Monthly Archives: September 2015

The value of belonging to a professional body

By Margaret Hunter

quality control assuredThe Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has just published a report on how the public view professional bodies. In a survey of over 2,000 people, these are the 3 statements (out of 11) that were most commonly agreed with:

  • Professional qualifications help people to earn more.
  • Professional qualifications raise standards.
  • I would trust a professional more if I knew that they were a member of a professional body.[1]

Does this apply as well to editors and proofreaders as to builders, lawyers or doctors, I wonder? I think it does, especially when we are now competing in a global marketplace. Having an association with a professional body such as the SfEP shows that we care about our credibility, our skills and how we do our jobs. It says to potential clients that we care so much about doing a good job for you that we’ve taken steps to learn how to do it properly, and to abide by the standards and good working practices set by our peers.

In return, our professional credibility raises trust among people who may want to use our services. Awareness of the existence of our training efforts and professional membership creates positive perceptions of the jobs we do. Potential clients can begin to see what we do as a real thing and can start to envisage how it could benefit them.

However, to gain these credibility benefits from our professional membership, the professional body itself needs to have credibility. It’s one of my tasks, as the marketing and PR director for the SfEP, to help make that happen – to raise our profile and get us known for being the go-to place for quality editorial services and training. But all of us have a hand in raising that profile too. When we’re asked what we do, do we take the opportunity to mention the SfEP?

To quote the CIOB report, ‘for professional bodies, familiarity leads to favourability’,[2] so the more people hear about the SfEP, the more they are likely to see it as a professional body that knows its stuff and consequently are more likely to hire an SfEP member rather than an editor who doesn’t have that association.

So, my fellow editors, to mangle JFK’s well-known call to action:

Ask not what the SfEP can do for you, [but also] ask what you can do for the SfEP.

 

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter is marketing and PR director of the SfEP.

[1] Understanding the value of professionals and professional bodies, The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) 2015, p. 28

[2] Ibid. p. 29.

 

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

What I learned from the pre-conference editing fiction course

By Sara Donaldson

Three Little Pigs and a (not so?) Big Bad Wolf

Three Little Pigs and a (not so?) Big Bad Wolf

This year is the first year in a very long time that I have been able to even contemplate attending an SfEP conference; usually conference time falls during term-time making it virtually impossible for me to attend. However, when I saw the dates for the 2015 conference at Derwent College in York, attendance became a possibility as I knew my daughter would have recently left school and York is close enough to ‘home’ that a visit, plus conference, was feasible. And once I saw the topic of the pre-conference course, I knew I had to attend. This was my chance to gain face-to-face basic training on something I have been toying with for years – fiction editing.

By the time I arrived at the York campus on the morning of Saturday 5th September I was slightly frazzled. A 12-hour drive from the far north of Scotland the previous day, followed by an early morning drive from Whitby to the one part of York I didn’t really know, meant that I was too tired to be nervous about jumping in at the deep end and meeting a bunch of professionals I didn’t really know. By the time I sat down in the well-hidden tutorial room all thoughts of imposter syndrome had vanished. I’d fluffed the hoped for brilliant first impression I’d make as I didn’t so much introduce myself to the first person I met as headed off in the opposite direction back to the car park to collect some forgotten items. Thank goodness there was plenty of coffee!

The group was comfortably small, with around 10 attendees, and as we all sat at desks in a horseshoe formation (much better than in groups), we introduced ourselves to the room and to Gale Winskill and Stephen Cashmore, our tutors for the day. By this time I was a bit apprehensive – my route into editorship was a bit convoluted, so who was I to sit in a room among ‘real’ editors when I’ve only really worked on non-fiction and still find it hard to actually say I’m an editor? But the worry soon subsided as we started the course and my brain kicked in.

Gale started off by going into detail about the different types of client we should expect to work for as fiction editors, and what they actually expect from us. She also explained how self-publishing does not necessarily mean that the author cannot get a publishing deal; they may simply prefer the hands-on approach and want to feel in control of their creations. We then discussed how to quote for a job (this course concentrated on copy-editing of fiction, not structural editing), what to look out for and the different ways of working on a text. It had honestly never occurred to me that self-publishing authors would not like tracked changes on a Word document, and that they may not care about the changes you make to spelling, punctuation and grammar. It really brought home to me that working on non-fiction has spoiled me somewhat; I tend to take some of my working practices for granted and assume they are the norm, although my meticulous style sheet habit will stand me in good stead.

We moved onto plot and structure (with more coffee), and discovered the differences between premise, theme and plot, before moving into more detail on structure and what we, as editors, should be looking out for. The first exercise of the day had us writing premises and a theme for the Wolf’s Story from the Three Little Pigs. Loved it! By the end of the day I had become particularly fond of Mr Wolf.

While Gale was having a well-deserved rest we moved onto dialogue with Stephen. I found this really interesting, especially as it showed me that I actually know what I’m doing. I loved his take on fidgets and throat-clearing. Erm … well … yeah, like … I really did actually.

I know we stopped for lunch at some point … then came voice, style and point of view. Now POV is something I really need to practise – internal, external, first-person, third-person … it’s enough to make your head spin when you think about it. Luckily our handout is great for explaining it in more detail, better than my scribbled notes, so I shall be going back to that frequently.

Consistency was great; plot-holes, timelines and setting appeal to my inner perfectionist. Feedback among the group reminded me of a time when I noticed a helicopter travelling a LOT further than it was capable of in one of the novels I was reading for pleasure. Glad it’s not just me who notices these things when they’re not working!

We worked through character, style and how books in a series should be treated, then finally looked at critiques, synopses and blurbs. Now critiquing is something I’ve been curious about, as it’s always been a mystery to me how an editor actually moves into critiquing, and by the end of the session I came away believing that, far from being something I could never do, this was something I really could do. And the blurb discussion showed me that I’m doing things right (I often write the blurb for a regular client’s books).

So what did I get out of this pre-conference editing fiction course? Lots!

The exercises scared me at first (what if I really wasn’t good enough?), but they showed me that my training has been good, my experience has counted for something and that I really can call myself an editor. I’ve also come to realise that, rather than being a leap too far, I can move into fiction editing if I want to. I just have to take it slowly and use what I have learned (and continue training). Finally, this course gave me my first real-life meeting with real editors and I loved every minute of it. I’m glad to be associated with such a lovely bunch of people, and this course has given me the confidence to look further at fiction editing without the horror of the unknown.

If you are interested in training for editing fiction, look at the SfEP online course Introduction to fiction editing

Sara DonaldsonSara Donaldson is an editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist, or in the theatre doing what needs to be done. You’ll find her at northerneditorial.co.uk.

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

 

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director. Proofread by Carina Bailey.

Conferences can be for oldies too

By Rod Cuff

I have a couple of vivid memories of the first time I went to a conference of what was then in 2000 the SFEP (capital F for ‘[of] Freelance’, as distinct from today’s lower case f for … well, ‘for’). The previous afternoon’s AGM had been dull for a newcomer, everyone seemed to know everyone else and no one had spoken to me, so I was pretty apprehensive as I waited for the conference to start.

But then the chief organiser, John Woodruff, positively bounced onto the stage wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Daily sex Dyslexia rules OK!’ I just might enjoy this, I thought.

Soon I was sitting in a big circle of chairs for my first workshop, on time management and ways of becoming more efficient. As others responded to the workshop leader’s questions, my height shrank by a few inches per minute until I had almost disappeared from sight. But finally, a question I could answer: is there one thing you could do that you know would improve your productivity? ‘Yes!’ I squeaked. A thousand eyes turned on me and glared. ‘I could delete Solitaire from my PC.’

Suddenly, twenty beaming, laughing faces turned to me. ‘We love you!’ they chorused. ‘Please be our friend!’ I drew myself up to six foot one again. I was in.

Some of that may be slightly exaggerated, but what is true is that speaking truth to power (well, the facilitator) turned a key for me, and I learned that, to get the best out of anything, it helps to put in something in the first place.

But, a dozen or so conferences later, I was feeling uneasy about what York 2015 might be like. Old hands tend to fade away from the conference scene eventually because in previous years we’ve done something similar to all the workshops likely to be on offer this time around. The pull then tends to be people rather than learning – meeting up with old friends and contacts, striking up conversations with new people, propping up the bar, singing in the Linnets, enjoying the conference dinner.

I’m no different, but very much to my surprise I found that this year’s conference turned out to be full of delightfully informative events. Three workshops/sessions, all short ones, are likely to have a direct bearing on how I work, whether on the few paid jobs I still do or for voluntary or recreational projects such as editing the concert programmes for a choir:

  1. practical uses of corpora for checking when particular words, phrases or spellings began to be used or go out of fashion in various kinds of media context
  2. a bracing critique of various ‘rules’ of grammar, which has made me rethink my approach to style guides
  3. a long list of software tools useful for editors, bound to improve my time at the computer in all sorts of ways.

But (sentences in unimpeachable English literature have begun with ‘But’ for centuries – thank you, workshop 2) the really memorable sessions were quite unexpected:

  • the Whitcombe Lecture by John Thompson was the most thought-provoking one I’ve heard for years
  • a hands-on session on simple paper-book making and paper engineering was just a total delight (you rarely see so many happy faces at a workshop)
  • a two-hour run through the development of typefaces and methods of printing made a whole lot of past evolution, practices and technologies clear to me for the first time.

paper-book making at the 2015 SfEP conference

The lesson for me from all this is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and moreover you can rejuvenate the old dog in the process. Needy spirit Serendipity rules OK!

Rod CuffRod Cuff took up proofreading and editing as a second career after a maths degree, thirty years in computer software development and a lifetime interest in astronomy. Naturally, he spent most of his time copy-editing books on the history of ballet and the maintenance of Swedish reservoirs. He is the SfEP’s Judith Butcher Award winner for 2015.

 

Proofread by Karen Pickavance.

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

10 tips for building a freelance business website

Build your online presenceIf you don’t yet have an online presence, in the form of even a simple website, then it’s time to consider setting one up. It needn’t be anything complicated, but potential clients are increasingly looking to the web to find editors and proofreaders, even if it’s just to confirm that you look like a real person they can trust!

Here are my top tips for planning a simple business website.

1. Do it yourself if possible – you can learn skills that are helpful for your editing…
… such as basic html and good copywriting. If you’re not a techie whizz, use one of the easy free website builders such as WordPress, or a hosted service such as Weebly or Wix (why are they all ‘Ws’?). With the last two you don’t need to worry about all the back-end admin or backing up your site or the software as it’s all done for you. The downside is that it’s more difficult to move your site if you later decide to use a different service.

2. Register your own domain name
It doesn’t cost much to register a domain name (under £10 per year), so get your own. You can use it with hosted services such as Weebly too, and your web address will look more professional than the free option (such as www.[name].weebly.com).

3. Picture yourself!
Add a photo of yourself. It will help potential customers ‘connect’ with you and you will seem more approachable. But make sure it’s a good photo, and nothing too quirky! It’s OK to reflect your personality, but you still need to look professional. Would you do business with the person in the photo?

4. Keep a consistent look
If you have information about your business in various places online – your website, social media profiles such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or directories such as FreeIndex – then try to keep the look consistent. Use the same photograph and page header and similar descriptions. It will make it easy for people to recognise you, so getting you noticed more.

5. Keep it simple
Remember that (potential) clients just want the facts or a quick answer to whether you can do a particular job for them, so make it easy for people to quickly suss you out. Don’t be too wordy, and provide clear links to different information about you and your business.

6. Use plain English to explain what you do
While you may call what you do copy-editing, proofreading, structural editing, applied linguistics, or whatever, most people won’t know what that means. You can (and should) use those terms somewhere on your site, but also try to explain your services in plain English.

7. Blow your own trumpet (nicely!)
You need to quickly stand out from the crowd these days as you are now competing in a global marketplace. Don’t be shy about pinpointing how you can make a difference to clients. Be creative about how you sell your skills, experience and knowledge. Put up some testimonials from happy clients too. An easy way to do this is to ask for a client’s permission to use something nice or positive they’ve said in an email to you.

8. Make it mobile
Nowadays you must make a website that is mobile-friendly if you want to rank highly with search engines such as Google. If you use the free tools mentioned above then you don’t need to think about this as it will magically be done for you.

9. Don’t pay for SEO
Don’t be lured in by offers of expensive SEO (search engine optimisation) services that guarantee to get your site to the top of the search results. Once you know the ‘rules’, SEO is just common sense. The most important rule is write good copy. Think about the phrases people will use to search for you and incorporate them into your text, but it must sound natural, and definitely don’t ‘keyword stuff’ the pages (or you will be penalised by Mr Google!). Make sure you complete all the ‘behind-the-page’ meta stuff – good page titles, alternative text on your images, page descriptions, etc. The site-builder tools usually have ways to do this built in. (One of the best ways to learn SEO is to use the Yoast plugin in WordPress.)

10. Have it proofread!
Be your own best friend and have someone else proofread your website. You know it’s not going to look good if your site has glaring typos! Maybe offer a site-proofing swap with another member of your local SfEP group?

Margaret Hunter

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

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

SfEP/SI Conference Fair 2015

sfep-si-banner@2x

Off to the SfEP/SI conference this weekend? Then come along to the conference fair, where you can:

  • see our showcase of delegates’ other interests, ‘More than words…’: this is an opportunity to find out about other delegates’ hidden talents and see what they’re up to, from running craft businesses to carrying out voluntary work in the community.
  • read about the history of the SfEP and SI: the Society of Indexers goes back some way and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (as it is now known) was formed from its sister organisation; our display shows some of the things the two bodies have achieved, both separately and together
  • find out who’s who on the SfEP Council and SI Executive Board
  • browse (and buy from!) the full range of SfEP guides and a selection of SI booklets
  • snap up a bargain SI-branded t-shirt, sweatshirt or stationery item
  • buy an environmentally friendly conference bag
  • see the tempting display of raffle prizes and buy your raffle tickets
  • buy a parking permit for Monday
  • pick up your tea and coffee (available during refreshment breaks only).

On Monday 7 September we will be joined by Daniel Heuman, managing director of Intelligent Editing and one of our sponsors. This is your opportunity to find out about, or ask him tricky questions about, PerfectIt!

Our sponsors:

PerfectIt
Sponsor of the something-for-everyone session ‘Digital tools for the efficient freelancer’

PerfectIt is an MS Word add-in that is used by more than 400 members of SfEP, and more than a thousand professional editors around the world. You can use PerfectIt to check consistency of hyphenation, capitalisation, abbreviations, heading case, lists, tables and much more. You can also customise PerfectIt to check house styles and enforce style preferences. PerfectIt is easy to install, easy to use, and it finds mistakes that even the most eagle-eyed editor can find difficult to spot. A free trial is available from www.intelligentediting.com.

Out of House Publishing
Sponsor of the workshop ‘It’s not just about existing: work–life balance for freelancers’

Out of House Publishing offers a comprehensive project management service for every kind of publishing project. We organise all aspects of the publishing process from concept to final delivery. We provide flexible solutions to deliver content in the format our customers need. From meticulous copy-editing in the UK to fast data conversion in India, we put together the right team to deliver projects on time and on budget.

With years of experience in traditional book production, coupled with hands-on knowledge of state-of-the-art front-end XML workflows and eLearning resource development, we deliver the most efficient plan to bring products to market.

Working effectively with editors, indexers and proofreaders is vital to our success and we value the friendships we’ve built up with our freelance suppliers over many years. We are always delighted to hear from anyone interested in working with us.

CINDEX Software
Sponsor of the ‘first-timer’ pre-dinner drinks

CINDEX™ was launched in September 1986. Originally for DOS, it was rewritten in 1997 for the Mac, and the following year for the Windows operating system. Over the years there have been countless upgrades and updates to keep abreast of operating systems and the changing needs of indexers and their clients.

Above all CINDEX remains powerful, yet simple to use. It handles, effortlessly and unobtrusively, all the time-consuming tasks in indexing, allowing the indexer to concentrate on the facts and ideas developed in the text.

 

Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP Marketing and PR Director.