Monthly Archives: March 2017

It ain’t necessarily so

Some widely held beliefs about how copy-editors and proofreaders make their living may have shaky foundations. John Firth pulls a few snippets out of SfEP’s autumn 2016 Membership Survey.

We survey our members every autumn, and we like to tease out themes and explore them from one year to the next. This year we tested some ‘truths’ about editing and weren’t surprised to find that real life’s not like that.

Editors need to specialise

Well, actually… As the horizontal bars in this graph show, while quite high percentages of our members describe themselves as working in one of the four broad areas we asked about (fiction, the arts or humanities, the social sciences and STEM subjects – scientific, technical, engineering or medical), the vertical bars show that most don’t work only in those areas.

Just over a third specialise by subject (15% STEM, 4% social sciences, 13% humanities, 5% fiction). It is interesting, for example, that while 16 participants work only on social sciences subjects, and 51 only on arts/humanities subjects, 66 work in both areas.

Yes, but most editors work on books

Well yes, our survey found that nearly 80% of editors work on books, but again, as the next graph shows, only 14% work only on books: in fact, only 23% work exclusively on one type of publication. Moreover, since the ‘among others’ bars in the graph add up to 247%, most of our members work on three or more types of publication. In fact, nearly 20% work on types that we didn’t think to ask about (board-game rules and TV and film scripts, for example).

Okay, but most editors work for publishing companies

You’re right: just over two-thirds do, but our survey found that only 8% of editors work just for publishing companies and I’m going to bore you with another graph:

It’s the same pattern: just under 18% specialise, and more than 305% work for more than one type of client (so we can suggest that most work for two or three types of client, and many for more than four).

But surely they’ve all worked in publishing at some time?

Sorry to contradict: before coming to the profession, nearly 60% of the participants in our survey had never worked in publishing. Moreover, high percentages of participants who currently work in-house for publishing companies had previously worked outside publishing. This summarises these members’ backgrounds:

So, how representative is your survey?

We received surveys from 402 members, almost exactly 18% of our membership, in November 2016. In 2010 the Professional Associations Research Network concluded that ‘most organisations … receive an 11–15% response rate’ to membership surveys; so this is a good response. We found that Advanced Professional Members and members who had belonged for more than five years were over-represented in the results; and that the percentages of participants who were Intermediate Members, Professional Members, members who had recently joined and members who had belonged for between three and five years were about the same as those groups’ ‘share’ of the total membership. For all of these groups the balance between male and female participants was quite close or very close to the ‘mix’ among all members in that group. This suggests that the results are a good reflection of how established editors spend their time.

For his sins, John Firth is the membership director of the SfEP.

If you’d like a copy of the survey, a PDF can be downloaded from here: 2016 Membership Survey.

Navigating the freelance talent pool

BookMachine’s Laura Summers introduces their latest white paper, which talks about how editorial managers can tap into the vast pool of freelance editorial professionals.

Navigating the freelance talent pool

The SfEP directory is a great example of the scale and importance of freelancing and outsourcing work in the publishing industry today. Browsing through the listings gives such an insight into the scale and breadth of professionals all over the country. Everyone on the list is working in publishing; but aside from the moonlighters, most are editing away, far from the confines of a London- or Oxford-based publishing house.

Over the past six years, the BookMachine team have noticed a definite increase in the numbers of freelancers attending events. This might be due to the inclusivity of the community, and that those working outside a traditional publishing company have more company events to attend and aren’t looking to build their network in the same way that those running a small business are. However, we suspect that it is more than that. We think that the freelance talent pool is growing, due to increasing demands for publishers to work on more complex projects with tighter turnaround times and often increased volumes. The need for out-of-house support has never been greater.

With this in mind, working on behalf of Just Content, we produced a new white paper for the publishing industry with vital information and advice on tapping into the freelance talent pool.

It is aimed at editorial managers, though it caters to anyone involved in conducting team projects within publishing. Which is everyone really.

With evidence that the freelance market is expanding both within and outside of publishing, the white paper is a timely reminder of how we can all work together harmoniously.

You can download it free of charge today.

Laura Summers is co-founder of BookMachine – the community for people who make publishing happen. As well as organising events for the industry, BookMachine manage an online network of professionals sharing advice and knowledge. Laura and her team are also available to manage events, business development and marketing projects for small and mid-sized publishers.

Should I renew my SfEP membership? What does the SfEP have to offer?

What’s the point of the SfEP?

The SfEP is a community of like-minded people, fussy about their commas and always willing to share their knowledge and experience. The SfEP forums act as our water cooler, with 120,000 posts to date. SfEP local groups provide support and camaraderie for many members, and the yearly SfEP conference is an ideal opportunity to update your editorial knowledge, to put names to faces and to network. Then the SfEP offers a Directory of experienced professionals; professional training courses, with new ones being added all the time; and specialised professional development days. And much more.

Email us for updates to your entry

Who makes it happen?

Our wonderful team of dedicated and patient staff in the London offices deal with the complex admin required for it all to run smoothly for members. Scores of actively engaged members also work to support their colleagues: in local groups, in social media, before and during the conference, in Editing Matters, on the Directory and the admissions and upgrade panels, on our website, as trainers and mentors; among the many other active members, let’s not forget those who take time to answer questions on our forums. In the background, the twelve directors that make up the SfEP council try hard to address members’ feedback, to manage the show and to make things even better for all of us, while striving to stay abreast of recent developments and to adapt to a changing reality.

What else is the SfEP council planning to do?

Our members need – and deserve – recognition of their profession and qualifications that are meaningful to the world outside the SfEP. Foremost among our recent initiatives is the decision to go for chartership. To this end we have appointed a chartership adviser and have met with the Privy Council Office (which grants charters), the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (our sponsor), Creative Skillset, and some of our sister organisations: the Society for Indexers, the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the National Union of Journalists. All of them have been very supportive of our venture and provided useful insights.

We have drawn up a marketing plan aimed at helping us win and engage more members and letting the world, especially universities and publishers, know what we stand for. We have improved our social media presence, our blog and our website (now with over a million hits). Over the last year we were present at the London Book Fair and at several other events, and we are finalists in the 2017 UK Blog Awards.

There is strength in numbers and our objective is to see an increase in the number of our members. We have high standards and also want to encourage an increase in the proportion of members who opt to pursue their continuous professional development and to upgrade.

Getting in shape for the future

To ensure we are in the best possible financial condition, the council has appointed an external financial adviser and commissioned an audit, from which we emerged squeaky clean. Also in the drive towards a more professional society, we appointed a company secretary and are updating our rules and regulations.

These past few months, we also recruited a new member for our office team, did our best to support staff when one of the team was off ill for several months, conducted staff appraisals and moved some of the clutter from the office into storage.

The SfEP is your society!

None of the Society’s successes this year could have been achieved without you, our members. Without you, the society would not be; without your help, it could not function. And of course, we are always looking for more contributors, either to work in the background (for the introverts) or (for the extroverts) to explain what we stand for to wider audiences, as SfEP ambassadors. And we are likely to need new directors come the AGM in September. Think about it?

Sabine Citron is the chair of the SfEP. Some of her other labels are copy-editor, translator, mother, hillwalker and chocolate eater.

World Book Day 2017: favourite childhood fictional character


Unsurprisingly, SfEP members love books, and for many their love of reading began at an early age. To mark the 2017 World Book Day celebrations the blog team asked members to share their favourite fictional character from childhood, and, as expected from a society of bookworms, we had some wonderful replies. The team would like to thank Susan, Gillian and Jane for their contributions and we hope you enjoy reading their recollections as much as we did.

 

 

Susan Walton

My two favourite book characters when I was a child (a long time ago) were both cats, and contrary ones at that. One was Simpkin and the other was just called ‘the Cat’. As is the way with many children’s books, both characters were fixed in my imagination by the books’ illustrations, and their creators illustrated both.

So, who were they? The Cat is the animal who craftily negotiates his domestication but who still walks by himself ‘in the Wild Wet Woods waving his wild tail’ in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Cat that Walked by Himself’ in the Just So Stories.

Simpkin is the tailor’s cat in The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. One of my personal rituals is to re-read this book every Christmas Eve. It is set at Christmas, and I still love the part when Simpkin goes out into the snow at midnight, when ‘all the beasts can talk’, and ‘the air was quite full of little twittering tunes’.

I have strands in my personality that link straight back to Simpkin and the Cat. Simpkin is at first vexed when he has to run an errand for the tailor. To make matters worse, the tailor releases Simpkin’s captive live supper of mice while he’s out. But he’s later contrite when he realises that the tailor’s kindness has saved them from penury.

I spent a lot of my childhood being vexed (which, incidentally, is where I first learnt the word: I loved the ‘v’ and the ‘x’ in one word), and then contrite. I’m not often vexed these days, but I still sometimes go for walks by myself in the Wild Wet Woods waving my (metaphorical) wild tail.

Gillian Clarke

The character that springs to mind at the moment is Freddy the Pig – in a series of books by Walter R Brooks, with delightful illustrations by Kurt Wiese. Freddy is one of a number of animals that live on the farm owned by Mr Bean, in upstate New York. The animals talk to each other and to humans – which Mr Bean finds a bit embarrassing. Freddy, with his cat friend Jinx, has become an accomplished detective, and the books are usually about his exploits – often against the dastardly rat family headed by Simon.

Jane Hammett

One of my favourite childhood books is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess.

The main character, Sara Crewe, is a rich British girl who returns to London from India when her mother dies. Her father enrols Sara in a boarding school run by the vile Miss Minchin. Sara is so rich that you might expect her to be arrogant or superior, but she is not. Instead she is kind and thoughtful – and she somehow achieves this without being annoying or smug. She befriends a scullery maid, Becky, and is caring to all the girls, but especially the misfits.

Then Sara’s father dies – and his fortune has been lost. Sara can no longer afford to stay on at the school. Miss Minchin agrees that Sara can stay on – but as a servant to the other girls. She treats Sara terribly – overworking her, starving her, banishing her to a miserable attic room.

However, this reversal of fortune doesn’t change Sara. She remains unselfish and generous, and uses her imagination to make life more bearable: ‘Of course the greatest power Sara possessed … was her power of telling stories and of making everything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not.’

She asks Becky to imagine a warm bed, a cheerful fire, toasted crumpets for tea. They escape into their imagination, and Sara’s courage and strength encourages Becky too.

There’s a lot we can learn from Sara about resilience – and her story is as relevant and heart-warming today as it was when I was a child.

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

Image credits:

Blackie’s Children’s Annual c.1919 by Plum Leaves CC2.0

Tailor of Gloucester Wikimedia Commons

A Little Princess Wikimedia Commons