Tag: Anna Faherty

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.

Diverge! How thinking differently could boost your career

In an industry that outsources most of its physical tasks and processes, what’s the one thing that can set you and your organisation apart from your competitors? The way you think…

Anna Faherty, publishing professional with over 25 years’ experience, spoke at Tuesday’s The Galley Club event on divergent thinking in publishing. Anna’s provocative session encouraged us to employ new ways of thinking in order to embrace uncertainty, make sense of complex situations and – ultimately – innovate beyond the development of new products.

Here are our seven takeaway points, and a list of Anna’s top tips.

1) Diversity

Referencing a recent US survey, which highlighted that the vast majority of publishing staff identify as white (79%), female (78%), straight (88%) and non-disabled (92%), Anna stated that publishers need to be more diverse in order to make products for a wide range of audiences.

2) Backgrounds

Publishers also need to come from more diverse backgrounds (not just English graduates who ‘love books’). The industry thinks too similarly, but we need to think differently in order to develop innovative ideas, products, platforms and business models.

3) What does the future look like?

Publishers (who are uncomfortable with uncertainty) ask closed questions about the future of publishing, but this doesn’t tackle the reality that there’s no answer to these questions. The future of the industry isn’t a puzzle with a solution, but a story with many possible versions of the future – one which we can influence.

4) Give yourself permission and time to think creatively

The first ideas you come up with probably won’t be all that original, but give yourself enough time and you’ll get past common thinking.

5) Use your environment

Look around and draw links between your surroundings and the problem.

6) Focus on the process, not the output

Lots can be learnt from the creative process, so don’t be too focused on the output and miss important opportunities to acquire knowledge along the way. Anna’s own research into book discovery is a good example of this. While she visualised a number of customer journey maps, the true value in this research is the insight gained about book discovery during that process, rather than the maps themselves.

7) Don’t let words limit you

Words are precise and convergent: the minute you name something, you close down what it means. Try drawing or using imagery to think divergently.

Top Tips

To round off the evening, Anna left us with her top tips:

  • Do thinks differently – Walk a different route, talk to different people, and watch TV or go to restaurants you wouldn’t usually
  • Give yourself the freedom to incubate ideas – Get plenty of sleep, go for walks, or play the piano (or a similar hobby)
  • Be prepared to write (or draw) it down – Keep a notepad or your phone with you at all times
  • Talk about your ideas – Sharing your thoughts (however stupid) will spark more ideas
  • Set aside time to be creative at work – Make time to think, come up with new ideas, and then test them out. Keep testing each idea – drop the ones that don’t work and pursue the ones that have potential until the seem worthy of investment.

anna fahertyAnna Faherty is an award-winning researcher, writer and teacher. Anna now collaborates with publishers and museums on a diverse range of print, exhibition and digital projects. She also holds academic posts at Kingston University, Oxford Brookes University and UCL.

Seven tips for powering through permissions

After spending the past few months sourcing over 90 works of fiction, non-fiction and art for inclusion in Wellcome Collection’s new anthology, States of Mind: Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness, I’ve learned a few tricks about acquiring copyright permissions. Here are my top seven tips:

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#publishingfail: We need to talk about failure

As JK Rowling once told a class of Harvard University students, it is impossible to live “without failing at something”. The now hyper-successful author was recounting her early personal (and “epic”) failure, but her message could just as easily be applied to organisations and businesses. The only way to avoid failure, says Rowling, is to live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. Who wants to live, work or publish that way?

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BookMachine Everywhere [REVIEW]

This is a guest post from Charlotte Whitbread, Business Manager, at Book Industry Communications Ltd.

On 25 September 2013 BookMachine (@BookMachine) held simultaneous events across the globe, covering 6 cities, 4 countries and 2 continents. With book trade professionals gathering in Barcelona, Brighton, London, New York, Oxford and Toronto, the international nature of the book market has never been felt so keenly as it was for me then, in the depths of a pub near Great Portland Street! Books may be evolving faster and travelling further than ever, but the pub was certainly not: no card payments under £5 – it’s 2013, not 1302 my good barman. However, thanks to generous sponsor PLS (A loyal BIC Member! @BIC1UK), there was wine a plenty.

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From small eggs grow mighty IPOs: cracking open the Chegg story

Anna FahertyThis is a guest post from Anna Faherty, an experienced publisher and an award-winning writer and lecturer. Anna teaches on the Kingston University Publishing MA and also works on print and digital projects across the publishing and museum sectors. Her online training courses are used by a wide range of professionals, including global publishers. Follow her on Twitter at @mafunyane.


Textbook rental company Chegg announced last week it was hoping to raise $150m in an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange. So what’s the inside track on the company that was most recently valued at $800m?

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BookMachine Weekly BookWrap: publishing stories from around the web

Revisiting elearning in the Web 2.0 age

Anna Faherty
Anna Faherty is a writer, editor and lecturer in publishing.

A decade or more ago, elearning was heralded by many as the panacea to organisational training needs. The reality? It didn’t live up to the hype. Elearning was too often just a bunch of files uploaded to a website or learning management system; unhappy eye-strained learners read reams of text on screen. Today technology has moved on, and elearning can finally deliver what most learners really want: personalised, interactive, social and mobile learning experiences. So, for anyone who still thinks elearning is dull, disappointing or dead in the water, here are eight tips to debunk your views.

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