My first London Book Fair was an amazing* experience. It made me realise how lucky I am to work in the field of books and writing. Being surrounded by so many books – and, more importantly, people who love them – was energising.
The world of books is a colourful one. Lush displays of children’s books, coffee table books (some of which were large enough to actually be coffee tables) and art books reminded me why the industry hasn’t mirrored the music business in its rapid move from physical to digital formats. There’s something especially attractive about an origami book, a book you can scribble in, or a book that includes balsa wood. It’s also useful to own a book that you could use to knock an intruder unconscious.
I was there to promote Help For Writers – I’ll be writing a more detailed blog for them soon – but I couldn’t stop my enthusiasm for copy-editing from surfacing from time to time. I hope I managed to convince a few writers of the importance of a good copy-edit!
I found the the wonderful unexpected around every corner – including beautiful pigs.
I was honoured to take part in an Author HQ panel on ‘How to prepare for self-publishing’. I hope people found it useful. Thanks to Fiona Marsh (Midas PR) for chairing the session and to my colleague Nikki Halliwell (Marketing Executive at Help For Writers) and self-published author Will Green (Default Setting) for being on the panel with me. You can’t beat advice from someone who has ‘been there and done that’. Luckily there was only one mic between us so I couldn’t interrupt them too much.
Now it’s time to get some caffeine into my system and start the follow-up…
(*Dipping into the thesaurus in search of a less clichéd word to replace ‘amazing’, I was confronted with the suggestions ‘shocking’ and ‘prodigious’. That, my dear reader, is why you can’t write well by following a set of rules.)
This year I’ll be at the London Book Fair for the first time, and I’m excited about it!
I’ll have my Help For Writers hat on, but I’ll also be looking out for opportunities to get involved with new proofreading and copy-editing projects. If you’re a writer, please do stop by stand 1F50C and have a chat – I’m always happy to talk about proofreading and copy-editing! I promise not to come over all salespersonlike. It’s just good to talk to fellow writing geeks from time to time.
If you’re feeling really brave, you can ask about my ‘words I would ban from erotica if I had my way’ list. Settle down for a long ride … no pun intended.
I’m also on a panel. That’s right! I’ll be talking about ‘How to prepare for self-publishing’. The panel will take place on Wednesday 13 April at 12:45 in the Author HQ. The session will be chaired by Fiona Marsh (Midas PR, ex-HarperCollins) and I’ll be joined by self-published author Will Green (Default Setting) and Marketing Executive Nikki Halliwell. I’m really looking forward to it! Come along if you’re there, and feel free to fire questions at us afterwards.
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.
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.
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
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
Imagine a proofreader at work. What are they working on? Most people would picture them working on a novel. Perhaps, if you write non-fiction books, you might be imagining them with their nose in a history manuscript, a biography or a recipe book. Very few people would envisage someone proofreading a website. But your website is your ‘shop window’ to the world, and it’s vital to get it right and show yourself – and your business – to its best advantage.
I do a lot of website proofreading, copy-editing and even copy-writing, and it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction to give a site the final polish that sets it apart from its competitors.
If you run a small or medium sized business, its particularly important to pay close attention to your website and invest in making it as good as possible. If your potential client has to choose between you and your main competitor, the professionalism of your website will influence them. If your website is peppered with spelling mistakes and your rival’s isn’t… well, it makes you look bad. Unfairly so, because less-than-perfect spelling doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. (Don’t get me on my soapbox about people who get all Judgey McJudgeypants over spelling and grammar! That’s a blog post for another day.)
If you’re an author, it’s essential to make sure your website copy is perfect. Although writers work with words, I’m a big believer in the principle that a writer’s strength is their imagination. Not all writers can spell, but they can create characters and worlds. I can spell like a… like a dictionary, but that’s just the grunt work; it doesn’t mean I can write a novel! (Disclaimer: I’ve never tried, but I strongly suspect it would be rubbish.)
If you’re a self-published author, your website is one of the most important tools to sell your books and you don’t have a publishing company looking over your shoulder and polishing the copy. I strongly recommend that you invest in a website ‘proof-edit’ to make sure your unique voice comes across as strongly as possible.
Not everyone who advertises proofreading or editing services works on websites. It’s a different skill from proofreading a leaflet, article or book. I’ve been proofreading and editing websites for twelve years and writing web copy for six years. If you’d like a fresh pair of eyes looking at your site, don’t hesitate to get in touch. It’s a small investment that could pay off big time if it helps you land that crucial new client.
I’ve been accepted as an Intermediate Member! I danced a little happy dance when I got the email.
If you’re thinking about using a copy-editor or proofreader and for some inexplicable reason you don’t want to use my services, I recommend you look for someone who is a Society for Editors & Proofreaders (SfEP) member. You have to prove a certain level of competence – including training and experience – before you are accepted as a member.
The SfEP has a great set of FAQs about using copy-editors and proofreaders – if you’re sitting on the fence, you might like to take a look.
Last week I went to the local Society for Editors & Proofreaders meet-up. It’s only the second time I’ve attended; everyone seems very friendly and keen to talk shop. There was a debate about whether eggs Benedict need a capital ‘B’ and, if not, whether eggs New York should therefore take lower case. I was surprised that people talk so much about work at these meet-ups, but having just read the last sentence back to myself, perhaps I’m not all that surprised. Every now and then you need people to talk to about capitalisation and apostrophes!
At the weekend I went to the thirtieth meeting of the W. E. Johns Appreciation Society. For those of you who don’t know Captain W. E. Johns, he was the author of well over a hundred ‘Biggles’ books. Many people don’t know that he also wrote other series – not only the ‘Worrals’, ‘Gimlet’ and ‘Steeley’ books for young people, but a science fiction series, romance novels for adults, and nonfiction books on aviation and gardening.
I’m too young to be part of the ‘Biggles generation’ – the biggest W. E. Johns fans tend to be around the age of my parents or older – but my parents enjoyed the books and read them to me, and I became a fan in turn. I also find the geekiness of the true Biggles fans fascinating, and on Saturday, among other topics I enjoyed talks about Tierra del Fuego (the scene for Biggles at World’s End) and the role played by an obscure Leicestershire aerodrome – now disused – in the war effort (it was an important ferrying base).
I hope you can find what you need here. If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
If you’re a writer and you’re looking for something more than copy-editing or proofreading, you might be interested in Help For Writers. We provide worldwide ebook distribution to all the stores you could possibly think of! We also provide critiques, cover designs and marketing services. All of these are available as standalone services, so you can purchase just one type of service or bolt several together to suit your marketing and distribution plans for your book.