Category Archives: Professional development

How to guides to help with your professional development.

SfEP wise owls: continuing professional development for experienced editors

Welcome to the latest SfEP wise owls blog. This month, the owls provide advice on continuing professional development for experienced proofreaders and copy-editors.

website-votenow-1The team would like to take this opportunity to invite you to support our nomination for the 2017 UK blog awards. The public vote is open until Monday 19th December and you can vote for the SfEP blog via the UK blog awards website. We hope you have enjoyed reading about the SfEP and its members in the blog and would appreciate your support!

 

Hazel BirdHazel Bird
If you’re feeling on top of your game with your editorial skills, consider improving your knowledge of the fields you edit and the conventions those fields use. For example, if you edit fiction, take a creative writing course. Or, if you edit history, attend a webinar, read a book that challenges you, or consider a course or qualification. You can also attend subject-specific conferences or join discussion groups on social media such as Facebook. The more you know about your specialist fields (or the fields you want to specialise in), the better you’ll be able to tap into how your clients think, what they want from you as an editor and what conventions their field will expect them to follow.

Melanie Thompson
Sometimes the best CPD comes from unexpected places. A long time ago I did a brief stint as a school governor. I was sent on a short training course, and I learned a lot from that about working in teams, understanding more about how schools tick, and – crucially – things about curriculum development and changes in teaching methods. A few years later I attended a “maths for parents” evening class at my son’s infant school and learned some handy new mental maths techniques. Fast forward to 2016 and I went along to a parents’ forum at my son’s (senior) school, where the discussion topic was “use of IT in classrooms”, especially ebooks and students’ use of tablet computers. All these lessons popped into my mind during a session on education publishing at this year’s SfEP conference, and continue to inform my approach to working in that sector.

John EspirianJohn Espirian
Invest time in learning how to improve your website and how you can apply basic SEO to stand out. There are a million and one podcasts about digital marketing techniques. Listen to them while walking, driving, cooking, whatever. Even if only a tiny bit of that knowledge sticks, it will likely put you ahead of a lot of people who don’t know the first thing about optimising and promoting their online presence.

Answering questions on LinkedIn, Facebook and especially the SfEP forums will help you realise where you’re strong. Can you answer every question you come across? If not, what areas are you weak in? Why not deep-dive on those? How much of the SfEP’s own editorial syllabus do you know inside out?

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford
Lack of money doesn’t mean you have to forego learning. These are all free of charge. Explore the world of MOOCs (massive online open courses) as a free way of developing your subject, editorial or business knowledge (e.g. from FutureLearn, and Oxford University is offering its first MOOC from February), and use HMRC’s free webinars and videos to make sure you’re on top of your self-assessment, and claiming the right business expenses. Keep up with tech changes. Each month pick one, say, Word function you struggle with and master it. Don’t waste your time fighting with your software – find a YouTube video to help you use it and sign up to the WordTips emails for daily or weekly emails and access to a library of tips. Join the macros SfEP forum to get an insight into how people use macros to save time and improve effectiveness, and get support as you try things out. Apply the same approach to other software you use.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter
I’ve found that a good way to sharpen up my understanding of what it is that I’m doing is to think about how I explain the process to clients, especially non-publisher ones. Over the years I’ve written (and rewritten!) mini guides to help my clients, for example what happens during copy-editing and proofreading, and a checklist of things for self-publishing authors to think about. I’ve also put together business documents I need or find helpful, such as terms and conditions, a services contract, style sheet and queries templates, and the like. Thinking about how you explain your business to others could help you identify any gaps in your knowledge (go fill them!) and enable you to sharpen up your working practices to become more professional.

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Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tips for proofreading children’s books

In many ways, proofreading books for children isn’t that different from proofreading any other material … but there are a few extra things to look out for, especially in highly illustrated titles.

betty-nudlerMind the flaps!

Many children’s books, especially non-fiction titles, feature interactive elements such as flaps, pop-ups, stickers and activities. If you’re proofreading on screen, you’ll see the pages in two-dimensional form, but be aware that you might need to consider how different elements of the book would work together in real life. (Would the outline provided fold up into a model of a robot? Are there really 10,000 stickers, as claimed on the cover?) You won’t necessarily need to print things out to get the job done, but you might need to sense-check activities, cross-reference different parts of the product, or count particular elements (all 10,000 of them). Make sure you factor this in to the time you allow to proofread the book, even if the word count is tiny, and consider using a second screen if you don’t already, to speed up the work and increase your accuracy.

When is a book not a book?

When it’s an ebook or an app – both popular formats for children’s books, and with a different set of considerations from physical books. You might be asked to check how a highly illustrated layout transfers to ebook format, for example, possibly with reflowable text. Are all the elements still there, in a sensible order?

With ebooks and apps, you’ll need to find the most sensible way of returning comments, which might not take the form of a more traditional mark-up, but could instead be a list of corrections. With apps you’ll need to make sure you’ve checked and clearly recorded corrections to all the places where text appears – which might not be easy to deal with in a linear way.

childrens-book-week-liz-2Less can be more … when it comes to mistakes

In some ways, children’s books seem too easy. In books for younger readers in particular, you might have as few as twenty words. (Your per-thousand word rate is likely to be reassuringly astronomical!) However, the lack of text can be almost intimidating. Any remaining mistakes have nowhere to hide, and will come back to haunt you for all eternity … or until the books are pulped. Make triply certain that the title on the spine matches the title on the cover and on the title page, for example. Surprisingly often, it doesn’t.

 

Reading order

In boring old adult books, usually you start reading at the top left of a page, and keep plugging away until you get to the bottom right, and then start the process all over again. This isn’t necessarily so in children’s books, where layouts can be considerably more dynamic, with smaller blocks of text arranged across the page or spread, integrated with the pictures, and interspersed with smaller text elements such as boxes, captions and annotations. Pay attention to the reading order of the different elements – it needs to be logical. Sometimes, captions will be the only part that is read, so these need to stand alone. They should work hard, add value to the picture they refer to, and not simply repeat part of the main body text. It seems obvious, but it’s easily overlooked: annotations need to refer to the part of a picture they are pointing to.

Consider the reader

Whatever we edit or proofread, we need to consider the intended reader. But with children as the audience, there are extra considerations. Is the text legible? Are the fonts used appropriate? Although by the time you are proofreading, basic decisions such as font choice will have been made long ago in the process, you might still find instances where things need to be tweaked to help a young readership. Also look out for words, especially technical terms or jargon, that don’t fit the reading age or need to be explained where they appear.

Diversity and inclusion

Children’s publishers often have guidelines for authors and editors on inclusion and diversity. Although these aspects should be considered from the outset of a project – or rather, as this article argues, a book should ‘be diverse without diversity being its selling point’ – it’s still an important aspect of children’s publishing for proofreaders and copy-editors to be aware of.

children-book-week-liz-1Don’t neglect the pictures

You might think of yourself as a word person, but in many children’s books, much of the sense comes from the pictures, so you must pay as much attention to them as to the text. If the text describes something shown in a picture, such as a colour, does the picture reflect that? If the pictures show a step-by-step process, are they in the right order? Many children’s books are commissioned in the knowledge that they will be co-editions, or sold into a range of territories. Often you will need to look out for parochial details in the images that could limit a book’s marketability, such as obviously right-hand-drive cars, or very British-looking police uniforms.

Marking up

Finally, think about the best way to mark up a highly illustrated book. Your client might have guidelines on how they want you to mark up PDFs, but remember that marks can easily be overlooked on busy, brightly coloured backgrounds. If you think a mark might be lost, draw a big box around it or highlight it with a helpful arrow. Go for maximum clarity.

photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones worked in-house for two children’s publishers between 1998 and 2005, and still proofreads children’s books alongside a range of other freelance editorial work for publishers, business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Photo credit: Betty Nudler Creative Commons

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

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

Practice makes (closer to) perfect

By Liz Jones

Imagine that you’ve recently completed some solid training in proofreading and/or copy-editing, and you’re looking forward to your new existence as a fully fledged editorial professional. But wait! How can you be sure you’re correctly applying all that you’ve learned?

One of the best places to learn is on the job, but this can be particularly stressful when you’re starting out. You want to be sure you’re doing the best work you can for a paying client – not only to offer them a good service for the money, but also to secure repeat business.

Practice
Here are some tips for getting valuable proofreading or copy-editing practice when you’re starting out, or if you’re expanding into new areas – without risking your reputation on a live job.

Mentoring

Once you’ve undertaken enough basic training, one further training route that the SfEP offers its members is mentoring (as do some other editorial organisations, such as EAC). You can be mentored in general proofreading or copy-editing, and there is now also the option of specialist mentoring in areas such as fiction, biomedical journals, law and music. Your mentor will send you exercises to work on (usually extracts from material they have edited previously) and will then provide you with detailed feedback and guidance on your strengths, as well as where you need to improve, over the course of several months. On successful completion of mentoring you will be awarded points that can be used towards upgrading your SfEP membership.

Books

You might choose to carry out practice in the form of further self-study after completing more formal courses. One book that comes highly recommended and has been used by many proofreaders when starting out is Advanced Professional Member Margaret Aherne’s Proofreading Practice: Exercises with model answers and commentary.

Forums

Those of us who work freelance can lack opportunities to simply lean over and ask a more experienced colleague for help if we get stuck, or if we don’t know where to turn to support an editorial decision. One ever-reliable source of information on best practice is the SfEP forums. You can ask your own question as it arises, or search the extensive archives to see if the topic has been discussed before. (Often, it has!) Alternatively, read the forums regularly and see what others are asking. Sometimes the battle when trying to improve as an editor is not finding the answer to a particular question – it’s finding out what questions it’s necessary to ask.

The SfEP forums aren’t the only places to go for advice. Other online forums, such as the Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group, are also invaluable and easily accessed sources of advice and support, and can provide a slightly different perspective.

Critical appreciation of others’ work

This is one method that does require a live job and a dash of good fortune, but sometimes as a proofreader you will be lucky enough to see the work of an editorial professional employed earlier in the process, such as the copy-editor or the development/commissioning editor, as part of your proofreading or copy-editing job. Even a small insight into how someone else – perhaps someone considerably more experienced – works can be illuminating. Don’t simply collate what’s there, or skip over it – try to understand why editorial decisions have been taken, and what the implications are for you and the wider publishing process.

Local group

If you are able to attend a local SfEP group, this could provide an ideal opportunity to pick colleagues’ brains about best approaches to work. Perhaps you could suggest sharing examples of how group members have tackled real-life jobs, or short extracts from them … NDAs and client confidentiality permitting, of course.

Read, read, read

It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to overlook the need to read voraciously, outside of actual work. If you specialise in particular types of editing work, and most of us probably do, it’s obviously important to read widely in these areas – but really, almost any kind of reading will help to train your eye and help you to know what good writing looks like (and what it doesn’t). And let’s face it, it’s not as if more reading is a chore for most editors!

Finally …

This might sound obvious, but you can’t ever have too much practice. It’s possible to get up to speed with the basics of editing fairly quickly, but it can take years to get really good. You never stop learning, even over the course of decades – technology and software move on, and editorial fashions and tastes change. Keeping up to date with innovations and reflecting on your practice never stop being important.

photo 2016 croppedBy Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and full-time freelance since 2008; she is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She specialises in trade non-fiction, fiction and educational publishing, but also works with a range of business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Image: Photopin. Creative Commons (license).

Support from the SfEP for newbie proofreaders and editors

By Tracey Roberts

After gaining employment as an editorial assistant I investigated options for training and career development, and my research immediately led me to the SfEP. I was impressed by the range of training opportunities and advice available, and applied for membership straight away. I have benefited from the advice provided on the website (especially the forum and blog), and wanted to contribute something myself. But as I’m just starting out in my new career I have little editorial experience to share and I can be best described as a ‘newbie’.

newbie

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a newbie as someone who has just started doing an activity, a job etc.

Starting a new career can be daunting. But being a newbie should be viewed positively as an opportunity to learn something new, and I have learnt so much during my first year of SfEP membership. I have completed the ’Proofreading 1’ and ‘Copy-editing 1’ courses via distance learning, and I would highly recommend them as a starting point for anyone considering a career in editing or proofreading. I’m currently studying ‘Proofreading 2: Progress’, where your work is assessed by your tutor (an unnerving prospect for this newbie). Signing up for the mentoring programme will be equally daunting. But progress requires constructive feedback and I am looking forward to what I will learn from these courses and what new opportunities they may bring.

I am also grateful for the networking opportunities that membership has provided, and I have benefited greatly from the knowledge and experience that has been shared by other members. A number of networking opportunities are available and, regardless of your circumstances, newbies can find a convenient way to meet other members. The SfEP has pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and those keen to meet in person can also join a local group (a Skype group is available for international members). I attended my first meeting with the East Midlands group, where experienced members shared valuable advice and made me feel very welcome. New members are also encouraged to attend the annual conference, although I appreciate that this can be a daunting prospect when you don’t know anyone yet (see recent blogs by Karen and Katherine).

To aid my professional development I applied for the position of SfEP blog coordinator and was thrilled when I was offered the role. We have a number of great blog pieces written by experienced editors which will be published over the coming months, and we would love to hear from anyone else who would like to write for us. The blog covers any topics relevant to editors including freelance business advice, editing tips, guidance on using new software, sharing insight into your specialist area and anything else you think may be of interest to members. See 10 tips for your first proofreading job by John Espirian which will be of interest to new members.

I would also like to invite other newbies to write for the blog and share their experiences as they progress in their new career. No one ever said that starting a new career would be easy, but training and sound advice goes a long way to making this experience easier. This is what membership of the SfEP provides. As the new blog coordinator I look forward to sharing the thoughts and experiences of other members, both long-standing and new.

If you are interested in writing for the blog or have any feedback please get in touch blog@sfep.org.uk.

Image shared via Creative Commons:
Anne https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilike/4942572797/in/photostream/

Tracey
Tracey Roberts recently graduated with an MSc in Neuroscience and is an Entry-Level member of the SfEP. She currently works as editorial assistant for the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group based in Nottingham and is the SfEP blog coordinator.
Twitter: @traceystweets01

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

Editorial project management: what, who, how?

By Hazel Bird

project managementAn editorial project manager (PM) can have a lot of control over how a book turns out. As such, project management can be a rewarding and enjoyable way for experienced copy-editors and proofreaders to expand their editorial horizons. For less experienced copy-editors and proofreaders, it can be beneficial to have an understanding of everything that PMs juggle when working on a project. But what does project management involve, who does it, and how does a copy-editor or proofreader get started on the path towards working as a PM?

What is project management?

In publishing, project management refers to the tasks involved in overseeing the journey of a manuscript from the end of the writing process to printing and/or electronic publication. However, within that broad definition, there is great variety in what a PM might be asked to do. Tasks may include some or all of the following.

Dealing with freelancers and other suppliers:

  • arranging for a manuscript to be designed, copy-edited, typeset, proofread, indexed, and converted to electronic outputs
  • creating briefs for each person carrying out the above tasks
  • maintaining a list of freelancers and suppliers
  • giving feedback
  • approving invoices and making other financial arrangements.

Dealing with authors and other stakeholders:

  • keeping everybody and everything on schedule
  • attending project meetings
  • keeping stakeholders updated
  • negotiating solutions when problems arise
  • sourcing and checking permissions.

Taking overall responsibility for quality and consistency:

  • sourcing or chasing missing content
  • collating corrections, arbitrating where necessary
  • checking that corrections are made and managing any knock-on effects
  • maintaining a project-specific style sheet and/or ensuring a house style guide has been consistently applied
  • checking artwork
  • problem solving – both by anticipating issues and fixing unexpected blips.

Who does these tasks?

Traditionally, project management was almost entirely carried out in house. However, changes in the publishing industry mean these tasks are now sometimes sent out to freelancers and other entities. Other changes have led to entirely new roles being carved out.

  • In-house person: Some publishers still keep all project management tasks in house. Others might keep certain aspects (e.g. creating a typespec or design; sourcing permissions) in-house and engage an external PM to manage copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, and indexing.
  • Freelance project manager: A freelance PM may be briefed by an in-house editor to do some or all of the tasks above. The PM may work with a high degree of independence or may work closely with the in-house contact, who may be managing other aspects of the project simultaneously (see previous point). A freelance PM may also be the copy-editor, proofreader, or typesetter of a project.
  • Packager: Often a typesetting company, a packager usually manages large numbers of titles for publishers, often fairly independently after an initial workflow has been agreed.
  • Copy-editors and proofreaders: Increasingly, copy-editors and proofreaders who work with self-publishers are finding themselves doing – or deliberately setting out to do – tasks reserved to PMs in more traditional publishing workflows, even if they’re not providing a full project management service. For example, they may do the copy-editing themselves and then arrange for proofreading. Alternatively, independent authors often want an editor who can provide a whole package of services, right up to uploading the final files and helping with details such as Amazon author pages.

How do I get started?

Becoming a PM requires a lot of experience and knowledge, and excellent organisational skills. While publishers who hire PMs will almost certainly have their own comprehensive workflow documents for you to follow, it’s still important to have sufficiently broad experience and training to enable you to properly plan a project and manage issues as they arise; as the above list of tasks implies, project management is a lot more than following a checklist.

Butcher’s Copy-Editing (UK-oriented) and the Chicago Manual of Style (US-oriented) both contain a great deal of general information on readying a manuscript for publication. In terms of training, the Publishing Training Centre (PTC) runs courses on digital project management and editorial project management, and these can help to boost confidence in one’s skills. You can also get training in Agile and PRINCE2 qualifications (not specific to editorial work but recommended by editorial PMs Emily Gibson and Zoe Smith).

There is no single way to find project management work, just as there is no single way to find copy-editing or proofreading work. Advertising in the SfEP Directory or another professional directory may lead to clients finding you, though many PMs seem to enter the field via a chance encounter or incrementally through offering additional services to existing clients. Experience in house isn’t essential, but it does seem to be common.

Project management work can be rewarding in terms of the breadth and depth of involvement it allows. And, even if you don’t aim to offer a full project management service, it’s still beneficial to be aware of what it involves.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird is a project manager and copy-editor who handles over 5 million words per year, mainly in the academic humanities and social sciences. She started out managing encyclopaedias at Elsevier and went freelance in 2009. When she’s not editing, she is generally roaming the Mendips or poring over genealogical documents.

She blogs at Editing Mechanics and tweets as @WordstitchEdit. Find her at sfep.org.uk/directory/hazel-bird and wordstitch.co.uk

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director

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

If ELT editing is your special interest …

By Lyn Strutt

I taught English language for 14 years, both in the UK and overseas, so I knew about IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language). However, I did not actually join until I became an ELT editor. I started to attend the annual conference – to network with old colleagues from teaching, new colleagues in publishing and prospective clients (ELT publishers).

However, as the number of years spent as an editor (and out of the classroom) grew, I began to feel less engaged with some of the conference topics; they were for people who could take the ideas back to their classrooms and try them out. It was interesting to see new materials and hear about new approaches, especially since they might be appearing in the materials I was editing. But there was nothing that had a significant impact on my day-to-day work as an ELT editor.

IATEFL has a number of volunteer-run SIGs (Special Interest Groups), some of which also have their own conferences and events. One SIG is included in your membership and it was natural for me to join BESIG, as Business English is my specialism. Then, about three years ago, some of my associates decided to set up a new SIG: the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MaWSIG). I was naturally interested and applied for a post on the committee, which led to me becoming Publications Editor, as well as acting as Deputy Publications Coordinator.

MaWSIG was set up to bring together people who are involved in materials writing for ELT. That includes professional authors, digital content providers, teachers who want to write material for their own classes, publishers, designers – and, of course, editors. We have over 300 members in 50 countries and, in addition to face-to-face events including conferences and less formal Meetups in the UK and overseas, we provide online webinars and we’re active on Facebook and Twitter. We also have a website where we publish members’ blog posts; we’ve already published our first ebook.

MaWSIG1

Writers and editors stretching themselves at the recent MaWSIG Conference

To give you an example of what’s on offer, the MaWSIG conference in February 2016 (which I mentioned in a post on the new ELT forum), was titled ‘New ways of working for new ways of learning’ and covered a broad range of topics from avoiding mental overload and physical discomfort at the desk, to how the digital materials we work on are being used in classrooms and how we can better collaborate as virtual teams.

 

At the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham last week, MaWSIG offered a one-day Pre-Conference Event titled ‘Print vs. digital: Is it really a competition?’ where we explored the skills and techniques that writers and editors need to create professional, engaging, and relevant materials for a range of different teaching contexts, both print and digital. You can attend these events without being a member of IATEFL or MaWSIG, but membership gives you the benefit of discounts for these events.

The editorial work I do for the committee brings me into contact with both key ELT professionals and novice writers and it’s great to work with them on their submissions to the blog. As a member of the SIG, I get to hear interesting speakers (at conferences and online) and to engage in discussion with writers, editors, designers and publishers about the materials we produce, the challenges facing the industry and the exciting potential that new technology brings. IATEFL keeps me connected with the world of ELT, but MaWSIG keeps me connected with the world of ELT publishing – something I consider vital to my professional development.

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Lyn Strutt (@conciselyn) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP and holds the City & Guilds Licentiateship in Editorial Skills. She is based in London and works as a freelance content editor, copy-editor and proofreader of print and digital ELT materials, specialising in business and professional English, ESP and adult general English. Find out more at http://www.sfep.org.uk/directory/lyn-strutt.

 Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Louise Lubke Cuss.

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.

Everyday CPD

photo (3)There’s nothing like going on a training course or attending a conference for an intense dose of CPD. But the rest of the time, CPD happens more by osmosis.

Learn from other editors

Many of us work alone, and it can seem that we work in isolation. But just in the last week I have had two very positive experiences of learning from other editors in the course of my everyday work. One job involved a second proofread, and I was sent my first proofread to check against. The first proof set now also included marks made by the senior commissioning editor, who is obviously intimately acquainted with the series (this was my first book for the client, and it had quite a complicated set of features). I learned so much from being able to see which of my original corrections the editor had let stand, and which she had modified or stetted for the typesetter. Any subsequent books I proofread or edit for the client should be easier and more accurate as a result.

The other positive experience involved copy-editing in Word using a template made by a fellow SfEP member, supplied to me by the client (an educational publisher). The template was set up in such a way that using it enabled me to see at a glance exactly how long each of the lessons in the book was running – again, there were various features such as boxes which complicated matters – and cut accordingly. This saved me time, and led to a greater degree of accuracy – hopefully there will be no need to cut text at the proof stage as a result.

Read around the subject

One of the best things about our work can be the variety of materials and subjects we work on. Many a time I have found myself happily distracted by the subject matter of a book, and reading around it in my own time. Although this is essentially a pleasurable exercise, it can also be of direct benefit in terms of your work – next time you edit a book on the same subject, you will be much better informed.

Work in house

This kind of opportunity doesn’t come up every day, but it might – and if it does, be open to it. Working in a client’s office is a golden opportunity to pick up work tips. You’ll see directly how people tackle the kind of work you need to do, and you’ll be able to ask questions in real time. You’ll also make new contacts and cement existing ones. And as well as being a CPD injection, who knows where the experience could lead in terms of future projects?

Move outside your comfort zone

I’m not suggesting you take on work that you’re really not ready for or trained to do – that would be irresponsible. But if you are offered a job for which you tick most of the boxes, but that goes just beyond what you’ve done or experienced before, don’t instinctively turn it down – taking it on can be the best way of learning. If you will need to pick up a new skill to complete the job, there are plenty of people you can ask for advice along the way. Carry out your own research, ask editorial friends and colleagues, or try the SfEP forums or any other online group you are part of.

A job that requires a new way of working may take longer than you expect the first time you do it. Think of learning how to do something properly as an investment, though. Next time you’ll be much quicker.

Learn a skill not connected to editing

Not everything we do has to be about editing. Work can be all-consuming, especially for freelances and small-business owners, and it’s healthy to switch off from it for a while. You might take up a sport, or a musical instrument, or study another language. Getting away from the desk is a great way to relax, think about something else and develop a new area of expertise in the process. However, a positive side-effect may be that when you return to your desk, you are able to see the solution to a niggling problem more easily. And in the longer term, it’s sometimes possible to turn a seemingly non-editorial hobby – such as cooking or gardening – into an editorial specialism.

Harnessing everyday CPD

Ultimately, most of the things mentioned above will simply happen in the course of everyday life – editorial and otherwise. The trick is to recognise and acknowledge what is happening in order to make the most of it.

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

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

 

Ten tips for successful conference networking

meetingBy Mary McCauley

By this time last year I had already booked my flight to my first ever SfEP conference. I had been invited to present a seminar and I was absolutely petrified. I lay awake at night worrying; not only was I going to a conference in another country, I was also going to have to get up and speak in front of a room full of strangers. I knew just one other person attending … and I had only met her once before. What on earth had I let myself in for?

I needn’t have worried. I went to the 2014 conference, met lots of lovely people, made some fantastic new friends, learned an incredible amount (and not all of it during the workshops and seminars) and I thoroughly enjoyed and gained from the entire experience.

Networking, according to our friends in the Oxford English Dictionary, is to ‘interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. That’s the formal way of looking at it: I think of it as getting away from my desk, hanging out with my tribe, meeting and learning from interesting colleagues, making new likeminded friends and having fun. So whether you’re a conference regular or a nervous newbie (as I was), here are my ten tips for making the conference networking experience a more fruitful and enjoyable one.

Network online before you go

Joining pre-conference online discussions will make it easier to join real-life conversations come September! You can find out who’s going to the SfEP conference and get lots of advice and tips on all things conference related by joining the pre-conference chats on the SfEP forums. If you have a Facebook account make sure to join any relevant groups in which members are discussing the conference. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the #sisfep15 tweets – better still, if you use the likes of Hootsuite or TweetDeck, you can set up a dedicated #sisfep15 stream.

If you’re normally a social media lurker rather than an active participant, then perhaps make a special effort to comment more in discussions. If you don’t already have a social media account, then I recommend you join Facebook as a starting point. It seems to be the social media hangout of choice for many editors internationally, and it’s a fantastic tool for meeting editorial colleagues and learning from others.

Use a recent photo of yourself in your social media profile

Many people have genuine concerns about identity theft and privacy when it comes to using an actual photo of themselves rather than a substitute/default image in online profiles. However, it makes it easier to approach colleagues at the conference if you recognise each other’s photos from social media. Try and use a photo that was taken in the past five years – one that reflects the way you look now. It’s easier to make conversation with a new colleague if they’re not completely distracted by the differences between the social media you and the real you!

Make a wish list

Before you head off to the conference (or, following onsite registration, when you get a list of the attendees) make a note of all the people you’d like to meet in person during the conference. This can include both speakers and attendees. Perhaps you’d like to meet an industry expert, training supplier or publisher’s representative; or it may be a colleague whose blog posts or social media comments you admire; or a member of the SfEP council or admin staff (don’t forget to put faces to the names of all the hard-working SfEP office team!). If there’s a helpful colleague whom you haven’t met in person, but who has referred clients to you or helped you in any way, it would be nice to meet them in person to thank them.

Feel the fear and … smile!

So you’ve come out of social media lurking mode and taken part in online discussions; you’ve bitten the bullet and posted a lovely recent photo of yourself on Facebook; and you’re walking in the door for registration on day one of the conference … but all you want to do is find a nice dark corner in which to hide. Just remember that even the most confident person in the room is probably feeling a bit apprehensive – it’s normal, but don’t let it hold you back from having a productive and enjoyable conference. Often what we project is reflected back to us, so a smile goes a long way. The knots in your stomach may not be conducive to smiling, but the more you do it the more you’ll relax, and the more approachable you’ll be.

Arrange to meet up

Adjusting to your surroundings in the first few hours of the conference, particularly if it’s your first, can make networking difficult. If possible, pre-arrange to meet up with a friend, or an online or local group colleague, before registration. Attending registration and the AGM with someone you know will ease you into networking mode – it’s easier to approach other people when you’re with someone. This is especially true if you wish to approach one of the more well-known presenters, guest speakers or panellists!

Be interested

How does one actually network? Well, for a start, try not to think of it as ‘networking’: approach it as mere friendly chatting with likeminded people with whom you share a love of words. Don’t be afraid to use small talk to get you started – where would we be without that wonderful fail-safe topic of conversation that is the weather? You could also comment on your surroundings, ask colleagues about their journey to the conference, where they travelled from, which sessions they’re most looking forward to, which type of editorial work they do, etc. – be interested in them and listen to what they have to say. You’ll find that most people will turn the tables and ask the same questions of you (‘And what about yourself?’), so think through in advance what you’d like to say about the type of work you do.

Help others

I attended non-editorial business conferences in my previous career and I’m amazed at the cultural differences between those and editorial conferences. Editorial folk are a naturally friendly and helpful bunch, happy to reach out to others. That wasn’t always my experience at business conferences! When you meet new people at the conference, be open to helping them – share your knowledge or experience, offer advice if you think it’ll be welcomed, or refer them to other resources or people you think may help them. People will do the same for you, and it’s in this sharing of experiences and knowledge that understanding is formed and connections are made.

Having been the billy-no-mates person at business conferences on a couple of occasions, I know what a dreadful feeling it is. So if you see someone walk in to the conference canteen alone with no obvious group to sit with, or standing alone during the coffee break, why not smile and invite them to join your group. Likewise, if you’re the one alone, don’t be afraid to approach a friendly looking group and simply say, ‘I’m by myself – do you mind if I join you?’

Don’t skip meals and coffee breaks

There may be times when you’ll feel like running back to your room for a quiet lie-down or to catch up on your emails, instead of facing the canteen or coffee stand. Try to fight that feeling and battle through! It’s not a long conference, and you can catch up when you get home (though I do recognise that for some of the more introverted, those quiet times alone are what get them through the entire conference).

In my experience, a lot of the nuts and bolts of networking happens during the meal and coffee breaks, drinks receptions, etc. It’s often during these that new friendships are formed, some of the most valuable discussions take place and ideas are shared – so mingle, mingle, mingle!

Carry business cards with you

While some people feel business cards are becoming obsolete, I believe they’re still a valuable networking tool. When you meet someone at the conference whom you find interesting and friendly, someone you’d like to connect with professionally or socially, then ask for their business card and offer yours in return. Try not to stick the card in your pocket or folder immediately; take a moment to look at the details on it and ask any questions you might have about the person’s work, etc. It may feel really awkward at first, but the more you offer your business card and ask for one, the easier it gets.

Follow up when you get home

There will probably be colleagues and speakers whom you would like to stay in contact with after the conference. When you get home dig out their business cards, or find their details on the lists in your conference pack, wait a day or two and then connect with them online through social media. LinkedIn is a good medium for the more professional-level connections, Facebook for the more friendly and sociable connections, while Twitter is a good catch-all tool. If the person in question doesn’t have a social media account, you could send a ‘lovely-to-meet-you-and-let’s-stay-in-touch’ email instead.

When sending a LinkedIn connection request, personalise the message and refer to your interaction at the conference. If you think you can be of help to the person, mention this in your message. During the conference, perhaps you’ll promise a colleague you’ll share something with them – a contract template, for example, or a link to a helpful blog post. If you do, ensure you follow up after the conference and send the promised item. Likewise, if someone promises you something similar but forgets to send it, don’t be afraid to connect online and follow up.

I found my editorial tribe online; meeting so many of them in person at the conference last year felt like returning home. The conference is a wonderful experience, and while networking online is great, networking in person is even better. Best of luck to all my colleagues heading to editorial conferences in the coming months. Unfortunately, I can’t attend this year but I’ll be with you in spirit (and via the conference Twitter hashtags)!

MaryBased in Wexford, Ireland, Mary McCauley is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor working with publishers, corporate clients and independent fiction authors. She is a professional member of the SfEP and a member of the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI) in Ireland. She helps run the AFEPI Twitter account and also blogs sporadically at Letters from an Irish Editor. Connect with Mary on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

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

Collaborate and innovate

Every year, the SfEP conference has a theme – a title intended to give a flavour of the programme that delegates can look forward to, and perhaps even capture something of the editorial zeitgeist.

It may not be iSfEPSIswirlmmediately obvious how freelance editorial professionals collaborate. We are often seen as a disparate collection of solitary workers, tapping away in front of our screens with only the cat or dog for company … ‘collaboration’ might not be the first word that comes to mind. But no editor is an island: we choose to form networks of friendly colleagues, both informally and through more structured local group meetings; we belong to professional associations such as the SfEP; we interact online, in forums and via social media. And when it comes to our work, even if we meet clients and colleagues relatively rarely, we are usually an intrinsic part of a much larger team of individuals with different areas of expertise bringing each project to fruition together.

In this spirit of collaboration, 2015 marks the first joint conference of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the Society of Indexers. We are two societies with much in common, and indeed some membership overlap. Our members are all concerned with organising text. However, perhaps it will turn out to be the differences between the work we do as editors and indexers that prove most interesting. It’ll be fun finding out!

Christine Vaughan, the SfEP’s conference director, and Ann Kingdom, the SI chair, had this to say about what collaboration means in the context of the 2015 conference programme:

This year’s conference programme offers a number of opportunities to reflect on your collaboration with others, from understanding how indexing fits into the editorial process to exploring how to build your client base and maintain good client relationships. For example, in ‘Both sides of the self-publishing coin’, Clare Christian and Hattie Holden Edmonds will explore, amongst other things, the idea of ‘collaboration not competition’ as a means of enabling the independent author to find the right people to work with.

Sessions looking at the technological changes affecting journal publishing, how the production process can be adapted to take into new working practices and product formats, and how the roles of the editor and indexer are likely to develop in the future will, we hope, mean you leave the conference enthused and informed about the future of publishing. Or you could come away inspired to diversify on a more personal level, by getting to grips with social media marketing, becoming an SfEP mentor or using digital tools to streamline your working practice.

 But in with the new needn’t mean out with the old – we have several sessions on perennial topics, such as ‘Finance for freelances’ and a workshop on Word, while Paul Johnson will give a presentation on ‘The magic of the movable book’, proving that you can still make something new and different from paper.

Meanwhile innovation – introducing something new; making changes or alterations – comes from a base of solid knowledge and depends on an environment in which new ideas can germinate and grow. The conference represents a CPD injection of the kind that is simply not available to us for the rest of the year, with the chance to listen to a range of expert speakers, and take part in different workshops and seminars each day, as well as other activities and events such as the gala dinner. Past delegates have testified to the intense learning experience that takes place over the course of two and a half days:

What I didn’t perhaps expect was the openness and warmth which greeted me … continuing right the way through the conference. I learned a lot from the seminars and workshops, but so much more from my new colleagues, who were without fail willing to share their experience and make suggestions that I might like to follow up to boost my business.

Think of it as worth several days of training courses, useful tips galore, a confidence boost, dozens of useful contacts and probably several new firm friends.

The conference is also an unmatched opportunity simply to talk to colleagues. New entrants to the profession can pick the brains of veterans, and the other way round. Although we are in competition for work, in so many ways building relationships with other professionals can make us stronger and improve our chances of staying the course.

Recent conference themes have looked at the idea of change, and response to that change: A new publishing landscape (2013); Editing: fit for purpose (2014). All industries change over time, and ours is no different. We’ve seen a huge rise in self-publishing, a sector rich with opportunities for editors keen to work closely with independent authors; open access has altered the landscape of journal publishing; our clients continue to ask us to grapple with new software, mark-up languages and workflow tools; the outsourcing and offshoring of a range of editorial tasks continues to shape the market. Perhaps how we respond to these changes, and others, is one of the most important factors in determining our success and professional longevity.

So if last year’s conference was about responding to the contemporary climate, this year’s is about looking forward, and effectively stealing the march on what may come to challenge us professionally. In a marketplace in which we may feel at the mercy of time pressures, economic forces and client demands, it is empowering to consider how we can take back control and help our businesses thrive.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The 2015 SI/SfEP conference, Collaborate and innovate, takes place from 5–7 September at Derwent College in York.

For more information, and to book, see the SfEP website.

Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Karen Pickavance.