Monthly Archives: July 2018

Editing erotica FAQ

As a teaser for her 2018 conference session ‘Introduction to editing erotic fiction’, Maya Berger answers some frequently asked questions.

1. Are erotica authors less receptive to feedback than other authors because the text is more personal to them?

Thankfully, this hasn’t been my experience so far. Anyone who writes a story has some attachment to the characters they create and has written things that personally resonate for them. How receptive an author is to editorial input is more a matter of their understanding of an editor’s remit, their own attitude toward the writing and editing processes, and the strength of the relationship they have with their editor. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with erotic fiction authors, as well as authors of various other genres, who are eager to improve their texts and who engage respectfully with my suggestions and comments even when they disagree with an editing choice that I’ve made.

2. Are these stories more thrilling to edit than texts in other genres?

Honestly, no. I don’t edit erotica because I’m looking for a cheap thrill – I do it because I believe that stories about human sexuality and intimate relationships deserve to have the same high-quality writing as other literature. When I edit any type of fiction, I read a text in a very particular way, even before I start making any changes to the text. I am looking for a coherent narrative, interesting characters that grow and change throughout the story, and a sense of the author’s style and voice. There is enjoyment in my work, but it’s the same enjoyment I’d feel reading about a compelling character, rich setting, exciting plot point or elegantly crafted sentence in any fiction genre.

All that said, when I’m editing a work of romantic or erotic fiction I do look at whether any of the story elements take away from the overall eroticism and whether the story would appeal to its intended audience. I will sometimes suggest changes to create more evocative imagery or remove elements that break a reader’s suspension of disbelief, especially if I am doing structural editing or copy-editing, but also when proofreading if changes can be made at the word or sentence level. This often leads to the removal of…

3. What are some of the most unsexy things you’ve read in a sex scene?

Thankfully, I haven’t yet read anything to rival the hilariously misguided winners of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award, but I have come across sentences that were seemingly constructed using a random adjective generator. In those cases, it’s worth reminding the author that long, meandering sentences filled with flowery descriptions for every person and every action can distract the reader rather than entice them. Sometimes less truly is more, and the author should be confident enough in the characters, setting and narrative to avoid over-describing them with adjectives and adverbs. Verily, I say, heartily and with purposeful intent, such powerfully, mind-blowingly, epically tragic word choices are made at the unwary author’s engorged peril.

The most memorably unsexy word choice I’ve seen, however, has to be the use of the words ‘bowels’ and ‘intestines’ during a lovemaking scene. The author was clearly trying to emphasise the depth of one character’s… er… physical closeness to another, but there is nothing appealing about the word ‘intestines’. Moreover (and not to be too blunt about it), no matter what kind of sex you’re having, if your lovemaking involves those parts of your lover’s anatomy then something’s gone horribly wrong and you should seek medical attention immediately!

Maya BergerMaya Berger is a copy-editor and proofreader specialising in erotic fiction, sci fi and fantasy, YA fiction, and academic texts. Maya can talk for hours about censorship, sex and gender politics, and everything that’s good and bad about Fifty Shades of Grey. www.whatimeantosay.com

 

 

Originally published on the ‘What I Mean To Say‘ blog on 7 September 2016

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

 

Why freelance editors should write a business plan

Continuing our series of conference tasters, here is Erin Brenner on ‘Using business information to increase your profits’ and the value of writing a business plan.

I’ve been a freelance editor for over 10 years, and 2018 was the first year I had thought about a business plan, never mind trying to write one. My plan was simple, I thought:

  1. Sell writing and editing services to businesses.
  2. Collect the money.
  3. Track and report my business expenses.
  4. Pay my taxes.

That’s it.

But in the last couple of years, my marketing plan had gotten stale, and I’ve felt more than a little burned out of social media. I wanted to reinvigorate my marketing so that I could keep growing my company. I decided that, like a writer who is too close to their work to see the problems, I needed objective advice on what to do.

I approached SCORE, a US organization that provides free business mentoring and training, for help. I met with coaches local to me, and they urged me to start by writing a business plan. Because I had never done one before, the process should reveal things I had been taking for granted that could inform my marketing. The document could also be used as a case for getting funding for my project.

I struggled for weeks to write my plan. Certainly some of the delay was having other things to do – like actually running my business. But I also struggled with some of the work of it, such as creating an estimated and detailed profit-and-loss (P&L) statement and comparing my editing business with other editing businesses to determine problems (“threats,” in business jargon) and opportunities.

After a few months and several drafts, my business coaches signed off on my plan as completed. It was a lot of work, most of it decidedly un-fun, but now I have a document that describes what my company is and where I want to take it next.

And next time, I won’t have to start the darn thing from scratch.

All of this might seem like a lot of unnecessary work to revamp my marketing plan. But the process made me think seriously about my business: How much do I want to earn in a month? How many hours do I want to work? How much is each client worth to me and how many more clients do I need to meet my goals?

The work is already paying off. I’m excited all over again about my business, because I’ve reminded myself of what I want. I have some great ideas for repositioning my services and reworking my marketing that continue to develop as I work on my plan. I’ve already made small adjustments in how I work with clients, and that has improved the client’s experience and my bottom line. And I haven’t even outlined my marketing plan yet!

If you haven’t written a business plan before, I’d recommend doing one – even if, like me, it takes seemingly forever. The work you put in will pay off. Besides mentoring, SCORE offers free information and business templates that anyone can use, no matter where you live.

Or start small. In September, I’ll present “Using business information to increase your profits” at SfEP’s 2018 national conference. Together, we’ll look at some key business metrics – what they are, how to track them, and what they tell – so that you discover the hidden opportunities in your business.

Most businesses start with a vision. Every so often, you have to step back and see how that vision is emerging and where you need to help it along.

Join me for my “Using business information” session, and we’ll look at it together!

Erin BrennerErin Brenner is co-owner and publisher of Copyediting. She has been a publishing professional for two decades, working in a variety of media. Erin also runs editorial services company Right Touch Editing and teaches in UCSD’s Copyediting Certificate program. Follow her on LinkedIn and SlideShare.

 

Note: A version of this article first appeared on Copyediting.com.

What’s your editorial flavour? From bland identity to brand identity

In the first of a series of posts anticipating our 2018 conference in September, Louise Harnby previews her session: ‘What flavour is your business? Building a brilliant editorial brand’.

What’s your favourite chocolate? I like Galaxy. Lindt’s lovely too. Cadbury’s is good but not as good as Galaxy and Lindt! I’ll eat Nestlé if it’s free but I don’t buy it. And Hershey’s? Just no.

There’s nothing wrong or right about any of those types of chocolate. It’s just that chocolate comes in different flavours, which means what we like or don’t like is personal. It’s about fit, about preference, about taste.

Image of delicious chocolates

Building a brand identity for our editorial businesses isn’t so different. And just as there are some types of chocolate that don’t float my gastro boat, so there are some editors who aren’t the perfect fit for a client.

It’s not that those editors aren’t fit for market, or that they don’t have excellent qualifications and a ton of experience. It’s rather that none of us can be all things to all clients, and when we try to be, we risk diluting the message to the extent that it’s bland.

Baseline appeals to everyone

It can be tempting to focus on the obvious when we’re presenting ourselves online – this qualification, that training course, this certificate, that award, and other stuff such as being professional, meeting our deadlines, and producing high-quality work.

All of that is important but none of it’s particularly interesting. How many of your colleagues actively advertise themselves as poorly trained editors who produce questionable work and struggle with time-keeping? None, I hope.

And yet many editors focus heavily on these baseline attributes when constructing their websites. My site used to be like that – I was talking to students, authors, businesses, academics and publishers … anyone I thought might hire me. That meant I had to keep the message watered down so as not to put anyone off. And so I focused on the baselines.

The problem with baselines is that they speak to everyone but inspire few. And while that kind of message might generate work leads, it rarely generates ideal work leads.

To move ourselves into a position where we’re attracting the perfect clients – those who are offering us the type of work we crave at the price we’re asking – we need to add flavour.

Communicating the way we taste to our ideal clients is where branding comes in.

Building the flavour of you

If you want to extract the flavour of you and infuse your online presence with it, please join me for ‘What flavour is your business? Building a brilliant editorial brand’.

In the first hour, I’ll show you a brand-building framework – one that explores what makes each of us tick, what’s troubling our clients, and what our nemesis thinks and does.

In the second hour, it’s your turn. You’ll use that framework to begin the process of creating a rich, compelling and unique brand identity that attracts your best-fit clients.

You don’t need any experience of branding or marketing. All I ask is that you come with an open mind and a readiness to be honest with yourself.

Can you keep a secret?

There’s one more thing, but let’s keep this between ourselves … there might just be chocolate. Not the chocolate I like. The chocolate you like.

If you sign up for the session, email me at louise@louiseharnbyproofreader.com and let me know what your favourite choccy is. That way, I can make sure the workshop is a truly flavoursome experience for you!

I look forward to seeing you in Lancaster!

Louise HarnbyLouise Harnby is a fiction line editor, copy-editor and proofreader who specialises in supporting self-publishing authors, particularly crime writers. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and an Author Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Find out more at www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com.

Probsolutely the most useful linguistic collaborations

Susie Dent's Wonderful Words

The word collaboration is from the Latin for ‘working together’. It may be overused as a word, but its results can be remarkable. A well-known story tells how, when John F Kennedy toured NASA in the mid-1960s, he came across a man mopping the floor. ‘What does your job entail?’ the President asked. The reply came: ‘I’m helping put a man on the Moon.’ The exchange between the two men beautifully illustrates the value of a shared objective.

Collaboration can happen linguistically too – notably when words come together and create something new. ‘Brunch’ is a famous example, alongside ‘motel’ and ‘modem’. ‘Blends’ like these are a form of word-play that we have been indulging in for centuries: revellers in the 1800s were already talking about alcoholidays, while nobodaddy was the term du jour for someone who had dramatically fallen from grace. In the 20th century, smog (smoke + fog), ginormous (gigantic + enormous) and piccalilli (pickle + chilli) continued the vogue. One of the best was surely pifflicated – a useful descriptor for the act of ‘being drunk and talking piffle’.

It was Lewis Carroll who gave us the word ‘portmanteau’ for such creations, based on the image of words that are ‘packed together’ like two halves of a suitcase. He himself gave us some of the best – chortle, for example (chuckle + snort), as well as slithy (slimy + lithe) and mimsy (miserable + flimsy).

Today, blending is still the most popular mechanism for creating a new word. Some of the results may be fly-by-nights, but they raise a smile nonetheless. We all know about bromances and labradoodles, but how about anticipointment, the disappointment that comes from something eagerly anticipated? A snaccident, meanwhile, is the inadvertent consumption of an entire packet of biscuits when you meant to have just the one.

Others look set to stay the course – hangry was a recent addition to Oxford’s dictionaries, defined as ‘bad-tempered or irritable as the result of hunger’. Devon’s moodle, meanwhile, meaning to ‘dawdle aimlessly’, is a euphonious blend of ‘mooch’ and ‘noodle’. But if I had to choose a personal favourite from this century, it would be probsolutely: the pithy and highly useful articulation of a ‘definite maybe’.

Hard-working, innovative, useful and fun – linguistic collaborations may not put a man on the Moon, but they can offer some very useful pointers for successful teamwork (no probsolutely about it.)

Susie Dent, honorary vice-president of the Society for Editors and ProofreadersWonderful Words is a regular feature by Susie Dent, honorary vice-president of the SfEP. Susie is a writer and broadcaster on language. She is perhaps best known as the resident word expert on C4’s Countdown.

Building the best team for editorial project management

What is editorial project management?

bringing the pieces together

Editorial project management involves taking a piece of content (primarily words, and related images and figures) from its raw form to its published state – whatever content that may be, and however it is published. Traditional publishing companies have in-house editorial project managers (EPMs), as do many corporations, charities, government bodies, research institutions – any organisation that wants to disseminate information. Those EPMs come with a plethora of job titles: publishing manager, desk editor, content specialist, project coordinator, content lead, development officer. Some organisations use freelance editorial project managers, expanding their publishing team without longer-term overheads.

Editorial project management is, in one way, similar to copy-editing and proofreading: every organisation will do it slightly (or completely) differently. A different workflow, a different content management system, a different scheduling tool, different reporting mechanisms, different responsibilities. Even within one organisation, no two projects will be managed in exactly the same way.

In many other ways, of course, editorial project management is a whole other beast. Whereas copy-editors and proofreaders often work almost in isolation – taking content, doing the necessary task and then returning the content – EPMs have to collaborate with internal stakeholders and external suppliers over schedules that cover a few, or many, months. That collaboration relies on the softer skills: communication, time management, the ability to quickly adapt and learn, cooperation, delegation, networking, organisation, and the ability to prioritise. Technical expertise is less important, but experience and training in other areas of the editorial process can be an advantage when briefing suppliers and checking their work.

Training for editorial project management

A lot of EPMs learn those skills and gain their expertise through on-the-job experience and training. Experience from life outside work – volunteering, running a household, playing an active role in a community – also contributes to building an EPM’s repertoire. To support that knowledge, or to provide a strong foundation on which to build a project management career, the SfEP has launched a new Editorial Project Management course. This online course uses two fictitious projects to guide students through the publishing process and understand what an EPM does. The Publishing Training Centre offers several classroom-based courses covering different aspects of project management.

What does an editorial project manager do?

The actual tasks involved in editorial project management vary depending on an organisation’s needs, but it’s very likely that, over the course of a project, an EPM will need to arrange for the content to be copy-edited, typeset, proofread (at least once) and indexed. That will involve sourcing, briefing and feeding back to the specialists carrying out those tasks. There will be liaison with the author(s) – perhaps also the commissioning team, rights and permissions experts, designers and illustrators. An EPM has to keep all these people and their related tasks (and budgets) on track, being aware of any issues and risks; if issues do arise, they need to be addressed appropriately and quickly so that they don’t snowball into bigger problems.

Building your team

building a team

Freelance EPMs – whether an individual or a company – can be an excellent, flexible resource, enabling organisations to share the workload of a busy team for a specific time period. Those EPMs bring with them a fresh pair of eyes and experiences from other organisations and projects, as well as a network of trusted suppliers. They may also be able to take on other specific tasks in the workflow, such as copy-editing or indexing. Many freelance EPMs are SfEP Advanced Professional and Professional Members and have a listing in the SfEP’s Directory.

A knowledgeable and approachable EPM can make a big difference to a publishing project – getting content out into the wider world requires more than box ticking. The right EPM for a project will not only produce great content but will also build good relationships and unite a team – it is the ultimate exercise in editorial collaboration.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She project manages, copy-edits and proofreads a cornucopia of fascinating material in her editing shed in Essex. Her office assistant, Gaston the Cat, provides no useful editorial support whatsoever.

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

Sharing is caring: Collaboration among freelance fiction editors

Carrie O’Grady

The other day, I sat down with some of my fellow fiction editors for coffee and a chat. One looked particularly brow-beaten. ‘I’m really stumped on this structural edit of the latest in the Two-Dimensional Murders series,’ she confessed. ‘The author has Miss Scarlet committing the crime in the billiard room with the candlestick. But how she manages to sneak it away from the dining-table unseen, while the rest of the guests are enjoying a candlelit dinner, is beyond me.’

confused

We sympathised. ‘I know just how you feel,’ said another. ‘In the mystery I’m working on, this professor – Plum, he’s called – bumps off the host in the conservatory with a length of lead pipe. It’s causing me no end of problems, considering that the author also has him chatting to the colonel in the lounge at the exact moment the murder is committed.’

‘A good alibi,’ mused a third. ‘Perhaps too good. Is there any possibility of, say, a secret passage?’

‘Why – that’s brilliant!’ gasped the editor. And we all cheered and hugged and congratulated ourselves on another problem solved.

In reality, of course, it’s not like that. Fiction editors, like all other editors, are bound by confidentiality clauses that prevent them from spilling the details of their clients’ plots. (Which is a shame, in a way, because we are all people who love stories and love talking about stories. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to bite my tongue so as not to enthuse to others about a particularly ingenious plot workaround that a client and I have cooked up together.)

That’s not to say that we don’t help each other out. There are certain problems particular to fiction that have no single ‘best-practice’ solution, and it’s not easy to work out which will suit your project best. For instance, say you have a third-person narrator, Emma. As she talks to her friend, Harriet, she is struck by a sudden realisation. How do you convey her thoughts to the reader? Do you put them in italics? In her own words, or yours? Is it lapsing into ‘filtering’ to tell us that ‘it darted through her, with the speed of an arrow, that Mr Knightley must marry no one but herself’?

Questions such as these are easily phrased so as to give away little or nothing about the nature of the book. They often crop up on social media or in the SfEP forums, where other editors love to pitch in with suggestions. The supportive nature of the community is astonishing; new entrants to the field are greeted with a chorus of warm wishes and friendly advice.

What’s particularly useful about Facebook and its ilk, to fiction editors, is its international breadth of expertise. Say your client, a Brit, has penned a romance set in Seattle. ‘Perhaps he simply doesn’t fancy me,’ sighs the heroine. You know it’s not quite right, but if you haven’t heard much American slang, it can be hard to reword such a line so that it sounds remotely convincing. Ask the internet, and a chorus of voices will sing out across the Atlantic: ‘Guess he’s just not that into me!’

Fiction editors around the world are constantly giving each other tips on other regional matters, such as copyright law and cultural sensitivities. When e-books can be read anywhere across the globe from Day One of publication, there is great scope for offence in even the most innocuous novel. And we all know the damage even a single outraged Amazon review can do.

coffee break

The most rewarding form of collaboration, though, is the kind where we really do get together, in person, and sit down for a coffee and a chat. The SfEP annual conference is one such occasion, warmly anticipated by many editors around the UK and beyond. Smaller workshops throughout the year are organised cooperatively, with the twin aims of improving our professional skills and building personal links with our colleagues.

We may be prohibited from sharing our clients’ stories, but there’s nothing we like better than sharing our own. This is not just editorial self-indulgence. Having such a collaborative network ultimately helps our clients too, and it hopefully means the published work is even better for some collective input.

Carrie O'GradyCarrie O’Grady is a fiction editor and former reviewer for the Guardian. You’ll find her at the Hackney Fiction Doctor or on Twitter at  @carrietoast.

 

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

Find a professional proofreader or editor using the SfEP Directory

Search the SfEP Directory for a proofreader or editor

If you’re looking for a professional proofreader, editor or editorial project manager, or to build a team of editorial professionals, the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services provides details of the skills, subjects and services offered by around 700 SfEP members, a non-profit professional association.

Only Professional and Advanced Professional Members can advertise in the Directory – our top two tiers of membership – so you can be sure they have attained a certain level of competence and experience.

Here are some ways you can direct your search, using keywords:

  • Search all members – members are listed alphabetically by first name.
  • Search for either Professional or Advanced Professional Members only – again, members are listed alphabetically.
  • Search geographically – most editors are happy to work remotely, but this could be helpful if you would like to find editors in your area, for example if you need them to work on site.
  • Search by industry sector – for example fiction, academic, trade, charity, government, business …
  • Search by subject specialism – anything from gardening, to finance, to science, to cookery; members often list broad subject areas, and some surprisingly specific ones!
  • Search by software – almost all editors use Word and Adobe Reader or another PDF mark-up app, but many also have expertise in other editing, CMS and layout programs.
  • Search for other skills – as well as proofreading and copy-editing, many of our members offer services such as project management, indexing, copyright clearance, research, localisation, translation …
  • Search by client – many members list their recent clients, which can help you assess the fields they work in.

Did you find a good editor via the Directory? Do let us know!

The SfEP encourages companies and other organisations to add a link to the SfEP Directory on their intranets and websites. To make this as easy as possible, we’ve supplied the code to add to your site. See Linking to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services.