flows through education into their working lives, and the BBC website today notes:

Prof Andrei Cimpian, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website:

“The message that comes out of these data is that young kids are exposed to the cultural notion that genius is more likely a male than a female quality.

It’s disheartening to see these effects emerge so early. When you see them, you realise how much of an uphill battle it’s going to be.”

Self-belief slides as a girl grows older.

I see this every day. It may be a cultural thing, or not, but it’s terrifying. Confident children with the world at their feet end up settling for ‘good enough’ because their confidence has been knocked.  And I’m not discounting men from this, or myself either, my life has been an uphill struggle with confidence – despite getting a bloody good degree and only taking one year out of self-guided learning and formal training since I left university.

We saw massive women’s marches this week, and while I admire them for their guts and determination, I do wonder how many of those women will go back to settling for ‘good enough’ once their placards are resigned to the recycling bin. Will their voices actually be heard?

Mrs Dale Carnegie, How to help your husband

Back to the 50s

In 1954 a book was published that makes my toes curl – How to help your husband get ahead: in his business and social life by Mrs Dale Carnegie (her name was Dorothy, by the way). While teaching in a business school Dorothy asked her students how many expected to marry within ten years (all of them) and whether they would choose marriage over a career (again, all of them). From this conversation her book was born, to sell girls on the idea that the qualities that would make them valuable to an employer would make them ‘desirable wives’. I bought the book as a reminder of how times have changed, but really, have they?

How to help your husband contents

On face value the book is a relic of a bygone age, it’s all about promoting your husband and putting his needs first but, if you read deeper into it, I do believe (I have to believe) that she was trying to help those intelligent women who would inevitably slide into domesticity. I wonder how Dorothy felt when she saw all her smart business students admit to a career span of less than ten years?

She did have a few good ideas, though, that can be translated into something useful for our times. So let’s take those first steps towards success and use them for ourselves.

Success the Carnegie Way

Dorothy gave her readers four initial steps to success that actually still ring true … let’s just turn them into ways to help yourself rather than someone else:

  1. Decide where you are going and what you want out of life. Set up a goal and work towards it.

It’s all about objectives and confidently controlling your future. Get that business plan out. Plan your goals.

  1. When one goal is achieved, set up another; plan your future in five-year steps.

Was Dorothy the first one to think about five-year goals? I’m not sure but it works for some people, why not give it a try?

  1. Sell yourself on the value of enthusiasm. Think of what it has done for others and what it will do for you.

She’s right, if you’re not enthusiastic you’re going to get bogged down. Look at all those uber enthusiastic communication and business mavens out there – enthusiasm breeds confidence.

  1. Apply these six ways of developing enthusiasm:
    • Learn everything you can about your job
    • Have a goal and stick to it
    • Give yourself a pep talk every day
    • Think in terms of service
    • Associate with enthusiastic people
    • Act enthusiastic and you will become enthusiastic.

Seems ok to me. You may think number 4 seems pretty strange, but if you’re providing a service, as most freelancers are, think about the people you’re helping and how you go about giving them what they need. After all if you’re enthusiastic about what you’re providing, your customers or clients will feel that enthusiasm.

How to help your husband success

So we’ve survived the 1950s pep talk, and seen that it translates into the C21st, and it’s all very well to be enthusiastic, but will it actually help with your confidence?

Confidence is something built up over time and if it gets knocked it can take a while to reinstate, so here are some C21st creative confidence tricks:

  1. Fake it til you make it.

I’ve looked and I can’t find the origin of the saying, but it’s been around since at least the 1960s. It doesn’t work all the time, after all you need to have something solid to back it up (no matter how hard I try I just can’t fake being a tightrope walker so I’m not going to apply for any circus jobs soon). If you have the skills (or the skillz) fake the confidence, smile and eventually you should convince your old brain cells that the confidence is real.

  1. Try, try and try again.

Don’t let failure hold you back. Don’t let it get you down and knock what little confidence you have. Pick yourself back up and go back to 1.

  1. Ask for help.

Everyone needs help once in a while. Asking for help actually builds confidence – you’re on your first step to learning what you need to know.

  1. Watch other confident people.

Seriously. Look at those around you who are confident (not arrogant) and see how they behave and react to life. Are they doing something you can learn? It’s like being around people who are enthusiastic, it rubs off.

  1. Breathe

Ok, yes, I know. If you don’t breathe you are in trouble.

Joking aside, if you’re nervous you will have a habit of shallow breathing, which adds to anxiety. Concentrate on your breathing if you’re in a situation where your confidence is low and your anxiety levels are high. Steady, slow, deliberate breathing will help calm you down. It’s a great tip for when you have to do public speaking.

  1. Have faith in yourself.

This is the killer top tip. Confidence breeds confidence. Those people around you weren’t born with it. Everyone you see who looks confident has either come through low confidence and self-esteem or is still faking it. Seriously. Unless they’re a psychopath.

Men seem to be better at hiding it, that’s all (confidence, not being a psychopath).

motivation-1101844_1280

While studies show that girls are in massive danger of losing their confidence as they become adults, we shouldn’t forget that men have confidence problems too. Women are still shown to suffer from work related bias (whether that be in the form of low promotion prospects, lower pay than their male counterparts or being constantly expected to make the tea), but men are still fed the ‘man up and be the breadwinner’ mentality.

Freelancers have the extra burden of needing confidence to survive as freelancers.

One day we’ll all be confident enough to say ‘this is me and this is what I can do’, until then we have to do what we can to survive.

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So this is me – I’m a kick-ass editor and copywriter who can also design books for print or kindle. If you have a project contact me!