Tag Archives: SfEP

SfEP blog round-up May 2017

In case you missed them, here are some of the brilliant members’ blogs published in May 2017. If you regularly publish a blog and would like your posts included in future blog round-ups please get in touch.

Our Scottish mini-conference at the beginning of May provoked a number of interesting blogs from attendees. Here they are all gathered in one place.

The SfEP Scottish mini-conference: a summary by Denise Cowle

What I’ve learned about attending editing conferences by Sophie Playle

Conference capers by Sara Donaldson

My top takeaways from the 2017 SfEP Scottish mini-conference by Jill Broom

Other interesting blogs from members last month:

Why most grammar guides suck (and where to get answers instead) by Sophie Playle

A day in the life of a freelance copy-editor and editorial project manager by Hazel Bird

Freelancer FAQs by Karen White

What is good writing? by Liz Jones

You asked; I answered: How do I become a freelance proofreader? By Louise Harnby

How to query like a superhero – 5 tips for new fiction copyeditors and proofreaders by Louise Harnby

Thinking fiction: The novel-editing roadmap I and Thinking fiction: The novel-editing roadmap II by Carolyn Haley (published by An American Editor).

OSCOLA Back to basics: Footnote shortcuts by Liz Brown

Making the most of the QAT by Hilary Cadman

Collated by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

 

Cocktails, superheroes and pick ’n’ mix: SfEP at the UK Blog Awards 2017

‘We are delighted to advise that your content has reached the final stage in the UK Blog Awards process as a company finalist…’

Earlier this year I was thrilled to learn that the SfEP had made the final for the 2017 UK Blog Awards. Over 2,000 blogs had been nominated this year, and the SfEP received sufficient votes to reach the final eight in the Arts and Culture category, alongside blogs by Royal Mint, English Heritage and Bodleian Libraries. As the SfEP blog relies on the support of volunteer writers, I was delighted that their contributions had been recognised and appreciated.

Finalists are invited to attend a glitzy awards ceremony in London, and I was delighted to represent the SfEP with social media volunteer Anna Nolan. Here are our recollections of the night…

Tracey

Confession: I have never been to an awards ceremony before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Reading through the #UKBA17 tag on Twitter, I learned the ceremony was sponsored by Odeon cinemas and would have a superhero theme, which only added to my curiosity!

On arrival at the Park Plaza, we joined the other attendees for nibbles and drinks. While searching for a waiter serving what looked like crispy fries (sadly, we were too late and they had all gone), we decided to participate in some of the movie-themed attractions on offer. We were transformed into Wonder Woman – including gauntlets and lightning – courtesy of Warner Bros. (apparently, I was too ‘smiley’ and didn’t snarl appropriately). The SfEP was also judged unworthy and we were unable to pull Excalibur from the stone.

When the ceremony started, the first category announced was Arts and Culture, in which the SfEP was a company finalist. Sadly, the SfEP didn’t win, and English Heritage was awarded the prize for this category. But our disappointment was short-lived (for me anyway!) as bags of free pick ’n’ mix were handed out during the break and we got to chat to other finalists, including the lovely blog team from Cancer Research UK.

The event ended with the award for best overall blogs (congratulations to Sortedfood and Bella Coco), yummy macaroons and more drinking. Tired, but happy, we headed back to the hotel to drink more of Anna’s delicious cocktail and inspect the goodie bags given to finalists. Our bags included books, phone cases, superhero lollipops, a fluffy rubber duck and a music festival survival pack. We chatted about the SfEP and other critical issues (who is better looking: Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch?), and agreed it had been a fabulous evening.

Anna

Tracey and I had been in touch a few times leading up to the event, so had booked into the same hotel. The tickets stated quite clearly, dress code: formal. Yikes! Unlike most women I know, I hate dressing up. I’m thinking it might be a common thing among editors, as working from home means we barely get out of pyjamas or tracky pants or … wait … maybe that’s just me.

We met for a pre-event cocktail in my room, discovering our mutual loathing of dressing up. Tracey recalled some of the outrageous and completely inappropriate tweets from people hashtagging the blog awards and so we prepared ourselves for a ‘young’ crowd (not that we’re not).

After a long 15-more-like-20-minute walk to the venue (yeah, thanks, Google Maps!), we took the lift to level–3 (no, not a car park) and stumbled into … a nightclub. Well, that’s what it felt like. Dimmed lights, sparkling dresses, free-flowing drinks, pumping music and a buzzy atmosphere. We didn’t arrive unfashionably early so we missed out on some of the more enticing nibbles, but lukewarm pizza sufficed. That, and a glass of Prosecco.

Odeon was the main sponsor for the evening, and photo opportunities as Wonder Woman and with Excalibur were not to be missed out on. It felt very red carpet and our timing was such that we only just managed to partake in all the fun before being ushered into the awards.

The SfEP blog was a finalist in the company category for Arts & Culture. Proceedings were swift and well rehearsed and as the alphabet would have it, Arts & Culture was first up! The company prize went to the English Heritage blog – and well deserved, indeed. They did so well, in fact, that one category wasn’t enough! They also won the Travel category and were runner-up in an Overall Content category (or something like that!). We had a good laugh at some of the blog names – see Not Dressed As Lamb and Muddy Stilettos (so much for our hatred of dressing up!).

We couldn’t possibly resist the pick ’n’ mix during the break (don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much sugar in one go!), nor the dainty cream-filled macaroons at the close of the event, but we did manage to avoid being the first on the dance floor! What a fun night!

Anna Nolan is a paediatric dietician who started her editing career in 2013, when she joined SfEP. She’s a strong advocate for SfEP, currently active on the SfEP social media team and setting up the Herts & Essex SfEP local group in January 2017.

Tracey Roberts currently works as editorial assistant for the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group based in Nottingham and is the SfEP blog coordinator.

Introducing the Liverpool SfEP group

When I began freelance editing, in 2008, I was living in West Yorkshire, and I benefited greatly from attending meetings of the West Yorkshire SfEP group, run by the ever helpful Helen Stevens. A couple of years later I moved back to my home town of Liverpool and continued freelancing, steadily building up my business.

Early in 2016, I decided I could definitely use more face-to-face contact with other editors. Participating in online forums and social media groups can be very informative (and that alone has helped me avoid becoming too insular in my working practices), but of course it doesn’t offer real live human interaction or, crucially, help me keep my weekly screen time from escalating.


Setting the group up

So, with support from the SfEP team, I set up the Liverpool SfEP group and put the word out. Our first meeting took place in May 2016, so we are coming up to our first anniversary as I write. We meet every other month for a couple of hours, and all our recent meetings have been at The Pen Factory on Hope Street, which tends to be quiet enough in the afternoons for our purposes.

The membership map had initially suggested that any group in this area would be small: very few SfEP members were listed within ten or twenty miles of Liverpool city centre. However, since the group has existed, I have heard from over a dozen people, most of whom have now attended at least one meeting. Many of these were non-members who have since become or are planning to become SfEP members. This shows that it can still be worth starting a local group in an area that has few SfEP members at present.

The coordinator’s role

I said from the start that I intended to keep my coordinating role as simple as possible – I wanted solidarity, friendly company and discussion of good practice, not a lot of extra admin! Even with our expanded numbers, it has been possible to keep the work of coordinating the group to a minimum, thanks largely to help from group member Graham Hughes (he coordinates another local group and he supplied me with a helpful spreadsheet on which to record attendance and meeting content) and also the SfEP team members with responsibility for tech, community support and communications. Plus, in time it might be appropriate for others to take over the coordination of our local group for a while, to spread the admin load and keep the group dynamic fresh.

My core tasks:

  • keeping records of members’ contact details and attendance
  • sending an email reminder the week before each meeting
  • writing up a few notes from each meeting, including the date of the next one; posting them to the Liverpool group thread on the SfEP forum; and emailing them to the group
  • sending meeting dates to the SfEP community director
  • responding to enquiries from potential new members.

Additional tasks sometimes arise, such as liaising with other local coordinators about setting up local SfEP training.

How our meetings work

We pick a topic ahead of each meeting, and on the day, following greetings and introductions, we just run with it. On this basis, meeting structure seems to take care of itself, and we’ve had useful discussions every time we’ve met, which is to the credit of all our members. So far we’ve discussed training, the SfEP conference, websites, social media and pricing.

At the moment we have quite a high proportion of members who are fairly or completely new to editing. As they gain experience, and as further newbies join, this balance will fluctuate. Whatever the group profile, every member has a contribution to make, whether it’s a good tip or a good question. I know I benefit from revisiting even those aspects of the job I thought I was fairly familiar with by now, because it helps me understand where I can overhaul my current practices or take a different approach altogether.

What our members say

Because a group necessarily offers many perspectives, I asked our members to comment on their experiences in the group so far, so at this point I’ll hand over to them. And I look forward to seeing as many of our members as possible at our first-anniversary meeting in May.

I admit that I had doubts about whether a Liverpool SfEP group could really get going, judging by the membership map, but it’s working out very nicely. Each local group has its own character (I’ve been in two others), and one thing that stands out about this group is that because we spend most of the meeting talking about one topic, we go into that topic in plenty of depth, with lots of thoughts, tips and ideas coming out. I come away from every meeting with some things to think about and work on.

Graham Hughes

As someone who is brand new to proofreading, this group has been invaluable to me. I leave each meeting full of ideas and ways to improve my working practice. What I find particularly useful is having a range of experience in the group, from experienced veterans to others starting out just like me. Covering a different topic each time is particularly useful and personally I appreciated the discussions about websites and pricing. I leave each meeting with a list of actions for myself and a renewed sense of enthusiasm, which is important when starting out and there is not much work coming in. I have been signposted to resources and training courses, given marketing ideas and encouraged by the success of others. Above all, the most important thing I take from being a member of the group is having colleagues who understand and know what this job is like.

Carol Jennions

Having a group in Liverpool is extremely handy for me as I’m local. There is usually a specific topic that we concentrate on for each meeting, which allows for an in-depth discussion, and because the mix of people ranges from seasoned editors to total beginners, the conversations manage to cover all the angles!

I am still at the very early stages of developing my business and every time I go to the meet-ups I feel encouraged to keep plugging away and know that I’m not alone in the field.

Rita Mistry

Even having only attended one meeting so far, I’m confident that it’s a very useful resource. The group itself is an excellent forum for sharing and developing professional skills and resources, from qualifications and industry developments to tips on how to set and negotiate rates and fees. Being relatively new to the world of editing and proofreading, it was quite beneficial to meet such a variety of people in varying positions in the field and realise how much commonality and overlap there is. The Liverpool group is already excellent for networking and cooperation, and as it grows, the opportunities can only become more fruitful and interesting. In future, considering how important clear and distinct communication is in all media, especially written, anything the SfEP can do to promote the industry and develop the people in it is in the best interest of all parties.

Damian Good

After I left my job in education I searched the internet for information about freelance proofreading, as I thought this would fit in with what I wanted to do. I found the SfEP and was pleased to find that the local group was nearby. At that time I was attending business courses in Liverpool to learn about being a sole trader, but, not meeting any other proofreaders there, I looked forward to the first SfEP meeting. Forums and blogs seemed to be full of warnings about how long it takes to get established as a freelancer, but I didn’t want that to put me off, so it was really important to talk to some proofreaders face to face.

I set off with some trepidation, worried that I might be seen as an imposter, but I quickly felt reassured as I was welcomed into the group. Everyone was very generous about sharing their knowledge and experiences, and I came away feeling positive about my new venture.

I have been to three meetings now and at each one there have been new additions to the group, some of them people like me who are just starting out. There is always a lot to learn and to take away from the afternoon, especially, at this stage of my career, the encouragement from talking to other proofreaders.

Caroline Barden

The SfEP local meeting has been a really useful and enjoyable event for me. The discussions we’ve had so far have been relevant and beneficial.

It has been better than expected, and I’m definitely going to make time to go to as many meetings as possible. Getting to know other local editors has been great from a social point of view. The meet-up is easy for me to get to, and I look forward to it each time, from a social and work point of view.

I hope to keep sharing knowledge as it’s always interesting and useful to see how other people approach their work.

Johanna Robinson

I have found my local SfEP group meetings to be invaluable. It is so nice to be able to pick other people’s brains about freelance or editorial matters, no matter how big or small. The group is very friendly, welcoming and informative, and I always come away feeling motivated and a little more knowledgeable!

Michelle Burgess

Sally Moss has been a freelance editor and copywriter since 2008. She works for a range of clients, including academics, businesses and third sector organisations. She recently expanded her services to include research and social media delivery, and she is always keen to take on innovative projects, especially any connected to cultural shift for sustainability and social justice.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

 

SfEP wise owls: working with independent authors

Freelance editors work with a range of clients, including publishers and individuals looking to  publish their own work. This month, the SfEP parliament of wise owls provide advice on how to get the most from working with independent authors.

Liz Jones

Independent authors might not know as much about the ideal publishing process or typical editing workflows as some other clients. Be prepared to take more of a lead in helping them assess what they need, and explaining your services so they understand how you can help them and the value you offer. This can be interesting and rewarding work, but make sure you factor in the extra hand-holding time when you quote, and bear in mind that commonly understood labels for levels of editing won’t necessarily apply. You also have a responsibility: it’s fine to upsell your services, but make sure the author understands what you can actually provide as their editor – and what you can’t. Brilliant proofreading will never turn a badly written or boring book into a bestseller.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

Carefully explain exactly what service you will provide and always, always get authors to sign a contract (or agree to a set of terms and conditions). Independent authors are likely to have varying degrees of familiarity with ‘standard’ working practices in publishing, so it’s important to be clear about the terms of the service you’re providing. It’s rare for relations between client and editor to sour such that legal action becomes a possibility, but a quick perusal of some of the major editing-related forums shows that it does happen, so it makes sense to take basic precautions. The SfEP has a set of model terms and conditions and there are various sample contracts available through other sites.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter

Working with independent authors can involve more hand-holding about the publishing process. Some will have done lots of research, joined supportive writers’ groups, become a member of ALLi, sussed out exactly which Amazon deal to go for and come to you knowing exactly what they need you to do. But more often than not (in my experience) they don’t. This is not necessarily a bad thing: they may have the makings of a pretty good book or document, but just not know how to get to the final output. It can be very rewarding helping an author through the various steps to publication.

Communication is crucial here. Authors may not ask for what their work actually needs (they usually ask for proofreading), so you need to be very clear from the start about what you can do, what you will do – and what you can’t or won’t. Some authors will keep coming back to you with lots of questions, not just about the text but about the publishing process itself. Do I need an ISBN for my ebook as well as the print one? Where can I find a cover designer? I’m listing my book on Amazon but it’s asking me about BISAC categories and DRM options – what do I put? It’s worth knowing the answers yourself or building up a bank of stock replies with useful links to where your authors can find out. Or, of course, pointing them to SfEP colleagues or the Directory for other services.

Set up good working practices that put you in control, with clear instructions on how the author can see your changes, accept them if required, make further edits or add text. Because there is no intermediary, the author must answer all queries and take all decisions. Inevitably there is a great temptation to keep on tinkering with the text. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself having to deal with changes made in different ways in different files. State clearly how much time is included in the fee for taking in amendments after you return the initial edit (from none to negotiating a further fee if it goes over X). And always cost in a second pass anyway.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Novice independent authors are unlikely to be speaking the same language as you – so it’s absolutely essential to ensure that you understand each other. It’s not enough to agree a brief; you’ll need to make sure that your client actually understands what it means in practice. What do they mean by ‘proofreading’? Probably copy-editing, sometimes developmental editing. Sometimes proofreading! How will they take your critique or queries? As if you tortured and murdered their literary baby, or as help towards making that self-same baby ready to meet the world? Explain your process in lay terms and check your client has understood. A mismatch between their expectation and your actuality can be painful and time-consuming.

Sue BrowningSue Browning

When working with independent authors, the initial negotiations are key to establishing a mutual understanding of what will be involved because you can’t assume they will know the different terms we editors use and what they entail. I prefer to show as well as explain, and I usually edit a short sample so they know what to expect from me. How the person conducts themselves in these first interactions is also a clue to what they will be like to work with, and it’s sometimes possible to spot a red flag and steer away if need be.

Which brings me on to one potential downside of working with independent authors: it’s harder to verify an individual. If a publisher or a company contacts you, it is relatively easy to check them out to see if they are a legitimate enterprise and to form a judgement about whether it is ‘safe’ to work with them. This is more tricky with an independent author. They might have an author page or a Facebook profile, but many don’t, and there is really no way of assuring yourself that they are who they say they are and that you will be paid. To guard against this to some extent, I ask for a proportion of the total estimated fee in advance. In fact, I’ve found that, in any case, it’s good to be flexible about payment arrangements. An indie author may not have the funds to pay the whole fee at once, and offering payment in instalments helps ease the pain for them. All that said, in my experience, independent authors pay quickly and happily.

Indie authors have been a source of constant surprise and pleasure, chocolates, flowers, and personalised drawings, and even a few gardening tips. I love ’em!

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

 

Five reasons I’m a fan of the Judith Butcher Award

Nominations are now being sought for this year’s Judith Butcher Award (JBA), but what’s it all about? OK – cards on the table: I was the proud recipient of the JBA in 2013 for my work on social media. Perhaps that means I’m slightly biased. But it also means that I can give you a very personal take on this annual celebration of exceptional contributions to the community that is the SfEP.

Official recognition

I was proud to have my efforts officially recognised, epecially as it meant that my name would appear in the same sentence as Judith Butcher’s!

I joined the SfEP in 1997, but it was only when I became a marketing and PR volunteer in 2009 that I really started to appreciate just how much valuable work goes on behind the scenes, and how much the Society’s volunteers contribute to the running of the organisation. When I became a director in 2010, I relied on the help of such individuals, particularly when our social media activities started to expand and we needed a team of people to keep the show running.

The fact that I’d seen how much work went on behind the SfEP scenes made me all the more pleased to have this official recognition.

Nominated by peers

One aspect of the award that makes it very special is that nominations come from one’s colleagues within the Society.

Although many of the people who are involved in running the SfEP do so out of sight of most of their fellow members, I’m sure we can all think of individuals who’ve contributed, perhaps on the forums, on a particular project, in our local group or in a more public sphere.

I can tell you that having one’s efforts noticed and appreciated by colleagues is a very lovely feeling indeed, and I’d encourage everyone to think hard to see if they can call to mind someone who’s impressed them and ought to be recognised.

Social media

In the past, not all members saw the value in the SfEP being involved in social media, so I was really pleased that my JBA was awarded ‘for significantly raising the national and international profile of the SfEP, and the work of editors and proofreaders in general’ through my voluntary work on social media.

I believe social media has played a significant role in promoting the SfEP, and it was heartening that the JBA recognised this.

Team effort

When I was awarded the JBA, I felt that it was a reflection of the efforts of all those who had contributed behind the scenes to these activities. Although I couldn’t share the award with all those who had helped, it did make me appreciate their support, dedication and commitment. I really couldn’t have done it without them.

Book token

And now I have a confession to make: for many years I didn’t actually have my own copy of Butcher’s Copy-editing. I know, right? So when I won the JBA I decided to use the book token prize to buy myself a copy. It just seemed like the right thing to do (and it is an invaluable resource).

So please do get your thinking cap on and consider nominating someone who has:

  • made a clearly identifiable and valuable difference to the way the SfEP is run, and/or
  • carried through a specific project that has been of particular value to the SfEP and/or its members.

See the full rules here, but note that this year the timetable will differ from the one described on our website. Please email nominations to jba@sfep.org.uk by 12 noon on Friday 5 May 2017.

 

Helen Stevens has been a freelance proofreader, editor and copywriter for over 20 years, and now specialises in academic and non-fiction editing. She enjoys playing Scrabble and walking, though not at the same time. Saltaire Editorial Services

 

 

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

So, what is editorial excellence…? We asked visitors to London Book Fair 2017 to tell us.

The whirlwind that is London Book Fair is over for another year. We are very grateful to LBF for again giving us the opportunity to exhibit at the fair. We wanted not only to spread the word about the SfEP in general, but also to push our message that editing does matter. Which raises the question of what good editing looks like.

We ran a competition* inviting fair attendees to tell us what ‘editorial excellence’ means to them. We had a mixed bag of responses, but with some common themes. Here are some of them:

Do you agree with them all? It’s interesting to note that entries from some of the publishing students and those newer to the profession have a common theme of ‘going above and beyond’ and producing error-free work, whereas those from more experienced hands focus on retaining the author’s voice and balancing the demands of the process.

Perhaps that experience is telling. Learning how to be a good editor takes time. It very much involves acquiring and nourishing our sense of what and when not to change. As editors and proofreaders, we all want our work to be error-free (and cringe when we let through a blooper), but what would ‘perfection’ look like? Often one person’s notion of what is ‘right’ is quite different from another’s. Our job, perhaps, is not to impose our picture of perfection but to get to know what our client’s picture looks like.

Ian Howe presented a seminar for us called ‘Editing matters – doesn’t it?’ This was met with great enthusiasm by a packed room. He gave us some good examples of when not to change, proving that there’s more to editing and proofreading than just knowing the ‘rules’ of grammar and being able to spot typos. To apostrophe or not to apostrophe, that was the question. (The answer is yes if it’s King’s Cross, but no if it’s Barons Court. You just have to know that. Or know when to look something up.)

It’s a tricky business this editing malarkey, isn’t it? It’s just these sorts of questions that we’ll be exploring further at our annual conference from 16–18 September, Context is key: Why the answer to most questions is ‘It depends’. Booking is open now, and there’s an early-bird rate until 28 April. But don’t ponder too long – our conference places usually sell out fast!

*Congratulations to Sophie Eminson, whose name was drawn as the winner from our competition entries. She wins a complete set of SfEP guides.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter is the marketing and PR director of the SfEP. She works as an editor and proofreader as Daisy Editorial, and particularly likes helping independent authors with business guides, memoirs and general non-fiction. She loves taming Word’s styles and templates.

 

Social media round-up March 2017

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

Members’ blogs

How to write great characters by Sophie Playle

Plagiarism: how to spot it and what to do about it by Hazel Bird

The highs and lows of editorial fees (or how not to trip up during rate talk) by Louise Harnby

Fact checking – vital or a waste of time? by Sara Donaldson

What are the types of transcription? by Liz Dexter

The business of editing: a page is a page – or is it? by Richard Adin

London Book Fair 2017 by Catherine Dunn

5 tips to reduce stress and boost productivity by John Espirian

Social media

5 ways to break the vicious circle of newbies

Is writer’s block a real thing, or just a figment of the imagination?

Tracing the birth of words: from ‘open’ to ‘heffalump’

I feel so bad! (The language of feeling guilty)

How to print dyslexia friendly books – and why

13 kinds of grammar trolls we love to hate

What’s logical about English?

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

National Indexing Day, Thursday 30 March

The Society of Indexers is celebrating its diamond anniversary in 2017 and has designated Thursday 30 March as the inaugural National Indexing Day. This date marks the 60th anniversary of our formal constitution at the premises of the National Book League in London on 30 March 1957 by G. Norman Knight and colleagues. Knight counted it as ‘one of the achievements of the Society to have removed the intense feeling of solitude in which the indexer (of books and journals, at any rate) used to work’.


To give due credit, we were inspired to set up National Indexing Day after seeing #NationalProofreadingDay trending on social media on 8 March 2017, shared by SfEP and others. I believe National Proofreading Day was originally founded in 2011 by American proofreader Judy Beaver in memory of her mother, Flo, who ‘loved to correct people, so her birthday is the ideal day to correct errors’ (from the National Proofreading Day website). One of our members, Ruth Ellis, wondered if we should set up our own National Indexing Day and I suggested 30 March after discovering that this was the original SI foundation date. We have since pulled this together in the intervening three weeks. Luckily we’re good at working to tight deadlines.

The Society of Indexers (SI), now based in Sheffield, is the only autonomous professional body for indexers in the United Kingdom and Ireland and is associated with other indexing organisations around the world. Its aims are to promote indexing, the quality of indexes and the profession of indexing. Membership includes around 400 specialist indexers across the UK, working for authors and publishers in more than a hundred different subjects, from accountancy to zoology.

SI and SfEP of course share a common heritage and continuing close ties. The Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders, as it was then, was founded by a small group of volunteers led by Norma Whitcombe after informal conversations at the SI conference in Cheltenham in July 1988. The two societies shared office premises and a joint administrator in London in the 1990s before SI moved to Sheffield. I myself was already a freelance proofreader, copy-editor and SfEP member before joining SI and training in indexing. I really enjoyed the first joint SI/SfEP conference in York in September 2015 and I hope there will be many more such collaborations. Having just renewed my subscriptions, I am also appreciating the current membership discount for being a member of both societies.

The art of indexing

Indexing is an ancient art. The oldest printed indexes are thought to be found in two editions of St Augustine’s De arte praedicandi (‘On the art of preaching’), published in the 1460s soon after the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. Handwritten indexes date back much further. Records from the papal court at Avignon show that by the early 1300s people were being paid to compose indexes. There is further evidence to suggest that the 3000-year-old ancient book of hexagrams I Ching (Book of Changes) from China contains the world’s oldest index.

We have come a long way from early handwritten indexes and the days of filing index cards in shoeboxes. Today’s indexers use sophisticated indexing software to create standalone back-of-the-book indexes or embedded/linked indexes within the main text itself. In the digital age, indexes are just as essential in ebooks; a full-text search or Ctrl-F cannot think like the reader. A good book index is made neither by magic nor machine; an index is not just an automated alphabetical list of keywords. Computers can’t read, so they can’t index. They don’t cope well with homographs, synonyms or judging between significant and passing mentions of a topic. Context is key; it all depends (which indeed applies just as much to editing and proofreading). Professional book indexers are trained to analyse each text, identify the important concepts and allow for alternative reader approaches. A good index is like a road map back into the main text. A bad index is at best laughable and at worst less than useless. And a non-fiction book with no index at all is a crying shame, as is regularly bemoaned in book reviews and on social media. As our past president John Sutherland says, ‘Using a book without an index is like trying to fish with your fingers’.

SI has an ‘Indexers Available’ online directory, similar to the SfEP Directory, which lists SI-approved and accredited indexers. The directory is searchable by subject specialism. Like SfEP, it too has local groups, workshops and an annual conference. It also publishes The Indexer, the quarterly international journal of indexing. If you are interested in becoming an indexer yourself, SI runs a ‘Training in Indexing’ distance-learning course leading to the qualification of Accredited Indexer. I completed this course and I can recommend it highly. Indexing is intellectually challenging and that’s part of what I love so much about it. It can be very hard work but it’s rarely dull. And, unlike with editing/proofreading, which arguably is invisible when at its best, the indexer gets to add a new visible part to the back of the book.

Unsung heroes unsung no more

There will be much ado about indexing in Oxford this June. As SI finishes celebrating its diamond anniversary conference and gala dinner at St Anne’s College on 21 June, index scholars and lovers will gather at the Bodleian Library for a two-day symposium on the Book Index (22–23 June) organised by Dr Dennis Duncan. We are pleased that there will be an SI panel on ‘Indexing Today’ at this symposium, including joint SI/SfEP members Ann Kingdom (current SI Chair) and myself.

We hope that the launch of National Indexing Day on Thursday 30 March will provide a useful opportunity to promote the profession of indexing. We will be encouraging people to share gems of best indexing practice on social media with our dedicated hashtag of #indexday. Please do join in with your own examples if you appreciate a good book index. As our Honorary President Sam Leith says in his associated forthcoming article in the Guardian, book indexers may just be some of ‘the unsung heroes of the publishing world’. It’s high time for the diamond indexers to shine.

Further information can be found on the Society of Indexers and Book Index symposium websites.

Paula Clarke Bain is a book indexer and editor and an Advanced Professional Member of both SI and SfEP. You can contact her by email on pcbain@baindex.org, see her website and indexing blog at baindex.org or find her on Twitter @PC_Bain.

 

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.