Monthly Archives: May 2014

A copy of Martin Chuzzlewit before being restored by Exeter Bookbinders

SfEP Devon group discovers the beauty of bookbinding

Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders demonstrates bookbinding to the Devon SfEP group

Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders

The beauty of a good piece of writing is in its content and style, which is what the editor and proofreader will tend to focus on. But hard-copy books are about more than cleverly written prose – they can often be works of art in their own right. Books can engage all our senses: the heady smell when you enter a bookshop; the sound of the paper as you turn a page; the salt you can almost taste on your lips as you read a scene depicting a windswept beach; and the pleasure that courses through your veins as you caress that dog-eared copy of your favourite novel.

Sadly, despite lots of TLC, our most treasured books can become more than a bit dog-eared. And that’s where expert bookbinders can come to the rescue, restoring our special books to their former glory.

After a fascinating session on bookbinding at last year’s SfEP conference, the SfEP Devon group recently invited Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders to speak at one of its regular meetings in Exeter. Armed with a bone folder, needle and waxed thread, goatskin, and two Marmite jars containing mysterious ingredients (definitely not what was on the label), Chaim set about demonstrating the ancient art of bookbinding.

The session began with a brief history of writing systems covering soft clay tablets, the introduction of scrolls, the advent of paper and the use of wax tablets.

Chaim then set about demonstrating how to bind a book. The process involves sewing signatures – the folded papers that will become sections of pages – together with waxed thread before adding open-weave calico tapes to cover the sewing and strengthen the spine. The spine is then glued with polyvinyl acetate (one of the mysterious concoctions in Ebanks’s Marmite jars). Once the glue has dried, endpapers are added to the front and back and the book is covered with goatskin. The book is then placed in a clamp overnight to exclude any excess air and ensure a tight finish. The bone folder (made of whalebone) is used throughout the process to eliminate any creases or baggy edges.

Having demonstrated how to bind a book, Chaim then set to work adapting the process to restore a rather worn-out hardback copy of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit. The book had definitely seen better days and its cover was completely detached.

A copy of Martin Chuzzlewit before being restored by Exeter Bookbinders

Before

However, after gently dismantling the cover and spine, Chaim added a new cover and endpapers before applying liberal amounts of bookbinders’ paste (the other mysterious concoction in his Marmite jars) to reveal a miraculously rejuvenated book.

 

The restored volume of Martin Chuzzlewit after Chaim Ebanks of Exeter Bookbinders rebound the book.

After

It still has the character of an old book, its pages marked with foxing (browned due to the ferrous oxidisation of the acid in the paper), but now has a polished cover and gleaming name plate. The book is ready to be cherished for many years to come.

 

As with many SfEP local groups, the session ended with a chance to enjoy tea and cake and chat to other proofreaders and editors in the area. The Devon SfEP group are grateful to Alison Shakspeare and Rosalind Davies for organising the event and to Chaim Ebanks for taking the time to share his knowledge and expertise with them. Chaim and his colleagues at Exeter Bookbinders are happy to speak at events; you can contact them via the Exeter Bookbinders website.

There are many local SfEP groups throughout the UK and beyond – there is even an international group. Meetings vary from informal gatherings over tea or dinner to organised events such as the bookbinding talk. To find out more about what’s going on near you, visit the local groups page on the SfEP website.

Joanna Bowery social media manager at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager and a member of the Devon SfEP group. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she is a freelance marketing and PR consultant operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. In her spare time, Jo enjoys rugby (although she has retired from playing) and running.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

5 marketing tips for the freelance editor or proofreader

marketing - promoting and selling, research and advertising

Marketing tips

By Mary McCauley

I studied services marketing in college and before my studies began I had a perception of marketing as a complicated and theory-based business system practised by big US multinational corporations. By the time I finished my degree, this view had changed: for me, services marketing boils down to a simple ‘Which customers do you want to serve and how can you persuade them to buy your service?’ So, in relation to a freelance editorial business, my top five ‘marketing’ tips are very straightforward: be nice (provide excellent customer service); be focused (which specific customers do you want to buy your service?); be professional (build your reputation and protect it); be online (establish a professional online presence); and be generous (network).

1. Be nice

As an editorial professional you are a service provider. You may have the keenest editorial brain in the world and a long list of top academic qualifications but unless you realise that in providing a service to customers you must look after those customers as best you can, then your freelance business will not be all it can be. You are an intangible part of the service your client is purchasing and the client has to want to work with you. As Steve Baron and Kim Harris write, ‘customers often use the appearance and manner of service employees as a first point of reference when deciding whether or not to make a purchase’. In every aspect of your service to clients – be they an independent author, a publishing house, an academic or a corporation – be friendly, helpful, genuine and, most importantly, customer-driven. Use every opportunity to put your client at ease, make it easy for them to work with you, and make them want to work with you again. As retired Irish retailer Fergal Quinn puts it, ‘Think of the main task as being to bring the customer back.’ It sounds simple, right? But so many service providers fail to understand the importance of this concept. Think about it for a minute: are there certain people/shops you won’t buy from, no matter how low their prices, simply because they or their staff are rude and unhelpful?

2. Be focused

Don’t try to be all things to all people: identify your editorial speciality and then actively target those clients who seek this specific area of expertise. According to proofreader and author Louise Harnby, ‘Your educational and career backgrounds will help you to identify core client groups.’ A good way to start thinking about this is to imagine someone you’ve just met asks you what you do. Can you define it in approximately ten words? For example, my response would be: ‘I am a freelance copy-editor and proofreader providing editorial services to fiction authors and corporate clients.’

3. Be professional

Clients are paying you (hopefully) good money to provide them with a service. They want to know that their money is well spent. If they haven’t worked with you before then from their point of view they are taking a risk by contracting your service. You can help minimise their perception of that risk by behaving in a professional manner. This is especially the case if you are starting out as freelance editor and have minimal testimonials or no portfolio. Behaving professionally extends to all aspects of your business. Meet project deadlines or alert the client as soon as possible if there will be a delay; issue formal quotations, project agreements, invoices and receipts; acknowledge client correspondence promptly; treat a client’s project with confidentiality; and so on. If you are a member of an editorial professional body, act in accordance with their code of practice.

4. Be online

Again, it’s very simple: if potential clients don’t know you exist how can they hire you? If they search online for editorial services will they find you? A business website is an excellent opportunity for you to control the message you give to potential customers. WordPress, Weebly and About Me offer free, easy options to create and maintain a website. You can list your services, portfolio, client testimonials, qualifications and, most importantly, your contact details! Ensure the content of your website accurately reflects your values and professional approach. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) provide effective means to interact with potential clients. For example, if your target market includes independent authors join one of LinkedIn’s writers’ group forums. Help potential clients find you by listing your services in online directories, such as the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services.

5. Be generous

The more you give the more you receive, and what goes around comes around. They may be clichés but also good mottos for life – and for business! Network not only with colleagues (online through social media, and in person at editor meetings, conferences, courses, etc.) but also with members of your target market. Don’t focus solely on yourself when networking; few like to converse with someone who drones on about ‘me, me, me’. Think about ways you can be helpful: perhaps if your work schedule is booked up and you cannot take on an author’s project you could refer the author to a trusted colleague and thus be helpful to both; share a colleague’s interesting and informative article/blog post with your network of colleagues, friends and clients; or introduce a client to someone who can add value to their project further down the production process, such as an illustrator or typesetter. Genuine goodwill and generosity will come back to you tenfold.

If you would like to learn more about potential marketing tools for your freelance editorial business, join me for the Marketing Tools for the Freelance Editor seminar at this year’s SfEP conference in September.

What’s your top tip for marketing your freelance editorial business? Which marketing activity has worked best for you and which have you found the most difficult?

References

Baron, S and Harris, K (1995) Services Marketing: Text and Cases. Macmillan, London

Harnby, L. (2014) Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business: Being Interesting and Discoverable. Louise Harnby, in association with The Publishing Training Centre

Quinn, F. (1990) Crowning the Customer: How to Become Customer-Driven. The O’Brien Press, Dublin

Mary McCauley

Mary McCauley

Based in Wexford, Ireland, Mary McCauley is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor working with corporate clients and independent fiction authors. She is a member of both the SfEP and the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI) in Ireland. She helps run the new AFEPI Twitter account and also blogs sporadically at Letters from an Irish Editor. Around the time she started her editorial business she took up running – not only to keep fit but also to help maintain her sanity. One of these goals has been achieved. Say hello to Mary on TwitterFacebook or Google+.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Five reasons editors like Twitter

Five reasons editors love Twitter

Five reasons editors like Twitter

Five Reasons Editors Like Twitter

If Twitter has so far passed you by, congratulations – you’re probably more productive than the rest of us. But you’re missing out if you think it’s just about Lady Gaga’s latest selfie or what a stranger’s had for dinner. Here’s why the micro-blogging site is so popular with editors around the world.

 

1. You can learn new things 

Hands up who reads The Bookseller every week. Thought not. But you can easily keep up with industry news by reading tweets from @TheBookseller and other publishing organisations such as @SYP_UK, @PublishersAssoc and, of course, @TheSfEP. If a headline grabs your attention, simply click through to the website. That way, you absorb the information that you want to – or need to – know, without it feeling like hard work.

People use Twitter because they have something to share. You can learn a lot if you follow the right users – those who do what you do, those who are influential in areas you’re interested in: publishers, agents, authors, potential clients, and yes, even celebrities (or at least those with opinions worth discussing). I’ve learnt a lot about publishing, marketing, language and linguistics that I never would have found out any other way.

2. You can market yourself – painlessly

Many editors, shy and introverted types that we tend to be, find the idea of networking intimidating. But with Twitter it’s easy to get out there and get known. Chatting to people on social media isn’t like trying to explain to your local accountant at a business breakfast what a proofreader does.

You can follow any account that takes your fancy, and you can also start or join conversations with anyone you like, without them thinking you’re odd (although that, of course, depends on what you say).

As with all marketing, it’s helpful to have an objective. For example, if you want to find work with businesses near you, most counties and regions have a dedicated Twitter networking time and hashtag (a label to identify it) to help you jump into the fray easily – mine is #Norfolkhour but there are many others.

I can’t claim to have actually got any work as a direct result of Twitter, but many editors have. I’ve certainly raised my profile and got to know many other small businesses nearby.

The only proviso, if you’re running a company, is to stay away from controversy. You might have heard about some high profile corporate Twitter embarrassments – one thoughtless comment could destroy your reputation. But then, that could happen when you’re talking to an accountant at a business breakfast too.

3. You can get to know other editors and proofreaders

Editing can be a lonely job and it’s easy to go feral when you’ve not seen anyone all day. But there’s a whole online community of people like you. Just as many of us share our experiences on the SfEP forums, social media provides an opportunity to chat to others who share your pain about hyphenated adverbs and comma splices.

There’s nothing competitive about building relationships with people who do what you do. They might be looking for the same type of work but they can also be partners, supporters, sharers, colleagues. You might not be able to do a job for a new client but perhaps you know someone who can. And then they return the favour. It makes business sense.

A good place to start is @TheSfEP list of members and associates who tweet. And when you finally meet them in person at the SfEP Conference, you’ll find you have readymade friends.

4. You can practise your editorial skills

Tweets are 140 characters. That’s not much. Putting your message across focuses your thoughts and hones your editorial skills.

That was only 126 characters, by the way.

5. You can win books

Still not convinced? This is the clincher. I’ve won around 100 books on Twitter, mostly in publishers’ prize draws, simply by retweeting their post or answering a simple question. Once I won a beautiful book on the history of home décor by tweeting a photo of my ugly bathroom. My husband would prefer me to win holidays and cars but, hey, I work in publishing. I like books.

So yes, Twitter is educational, sociable and sometimes lucrative – but most of all it’s fun. It opens your eyes to how fascinating and diverse and creative people can be. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?

If you’d like some guidance on the technicalities of starting up your Twitter account, join me at the SfEP Conference, where I’ll be holding a ‘something for everyone’ session called Twitter for Beginners.

And when you do take the plunge, follow me @JuliaWordFire and introduce yourself. I look forward to tweeting with you.

Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has more than 15 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. When she’s not on Twitter or contributing to the SfEP’s Facebook page, she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy for a pub chain, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short, grumpy book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

Editing Fiction: An addiction or bête noire?

IMG_2080Fiction is a vast subject area. There’s no escaping this fact. Unlike non-fiction and academic texts, which have certain conventions, reference formats and factual, checkable details to fall back on, fiction is essentially ‘something that is invented or untrue’ (OED). Not only that, but the medium itself encompasses a plethora of categories: romance, thrillers, erotica, science fiction, fantasy, literary works, and so on … not to mention children’s fiction versions of most of these as well, albeit with additional considerations for the age group concerned, language levels and appropriate content!

Faced with such a behemoth, many editors of my acquaintance choose not to edit or proofread fiction. Of those who do indulge, nearly all shy away from children’s fiction altogether, deeming it too problematic, or limit themselves to particular fictional genres, usually mirroring their own reading preferences. So, with that in mind, where does one start when thinking about editing fiction?

As editors we are ethically constrained from commenting on the content of academic material, even if we know it to be wrong. Unless we are experts in that particular field of study, often we have no idea if the facts presented are invented or true. And, quite honestly, that is not our concern as long as the text reads convincingly and is grammatically correct, properly referenced and so on.

To play devil’s advocate, if fiction really is a work of ‘invention and untruth’, as long as it reads well, is it really that different from the above? And should it be treated with so much circumspection?

I understand that many editors may find fiction’s apparent lack of clearly defined boundaries extremely daunting, preferring the relatively controllable realm of non-fiction and academia. But although I do edit non-fiction and academic material on a regular basis, the thing that draws me repeatedly to fiction is, indeed, the very fact that I never know what I’m going to find in a narrative. Authors continue to surprise, delight, even frustrate me … but editing fiction is never dull.

Without question, fiction incorporates an unparalleled arena of realistic or fantastical landscapes, remarkable or mundane individuals, and gripping or bathetic scenarios, where anything — or sometimes even nothing much — goes, and everything is possible. There is a book for every occasion and mood, a genre to suit most people, and while fiction’s breadth and variety are undoubtedly its greatest challenge  — and a huge potential hurdle with regard to editing — they are also its most rewarding features.

So, are there things that connect and bind all of these vagaries together, and can provide a would-be editor of fiction with a starting point when tackling their first novel, irrespective of the genre? All books are predicated on certain elements, in terms of structure, characterisation, pace, plot and presentation. In David Lodge’s novel Therapy, beleaguered sitcom writer Laurence Passmore states: “Each one [each book] is different, but the same themes and obsessions keep cropping up: courtship, seduction, indecision, guilt, depression, despair.” And this is largely true.

Conversely, there could also be an argument to suggest that one should not edit fiction, as it could be perceived to compromise the author’s original creation. However, Terry Pratchett asserts: “… the fact that it is a fantasy does not absolve you [the writer] from all the basic responsibilities. It doesn’t mean that the characters needn’t be rounded, the dialogue believable, the background properly established, and the plots properly tuned.” So, subtle, constructive editorial assistance is still required, and usually welcomed, to ensure that what the author thinks they have done is actually the case on the page.

Essentially, fiction still involves the basics of our trade: punctuation, spelling, grammar (although this can be less rigid), textual fluidity, narrative cohesion. Even fact-checking exists: if an author states that the Empire State building has 97 storeys you can and should check that detail (it has 103!); and don’t get me started on incorrect spellings and missing accents with regard to foreign words. After all, erroneous details only provide a would-be reviewer with ready ammunition, which is something all fiction editors should bear in mind.

The characteristic that sets fiction apart from other media, making it simultaneously rather problematic but also intriguing, is the element of ‘story’, which has to be plausible within its own context and setting. As long as a reader believes the events of a novel to be feasible and credible, albeit fantastical, and the characters to be rounded, creditable individuals, then the author and editor have done their jobs.

As for more specific details of how, as editors or proofreaders, we do or don’t facilitate that, and how we go about imposing our own minds on the matter at hand without compromising the author’s integrity or voice … you’ll have to come to my conference workshop – Introduction to Editing Fiction: Mind over Matter – and find out, or look out for details of forthcoming SfEP training courses!

Gale Winskill

Gale Winskill

Gale Winskill is a freelance editor who enjoys variety, and will edit most things within reason (www.winskilleditorial.co.uk). A half-Italian, dim and distant relative of William Shakespeare, she has travelled and worked abroad, finally residing in Scotland, where she plays tennis inconsistently, gardens by benevolent neglect, and is still occasionally flummoxed by Scots vernacular.