Author Archives: Tracey Roberts

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

A look at editing romance novels

Romance novels get a bad rap sometimes. They are often viewed as being less deserving of praise – and more deserving of being classed a ‘guilty pleasure’ – than literary fiction or other genres such as crime or science fiction. But I’m an unabashed lover of romance novels and not in the least bit guilty about it. And that love spills over into my professional life, where it’s one of my specialist fields as a fiction editor.

Editing romantic fiction is, in many ways, like editing any book. It’s just as worthy an endeavour as editing literary fiction, and romance novels are just as deserving of good editing as any other book (and believe me, romance readers have extremely high expectations and standards and can be vociferous when something doesn’t meet with their approval). You have the same concerns about consistency, correctness, clarity, and all the other Cs to look out for. But romance novels also have their own set of quirks and genre expectations.

What makes a romance novel?

In order to edit a romance novel, an editor must first understand what a romance novel is and what it is not. It might seem obvious, but a romance novel is not just a piece of writing that contains romantic elements.

A romance novel – as a piece of genre fiction – must have a happy ending to be classed as such (or, as the Romance Writers of America put it, an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending”). Tales of woe where the protagonist dies of some dreadful disease and his soulmate is unable to go on and leaps off a cliff are not romance novels. They may be novels with romantic elements, but they are not, strictly speaking, romance novels. And advertised as such, they can create a quite surprising level of anger and annoyance from readers who have sat down to enjoy a feel-good romance and have been left bereft and confused.

Most romance novels are character-driven as opposed to plot-driven. That means that characters’ interactions with each other and their journey and development are the primary focus of the novel. Compare this with adventure novels, which are usually plot-driven; while there may be elements of character development, the main focus is the twists and turns of the storyline. Romance novels are sometimes criticised for their lack of imagination or formulaic storylines, but the relationships between characters are the real heart of the story.

The big picture: characters and their development

When editing a character-driven story, it’s vital to focus on the believability of the characters and their development. If you’re coming in at a developmental or evaluation stage as opposed to a later copy-editing/proofreading stage, this is where you need to focus your efforts. Are the characters likeable? Are their flaws believable and not too drastic? For example, a bad boy who comes to the defence of the protagonist in a bar fight is fine, but one who beats up the protagonist or cheats on her time and time again? Not fine, and readers will swiftly put the book down, never to return. Is their romance believable? A writer can get away with stretching the boundaries of believability slightly, but readers will be turned off by something that is so far outside the realms of possibility it becomes ridiculous.

What’s the conflict and is it strong enough? Conflict is what drives a novel. Two people meeting and falling in love, with no barrier or obstacles, is not a story. There needs to be something stopping them being together which drives their actions, such as a jealous ex-boyfriend, a protagonist who has vowed never to fall in love again, or the time-honoured favourite of romance novels – the secret baby. When you’re editing a romance novel at a more conceptual stage, these are the big questions you need to ask and examine.

Details: dialogue and consistency

When you reach the copy-editing stage, I’d recommend looking closely at dialogue. Dialogue is super important in romance novels. Sometimes there isn’t a great deal of action going on, so it’s imperative that the dialogue is sparkling enough to carry the story and keep readers’ attention. Romance also suffers from some slightly odd dialogue tags sometimes, and you’ll face a balancing act of changing the most egregious ones (people ‘grinding out’ sentences, perhaps) and leaving some of the others. At times, romance novels almost have their own language, and it’s worth familiarising yourself with it before making sweeping changes. At all times, make sure the dialogue is natural and that there’s enough back and forth between characters. Long soliloquies rarely work. Readers want conversations, not monologues.

Pay close attention to things like changing eye colour and hair colour. These things are usually mentioned quite regularly throughout a romance novel, and you would be amazed how many times someone’s appearance changes over the course of the book. Also, keep an eye out for things like contraception not being mentioned or considered by the characters – modern readers expect things like this to be discussed or at least referred to. Sex scenes in general often require careful editing as many authors struggle to write these – and many editors just skip over them or don’t give them the attention they deserve. Editing romance novels means you sometimes have to put your embarrassment to one side and write some quite unusual author queries from time to time!

Keep careful notes of character backstory. Backstory can often be of immense importance (something the protagonist did ten years ago can come back to haunt her later, for example) and it’s important to make sure it’s consistent. Consider keeping a timeline if there’s a lot of going back and forth. That will also iron out issues such as people going to work for seven days in a row or children going to school on a Saturday.

And if you’re editing a historical romance novel, make sure your author has done their research. Historical romances can be great fun to edit, but one written without proper research can quickly turn into a time sink while you check whether words, phrases, and even concepts were commonplace at the time the book was written.

Katherine TrailKatherine Trail is a former newspaper chief sub-editor who now specialises in fiction. She lives in Aberdeen, and when she isn’t editing she can usually be found tramping through the wilderness with her spaniel, Daisy. KT Editing Services

Common problems encountered in fiction editing

When I was asked to write a blog post on common problems encountered in fiction editing, I wondered where on earth to start; it’s such a big topic. Being first confronted with a work of fiction can seem overwhelmingly daunting, especially if you are a newbie, but the satisfaction you get from editing fiction is unrivalled.

Whether you are carrying out a developmental edit or a copy-edit, after a while you see the same problems crop up time and time again – and you begin to realise that if you can catch the common problems the rest will follow.

So here are a few problems that crop up frequently when editing fiction, starting with my favourite first:

Inconsistencies

When you are dealing with a novel, you are bound to come across inconsistencies, and catching them can be quite an art form.

Characters  

If you don’t make sure that things like height, build, hair colour and eye colour remain consistent your readers are going to notice. But if the character has a liking for frequently changing their image, then you need to let the reader know that they dyed their hair, were wearing funky contact lenses or had been on a new medical retreat to add that few extra inches of height.

Make sure names remain the same. You’ll often find throughout the manuscript that the author has spelled the name incorrectly. This is a very common problem – Brian can become Bryan or Bryn or even Brain. Decide on the character’s name and stick with the same spelling, after consulting with the author.

I use a modified Dungeons & Dragons character sheet to keep track of characters in a novel, which I admit is a hangover from my student gaming days. And if you deal with fantasy and sci-fi these are even better, just go ahead and use a Dungeons & Dragons sheet! Or you can use an Excel spreadsheet or whatever takes your fancy. Just make sure you have a way to know your characters by the end of the book.

Staying within character

This can be subtler but is something to watch out for. Rather than enforce a stereotype, stick with the character traits. Would someone who generally behaves in a certain way stray from their normal way of doing things? If they do stray there usually must be a damned good reason, and this can often be the catalyst for the story, but if it’s stated that she hates milk would she put it in her coffee? If she never drinks tea, watch out for her ordering one in the middle of the book. Small things can easily be missed, but I tend to add these to the character sheet.

Also, are the characters interesting enough and are they rounded individuals? If not, you may have to gently nudge the author into a rewrite.

Places

Make sure that buildings and the story settings are consistent and don’t suddenly change appearance. Keep track of where buildings and places are – if the scene is set in a run-down area of town, the narrative should reflect that. If the scene is set in a place that gets little rainfall, would the character really be carrying an umbrella?

If you have a character regularly moving around a room or building it can make sense to draw out an internal layout for yourself – this might stop your character from going through a door that in one chapter leads to the kitchen and in another leads to the bathroom. It may seem like a lot of work, but it all adds to the authenticity and allows you, the editor, to catch mistakes.

Plot holes

Does a character disappear for a cup of tea and never return? Is there a reason the characters move from Central City to the back of beyond? Is the main character’s life journey so thin you can see right through it? Plot holes can be so huge that they don’t need pointing out, but some only appear because there’s something wrong … but you can’t quite put your finger on it. As editors, it’s our job to catch the plot holes – that’s why keeping track as you go along is a good idea.

If you don’t sort out the loose threads of a plot the readers will notice. A good way to do this is to go through and read only the pages dedicated to a certain plot line – this may be enough to have the holes jump out at you. Make sure everything is resolved, and that the plot is believable; even if it’s fantasy or sci-fi, the readers need a satisfying experience.

Practicalities

This can be fun and appeal to your pedantic side, or it can drive you crazy. Keep an eye out for things that pop out at you – for example, will it only take ten minutes to do everything that the character needs to do? Can your character really walk ten blocks in three minutes? Was 15th November 1976 really a Monday? (It was.) And can a helicopter/plane/car/motorcycle really make the journey on one tank of fuel? My favourite example is when the cowboy fires away, bullet after bullet, from an old-fashioned six-shooter, without reloading. When it comes to the practicalities of the story, you can bet that someone, somewhere will notice.

Timeframes

Make sure when working, especially on subplots, that the timeframes match up. If you don’t catch a mismatch your character may end up knowing something before it happened, or before being told. A simple (or not so simple) linear timeline for each character can help – if you know where your characters are you can keep track of what they know or don’t know. Create a calendar for the story if it happens over a period of time.

Point of view, head hopping and tense

A very common problem has the author changing point of view (POV) or engaging in a bit of head hopping. Maintaining POV can be difficult at times, but an editor should be able to spot when the POV changes for the wrong reason. Head hopping is disconcerting as readers are forced to move from one character to another in a scene – it just gets muddled and confusing. If the author really needs to have different character POVs suggest they use them sparingly, for a reason, and don’t have changes in the same scene: save them for different sections or chapters.

Make sure the author doesn’t change from past to present tense and back again; you’d be surprised how often it happens!

The rest

There are so many other problems encountered that are more developmental than copy-editing:

Pace – avoiding that saggy middle and keeping the reader interested.

Plot – is there one or is nothing much happening? What about subplots: are there enough, too many or too few?

Conflict – is there enough to move the story forward? Somebody wants something and strives to get it. Make sure there is enough tension to keep the reader reading.

Voice – the voice needs to be consistent to stop the reader popping out of the story. It’s also a way to catch plagiarism … if the voice suddenly changes be wary.

You might come across some of these problems in your fiction edit or, if you are unlucky, you may get all of them (in which case there are grounds for going back to the author and having a chat about scope and fees). Remember though – changes may have knock-on effects for the rest of the novel, so keep good notes and remember good communication with the author is important.

Sara DonaldsonSara Donaldson is a freelance editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects (mostly historical fiction and non-fiction) she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist. You can find her on Twitter

 

 

Image credits: Lego Dungeons and Dragons by Marco Hazard CC2.0

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

SfEP social media round-up January 2017

In case you missed them, here are some of the most popular links and members’ blog posts shared across the SfEP’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) in January.


Wish you were here, subjective mood!

Quiz: how good is your American English?

How a timeline helps you plot a novel

Nouns that exist only in the plural or singular form

Editing the academic voice

Anaïs Nin on how reading awakens us from the slumber of almost-living

How do dogs understand words?

How comics are made

Copy edit tihs!

share on social media

Members’ blogs

What did this proofreader learn over the past 12 months? By Louise Harnby

No bullshit please by Sara Donaldson

How to make the switch to fiction editing by Sophie Playle (published by LibroEditing)

Crunching the numbers by Liz Jones

Monetising feedback and embracing fragility by Hazel Bird

Bookmarking for better editing by Richard Adin

Thinking fiction: what novels do fiction editors read? By Carolyn Healy (published by An American Editor)

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

Wise owls: how to market your business in 2017

January is an ideal time to reflect on your freelance goals and identify new ways to promote your editorial business. In their latest blog post, the wise owls provide advice on how to build your business in the new year.

Liz Jones

‘Marketing’ can seem like an intimidating concept, far removed from our usual work as editors, so it can help to think of it in terms of things we can do a little of every day, or every week, rather than a separate task. For me, it’s about keeping myself ‘out there’ in people’s minds – existing clients, clients I would like to attract, and also colleagues who might recommend me. I do this across a range of channels: through my regular interactions with clients (I am quick to respond, helpful and polite); by making contact with potential new clients (by my presence in online directories like the SfEP Directory, LinkedIn or social media, or by targeted emails); and by keeping engaged with what’s going on with my colleagues (via the SfEP forums or other online groups, chipping in when I have something helpful to contribute). I blog too, and it all adds up to what I hope is a positive and helpful online presence, with the overall professional image I want to project.

I don’t do all of these things every day or very aggressively, but rather little and often – the effect is that my marketing builds up to a useful level without my having to put in a massive one-off effort. Having said that, one of my tasks for 2017 is to undertake a more targeted direct marketing experiment, with the aim of achieving specific measurable results for my editorial business.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

An SfEP directory entry is a great place to start if you don’t have one yet. It’s included in the subscription cost for Professional and Advanced Professional members and we can now edit our own entries – a great way to add in that new software you’ve got to grips with, or include that new client you’re excited about working with. Put a link to your entry in your email signature and it’s like a taster CV for potential clients.

Once that’s sorted, get talking. Make connections. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, this is easier than it’s ever been before. Get talking on social media, through forums, in groups on LinkedIn. Treat people as respected peers, whatever their role, and see what happens. Create relationships – some people may become clients; others could end up being your rock when times are tough. As freelancers, we need both.

Sue BrowningSue Browning

Marketing your business is much more than sending emails or making calls, or even writing a blog or ‘doing’ social media, it’s how you present yourself in all outward-facing situations, and it’s probably unconscious. Wherever you interact – in forums, on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, on your blog, or even face to face – you are expressing your personality and values and, by extension, those of your business. Be courteous, knowledgeable and helpful and, if it suits you, witty or provocative. Ask and answer questions, sympathise and laugh with others, share useful information and stories. Above all, be yourself, and people will notice you for the right reasons. Not all of them will ever want to use your services, but it only takes one… and you may even have some fun in the process.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter

If you are marketing then, let’s face it, you are selling something. But what is it, and why would people want to buy it?

‘I’d like you to buy my whatsit. I’m not quite sure what it’s made of, or whether it’s the whatsit you really need … and I haven’t made many whatsits yet, so it might not be as good as other whatsits … but I really need to sell some … please!

No thanks. You’ll know, if you’ve done an internet search for proofreading or copy-editing services, that the competition is fierce. So, imagine the task for an author, business or organisation looking to hire someone. It can be pretty hard to know who to pick. You therefore need to stand out. Hopefully that will be because potential clients can quickly see that what you are selling is just what they need, and that you’re qualified to do the job, making it an easy decision to send an enquiry.

You’ll therefore need to take time to work out what it is you do have to offer, what makes you a good person to offer it, and then find the right words to explain that to others. And the right words will depend on who you are trying to reach. Think laterally – what skills and talents have you built up, in work and in your personal life, that will make you better at doing what you do now?

Some general thoughts:

  • If you’re just starting out, don’t try to offer too much, or more than you have been trained in. Focus on what you know you can deliver professionally and competently.
  • Get the proper training (e.g. from the SfEP or the PTC) and then advertise it prominently, along with your SfEP member logo of course.
  • As soon as you can, get meaningful client testimonials. Whenever you return a job, include a feedback sheet or ask permission to use nice things clients have said about your work in emails.
  • Regularly review your sales offering – is it clear, does it stand out, have you added skills or training?

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

SfEP local group: Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland local group was established in 2011, the first time there has ever been an SfEP group in Northern Ireland. Our founder and coordinator is Averill Buchanan.

Belfast meetings are typically informal events held in cafes in the centre of Belfast, the benefit of which is that cakes and pastries are readily available! There’s usually six or so members at any one meeting, and with no fixed agenda everyone gets the opportunity to talk about the issues that are important to them. It’s also a chance for new SfEP members to meet more established members to ask questions about things they may be struggling with in their work and careers. But it’s not just a chance for us to network professionally. Many firm friendships have been established over the years since the first meeting.

The experiences of members vary widely. Between us we cover lots of different specialisms – business writing, educational texts, fiction, music, student theses – and within those areas there’s a mix of skills – project management, developmental editing, copy-editing and proofreading, as well as book design, formatting and typesetting. We’re really quite a mixed bunch!

Better together

Our presence at a local level has grown considerably since 2011, and we are now invited to local publishing events. Earlier this year we had a stand at a local publishing fair in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast where we stood alongside publishers and other professionals in Northern Ireland. This enabled us to spread the word about the SfEP, and offered us a great chance to network.

We also have our own website (www.epani.org.uk) and Twitter account (@epa_ni), which helps to market our members’ services in Northern Ireland. We have more clout working collectively to win new clients. Indeed, earlier this year, several members got together to bid on a big local government project that would have been beyond the reach of any one individual.

Three local group members made the trip to the SfEP’s annual conference in Birmingham in 2016. We spent some time at the September local group meeting talking about the conference and encouraging others to consider going next year. We had thirteen people at that meeting, including three first-timers – a record number for a group meeting. We drew names out of a hat to give away the fabulous Cult Pen goodie bag from the conference.

We’ve just had our annual Christmas lunch, always a popular event, with thirteen attendees. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours eating, chatting and drinking a very welcome glass of prosecco bought by a member who couldn’t join us in person – thanks, Mike!

If you’re based in Northern Ireland, or if you’re an SfEP member visiting Belfast, you’d be very welcome to join us at our next meeting. Contact Averill Buchanan (averill@averillbuchanan.com) for more information.

Victoria Woodside is enjoying her second career working as a freelance editor and proofreader in between caring for her four little people. She likes nothing better than a roaring fire and a glass of red on these cold winter nights. You can find her at www.proofreaderni.com, on Facebook as ProofreaderNI or on Twitter @vicproofreader.

 

Image credit: Tim Fields Creative Commons 2.0

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

Finding our community spirit for the new year

We all know that the SfEP exists to uphold editorial excellence. It does this through a membership structure that encourages all members to develop and hone their skills, and by running a strong programme of training and mentoring to support this. But the Society also exists for and through its members, a network of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and doing many kinds of editorial work – our community of editorial professionals.

So, what makes us a community?

As community director, I’d say it involves sharing certain values and responsibilities. Our values include striving to be the best proofreaders and editors we can be. Our responsibilities (alongside delivering skilled and professional services to our clients, of course) include helping each other live up to those values, supporting those new to our profession and sharing experience among ourselves to enable us all to be successful.

But how do we provide that mutual support in a profession where many of us work at home or in relative isolation, and with members all over the world, including some in remote locations? Well, the SfEP has a number of activities and resources that help foster a sense of community. Some involve meeting face to face, while others use the internet to shrink the distance between us.

Meeting in person: local groups

The SfEP has 38 local groups throughout the United Kingdom, all organised by volunteer coordinators. Groups hold regular meetings, usually in an informal setting, and often, I’ve noticed, involving food and drink. What each group does varies, but all the events provide opportunities to pass on knowledge and to network.

Kathrin Luddecke encapsulates the essence of our local groups in her recent post about the Oxford group:

“While [training] was excellent and really helped me develop best practice… it was the friendly exchanges with others in the local group, the chance to swap experiences, ask questions and share frustrations… that made all the difference to me wanting to keep going. There’s nothing quite like mutual support!”

Those who don’t yet belong to the Society can attend up to three local meetings. A number of people have commented that being able to ‘try before you buy’ like this helped them decide whether editing was right for them.

Read more blog posts about what people get out of their local groups.

And for those who are remotely located, either within the UK or abroad, there’s always our Skype club, which ‘e-meets’ every month.

Meeting en masse: the conference

Our annual  conference provides many stimulating and educational sessions, as well as plenty of opportunities for networking. However nervous people may feel about attending a big event like this, they always seem to go away with a smile on their face, having made new friends, and fired up with enthusiasm to put into practice everything they have learned.

The theme of this year’s conference is Context is key: Why the answer to most questions is ‘It depends’. You’ll be hearing much more about this before booking opens in March, so I won’t steal our conference director’s thunder. In the meantime, we have a number of blog posts that give a flavour of how people feel about attending conference.

The forums: an online watercooler

For times when we can’t meet face to face, the forums are a vital part of the SfEP community. Run by our internet director and his web content editors, and assisted in the day-to-day management by a team of voluntary moderators, the forums are a bit like an online watercooler, where members from all over the world talk about all things editorial, and some things non-editorial.

It’s here where the community spirit is perhaps most evident, with members sharing their experience and expertise on all things from getting started in proofreading and editing to advanced Word wrangling, to that knotty punctuation or grammar question. New members are always given a warm welcome, and more experienced members are generous with their advice and support.

Extending our community: blog and social media

Blog

This, our blog, is where we reach out beyond our community to show our face to the outside world. Tracey Roberts, another volunteer, coordinates it all and we aim to provide a range of interesting and entertaining content relevant to professional editors and proofreaders and anyone who uses editors and proofreaders. And – in exciting news – this has recently been recognised as we heard last week that the SfEP blog has made it through to the final eight of the UK Blog Awards 2017. The winners will be announced on Friday 21 April 2017, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

We are already putting together some great ideas for posts over the coming months, including tips on building your business for the new year, and editing and writing fiction, to coincide with National Storytelling Week at the beginning of February.

But what would you like to see here? Do let us know what types of posts you enjoy and find most useful, or if there’s a subject you’d like to see discussed here.

Social media

As you may know, the SfEP has been increasing its social media presence. This helps raise our profile and allows us to attract more members, enabling us to grow and extend what we can do for our community. Thanks to our splendid team of social media volunteers, every day we keep people informed about what the SfEP is doing as well as posting stimulating content related to editing, publishing and freelancing more generally. And we are increasingly engaging directly with members and non-members, spreading the word… and the love.

You can now follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

And finally… huge thanks to all our community volunteers!

You may have noticed a theme running through everything I’ve talked about here, and that is the huge contribution that is made by our volunteers. Without them, many of the SfEP’s community activities simply could not take place. So I’d like to end by saying a big thank you to every single person who puts their time and energy into making the SfEP what it is – a welcoming, supportive community of editorial professionals.

Eleanor Parkinson, one of our newer members, summed up the essence of the SfEP community spirit in a recent post on our Newbies forum:

“I don’t believe I have ever come across a professional organisation that provides as much practical, real-life help to people trying to get started in that industry.” 

Sue Browning Sue Browning, SfEP community director

 

 

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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