Categories
Copyediting

End-of-year summary: this editing life

It’s time to take stock of the year and plan for 2020, and this is particularly important for me as I only moved into freelancing ten days ago. What went well for me this year and what are my plans for next year?

It’s easy to scramble along from one day to the next thinking you’re doing ‘okay’ but not feeling as if you’re achieving anything noteworthy. That’s typical of me – if I don’t have my head down working like a demon, I’m panicking that I’ll never work again! Whether I’m looking for work or actually doing the work, I’m always motivated, but analysing what I’ve done isn’t something that I carve out a lot of time for. So when I did this a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised.

How did the year go?

Over the last year (2019) I’ve done thirty-nine projects for eight new clients and ten repeat ones. (I count publishers, agencies, packagers and ‘middlepeople’ as single clients rather than counting every author I worked with through those channels.) I’m pretty happy with that! Next year I’d like to find more new clients than I did this year, but of course repeat clients are always good – a testament to the fact that they were pleased with my work!

Twenty-six of my projects were books, six were essays, four were ‘other’ (websites, emails, blurbs, instruction manuals, newsletters, interviews and biographies), two were short stories and one was a writing project – my first piece of work of that nature. Bite-size corporate projects like proofreading emails or web pages slot in nicely around other work, but books are still my first love. Out of those, fifteen were fiction and eleven were non-fiction.

Apart from my activity on social media and various forums, the only real promotion I did was a full-page advert in Writers’ Forum magazine and an article that I was kindly invited to write for the July/August edition of Editing Matters, the SfEP’s trade publication. (I was surprised to find out that I’ve actually published six blog posts myself, not including this one, but five of them were posted within the first four months of the year!)

One great way to round off the year was with a lovely testimonial that was volunteered by one of the non-fiction authors I worked with. She mentioned my ‘versatility, keen eye, outstanding professional communication, efficiency and verve’. I usually have to ask clients for testimonials – with my usual British reticence, and not nearly as often as I should – but they serve as a fantastic pick-me-up when they land in my inbox.

Plans for next year

I’m excited about the prospect of spreading my wings, especially when it comes to promotion, CPD and networking.

All too often, time spent on marketing or networking can feel like time wasted if you don’t see an immediate return, but now that I’m only accountable to myself, I hope to look into various other options for spreading the word about who I am and what I do. Corporate clients are a notoriously hard nut to crack, and I still find myself drawn to books by self-publishing authors, but I’m not going to close my mind or eyes to any potential openings in the world of business.

I’m particularly looking forward to doing more face-to-face networking with my fellow editors, who are always amazingly supportive and helpful online.

I’m also keen to set some of my budget aside for training courses and CPD in 2020. I’m very close to meeting the requirements to upgrade to Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP – which I’d be over the moon to achieve – but I do need a little more training to get there, and I have my eye on a couple of courses that would help me hone my skills and benefit my clients.

One major avenue I want to pursue in 2020 is developmental editing. I’ve already started some informal development in this area, and ideally I’d like to complete some formal training in this area too. I also have a reading list of dev editing books that are highly recommended by my colleagues!

This might also be the year when I finally get some printed materials done. I’m in the process of having a logo designed, and it can’t hurt to get a few business cards and flyers. I’ve felt the lack of them a few times over the last year, and they are particularly useful for corporate clients, who are best reached via face-to-face networking rather than online.

As for blogging, I deprioritised it in the latter half of 2019 and I don’t think my bottom line suffered as a result – it freed up my time to do other things – so I’m not sure yet whether I’ll simply continue to be bad at it, whether I’ll make more of an effort, or whether I’ll feel more naturally inclined to blog now that I’m a free agent, so to speak.

In sum

I’m excited about 2020. My successes this year have given me confidence that I can continue to do well, and I can’t wait to improve my skills and pass those improvements on to my existing clients and, hopefully, a whole swath of new ones! I’m sure I have what it takes to be a good dev editor, and I’m looking forward to crystallising that with some training and a few juicy projects for my portfolio.

I feel like I may have been on the edge of burnout for a while, but now, writing this, I don’t feel as though the cure is going to consist of working less. There is no working less on my horizon, only working more, but for me it’s working differently that is the key. I feel energised, not dismayed, by the prospect of all the extra things I want to fit in next year! Despite the variety of work in my portfolio, I’ve never had a project I disliked or was reluctant to get stuck into. I’ve enjoyed every piece of work I’ve had – no exaggeration – and spent every day glad that I get to do this for a living. But I also feel that working on other things – CPD, marketing and networking – will freshen up my brain and help me to work faster and more efficiently across the board. Let’s get started!

fireworks
Categories
Writing

How to improve your writing by avoiding things that I don’t like

Maybe it’s just a coincidence. You don’t see a particular mistake for years and then several examples turn up at once and you find yourself asking, ‘Is this a thing now? Why are people doing this?’ So here we go. How to improve your writing by avoiding things that I don’t like. Will it actually improve your writing? Maybe. No guarantees. Depends on context, etc. etc. etc. Try it and see!

There seems to be a trend for writers to use ‘inside’ or ‘within’ where the little word ‘in’ – or ‘into’ – would work just as well. Hence we have ‘The hero strode inside the room’ or ‘She reached within the cupboard’ or ‘He put it inside his pocket’. Try substituting ‘into’ (first two examples) or ‘in’ (last example). Doesn’t it sound cleaner and crisper? See also: ‘placed’ instead of ‘put’: for example, ‘Maria placed it inside the box’ vs ‘Maria put it into the box’. People are always placing things inside things instead of simply putting them in. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for these usages, just that it would probably improve your writing if you stopped and thought about it first to make sure that’s really the best way of saying what you want to say.

There’s another construction that’s been bugging me lately. Again, it’s not ‘an error’ per se, but it’s something you might like to think about to make sure you’re using it consciously and to maximum effect. Technically I’d call it ‘gerund vs infinitive’ – here’s an example:

‘She started walking along the path.’ Compare and contrast with: ‘She started to walk along the path.’ (walking – gerund; to walk – infinitive)

I’ve been seeing a lot of gerunds lately – the ‘ing’ form of the verb – especially in action sequences. ‘Dave started shooting …’ ‘Emma started running …’ and so on. I can totally see why people do it – it has a certain flow, and it tends to be how people talk, as well. But it can actually serve to slow down the ‘feel’ of the action where the infinitive would keep it moving along. This is the case especially where the action is interrupted or moves rapidly on. Neither construction is right or wrong, but if you keep it in mind while you’re reading through your own work, you can make an informed decision about which one you want.

Those are the most obvious things I’ve seen recently that give me an impression of laziness rather than bad grammar or mistakes. When one construction is used a lot at the expense of another which works just as well or better, it just makes me think that the author has got into a comfortable groove and hasn’t really ‘seen’ their own writing. It doesn’t make it bad writing, but if you take a look through fresh eyes and try mixing things up a little, it might give your work that extra pop and sparkle that elevates it from ‘competent’ to ‘good’ or from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

Final note: a character telling another character something is still ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’. I find ‘show, don’t tell’ rather a simplistic instruction – there’s a place for both – but don’t think you can stick something into dialogue and it suddenly becomes better. It’s particularly annoying when a character has spent a couple of paragraphs thinking about, for example, how Mr X can’t possibly be a plausible suspect because of Y and Z, and then feels compelled to repeat their thought process word-for-word to their colleague in the next chapter.

snowdrops growing in a garden
Snowdrops, just because they’re seasonal and they were conveniently there.
Categories
Personal

The post I really wanted to make

It’s about time I came clean. I hate writing blog posts.

There. I said it. I thought long and hard and I … oh, who am I kidding. I didn’t have to think hard at all to figure out that honesty is the best policy. And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if I feel like that, there must be a whole load more people out there who feel the same. Can I come and join your tribe?

Writing blog posts is something ‘they’ say you must do in order to help your site’s SEO, boost your visibility, and attract lots of new potential customers to your site. By ‘they’, I mean marketing how-to guides and other successful editors. And they have a point. If no one knows my site is here, how are they going to find my awesome skills?

So I want writers to come to my site. Writers who need an editor and proofreader. Obviously. And what do writers want to read about? Well, how to be a better/quicker/more productive/published/successful writer, of course. So I try and write posts with that in mind. Posts that will help writers.

There’s one important flaw in this approach. Writing isn’t my best skill. I’m an editor. Now, that’s not to say that my writing is bad or that I’ve got no useful advice to offer – but it does mean that I often feel as though I’m winging it or cribbing information from elsewhere. And, while I know the world is big enough to take more than one ‘how to beat writer’s block’ article and more than one piece on ‘how to write dialogue’ … I don’t just want to rehash the same old things.

So I’ve decided to take a new approach. An honest approach. I’ve touched on this before with posts about my searches and my SfEP professional membership status, but now I want to grasp it with both hands and own it. I don’t mean posting about my personal life, soap opera style … but I’m going to be myself, and that might mean writing about things that aren’t writing, and maybe even things that aren’t editing. In this way I hope to post more often, and give you stuff to read that comes from the heart, rather than from a marketing expert’s idea of what will help my site rankings.

So here we have an irrelevant but sexy picture of a Triumph motorbike. Not connected with writing, but hey, your main character has got to have some mode of transport, right? How about it?

Triumph Tiger motorbike
An irrelevant Triumph.
Categories
Copyediting

11 searches made by an editor

raccoon

I’ve done a post a bit like this before, but as an editor I like to stop every now and then, take stock and be grateful for all the new things I’ve learned recently as a result of online searches. This time everything is fairly innocuous and unlikely to bring an ominous knock at the door! These 11 searches were all undertaken as part of my work on two books; one fiction, one non-fiction.

  1. Ladyboys — one word or two? (It’s one.)
  2. Did Samuel Romilly oppose the slave trade? (He did indeed!)
  3. Did Jaguar make a Roadster model of their E-Type in 1974? (Yes.)
  4. Is it Wi-Fi, wi-fi, wifi or WiFi? (Wi-Fi — which is actually a trademark. Although in a work of fiction no one will probably care as long as you’re consistent.)
  5. Does Colman’s mustard take an apostrophe? (Yes.)
  6. Raccoon — one ‘c’ or two? (Usually two, but one can be acceptable in some contexts.)
  7. Does Zeinabu irene Davis really use a lower case ‘i’ for ‘irene’? (Yes.)
  8. Is ‘chile limón’ a legit potato chip flavour over in the good old US of A? (It sure is!)
  9. What are the lyrics of ‘The H1N1 Rap’ by Dr Clarke? (Enjoy …)
  10. How did Yul Brynner die? (Lung cancer.)
  11. Where were Harper & Row located back in 1964? (New York.)

Please rest assured that I do look at more than one source when fact-checking, but I’m not going to bore you with all of them!

That, dear reader, is why my head is full of bits of information that probably wouldn’t even be useful in a pub quiz, but I forget to take my vitamin D and put the bins out. Prize if you can guess which searches were for the fiction book and which for the non-fiction.

Writers, what have you been researching recently? And fellow editors, what strange facts have you learned in the course of your work?

Categories
Copyediting

Working with an editor: getting the most out of the editing process

Man and woman talking over laptop, notebook and drink

You’ve finished your draft, done a spot of proofreading of your work and followed last week’s advice on how to choose an editor. You’ve found someone you like and you’re about to embark on that scary journey: getting your book edited. You’re probably wondering how you can get the most out of working with an editor, so that’s what I’m about to tell you!

I’ll start by saying that, if you’re like most writers, the thing uppermost in your mind at this point might be how you can avoid falling out with your editor. Perhaps you’re simultaneously scared of getting your work pulled apart and nervous in case you ‘push back’ and rile your editor, ending in a big, messy fall-out over a serial comma. You’ve picked someone you like and you seem to have a good rapport with them so far, but you’re afraid that will all come crashing down when you see what they’ve done to your manuscript.

I’ve got news for you. We don’t want to fall out with you, either.

Sometimes a grammar or punctuation rule or a particular spelling is right or wrong. Sometimes it’s a matter of opinion or personal preference. If it’s the latter, we won’t make it a hill to die on. If you want ‘spelled’ instead of ‘spelt’, or ‘well-being’ with a hyphen, guess what? It’s up to you! We aren’t scary grammar nazis; we want to be nice, and we want to help you and make your book as good as it can be.

With that in mind, here are some things you can do to make the editing process easier for both of us.

1. Know what kind of editing you’re getting

By the time you’ve got to the point of engaging an editor they should have gone through this with you, but to be on the safe side, make sure you know what kind of editing you’re getting – and that it matches up with what you need. As a copy-editor, I can’t do my best job if major structural reorganisation is needed, and if you want me to re-edit your work after you’ve rewritten and added parts, I’ll have to charge you extra – and most editors will do the same (it’s in my Ts and Cs, so make sure you read the small print!).

2. Be willing to consider changes

I was going to phrase this ‘Don’t be a dick’, but on reflection that seemed a bit harsh. I can honestly say that I’ve never had an editing client who has been rude about my suggestions, comments or queries. But I’m sure they exist, and you don’t want to be That Person. It’s natural to feel a little bit defensive about your work, but try to bear in mind that your editor wants your work to read as well as possible. If something is unclear to them, it may well be unclear to your target audience too. Remember that it’s up to you whether you accept all their suggestions, so try to not feel too dismayed, but also remember that they’re professionals and have made those suggestions for a reason. If it feels as though they simply haven’t ‘got’ your tone or what you’re trying to do in your book, have a chat with them about it. They should be on your side helping you achieve your vision!

3. Brace yourself

When you first open your edited manuscript file, there will be Track Changes – or the equivalent of red pen – all over it. And I mean all over. It’ll look shocking. I might as well get that out of the way. That doesn’t mean your writing is bad. Brace yourself and grit your teeth. I can pretty much guarantee that a lot of the ‘corrections’ will be things like changing a comma into a full stop or adding a space on either side of an ellipsis. 

4. Turn ‘Simple Markup’ on

In Word, under the ‘Review’ section of the toolbar, you have the option to view ‘All Markup’ or ‘Simple Markup’. Start by viewing the document with simple markup turned on. This means that you’ll only see the editor’s comments – queries or suggestions – rather than every single edit, deletion, insertion, etc. It makes the text look a lot less scary and will help you concentrate on the important stuff. Later, if you do want to go through every tiny change, when you get to a bit that looks confusing or that you have strong feelings about, turn simple markup back on and read through the passage ‘clean’, as though you’d already accepted the editor’s suggestions. Sound alright to you now? You might be pleasantly surprised!

5. Use the opportunity to improve your writing

Look at what the editor has changed and how those changes affect the flow of the text as a whole. This may help you improve your writing for the next book – if you have one planned! 

6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

You are perfectly within your rights to ask the editor to explain their rationale for certain decisions. It doesn’t mean you’re arguing with them; it just means you’re curious. Any editor worth their salt will be happy to tell you why they’ve done what they’ve done. If they’ve changed something wholesale without consulting you, there’s a good chance it’s straight-up wrong rather than just a matter of stylistic preference. Ask and you’ll learn! 

7. Don’t ask too many questions

This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s just a shorter way of saying don’t bog the process down by questioning absolutely everything. The more you ask, the longer it will take, and you may end up getting charged extra. Got a question? Ask away! Want to go through the edit line by line with your editor? You’ve probably got too many questions. Be brave and make your own decisions about which changes you want to accept and reject. Remember: you don’t have to agree with everything your editor has suggested.

8. Use the appropriate technology

I usually work on manuscripts in Word, so I’ll refer to Track Changes here, but if you and your editor are working on a pdf document my advice applies equally to pdf markup. Use the technology available to you. Use Track Changes and Comments. Please don’t send your edits, comments or responses by email or as a separate document. You might think you’re referring to page 114, but by the time your comment gets back to the editor, they’ve continued to make changes and page 114 is now page 113 or 115, line references make no sense at all, and it takes them precious extra minutes to find the bits you’re talking about. They should have told you at the beginning of the process how they were going to present their feedback (Track Changes, Comments, pdf markup, etc.) and at this point you can ask how they’d like you to communicate yours in return.

9. Don’t be afraid to use the phone

It’s quicker than email and you might be able to get an instant answer. You can both ask lots of questions one after the other without any awkward written to-ing and fro-ing. Check first with your editor when they’re available to talk on the phone so that you don’t worry about interrupting them. And, of course, check that they’re comfortable with it – not everyone is, but if they are, you can both save yourselves time and energy!

10. Keep in touch

Let your editor know if you’re going away, have had a crisis or are going to be incommunicado for a while. That way they’re not left hanging and they can plan in order to either meet the deadline or extend it if necessary. Also, they won’t expect you to respond while you’re away or otherwise occupied. They should, of course, return the favour!

11. Write a testimonial

If you think your editor did a good job, say thank you – it’s always nice to be thanked. But you can go one better. Write a testimonial that they can use on their website or a review on their Facebook page if they have one. Ask them where they prefer to have their reviews (some people use Trustpilot or similar sites) and show your appreciation by writing one. Asking clients for testimonials can sometimes feel a bit awkward, especially if a bit of time has passed since the job was done, so we really appreciate it when you take the initiative – believe me! 

If you’re feeling particularly generous you could even credit your editor in the book. The first time an author wrote something really nice about me in the acknowledgements I actually bought the book, despite it being an academic work on a topic totally unrelated to my interests! So you never know, you might even bag yourself an extra sale.

Go for it!

Hopefully I haven’t made you overthink the whole thing. Perhaps I should come back to the one bit of advice I almost didn’t say: don’t be a dick. Most people aren’t. You probably aren’t. In which case you’ll get on with your editor and both of you will enjoy the process of getting your book into great shape!

Categories
Copyediting

Choosing an editor: a guide for self-publishing authors

As a self-published author, it’s your responsibility to make sure your book is as good as it can be. An editor can help to make your book look professional instead of amateurish.

Editing your own work: getting off to a good start

Many people will tell you that you can’t edit your own work. That’s correct; you need a fresh and impartial pair of eyes. What you can do, though, is get your work into the best possible shape before you hand it over to an editor. This will save them time and, more importantly, you money!

woman sitting cross-legged and working on laptop
Definitely not me this time.

Ask your peers – other writers – for their opinions. Join local writing groups. Meet writers online and ask them to have a look at one or two chapters for you. Don’t be shy about getting feedback from your fellow writers.

Every writer is focused on their own work, so make sure you contribute something back to the community by returning the favour for others.

Now is also a good time to write a synopsis. This is a skill in itself, so practice is good. Don’t forget that a synopsis is different from a blurb – it should be about one A4 page long, contain all the major plot points and describe what happens in your book. Don’t worry about spoilers!

Writing a synopsis is a great way of identifying weaknesses or plot holes. Read it out loud. Does it ramble or sound boring? Do things seem to happen for no reason? Maybe you just need to tweak the synopsis, or maybe you need to go back to the book and make some changes there.

When you feel happy with your book, that’s the right time to look for an editor. But wait! Do you know what you’re asking them to do, and does that match up with what you need?

Different types of editing

Think about what you expect an editor to do for you. For instance, you might envisage them:

• making sure the spelling is correct
• making the writing ‘flow’
• improving your style by, for example, removing excess adjectives or pointing out clichés

Or you might picture your editor:

• suggesting ways to make the dialogue less clunky
• helping to reveal the motives of the villain
• flagging up areas where the timeline or chapter ordering makes the story unclear and suggesting solutions

These are all things an editor could do, but they are different types of requests and may need different types of editors.

A structural or developmental editor will look at ‘big picture’ stuff like plot, characterisation, themes, voice, dialogue, pace and flow. They’ll look at how everything fits together and pick up on major inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

A copy-editor will look at spelling, punctuation, grammar, style, consistency, wording and legal issues. Their job is to get your manuscript ready for typesetting. They’ll help you make sure your work is accurate and fit-for-purpose.

There may be some crossover between those types of editing – a copy-editor might query plot holes and a developmental editor might flag up grammatical ‘tics’ – but, in general, developmental editing looks at the big picture and copy-editing looks at the fine details.

If you choose one type of editing when you really need the other, it’s frustrating for all concerned. No editor wants to spend hours correcting your spelling only for you to rewrite or delete entire chapters. And you don’t get the result you wanted.

What type of editor do you need?

‘But wait!’ I hear you cry. ‘I can’t afford all these rounds of editing! What should I prioritise?’

I’m a copy-editor, so naturally my advice would be not to skimp on the copy-edit. A lot of developmental work can be done in advance with feedback from other writers. That’s not to put down developmental editors – actually, I think they have a harder job than I do! – but if you’re on a limited budget you might only be able to afford one type of editing. No matter how great your book is, it will look terrible if it’s riddled with typos.

A word to the wise: if you’re releasing your book as an ebook only, and not getting it printed, don’t look for a proofreader. A proofreader checks your book after it’s been typeset for print (here is some more information about the difference between proofreading and copy-editing if you’re interested), so if that isn’t going to happen, proofreading isn’t what you need.

I strongly recommend you use an editor who is experienced at preparing manuscripts for conversion into ebook formats, as the requirements for ebooks are quite different from those for print.

How to find the right editor for you

Look no further! I specialise in working with self-publishing and ‘DIY’ authors. I’ll help you to get your book ready for ebook conversion and distribution, as well as for printing if necessary.

If for some inexplicable reason you don’t want me to edit your book, look for someone who has worked on similar projects. Your country’s industry body for editors may have a directory you can use (in the UK this is the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services). You can also ask other self-published authors for their recommendations.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Prepare a list before you make an approach. You have every right to query anything you don’t understand.

Pricing

Don’t be put off if an editor doesn’t list prices on their website. Some charge per word or per thousand words; others, like me, base their charges on how long the job is likely to take, so they won’t be able to give you a quotation until they’ve looked at your manuscript. Neither approach is ‘better’ than the other; they each have their pros and cons and both methods are used by professionals.

It’s time to go ahead!

A good editor should respond to your enquiry within a reasonable length of time. They should be upfront about the likely cost and clear about what they can do for you. It’s important for both of you to be confident about the scope of the work. Most editors will have terms and conditions; ask to see them before work starts.

They should send you a sample edit of part of your work to give you an idea of their approach. You can decide whether they’re a good fit for you and whether they respect your ‘tone of voice’.

Once you’ve found an editor who is on your wavelength, it’s time to go ahead! Stay tuned for my next blog post about how to work with your editor to get the most out of their service.

Categories
Copyediting

Live, edit and learn

When I’m copy-editing, my job involves fact-checking. Do I know everything? Far from it! Even when I’m editing a book on a topic I’m familiar with, I still need to double- and triple-check some facts. This means that I learn a lot during the course of a job. Here’s a snapshot of some of my recent searches and a few snippets of knowledge. Hopefully, some of you will learn something new, too!

Balkan peninsula topographic map

  1. The Anemoi are wind gods in Greek mythology – Boreas, Notus, Zephyrus and Eurus (spellings may vary!).
  2. The Balkan countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Parts of Greece and Turkey are also located within the Balkan Peninsula. There is some disagreement over which countries are included in the definition.
  3. The cervical vertebrae are located in the neck. They are nowhere near the cervix!
  4. It’s surprisingly difficult to find out exactly how many times David Cameron met with François Hollande.
  5. Fenugreek is widely believed to help with lactation, although it hasn’t been conclusively proven. (I was actually breastfeeding when I discovered this, but I’ve never taken fenugreek!) Substances that increase milk supply are known as galactagogues, which sound like threatening alien lifeforms. 
  6. Frumenty is a old English dish made with grains.
  7. A Lavaliere is a type of necklace originally popularised in France. The word has also been adopted in the US to describe various ceremonies around sororities and fraternities.
  8. Strigoi are vampires‘the undead’ or a mixture of different concepts.
  9. Super-jacked cattle exist – and pigs could be next.
  10. Sympathomimetic drugs mimic the function of the sympathetic nervous system (well, duh!).

Click on the links above, store away the knowledge for future reference … and wait with anticipation to see which adverts get served to you next. You’re welcome!

Categories
Copyediting Proofreading

Who needs a proofreader or copy-editor?

When I’m talking to people about what I do, they tend to assume that I work with authors and that the bulk of my work is on novels. I love copy-editing fiction, and I particularly enjoy working directly with self-publishing authors, but there are many other groups of people who need the services of a proofreader or copy-editor. It’s not just about books – any piece of writing, no matter how short, might need some attention!

misspelled public schools sign
Proofreader’s law: the bigger the font, the harder it is to spot a mistake.*

 

You expect well-known brands to get ‘simple’ things like spelling and grammar right. If they don’t, it undermines the customer’s trust in the brand. This also applies to small companies, but you’re more likely to cut them some slack – you might trust Greg down the road to repair ‘all kinds of car’s’, but you want Mercedes to pay the same detailed attention to their grammar as you hope they do to your car!

Very large companies probably employ a team of proofreaders and copy-editors to make sure anything that goes out to the public with their name on it is correct. As a freelancer, I’m more likely to work with small- to medium-sized businesses. If you need a way to stand out from your competitors and give yourself the edge, making sure your spelling and grammar is perfect is one way of winning over customers who are sitting on the fence.

Proofreading and copy-editing that I do for businesses includes:

  • Adverts for print and online. It’s particularly embarrassing if something is spelled wrong in an advert, and they often cost a lot of money.
  • Leaflets and other hard copy promotional material – often given out at trade shows or with purchases. No one wants to be left with 500 misspelled t-shirts …
  • Brochures. Something glossy and well-designed is often intended for clients who want to part with their spondoolies.
  • Recruitment materials. High-calibre applicants want to feel as though they’ll fit right in.
  • Legal documents. I can’t advise on legalities, but I can make sure spellings are correct!
  • Social media updates. They can be seen by tens of thousands of people. Even if a company doesn’t have a big following, something embarrassing can go viral in the blink of an eye.
  • Letters. Yes, they are still sent occasionally! An eloquent letter on thick paper, embossed with a crest, thanking Greg for his tip-top repair to the Prime Minister’s Mercedes would fall a bit flat if it was addressed to ‘Grge’. ‘Impossible!’ I hear you say. Hmm, just ask any Louise how often they’ve been a ‘Lousie’ …
  • Blog posts. They are really important when it comes to driving traffic to websites, so most businesses will have a regularly-updated blog or news section. Perhaps one person writes all the content; perhaps they use several members of staff or guest bloggers with different areas of expertise; whatever the approach, everyone wants their blog to look professional.
  • Web pages. A shop window to the world. An error-free website can give one company the edge over the competition just by virtue of making them look slicker and more detail-oriented.
  • Reports. They could be annual reports or reports about a specific project. They might be aimed at shareholders, sponsors or the general public.

These points don’t just apply to businesses that sell products or services. Not-for-profit companies and charities produce all of the things listed above, and they want to project a professional image to sponsors, donors and the public as well as the people they help.

As well as work for businesses, I also proofread and copy-edit for:

  • Publishing houses. Many of them employ freelancers – sometimes through an agency – rather than in-house editors and proofreaders.
  • Students and academics. If someone’s academic work is being published by a traditional publishing company, it will usually come to me via the publisher or an agency, but some academics want to self-publish, and students are often allowed to use a proofreader on their theses provided the content is original.
  • Self-publishing authors. My favourite group of people to work with. They might have written fiction or non-fiction; thanks to my contact with authors I’ve read some amazing books on a wide variety of topics and across a range of genres.

I hope this has given you a bit more insight into the life of a proofreader and copy-editor. As you can see, it’s about a lot more than just reading books. If you know someone you think might benefit from any of these services, please send them my way and I will make their copy ship-shape!

*Image courtesy of Mascola.

Categories
Copyediting Proofreading

Proofreading & copy-editing: what’s the difference?

person proofreading and marking up textI advertise proofreading and copy-editing services and I try to be clear about exactly what you get for your money with each service. I don’t want to bore potential clients to death before they’ve got half-way down the page, though! If you’re not sure about the difference between proofreading and copy-editing and you’d like to know more, read on …

A key point is that proofreading is the final stage your manuscript will go through after typesetting and before the final print run. The purpose of proofreading is to polish and perfect a hard copy book before it goes to print. A good proofreader should try to keep changes to a minimum because it costs money for the typesetter to make amendments at this stage.

An ebook doesn’t get typeset in the same manner as a printed book. On an e-reader, the reader can choose various aspects of the text’s appearance, such as font, font size, line spacing, margins etc., so there’s no point in laying out these elements with precision. Of course, ebooks still need to be checked for errors, so even if you’re only releasing your book in digital format you might still want the services of a proofreader.

A proofreader looks at spelling, grammar, punctuation, layout and consistency. They’ll also check that your work has been typeset correctly – that page numbers and page headings are all present and correct, that illustrations and captions correspond, that styles are consistent, and that the table of contents is correct. They will check everything, including front and back matter such as the copyright page, dedication, bibliography etc. See the Society for Editors & Proofreaders website for a full explanation of what a proofreader does (and doesn’t do).

Copy-editing happens at an earlier stage, before typesetting. After copy-editing the author will probably want to make a number of changes. This may result in a few errors – usually minor – being introduced, so, no matter how good the copy-editor was, there might still be a few typos or bloopers in the finished product. That’s why it’s also a good idea to get a proofread done after typesetting, but if your budget is limited you might prefer to take a risk – particularly if your work is destined to be ‘ebook only’, without so many formatting elements to consider.

Copy-editing is concerned with getting your work ready for typesetting. A copy-editor will make sure your work is accurate and fit-for-purpose. As well as looking at spelling, punctuation and grammar, they’ll also look at style, consistency, wording, legal issues and technical design elements related to the typesetting process. If your work contains illustrations, graphs and tables these will also be covered. They should flag up doubtful facts for your attention and may query anything that looks ‘wrong’ or which is hard to understand.

A copy-editor does look at some ‘big picture’ issues such as plot holes and structure, but they won’t do the job of a developmental or structural editor. If a piece of work requires extensive rewriting, it’s too early to be using the services of a copy-editor, because much of their work will be undone during the rewriting process or they may have wasted time working on sections which are later removed. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders has an excellent and thorough explanation of copy-editing on its website.

If you would like more information or a quotation for copy-editing or proofreading, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Categories
Events Midlands Writing

Writing East Midlands conference 2016

On 5 March I went to the Writing East Midlands conference. I came away feeling as though I’m equipped with all the skills to be a successful writer … except writing skills!

I learned about self-promotion, working with an editor, creating a web presence, and writing crime fiction. I’ll be sharing my pearls of wisdom in bite-size chunks (to mix my metaphors!) over at Help For Writers during the next few weeks, so I can’t give everything away here. I can give you a few tasters, though.

It was a blast from the past to visit Loughborough University, as I graduated from there in 2001. I was based in the art department on the other side of the road, but I visited the Martin Hall building for my ‘Music & the Visual Arts’ module and it was good to see the old alma mater again!

The opening keynote was delivered with energy and enthusiasm by Mike Gayle, who made us all laugh and root for him as he told us the story of how he got where he is today.

"Asking for help is not an admission of failure."
“Asking for help is not an admission of failure” – Pete Mosley

 

Pete Mosley on The Art of Shouting Quietly

Pete is a business coach for creatives, and his workshop on self-promotion for introverts was full of quotable gems like: “Embrace your non-conformity”, “creative people fuel the world”, and “asking for help is not an admission of failure”. I may have been a little bit biased because I loved his illustrated slides – like me, he studied Fine Art at university – but he came across as a thoroughly nice person.

Top three take-home points:

  • Define what success means to you
  • Move out of your comfort zone
  • Do your market research

 

Cressida Downing on Working With an Editor

Cressida (a.k.a. The Book Analyst) specialises in deep structural editing and clearly knows her stuff. “The point of editing is to get you a beautiful book” – can’t say fairer than that! She gave a good explanation of the difference between a ‘read and review’, a deep structural edit, copy-editing, and proofreading. Lots of people think they need the last two when they actually need the first two. I try to be clear that I only offer copy-editing and proofreading – structural editing is a different thing and needs a different set of skills. Cressida was the source of the day’s most inspiring quotation: “You never get worse at writing.”

Top three take-home points:

  • Don’t edit as you go along. Get to the end first
  • Make sure your editor works in your genre
  • Editors charge by length, so cut your manuscript as much as you can before sending it off

 

Shreya Sen Handley, Dan Simpson & Alice Graham on Shouting Loudly: Creating a Presence on the Web

Considering the discussion was pitched around ‘shouting loudly’, there were a lot of mentions of not shouting! There was a general consensus that you need to listen, reciprocate and participate in online communities, not just shout or blow your own trumpet.

Top three take-home points:

  • Do one or two things well; don’t try to do everything
  • Avoid sharing the same content on multiple platforms (guilty as charged!)
  • If you blog, end your posts with a question to encourage comments

Stephen Booth, David Mark & Sophie Hannah
Stephen Booth, David Mark & Sophie Hannah

 

Stephen Booth, Sophie Hannah & David Mark on Writing Crime Fiction

After this and the closing keynote by Sophie Hannah I’m a bit of a fan, and I haven’t even read one of her books yet! I did buy her collection of short stories, which I got signed – and the next day I discovered that I’d already bought The Narrow Bed on Kindle! Her descriptions of her plots made them sound right up my street. I love a good psychological thriller.

What struck me most about this discussion was that all three participants started writing at a really early age. Stephen finished his first novel at the age of twelve! Their different approaches to location were interesting too – it was crucial to David, who’s novels are based around Hull (even those which aren’t set there!), whereas Sophie uses fictional settings as “human beings are the same everywhere.”

Top three take-home points:

  • Getting a huge advance can be a poisoned chalice if your book doesn’t sell well enough
  • Avoid being too self-critical and enjoy your successes when they come
  • “The only thing you can control is how good you can make the book” – Sophie Hannah

Rainbow
I saw this rainbow immediately after the conference. Cause for optimism?