Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Publishing Updates

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Got a fantasy manuscript burning a hole in your pocket?

Angry Robot Books is having an Open Door event in which they accept non-agented/unknown-author manuscript submissions. More details here:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


As a copy editor (Copyeditor: one word or two? This is a debate I'll discuss at some later date.), interviews are not something that happens to me.  I've had a number of clients interviewed in various blogs and webzines, and that's always a thrill for me.  I love to see when my clients are doing well.  But recently I was asked a few questions for the purposes of a young woman's Master's Thesis in a post-graduate publishing program at a US university.  I've had a few people ask me about the interview and what the questions and answers were, so I decided to post it here once, because yes, I'm lazy and only want to type it once. :)

1) How long have you been a copyeditor, and what changes have you seen in your job during that time (e.g., technology, attitudes, layoffs, etc.)?

Well, I started out as a technical writer and editor for a software company in 1999. After about seven years with them, I worked for a company that assigns projects to freelancers for just under a year before going out on my own. I learned some really valuable things while working for them, such as what sorts of texts people tend to want editing for, what various publishers expect, and the large and small differences between different English speaking countries' general editing rules, as well as a few different diplomacy tools for working with a variety of clients. However, these sorts of companies that farm out projects take an extremely large chunk of the fee, and it was just unsustainable for me in the long run, as far as living expenses and such, to continue working for them. Fortunately, when I took the leap of going out on my own, a few of the clients I'd asked about giving me possible references decided to come with me.

So my way of becoming a copyeditor was perhaps not the typical track. I'm not really aware of how things might be for those who worked directly for publishing companies or newspapers. I do know many companies like to have lists of freelancers who've proven reliable, and through word of mouth, I've managed to get myself added to a couple of those lists. But that channel of work doesn't provide much, so self-advertisement is still key for freelancers.

2) Do you feel your work is valued (i.e., by readers, writers, etc.)? Why or why not?

Definitely. I think a lot of people are timid at first. After all, how scary must it be to contact a complete stranger, sight unseen, and ask them to "fix" your work (which is often the impression people initially have of copyediting)? I always provide a sample edit, though, and frequently that will lead to at least one edit. You know you're really appreciated, though, when the client returns for that second (and third, etc.) editing project. :)

And every now and then I'll receive a gushy letter of thanks from a client, and that just makes the behind-the-scenes aspect of copyediting SO worth it. I really enjoy helping people find that golden seed buried in their text and showing them how they can really make it flower.

As for readers, I'll just have to assume they're appreciative of the work since they won't have to wade through grammar and usage errors. :D

 3) What is a typical working day like for you?

It varies a lot depending on what kinds of projects are on my calendar for the day. Usually there will be a short story or two, a portion of longer manuscript, perhaps an academic essay or journal article. Ideally, though some will do much more in a day, I try to arrange a schedule so that I don't do more than 20k words per day, which ensures that I'm much more thorough and give everything the in-depth look it deserves rather than just skimming through for obvious errors. As a freelancer, there are still days when there will be nothing, but then a few days later, twelve things may come in at once. Clever scheduling and a good rapport with clients is hugely necessary. :)

4) What do you enjoy about copyediting? What do you struggle with?

I love it when a text just really comes together and a client is happy. I usually offer a second read-through after a client has received my edit and they make changes based on a question I asked or a suggestion I've offered. When I do that second read-through and everything they've done just clicks a story or an article into place, with new clarity or better description, I just find that really cool, because something I've done has helped them become an even better writer. It's both humbling and uplifting at the same time.

What I struggle with is taking my work home with me...especially since I work from home. I almost always have different people's texts in my head, thinking of ways to explain this or that suggestion or correction, etc. Another thing that's difficult is clients who have lots of hopes pinned on becoming a famous writer and I want to help them and not discourage them, but there's this desire to want to let them know that maybe they might not want to hope too much. That's not my job, though. My job is just to help their writing as best I can, give them what tips and tricks I know, and leave it be. I'm a softy and it's easy to get too involved sometimes.

5) What are good qualities for a copyeditor to have?

Well, thoroughness is definitely good, of course. Be picky.

A real knowledge of English and those obscure grammar rules is a must. People are going to ask you WHY a particular correction is the way it is, and if you can't answer them, they lose confidence in you.

Ability to research. If you don't know something, or are unsure, look it up. Google and wikipedia are my good friends. They've helped me help clients with things like the street layout of Ancient Rome and the correct spellings of generic drug names and whether a bibliography author has a hyphen or a non-breaking space in his name. :)

Finally, diplomacy. Stating things delicately turned out to be a lot bigger part of my job than I ever would have imagined. People's writing, particularly fiction, but even PhD theses, is their baby, and they give it gently over to me, and I send it back with slashes and changes and lots and lots of red. And I stand by the statement "Everyone needs an editor" and I definitely don't let my work out into the public eye before I've sent it to my editor, so I know how it feels. :)