Category: Freelancing

Working with self-publishing authors – Part 2: expectations and implementation

In Part 1: An industry of opportunitySophie Playle explored who self-publishes, why and how self-publishing has developed over the years, and what this means for editorial freelances. In this post, she’ll be looking at the more practical elements of working with self-publishing authors.

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Working with self-publishing authors – Part 1: an industry of opportunity

The self-publishing boom has happened and it’s here to stay. Options are increasing for writers choosing to take ownership of the publication of their books, and so are opportunities for editors.

Who self-publishes?

Many self-publishers are writers who have not managed to seduce the necessary gatekeepers stationed along the traditional publishing route – not necessarily because their writing is not of publishable quality, but because the publishers don’t believe in their potential to make money in the market. Fair enough – publishers are businesses, after all.

Now, though, writers can choose to take their own risks.

Many writers decide to self-publish simply for the freedom of it all. Some even decide to leave their publishing houses and go it alone because they see it as the better option. (Hello, 70% royalty …)

Rising quality, rising numbers

No longer seen as a practice in vanity, many self-publishers are now fully aware of the challenges they face, and how best to overcome these challenges. As a result, there is a new breed of independent (indie) authors: they are both literary creatives and publishing entrepreneurs.

Did you know …?

  • Self-published books’ share of the UK market grew by 79 per cent in 2013*
  • 18m self-published books were bought by UK readers last year, worth £59m*
  • The Big Five traditional publishers now account for only 16 per cent of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists**

* The Guardian, ‘Self-publishing boom lifts sales by 79% in a year’, Jun 2014
** Author Earnings report, Jul 2014

According to an article posted on Publishing Perspectives (Oct, 2014), literary agent Andrew Lownie believes that in 5–10 years, 75 per cent of books will be self-published, 20 per cent assisted by agents, and only 5 per cent traditionally published. Whether he’s right or wrong is another matter, but it just goes to show how much of an impact the independent author is having on the publishing world.

A wealth of resources

Technology is the catalyst for these opportunities. The e-book format and print-on-demand (POD) services like Smashwords and Lulu provide affordable production. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble provide the marketplaces. Every service in between, from editing to cover design, can be found online, and through new marketplace websites, too, such as Reedsy.

And with the Internet, indie authors have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Not sure how to get your book on the shelves at Waterstones? Or perhaps not sure whether you need to buy an ISBN (or that you know what to do with it)? Never fear, Google is here.

A digital revolution

The Internet is a big deal. I mean, it’s a serious game-changer – in so many ways, but especially for the publishing industry. (Truth be told, I don’t think traditional publishing houses have quite caught up yet.)

At the click of a button, people can access the specific information, entertainment or inspiration they’re looking for. This means that businesses no longer have to go hunting for punters in the old, traditional ways (posters, flyers, radio adverts), because those clients are actively seeking them out.

Instead of a scattergun approach to marketing (least effective), businesses can use targeted pull-marketing (most effective).

What does this mean for the independent author? Well, instead of spending all their time writing alone in their studies, they are now able to connect to their readerships online – through social media, blogs and websites.

Remember the publishing house that was concerned there wasn’t a market for that book? Doesn’t matter, because the indie writer can build their readership from the ground up. That’s the power of the Internet.

What does this mean for editors?

In a word: opportunity.

Self-publishers used to have a bad name. Some still do – but it’s no longer a sweeping generalisation. In the end, poor-quality books will sink and good-quality books will rise. Indie authors are cottoning on to that – and they understand they need to invest in their own quality control.

That’s where we come in.

Sophie Playle, of Liminal Pages, is a freelance editor who specialises in fiction and often works directly with writers. For brownie points, connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. (Please note: No real brownies or points will be awarded.)

Sophie’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.

Elevator pitches for editors

It’s that time of the year – at least in the UK – when the spring flowers are out, the birds are singing, there’s a fleeting glimmer of sunshine … and it’s the end of a tax year (or the start of a new one, depending on how you choose to look at it). Perhaps it’s time to tidy the desk, chuck out a few reams of paper and dust down the elevator pitch.

There’s much to recommend being able to tell people what you do in a way they can understand. Let’s face it – it can be an uphill struggle when it comes to justifying our existence. No, we don’t just check for spelling mistakes. And no, Word’s spellcheck function is definitely no substitute for the real thing. Yes, we might love words, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Sure, an edit is not usually a life-or-death situation, although ‘mere’ typos can do serious damage to reputations and lives – and the work medical editors do, for example, carries a particular weight of responsibility. Good communication in any sector is vital, so there is genuine importance attached to our job, and it takes skill and experience to do it well.

An elevator pitch is typically a short and simple summary of your business offering, using language that anyone can understand. It says who you are, what you do and what you can offer a potential client. A good example will tell a story in miniature, rather than comprise a blurted-out list of bullet points. You need to captivate your listener – and you haven’t got long to do it; perhaps 30 seconds. (The tallest lift in my town only goes up one floor, so I’d have to be especially concise.)

If you’re trying to communicate your worth to so-called non-publishers, you might need to strip things right back to the basics; you could even use an analogy. About a year ago I wrote a description on my website likening the work of an editor to the craft of a sash window renovator. (It only occurred to me afterwards that I should have struck some kind of reciprocal deal with the window restorers, asking them to compare their work to that of a professional editor.) The point is, it can help to explain what we do if we make it more tangible.

Publishers may be easier – they already understand the difference between copy-editing and proofreading, for instance, and they know why they need us. But all publishers are different, and you may still need a very focused approach to make that particular publisher understand why they should hire you, and not the other twenty editors who have also cold-called them that month. What areas do you specialise in? What specific skills and qualifications do you have?

To write your elevator pitch, try putting everything down on paper (or screen) first – everything that differentiates you and your business. Stick to the positives – describe what you can do, not what you can’t. Then, when you have your description, do what you do best – edit it. Cut out all the extraneous material until you’re left with the pure message that you want to convey. Take your time. Tell that story. Nail it.

Now you have your perfect pitch, what can you do with it? One thing you could do is learn it by heart, and then take yourself off to some local networking events (or even an SfEP local group meeting) and actually use it. You might discover that you enjoy the process, and you could even pick up a new client or two. (Remember, contacts you make may not lead to immediate work; it’s often about the long game.)

However, the real beauty of this is that you don’t have to actually deliver the elevator pitch for it to be of real benefit. You’ve just spent quality time focusing on the positives of who you are and what you do. See how you’ve distilled the essence of your business so you understand exactly what you offer and why it’s worth something to others? Now you can use this knowledge of what makes your business brilliant (what I like to think of as your secret elevator pitch) to inform the way you sell it to others, in whatever way you choose.

Do you have an elevator pitch? Has it helped you market your business?

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and full-time freelance since 2008; she is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She specialises in trade non-fiction, fiction and educational publishing, but also works with a range of business clients and individuals.

Liz’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.

Top 10 titles on work-life balance and productivity

I’m a productivity geek. I’m on a lifelong mission to tweak and improve how I do things. Each day is an experiment, mostly one that fails.

This used to be a secret practice, then I took part in a panel discussion on work-life balance. Alongside four of my colleagues I was quizzed on how to fit it all in. Suddenly my obsessive approaches were exposed company wide.

I’d hadn’t prepared for the panel specifically — instead, it felt like my whole life was getting ready for it. I get my ideas from podcasts, blogs and books. So to continue oversharing here’s my top 10 titles to help you experiment, refine and enjoy finding your own personal balance.

1) Getting Things Done — How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity by David Allen

The classic guide on how to be productive, manage an overwhelming amount to do whilst functioning with a clear head and positive sense of relaxed control. Quite a promise but the founding father of modern productivity delivers practical tips in his GTD system.

2) Manage Your Day-to-Day — Build your routine, find your focus & sharpen your creative mind, Edited by Jocelyn K Glei

In a sentence: use your time wisely to create your best work. With a foreword by Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, and published by the mighty 99U, this book helps you to make better decisions so you can focus on what matters most to you.

3) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

The blurb says this is one of the most influential books ever written. This is not hubris. Nearly 20 million people have had their lives changed by Covey’s wise advice. Don’t have time for the book? Check out this brilliant video on YouTube.

4) Better Than Before — Mastering the habits of our everyday lives by Gretchen Rubin

Written by the bestselling author of The Happiness Project Rubin uses homespun tales to explain rigorous research. This book shows you how to how make good habits and break bad ones. Her four tendencies questionnaire has been so helpful to me — take it and know yourself.

5) Smarter, Faster, Better — The Secrets of Being Productive by Charles Duhig

Duhig is the author of The Power of Habit — my go-to bible on the science of habits. This book is a brilliant companion that focusses not just on doing things, but doing them better. As a Pulitzer Prize winner he effortlessly melds science, reporting and storytelling to explore productivity.

6) Deep Work — Rules for focused success in a distracted world by Cal Newport

This is an essential read for knowledge workers ie pretty much everyone who works in an office. Newport makes a compelling case for ‘deep work’ — the ability to focus without distraction. So switch off your alerts, leave Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and instead concentrate deeply. Who knows what you’ll achieve if you go deep?

7) Essentialism — The Discipline and Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Helping us to apply decision-making criteria for what is essential so we can gain control of our choices and make the best possible contribution in life. Stop the ‘trivial many’ and make time for the’ vital few’ activities.

8) Thrive by Ariana Huffington

Redefining what it means to be successful in today’s world. This deeply personal book combines memoir and research to describe the transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging and giving. Huffington outlines her ‘Third Metric’ to help us understand what success really means. Top takeaway — get some sleep.

9) Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Learn from the greats because frankly it’s all been done before. Currey distills the downright weird and wonderful habits of writers, thinkers and creatives to share how they create (and avoid creating). You’ll find delight on every page.

10) The 4-Hour Work Week — Escape the 9–5, live anywhere and join the new rich by Timothy Ferriss

Don’t wait for retirement! Read this step-by-step guide to living the life of your dreams NOW by the master of mindful productivity. Become a Ferriss groupie like me and check out his podcast, blog and Twitter. The man is a God.

Bonus title: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Underneath all the swearing (and there is a lot of swearing) there’s a deep truth: you need to understand what matters to you, and most importantly what doesn’t matter — and stop bloody doing it. Only by saying no will you find time to the stuff that makes you go yes, Yes, YES!

Bec Evans is a co-founder of Prolifiko a digital productivity coach which uses a research-backed productivity system to encourage writers to start and stick at their writing projects. She writes, works in publishing innovation, and was highly commended digital achiever in the Bookseller’s Futurebook 2016 awards.

Difficult authors: 14 tips for editors

Editors deal with all types of clients. Many of them are pleasant and easy to work with. Some can be very difficult. In a previous article, freelance copy-editor Sue Littleford discusses different sorts of difficult clients and the problems an editor faces. Here she follows up with some useful tips on how to tackle these issues. 

Here are a bunch of strategies that may help should you have the misfortune to encounter any difficult authors (who, I stress, are the minority!).

1) Trust your instincts

If the client makes you feel uneasy at any point during the negotiation stage, trust your instincts and don’t take on the job. Do NOT cross your fingers and think, oh, it’ll be okay. While you’re dealing with a client you don’t want to have, you’re using up the time and energy you could have spent finding the client you want. A really bad client will be an enormous drain on you.

2) Test the waters

If you’re not sure about a client, offer a paid-for sample edit, the cost to be offset against the final invoice. You’ll get to see not only the writing, but how the author responds to your edits and your invoices. I have declined to work on a handful of jobs as a result, with no regrets.

3) Define your terminology

Have a document you send to prospective clients, or a page on your website, that explains the differences between the services you offer, and check they understand what it is they’ve asked you to do to be sure it’s what they actually want you to do.

4) Define your quality

Don’t promise to deliver ‘perfect’ text. You’re human, so you won’t. Don’t raise your client’s expectations to an unreasonable level. Remember the old adage – underpromise, overdeliver.

5) Pre-empt

This one is so important, as it deals with several of the ways authors can be difficult. Have a contract that says exactly what work you will do, referring to the definitions you’ve supplied, how you will deal with re-edits, and edits of changes or additional material, for what reasons you will walk away or the client can, payments in instalments, what happens to those instalments if either of you fires the other, whether you must be paid the balance of your fee before you release the files – think about every way a job could go wrong and anticipate it in your contract. Whenever you finish a sticky job see whether you need to update your contract. In the UK, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders provides a template contract to use as a starting point.

6) Put yourself in the author’s shoes

If you were on the receiving end of your edits, how would you feel? You may think the author is an unconscionable idiot, but are you rubbing them up the wrong way whilst savaging their literary baby? Are you giving the author what they need and what they are paying you to do? Are those two things the same? Is there a conversation to be had now you’re further into the text and more of its horrors are being revealed?

7) Learn how to query and comment gracefully

It’s hard to be criticised. And that’s what queries about the text are – you’re saying the author didn’t get it right. So be kind, and clear, and pepper your queries with words like ‘please’ and ‘perhaps’ and ‘would that be okay?’ no matter how exasperating the job. It’s doubly hard to be criticised if your editor seems to be scolding you. As editor, you may think you’re being brisk, but it will all too easily be read as brusque.

8) Consider that your author may conceivably know more than you on this subject

Don’t snap out a query each time something looks a bit weird. Look it up. You may find that your author is entirely correct. Odd-sounding turns of phrase may be exactly right in that field. And if you’ve looked it up and it’s still wrong, then your query will be all the better phrased because of your research – you may well have discovered what you think the author was aiming for, and now you just need it confirmed (or not).

9) Patience, patience, patience

You may be concentrating on the text, but the author’s life is proceeding apace. It’s no longer their main focus. You may have to wait your turn to get their attention. They may be dealing with problems you can’t begin to imagine.

10) Learn the art of the snottogram

This is my closely guarded secret, honed in many years in the civil service persuading senior officers to do things my way without offending them. If your author is threatening the publisher’s timetable, or is being uncooperative in some other way, send a carefully worded, polite but steely message that spells out the consequences of their behaviour, and what they need to do about it. Include a checklist of what’s outstanding – it could be they’ve just lost their way.

11) Vary your working practices

Try to work out what your author’s problem is, and see if a change to your usual way of working will help them out.

12) Set out your stall

Most of my work is in scholarly non-fiction, working for publishers and pre-press companies. In my introductory email to the author(s), I tell them the timetable, invite them to say if it’s a problem, tell them how queries will be handled, how often they can expect to hear from me, whether they get the whole amended text back for a last read-through or not, ask any initial questions I have based on the brief I’ve been given, and anything I’ve already noticed in the manuscript, and I encourage the author to tell me of any concerns they have about the edit, and anything they think I should know about the text before I start on it.

13) Alert the publisher early

Put the desk editor on warning that there may be trouble ahead. Could be they can do something about it. Could be they can produce some wiggle room in the timetable. At least they’re forewarned.

14) Communicate, communicate, communicate

I’m not saying this is a panacea, but talk to each other before it goes completely pear-shaped. Most editors I know prefer to keep all exchanges to emails – a sensible precaution for both sides, as there’s a record of what was said and agreed (or not agreed). Thrashing things out by phone or on Skype is sometimes the only way to go. Make notes as you go, write up the conversation immediately afterwards, email it to the author as a record and ask them to agree it or to correct it. The key is to take action early, not hold on in silence and hope things will miraculously improve. Sometimes you need to be proactive – a new author may need a bit of education about the publishing world. Even an experienced author may not realise the impact their action or inaction is having. No author wants to have the edit go badly.

One final point – the Society for Editors and Proofreaders requires its members to adhere to its Code of Practice. If an author feels that a member editor hasn’t done so, then there is a complaints route.

Sue Littleford has been a freelance copy-editor for ten years, working in scholarly non-fiction, but with forays into fiction. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and author of their Guide Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business.

17 ways to annoy an editor

Editors deal with all types of clients. Many of them are pleasant and easy to work with. Some can be very difficult. Freelance copy-editor Sue Littleford discusses different sorts of difficult clients and the problems an editor faces. Soon to follow is Sue’s companion piece on how to resolve these issues, and what authors can do if they feel an editor isn’t adhering to the Code of Practice. 

I’m a freelance copy-editor, so I hang out around freelance editorial online watercoolers. If you do the same, or read blogs with any regularity, you’ll have seen editors’ tales of nightmare authors and, indeed, authors’ tales of nightmare editors.

Some of the most recalcitrant problems arise around conflicting ideas of ‘perfect’. Objective perfection doesn’t exist, but many freelance editors sell themselves as able to deliver it, which does no one any favours. And some authors expect their editors to be quite unfeasibly perfect – and read minds, to boot.

I’m going to state right now that, in my experience, most authors are lovely to work with. But in any barrel, there will always be a few bad apples. Here are several ways to annoy your editor. Some of these happened to me. Some of these happened to people I know.

1) The me-too

I had one of these very early in my freelance career. Not too long after JK Rowling had published the final Harry Potter, the first part of story about a young orphan wizard in a school in a castle, with horrible relatives, an owl and two friends whose names began with H and R landed on my desk. It was dire. Even if it had been half-decently written, there was no getting away from the fact it was a rip-off. When the client asked if I thought she’d get it published, I had to say no. Getting paid for that job took a while…

2) The can’t-stop-fiddling

Ah yes, the author who just keeps adding and changing and expecting you to edit all the new bits for no extra cash and in the original timescale. I’d once returned files to the publisher for typesetting, and days later was still getting new material from the author, who was trying to charm me into doing more work just because he was a ‘head-in-the-clouds academic’ (I’m quoting). Didn’t work. Note to authors: when you submit your manuscript to your publisher, the working assumption is that you’ve actually finished it. Aside from the actual extra work involved, and the cost and time added to the schedule that no one has budgeted for, it’s hard to do a quality edit of a moving target.

3) The precious

The author whose work was perfect to begin with and who rejects every single edit and comment. You wonder why they bothered getting an editor.

4) The precious with attitude

As for no. 3, but rude with it. The editor is clearly too stupid to comprehend the author’s artistic vision.

5) The vague

The author who can’t answer a question unless you send a separate email with each one. And/or they keep changing their minds about things they’d already answered. Or you have to ask the same question five times to get an answer. Note to authors – if we ask, it’s because we need to know.

6) The condescending

Now, not all academic authors are like this – most are absolutely delightful, I’m happy to say – but there are some who make you deal with their secretary, as they can’t be bothered with your queries, or who treat your introductory email setting out the timetable, query handling and initial questions with airy indifference. I remember taking several attempts to get the author to confirm which variety of English they wanted me to edit the book into. The manuscript provided no clues and the clock was ticking. I was finally told ‘I’m sure you can work it out.’ So I went with my preference, which may not have been theirs. You can edit the book of one of these authors without ever having a conversation with them about it. Editing is dispiriting when the author doesn’t seem to care what happens to the book.

7) The didact

The editor sends the academic author a query. The academic author doesn’t answer the query, but writes a paragraph explaining around the point so I can figure out the answer for myself. Good teaching for your students, not so good for letting your copy-editor know how the manuscript should read at that point. I get one of these about once a year and it really slows things down and does nothing for my blood pressure.

8) The headstrong

First cousin to no. 6, the headstrong author will not be interested in following their publisher’s house style and certainly won’t have bothered to read the publisher’s guide for authors, because it’s of no interest to them – they’ll write the way they always have, and expect the house style to disappear in a puff of smoke. Your copy-editor, however, will be distracted from reading the actual words you worked so hard on by toiling away on the mechanics, taking out, or inserting, commas in references, or substituting First World War for World War I, or correcting your capitalisation of acronyms to haul the text back into house style.

9) The uncooperative

They won’t answer queries, they go silent for days on end, they email you from the airport to say they’re going away and will be offline for ten days and make it your problem to deal with the publisher’s schedule (not to mention the knock-on effect on your own bookings).

10) The my-friend-knows-better

It’s enough to make you cry. You’ve slaved over not very promising material and improved it significantly. Then the author shows your edits to a friend or relative, and they find fault with everything you’ve done. They’re wrong, of course. They can’t spell and they don’t understand grammar or how hyphenation changes with context. And they certainly don’t understand that there’s no such thing as perfect. So the author wants you to do it again, this time inserting all their friend’s mistakes.

11) The litigious and/or blackmailer

You’ve done your edit, you’ve sent in the files and your invoice, and the author claims you’ve not done a decent job. There’s a comma missing on page 172! They want a do-over at no charge, or they won’t pay your invoice. Or they’ll take you to court to recover what they paid you before they got bent out of shape over the missing comma on page 172. Or they want a monstrous discount, because you missed out a comma on page 172. And/or they’ll shred your reputation across social media.

12) The utterly deluded

They think an editor will work for a share of their royalties, because their book is such a wonder, movie producers will be lining up for the rights, and publishers will be printing hundreds of thousands of hardbacks for the first print run for an unknown novelist.

13) The parsimonious

‘Freelance means free, doesn’t it?’ ‘Budget? Oh, well, how does £50 sound – I don’t have any more’ (for a 150,000 word copy-edit). Sometimes the author just doesn’t want to pay, because the book is so good really, you should be paying them for the honour (and yes, I’ve had one of those), others just really have no idea of time or cost. And yes, it takes longer to edit a book than to read it. Much longer. And further, editors have mortgages, bills and commitments that require cash, not a swapsie for, well, anything the author wants to offer.

14) The crafty

Editors talk to each other. Facebook groups I belong to have in the past few months caught out two people sending out individual chapters to different copy-editors for a ‘free sample edit’ in an attempt to get the entire book edited free of charge. It’s not big and it’s not clever. Any author who tries that must be prepared to be called out on it, or, should they get away with it, have a manuscript that will not have been well edited. Editing is about consistency much of the time – and no editor will edit a long text in exactly the same way as another.

15) The no-show

After going through the negotiations and agreeing to take on the job, and having fitted it into your schedule, the job doesn’t show up. With some authors I’ve been told about, it doesn’t show up on the rescheduled date, either. When it finally shows up, unheralded, it’s for an immediate turnaround. Sigh. Now, for the freelance editor the no-show means they have a gap in their schedule. No money coming in. Other jobs, perhaps, have turned down because they’ve taken yours on. The editor can try their contacts to see if they can fill the gap, but an offered project may not have the same time requirements as the one you’ve just bailed on. Editors know that sometimes a manuscript isn’t ready when you’d said it would be. Things happen, we get that. But please – communicate with your editor ahead of the date you’re due to deliver your manuscript if you’re at all worried about meeting your commitment.

16) The wannabe book designer

If you know you’re writing for publication, then making your manuscript look just like you hope the book will is, 99 times out of 100, a total waste of effort on your part, and creates work for the copy-editor. And if the author is paying the copy-editor for their time, that’s a waste of the author’s money, too. It is also really dull work for the copy-editor to have to squash all your design into typesetter-friendly format. So don’t use fancy styles – the editor wants to know a chapter title from a side-heading, and what needs to be italic, what’s a quotation and so on, but don’t try to replicate the book designer, who will be following the publisher’s brief (as will the copy-editor). It doesn’t help, either, if the author hits return at the end of each line, or uses strings of spaces or tabs to make a pretend table.

17) The legally naive

Copy-editors and publishers worry about copyright infringement and libellous statements a lot more than some authors seem to. One author told me that they didn’t need permission to quote material and use other people’s photographs ‘because they were on the internet, so they’re free’ (despite the copyright statements in the source websites…). Publication was delayed. Another said a lot of things about Berlusconi that may well have been true, but hadn’t yet been proven, and the publisher was not about to spend its money defending an action for libel. A couple of paragraphs were ripped out.

Sue Littleford has been a freelance copy-editor for ten years, working in scholarly non-fiction, but with forays into fiction. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and author of their Guide Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business.

7 practical changes to increase your rates

The subject of rates is often fraught with difficulty. We work in a competitive field, and there can be tremendous pressure on budgets. However, if you’d like to increase your average hourly rate, there are some small changes – which you don’t have to make all at once – that can add up to a big difference in your earnings over time.

1) Be strict with yourself

Know how long you can spend on any project in order to achieve your preferred rate, and stick to that. I’m not suggesting that you cut corners or leave bits out in order to achieve this, but don’t get sidetracked, and don’t spend time on anything unnecessary. Monitor your progress as you go. If you realise that the budget really doesn’t cover the work, you can say so (many clients will be understanding if they have underestimated the amount of work involved), but you really need to raise this early on.

2) Learn to be decisive

Editors seem to love to discuss the details … Should there be a comma, or not? Perhaps a semicolon? And what’s the correct spelling of that word? How should this work be referenced? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and the longer you look at something, the harder it becomes. It’s good to have colleagues to ask, and you’ll be amazed at how helpful people can be and what you might learn – but don’t get sucked into the trap of deliberating over every editorial decision. Use the house style (if there is one) to guide you, use your common sense and the relevant reference tools – and move on as quickly as you can.

3) Build efficiency into everything you do

I’m not just talking about keyboard shortcuts, find-and-replace routines or macros. All these things, used in a way that suits you and the type of work you do, can speed things up and improve your earnings. Think too about everything you do that surrounds a project. Can you find things quickly on your computer? Are there emails you send regularly that don’t need to be written from scratch each time? How long does it take you to send an invoice when you’re done? The next time you receive a similar project, will you be prepared for it? Each and every task you perform repetitively has the potential to be made more efficient – and the less time you spend doing things you can’t bill for, the more time there is to spend on things you can.

4) Try asking for more

This sounds simple, but it might be the hardest to do. However, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. The worst that can happen is that the client won’t budge. Surprisingly often, though, they will.

5) Don’t give discounts for large jobs

It can be tempting to accept a large project at a lower rate than you would usually work for. There is something comforting about having a lot of work booked in, after all. But logically, this means you will be tying up a lot of your time working for less money than you’d like, when you could be looking for other work that pays better. Only you can decide what is acceptable, but don’t feel that you have to do the work for less just because a client is supplying you with a lot of it.

6) Share information

It can be hard to discuss rates – it’s a potentially emotive topic – and it can be upsetting if you find out that a colleague is being paid more to do the same work. However, making yourself aware of the rates others are getting for similar work puts you in a stronger position to negotiate. You may be able to share this information anonymously through your editorial society (for example, the SfEP provides a ‘Rate for the job’ service for members), and you may find that online discussions shed light on the subject. Or, bring up the topic in person with a few trusted friends. Try not to see it as comparing yourself with others, but rather as arming yourself with information that could help you all.

7) Keep track

Finally, one of the best ways I have found of keeping my rates moving in the right direction is simply to keep track of what I earn per hour for any given project; I can then look at how this averages out across multiple projects for the same client. In this way I know which of my clients pay best, and which pay worst. If a project dips below what I consider to be an acceptable minimum, I can then figure out if there’s a way I could do the same work faster, if I need to ask for a bigger budget next time, or if it’s simply time to move on.

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and full-time freelance since 2008; she is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She specialises in trade non-fiction, fiction and educational publishing, but also works with a range of business clients and individuals.

Liz’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.

Why professional ghostwriters don’t work for peanuts [winning blog idea February]

Each month BookMachine offers a community member, with great ideas, the chance to write on the site. February’s winner was Emma Murray, who wrote for us about why it’s worth investing in a good ghostwriter. Emma is a bestselling author and ghostwriter, specialising in business, psychology and higher education. She also ghosts books, blogs, articles, case studies, and book proposals.

Consider this scenario. You are an expert in your field; you have over a decade’s experience and a great reputation. A professional person contacts you and offers you £5,000 for six months’ work on a large and complex project. This works out at less than £7 an hour – lower than the national minimum wage. Do you accept the project or walk away?

For most of you, this would be a no-brainer – why would anyone with your skills and experience accept such a low fee for an enormous amount of work?

Yet, this scenario is more common than you may think. More and more often, professional ghostwriters are being offered astonishingly low fees for book projects. This is because there are ghostwriters who will work for this sort of fee.

Ghostwriters who DO work for peanuts

The sad truth is that there are ghostwriters who will work for peanuts. These are ghostwriters who are just starting out and need to build their portfolios, or students who want to make an extra bit of cash on the side. There are also ghostwriters who will work for very little or sometimes nothing at all just for the cachet of working on a celebrity book.

The problem is that ghostwriters who accept low fees set a false industry standard for the rest of the ghostwriting community. Besides, when novice ghostwriters mess up, it also taints the reputation of professional ghostwriters.

Why it pays to invest in a professional ghostwriter

Professional people know that quality comes at a price. If I quoted my clients £5,000 for six months’ work, they’d seriously question my writing abilities (and quite frankly, my sanity). Besides, my clients know that paying for quality reaps rewards.

Here’s why:

  • A book is the new business card: it showcases your expertise and promotes you and your business.
  • It enhances your reputation as a leading authority on a specific topic.
  • It opens the door to more speaking engagements (Think TED/TEDx).
  • It gives you something tangible to give to colleagues and hand out at conferences.
  • There is a certain cachet to being an author. It helps you to stand out from the crowd. Your book makes you memorable.
  • A successful book will earn you royalties which will help to cover your ghostwriting fees, and potentially act as another income stream.

What you are paying for

Professional ghostwriters charge more than novices as they have more knowledge and experience, as well as excellent reputations. Here’s what you get when you invest in a professional ghostwriter:

  • Professional ghostwriters have more than one string to their bows.

Ghostwriters often come from different backgrounds, including journalism, marketing, PR, and publishing. Not only can they write but are well-connected and able to offer you advice and guidance that goes beyond the act of just writing your manuscript.

  • Professional ghostwriters are also authors

Most professional ghostwriters are authors in their own right which puts them in an excellent position to advise you on the publishing process.

  • Professional ghostwriters are full-time writers

Professional ghostwriters do not ghostwrite ‘on the side’. This means that they are totally committed to working with you and your book until it reaches completion.

  • Professional ghostwriters have an excellent work ethic

Professional ghostwriters are reliable, efficient, totally committed to deadlines, very discreet and extremely loyal to their clients.

So this is why professional people pay more for professional ghostwriters. It’s simply not worth your time or money to do otherwise. Besides, as oil-well firefighter Red Adair used to say, ‘If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.’ 

7 steps for pricing your editorial work

Pricing editorial work comes up time and again in discussion between editors. Here’s an overview of the basic process of quoting for work, which can be applied across a range of situations. The same principles can also be used to work out if a fixed fee offered by a client is fair.

1) Assess the information provided about the work

The client should provide you with the project parameters, including extent or word count, schedule, level of editing required, and so on. They might suggest a price, or they might ask you to quote.

2) Ask for more information if you need it

You can’t accurately price work without adequate information and a sample of the text. If the client will not provide the information you need to price the work, proceed with caution!

3) Work out what your work is worth

To work out a price for the work, you can take the hourly rate you need/want to earn, multiply it by the length of time you estimate the job will take, and add on contingency to arrive at a total fee. Alternatively you can quote what you think the work is worth to the client. Other factors can influence the figure, such as the particular market, or the time frame allowed for the work.

4) Use data from previous projects/colleagues to help you

To enable you to estimate how long a job will take, it is essential to keep records of work you do. If you are asked to quote for work unlike anything you have done, you can ask colleagues for advice – for example, in the SfEP forums.

5) Prepare a quote, making clear what it covers

When you provide a price, you should also indicate what this price includes. For many publishers, this will be fairly straightforward, as they are likely to be commissioning you for a commonly understood part of the process such as copy-editing or proofreading. For a non-publisher, you will need to ensure they know precisely what they are getting for their money, and importantly what is not included.

6) Prepare to negotiate

If your client suggests a price, don’t be afraid to ask for more if you think the work warrants it; equally, if you suggest a price, be prepared for the client trying to negotiate down.

7) Agree terms with the client, and start work

Make sure you have the agreed price and the scope of work in writing before you start work. If anything changes that might affect the price, raise this with your client as soon as possible.

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and full-time freelance since 2008; she is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She specialises in trade non-fiction, fiction and educational publishing, but also works with a range of business clients and individuals.

Liz’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.

The making of a unicorn (aka the ideal freelancer)

On Wednesday 15th February, Kathryn Munt, Astrid deRidder and Anna Faherty were in turns helpful, humorous and honest in their observations on outsourcing and freelancing. Astrid used the term ‘unicorn’ to describe the ideal freelancer: reliable, on time, within budget, problem solving, going beyond the brief. Each of us smiled as we realised that we were unicorns ourselves – rare, magical and pure, with tears that can heal the sorrows of a publisher’s heart (my interpretation). And I wondered (Carrie Bradshaw voice-over) – What could publishers do to create more unicorns?

Better communications – even if we share a language and culture

Kathryn described working with Indian companies providing outsourcing teams, where poor communications can cause budget and quality issues. She stressed that training in communications was provided.

I’ve been asked to be concise and clear when sending debug requests to Indian outsourcers, but does anyone apply these ‘rules’ to communications between publishers, editorial staff and freelancers?

Anna mentioned the often tortuous approach to writing a brief, when all a freelancer needs is something clear and unambiguous. Many is the time that I’ve had to query a brief, and many the time I’ve had to follow up on the response to ask, ‘Sorry, but was that a yes or a no?’

We’re all under pressure, we dash off emails without thinking – but we shouldn’t. We should take a leaf out of the cross-cultural book and aim to be crystal clear (and courteous) in all communications. Perhaps we would all benefit from some training?

Anna also spoke about keeping freelancers in the loop; for me this is all about timing. It’s obvious that freelancers need to know when there are changes to a project. But they need to know as soon as you know, not whenever you remember to tell them.

Inclusion is not just practical; it makes freelancers feel good. Many enjoy being perceived as ‘experts’, and an expert who is excluded feels less inclined to go the extra mile when needed.

I read that unicorns can speak to all other creatures, but I believe the happiest are those that receive communications reflecting their status.

Don’t treat me as a member of staff …

Anna made a valid point: freelancers are paid for their time, but they are not paid to be available all the time. They cannot be expected to be at their desks every day from 9 to 5 unless this is agreed (and paid for).

… but do treat me as a team member

Do you praise your in-house staff after a job well done? Give a freelancer some positive feedback. Do you critique the work of your in-house staff? Take time occasionally to help a good freelancer to improve. Do you recommend your staff’s work to colleagues? Share your unicorns.

Do you tell your in-house staff that you don’t know when they will be paid, or that they won’t be paid this month because of a new payment system? I didn’t think so.

Lyn Strutt is a freelance content editor, copyeditor and proofreader of print and digital ELT materials, specialising in adult and business English and ESP. Before moving into publishing in 2003, she taught for over 12 years in the UK, Finland, Germany and Hong Kong. She is an Advanced Professional member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and holds a Licentiateship of the City and Guilds of London Institute in Editorial Skills. She promises she will get a website soon.

5 ideas to keep a freelance career interesting

In the run up to the next BookMachine event on Wednesday (15th), ‘Outsourcing Uncovered:Managing, inspiring and evaluating your out-of-house workforce‘, Liz Jones shares her top tips for staying interested as a freelancer. 

Many publishing professionals make the leap from employment to freelancing. However, it can be a shock to move from a senior in-house position to being managed yourself and more remote from the whole process. Fortunately there are practical ways to keep your freelance career challenging and stimulating.

1) Be a great boss

The best bosses lead by example, know the job inside out, and offer support and encouragement. In the same way, being your own boss is about much more than just managing your time: it’s about taking control of your career and staying motivated. You’ll need to seek out opportunities that will make best use of your skills and enable you to develop new ones. And you’ll need to be honest with yourself about your strengths and areas you need to improve.

2) Build meaningful networks

Everybody knows that freelancing takes you away from work colleagues. However, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to build new networks that work for you. One way to feel involved is to sometimes work in-house for clients, if possible. If not, treat occasional meetings with clients as chances to maintain existing contacts and make fresh ones. Find out where your peers (in-house and freelance) congregate online or in person to share ideas and best practice – try social media and professional associations. Don’t be passive – contribute and make yourself known. Finally, collaboration with other professionals can help you win more interesting commissions.

3) Exploit your expertise

Just like landing an in-house job, freelancing is competitive. One thing that can set you apart is to offer skills that other freelancers don’t. Let potential clients know what you can do, whether it’s planning strategy, commissioning, project management, editing in layout, copyright clearance, or whatever. With your insider knowledge you’ll understand how to make your clients’ lives easier … which is always appreciated.

4) Give back

To take your freelance career to the next level, pass on your skills. Share knowledge through forums and other online groups, or by blogging or podcasting. Offer training or mentoring, via an established provider or independently. If you are involved with a professional association, volunteer. All these things will raise your profile, while also helping others and contributing to your CPD.

5) Find your own path

If you’re employed, you’ll have regular progress reviews – so continue this practice once you’re freelance. Evaluating your business will enable you to see how to change it for the better. Even a few minutes of business planning per day can make a huge difference over a longer period of time. Don’t just rely on existing contacts, even if you have loads: seek out new ones. Think laterally and expand into related areas – from editing you might move into writing or research, for example. Take new opportunities and push yourself … one of the most exciting things about freelancing is never knowing exactly what will happen next!

Liz Jones has worked as an editor since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade and educational publishing, and has worked for a huge range of clients. Alongside her editorial business she works as a proofreading and copy-editing mentor for the SfEP, and was a director of the SfEP from 2012 to 2015. She also writes fiction, and blogs on editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

‘No’ your way to a better business

As I write this, I’m nearly deluged in paid work. I said ‘yes!’ to clients about three times more than I should have. My bank account will be very happy in about six weeks, but in the meantime I’m getting up early, squeezing in work everywhere, skipping exercise, deferring personal appointments, and drinking extra coffee.

In the 20 years I have been freelancing, I have noticed that it is very hard to say no. I’ve noticed it with colleagues, too, and my theory is this: as freelancers, we train ourselves to say yes because yes = paycheck. When we started out, we probably said yes to everything because we were desperate for work, eager to expand our client base, excited to learn new things, and appreciative of the income. Publishing seems to be a woman-dominated field (at least in editorial), and women often tend to be people pleasers, which can lead to a yes when a no would be better.

When we say yes a lot, it can feel good! Gratification: we made someone happy. Security: work is coming in, money will be earned. Pride: look how much I got done! Too many yeses lead to a feast of work, with concomitant stress. Our bodies, our schedules, our families, and even our friends suffer when we do nothing but work. A feast portion is all too often followed by a famine portion. We’re briefly grateful for a break, a rest, some recovery, but then we start to panic about lack of work… so we start drumming up more business, saying yes to lots more things, and then we’re back in the feast portion again.

The problem is, these vicious circles of stress and panic are not healthy, and they are not sustainable in the long run. For full-time freelancers, this is almost certainly not the lifestyle you envisioned.

There are many steps, tools, and techniques for reclaiming your life and business. In this post, I offer a key one: start saying no. It may seem counterintuitive, and it may feel almost physically uncomfortable to get the words out, but it’s the simplest thing you can do.

Check your instinct to immediately say yes to everything and everyone (and that includes personal requests, like tea with friends or dinner out). Give each request – appointment, social event, client project – some careful thought. Is it coming at a time when you already have plenty of work? Are you already overloaded, or will the schedule free up? Is it work that you truly want to do, or something that’s not quite in your core skills and interests (e.g. proofreading when you really do developmental editing). Think about what you truly want in your life – are you missing time for hobbies, time with family, or even just relaxing? Haven’t taken a vacation in a long time? Reclaim your sanity by saying no as needed.

The tough part is saying no without feeling guilty, without softening it with a lengthy apology or explanation. Remember: ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Loyal clients will know they can come back to you and may even ask when you are available.

When you say no to the things that don’t serve you – that overload your schedule, that aren’t in your core business, that are just a chore and not an opportunity – you will free up time and energy for the things that do serve you. That alone can shape your business in exciting new ways, opening more doors than you ever thought possible.

Start now: what can you start saying no to?

Laura Poole started her full-time freelance business in 1997. She edits exclusively for scholarly university presses. She started training editors in 2009 with privately run workshops. In 2015, she joined with Erin Brenner to become the co-owner of Copyediting, for which she is also the Director of Training.

Laura’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.

Remote control: Collaboration and proofing tools for design teams

For many of the book publishers I work with the use of freelancers is an integral part of their workflow. Some companies offer their internal design and editorial staff the opportunity of working from home and use remote working on projects with colleagues based in other locations.

It might not be for everyone, but working from home (or the café or in fact anywhere that isn’t the office) can increase concentration, creativity and productivity.

Of course, there are also times when coming together as a team is important. Modern connectivity means instant written, spoken and even face to face communication are all becoming commonplace but for publishers the everyday challenges of reading through or viewing a designed page, keeping track of progress and exchanging comments can still be mundane, lengthy and potentially risky.

In recent years several software companies, including my own, have brought out solutions to connect creative people who are working together but remotely. In this article I have a look at some of the different solutions available.

Sharing files

Let’s be clear. Email is OK for general communications but it should never be used when sharing the large files we deal with in illustrated book publishing. I’d also strongly recommend avoiding it for collaborating or sharing proofs and comments.

Wetransfer offer a neat and free solution to send big files to one or more others. It is simple and reliable, better than FTP, and more features come with the paid version.

However, if working within a team then centralising your file sharing is much smarter than passing copies of files between each other. Google Drive, Box, Hightail and others offer ways to share centralised access to your files.

Dropbox offer this too and, in my opinion, have the best solutions for managing files within a creative team. I really like Dropbox desktop integration and synchronisation. Files sit in a regular folder on your PC or Mac, you can work offline and files are then synced when online. It’s worth knowing about their ‘selective sync‘ feature: this lets you choose which folders you wish to access locally in order to free up space whilst knowing all other files are safe, available to others and easily retrievable.

There are ways to restrict access to certain areas and to prevent overwriting. Whilst I would not recommend relying upon Dropbox as your only backup solution, their paid version automatically saves every version of every file, and you can revert to a previous version if you need to.

Dropbox selective sync lets you choose which shared files are on your computer

Collaboration

Whilst the creative process is happening then working together on the same publication and even on the same page becomes important.

As well as holding your files centrally Hightail and Dropbox also offer the ability to share PDF and image files for commenting and will notify users when comments are added.

Hightail and Dropbox offer ability to add comments to images

Futureproofs is a cloud-based system designed by an experienced editor that focuses on the jobs that editors, proofreaders, authors and designers actually do. Its quick, precise annotation tools combine traditional standards-based markup with modern gesture recognition. Their built-in collaboration tools help your whole team stay on top of queries and decisions, and real-time data give deep insight into project management. Deadlines, live notifications and tracking are all held online for easy access.

Futureproofs lets you mark up the page just by drawing on it

MasterPlan is a planning, tracking and commenting system for your entire publishing team. Multiple projects can be planned out and their progress viewed in the browser. Changes made in InDesign are instantly pushed to an online overview. Clicking on a thumbnail opens spreads in a retina quality preview where annotations can be drawn and comments added. Back in InDesign these comments are pulled down onto the InDesign page.

MasterPlan integrates with InDesign to share an overview of entire illustrated publications

Communication

Rather than using unwieldly email threads, those working in publishing teams can benefit from using messaging and chat. Slack, HipChat and Skype chat are all ways to communicate quickly and to keep everyone in touch about day to day minutiae. Also, Masterplan connects with Slack to let colleagues know whenever InDesign pages are changed or comments are added.

Messaging apps build up a well presented project specific shared history that can be easily filtered and searched. You can direct questions at certain people and mark important info for later reference using @ and # tags when necessary and all in a more immediate way that is ideal for team communication.

It is helpful to have a way to be able to dip out and back in to threads of product info without having to hunt through a mixture of other emails.

Slack gets team communications neatly under control

Sometimes a quick live screen share can really help with describing or resolving a particular point. Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom all offer free ways to do this.

For big projects that start to require some project management it is worth looking at larger tools like BaseCamp and Trello which can become a central single location for messages, to-dos and timelines.

Commenting and approval

Towards the end of the design and editorial stages there are several options for sharing proofs, adding comments and receiving approval. Also, people outside of the design teams may well need to sign off on a project too.

Although Futureproofs and MasterPlan offer commenting and approval tailored to fit into the workflow of book publishers, if you would prefer a more simple online proof approval on a file by file basis then other tools such as ProofHQ, GoProof and PageProof are all available.

Of these PageProof stands out as a well thought-out option which also handles setting up of approval chains. These mean the next person who needs to approve a piece gets notified at the right time. It integrates with Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Photoshop, and Illustrator and even allows commenting on video and audio files. PageProof is also fully encrypted so this might be an option if ‘for your eyes only’ security is important.

For those looking for a custom branded file sharing and commenting and Digital Asset Management system then FileCamp may fit the bill.

Outputting for production

GreenLight is a simple system that ensures that your house style and production rules are applied to all InDesign files in your workflow. Instantly updated checklists of rules and presets are shared with all remote workers and if a problem is found then the area of InDesign page is highlighted and online help pages show how to amend them. When files are ready, GreenLight can also be used to output approved final PDFs and prepare final files.

GreenLight makes sure your house styles and production rules are followed

So, these days, there are real alternatives available to the fiddly and time consuming practice of sending around PDFs, long confusing email trails of feedback and scribbled on print outs.

When making your choice, think about the type and length of publications you produce, the number of people within your creative teams, the amount and order of final approvals required and who is to make the final files for production.

MasterPlan and GreenLight are my company’s tools. I’ve tried to be impartial and fair in my recommendations of these and others.

I hope you find this article useful, if you have any other favourites then please let me know in the comments below.

Circular SoftwareKen Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer Penguin Group UK. Now specialising in writing workflow applications and offering training and consultancy for publishers on print and digital workflows.

Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow.

You can contact Ken via twitter @circularken or through the website http://www.circularsoftware.com

Although freely available on the web, images may be subject to copyright.

The importance of networking for freelance editors

… or any freelancers really. Those of us who work from home and don’t get out much. You know who you are.

At this time of year when it’s cold and wet here in the UK, it’s tempting to bundle ourselves up in blankets, scarves and fingerless mitts, and get down to work without giving the outside world a thought until it’s time to do the school run / buy more coffee / go to bed. And that’s fine a lot of the time. But if you do that for weeks at a time, and possibly longer, things might start to pass you by and you can start to miss out on events, industry developments, and opportunities to take part in a bit of CPD.

Which is why, as a work-from-home, self-employed freelance editor and project manager, I’m a huge advocate of a bit of networking every now and then. This will give you the opportunity to get dressed in clothes other than your comfy trousers and meet others with the aim of developing contacts, both professional and social, promoting yourself and possibly your business, and exchanging information.

Don’t stop reading! I’m not just talking about the type of networking meeting where you go and collect a pile of business cards from people trying to flog you services you’ll never need. I know that because I’ve been to a few of those meetings and never need to go to another one. There are other ways to do it, so read on.

1) Start small

Contact another freelancer in your local area and invite them round to your place for coffee, or meet in a café. A good opportunity for a social chat as well as finding out what each other is working on, and a chance to ask for tips or help.

2) Make it slightly bigger, but keep it informal

Invite a couple of freelance contacts for lunch, and suggest that they each bring along another freelancer. Expand your network, share knowledge, and maybe hear some industry gossip.

3) Join a networking group, but make sure it’s right for you

I live in a rural part of Wiltshire, but there are at several networking groups within easy reach. I’m a member of two of them, and one in particular really suits me. It’s held in a local café once a month, its members are mostly self-employed people who work from home, and although they all work in different fields, the group is friendly and welcoming, and a valuable source of contacts and information. There’s no cost for attending meetings other than what you eat and drink in the café, and I always go away with something to think about or follow up on. Can’t find a group you’re comfortable with? Set one up yourself. It could be the only way you get a work Christmas lunch this year!

4) Try netwalking

If the weather’s good, gather a few people together, plan a route (maybe with a café at the end), and prepare some business-related questions/points for discussion as you walk. A third of the way round the route, encourage people to walk with someone new and discuss another question, and then change again for the last part of the route. Over coffee at the end, share anything interesting you’ve learnt.

5) Join a publishing industry group and go to one of their meetings

This is where you’ll pick up more targeted tips and make new contacts for work opportunities. Essential. Try BookMachine, Byte The Book, your local SfEP group or the Society of Young Publishers.

6) Join a group related to the area you publish in

For me that’s ELT (English Language Teaching) and I’m a member of IATEFL and a couple of specialist groups within that. Going to their events, whether small and local, or on a larger scale like an annual conference, gives me a chance to find out about the latest methodologies and technical developments in the classroom, see what all the publishers are putting out, as well as meeting in-house contacts and reminding them that I’m here if they’re looking to resource new projects.

Once you’re there, follow Justine Solomon’s tips from the recent SYP conference.

Of course, there are time and cost implications for all of the above, but I think these should be seen as an investment. If you’re at an event and meet someone who is looking for a new editor or project manager, the cost of a few hours away from your desk and a train ticket will be repaid many times over. Likewise, if you’re looking for an accountant and you hear of a good one through your network, they might save you £££s in the long run. Or the new invoicing app you hear about over coffee that turns your monthly invoicing nightmare into a quick and easy hour. And think how good you’d feel if you managed to introduce a couple of your contacts to each other and they could form a new working relationship. Very satisfying.

If none of those ideas grab you, you can of course continue to network online via Facebook and LinkedIn, but I honestly think that getting out and having some face-to-face contact with others is important – as an excuse to change out of your comfy working trousers if nothing else.

Karen White is a freelance ELT project manager, editor, and trainer. Realising that networking opportunities for ELT freelancers were limited, she organised an Awayday in 2015 with another freelancer. The third ELT Freelancers’ Awayday will be held in January 2017 and will be a chance to network, discuss the issues of the day, and have a good lunch. Full details are here if you’re interested in taking part.

Interview with expert book cover designer Tamian Wood

This is a guest interview with Tamian Wood. “Whether you are a self published author, or a New York Times best selling author, your book cover art should grab your reader and tell them, in an instant, “Take me home! I am just what you need!”” Here Tamian talks about her work, and experience creating compelling cover design.

1) How did you get into designing books?

I’ve been a freelance graphic designer since 1995. Back then I worked full time as a tech support rep for a graphic software company. When they downsized I decided to concentrate solely on my freelance business.

I’ve done all kinds of print design, ads, magazines, logos, exhibit design. I even did all the graphics for the exhibits at River Heritage Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. But I found the things I liked the best were book cover design, package design – which is kind of the same thing – and billboard design – which also comes in handy when my clients want to go BIG! In fact, one of my clients had my book cover design on one of the giant billboards in Times Square. Now that’s BIG!

2) Nowadays, how long does it take you to design a cover?

If the client is clear about their needs/wants/likes/dislikes, and inspiration strikes, it can happen very fast indeed. Sometimes in as little as a couple days. But I have to keep in mind my workload at any given time. I like to give myself a couple weeks to really explore the genre, allow time for the creative juices to flow, find the perfect concept, etc. I find it’s best not to rush creativity.

3) What kind of design brief do you work best from?

I have a questionnaire that I send my clients. It helps us explore the authors vision and things like genre, target market, character descriptions, key objects/places, mood/tone, and time period, as well as the authors likes and dislikes, so I get to know them a bit more. It also includes the more mundane stuff like trim size, page count, etc. Between this questionnaire and a brief summary of their manuscript, I usually have enough to let my creativity fly and craft together a compelling cover.

4) What, in your opinion, is the best cover you have designed, and why?

I’m always totally in love with whatever cover that I’m working on at the moment, but if I had to choose one, I’d have to say the cover I did for the Pope. People always do a double take when I say that. Yes, I did say THE Pope. Pope Francis’s Encyclical Letter. The letter is all about the environment and being responsible with our earth. I felt that the multicultural children’s hands coming together to help nurture new life was conceptually illustrative of the crux of the message. You might say I was divinely inspired. It won a First Place, Non-Fiction Cover award.

5) What do you enjoy most about being a graphic designer?

One of my clients is an astrologist. He told me, based on my charts and such, that my purpose in life (my dharma?) is to make others shine. Wow! Who could ask for a better purpose! It is my joy — and my dharma — to bring the words of others to life and make their work shine!

You can view Tamian’s 2 minute video portfolio here: http://bit.ly/1k4NppT

 

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