An American Editor

September 9, 2020

On the Basics: Yet another scam warning

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics — An American Editor @ 12:35 pm
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By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Sigh … the creeps of the world just keep on trying. If only they’d apply all that energy, effort and — yes — occasional creativity to something productive, maybe we’d achieve world peace.

There’s a new version of the scam pretending to offer editing, proofreading or writing jobs with major pharmaceutical or publishing companies. This one is supposedly from Grifols Pharmaceuticals and refers to something called Telegram for interviewing instead of Google Hangout. Like previous versions, it claims to have found you through the EFA member directory, which many colleagues have found convincing; there probably are versions citing other professional associations as well. Delete, delete, delete! If you’ve received this and responded, do not engage any longer, block the supposed sender to whom you responded and change your e-mail password.

And while I’m on the subject, here are some protection tips from AARP, via “Dear Heloise,” in case you (or someone you know) receive one of the increasingly common blackmail attempts from scammers claiming they have access to your e-mail program, Internet accounts or computer camera, and will release embarrassing photos, videos or social media posts if you don’t pay them, usually via bitcoin or buying gift cards:

Do not respond.

Change your password(s) immediately.

Make sure your anti-virus software is current.

Delete messages from any senders you don’t know or recognize.

If you have friends or relatives whose cognitive functions or access to information like this might be a bit compromised, please warn them about these and other common scams directed at older people. Let’s do our best to thwart these jerks and keep each other safe.

August 31, 2020

On the Basics: The ethics of editing college applications

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Once again, inspiration for an An American Editor blog post struck in reaction to a collegial discussion list conversation. (Some of you may have seen the beginnings of the conversation; this is an expanded version.)

A colleague mentioned having received a request to write or edit the client’s kid’s college application and said she responded by telling them that college applications should be the student’s own work. She characterized the request as a possible ethics issue, and I agree; I said I would have responded the same way. If they had only asked for editing services, it might have been different.

This is a frequent, albeit unfortunate, type of request. The asker usually has every intention of paying for the service, so it isn’t a scam in the financial sense, but either doesn’t know or care that it could be unethical. I manage or respond to these requests by making it my policy not to provide editing for college or grad school applications; proofreading, maybe, but even that can seem borderline inappropriate.

This might be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but I’m interested in how colleagues think about it. Some institutions will let applicants use editors or proofreaders for application statements or essays, but forbid hiring someone to write those materials. Some draw distinctions between doing such work for native speakers vs. speakers of other languages, or between disciplines — hiring an editor or proofreader is OK for students in the sciences, engineering, maybe business, etc., but not for those in English degree programs.

I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who is willing to function in a language other than their original one, especially English, which can be a challenge even for well-educated origin speakers (as we often see here). And I’m not monolingual: I’ve studied and used French, German and Spanish — but wouldn’t want to tackle writing in any of them until I had spent time immersed in them again; even German, which I picked up in childhood mostly from listening to my Austrian parents and only studied formally much later.

In the application process, it seems more fair for someone’s command of any language to be clear in — literally — their own words, especially in areas like medicine, where lack of fluency could have life-threatening results.

On the other hand, rejecting an applicant because of clunky English in an application might be a disservice to all concerned. Many applicants are very talented in their fields and deserve the opportunity to continue their educations at institutions in countries other than their own. There also can be a difference between someone’s spoken and comprehended levels of language vs. their skills in writing it. And it’s valuable for students to meet and interact with peers from other countries and cultures, no matter which ones are involved. Being accepted into a program and interacting with native speakers, both instructors and fellow students, day in and day out would improve a non-native’s command of English as well.

One colleague found it “hard to believe someone has the nerve to ask for such a thing in this day and age.”

Actually, I find it understandable (not acceptable, but understandable). It isn’t new. There have always been ways for students to game the system, even if only by having their parents write or edit their school work or applications, and students have been selling their work to each other for ages and a day. It’s even easier to do nowadays than ever before: Entire businesses are built on writing student essays and applications (businesses that do the writing for students at any level, and people who work for such businesses, are unethical in my eyes and those of many others, both individuals and institutions/organizations). Papers, and probably application essays, can be purchased online with ease. Celebrities pay thousands to phony up their kids’ applications, sometimes without the kids’ knowledge.

There also can be a thin line between editing and rewriting, although the distinction between writing and editing is easier to draw.

I typed papers for fellow students when I was in college (back in the Dark Ages before computers 🙂 ), and would correct some of their spelling or basic punctuation errors as I went along, but I wouldn’t rewrite if their concepts weren’t clear. There was a big difference between typing up a handwritten paper and rewriting or even editing it. More recently, I proofread my niece’s résumé and a cover letter for her; she’s in landscape architecture and is bilingual in English and Hebrew. I was comfortable with catching a few typos that had nothing to do with her professional skills, but I did have an ulterior motive for making her material as close to perfect as possible: I’m hoping she gets a job offer here where I live!

The good news is that the growth of companies that do the work for students and the ease of plagiarizing via the Internet has led to innovation in response, such as anti-plagiarism software programs. These can be used not just to check on whether someone has copied from known published works, but whether they’ve used material that has been “outed” as generated by someone (or thing) other than the student in question.

In the discussion of this that I mentioned above, several colleagues had perspectives on this that were ethical and interesting. Some have worked for college writing centers by providing coaching and advice without actually doing students’ work for them. Others have developed freelance services with a similar focus — helping clients learn how to write more clearly and effectively, but not doing the writing for them.

How and where do you draw a line?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also created the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com, now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor and this year planned for October 2–4 as a virtual event. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

August 23, 2020

On the Basics: New resources for freelancers

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

I’m breaking precedent with a Sunday post to share some professional good news: The updated edition of my “Freelancing 101” booklet for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), featuring new input from EFA Publications chairperson Robin Martin, and the updated new edition of the EFA’s “Resumés for Freelancers” booklet, which I’ve co-authored with original author Sheila Buff, are among the new publications available at the EFA’s new bookstore:
https://shop.aer.io/editorial_freelancers_association_bookstore

Robin deserves a huge round of applause for herding cats (um, authors) and – even more challenging – organizing the new bookstore.

I hope our subscribers find these publications useful. They were a lot of fun to produce and should be – if I say so myself – excellent resources for various aspects of a freelance editorial (not just editing) business.

August 21, 2020

On the Basics: Yet another scam warning

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Sorry to end the week on a somewhat sour note, but I wanted to warn colleagues here about an apparent current new scam aimed primarily at editors. (Some of you may already have seen discussions about this one; this is for those who haven’t.)

If anyone gets requests from a supposed Ayse Cetin or Fatma, they are probably scams, although we haven’t figured out what the senders are after. They’ll say they need help with something for a fall class, probably in math — coaching or editing, or writing in general. The initial message is likely to include a Word document as an attachment.

If you respond, they’ll do a few rounds of e-mail correspondence (even if you say that you don’t work in their area), and then they’ll want to meet via Zoom. They’ve wasted a lot of time for quite a few colleagues so far in e-mail back-and-forthing and Zoom time, as well as attempts to research the supposed senders to determine whether the requests are legitimate — but haven’t actually hired anyone.

One confusing aspect in trying to figure out what they’re up to is that they’re spending a lot of time and effort on communicating with several dozen editors to date — far more than most scammers bother with before getting money out of people. I’m guessing that a version of the overpayment scam would evolve; others think this is an attempt at hacking e-mail or Zoom accounts.

If you’ve received and responded to this, change your e-mail and/or Zoom passwords. If you receive any version of this and haven’t already responded, delete, delete, delete.

This kind of headache aside,  here’s wishing colleagues a safe, healthy and fun weekend.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com, now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor, and this year planned for October 2–4 as a virtual event. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

August 7, 2020

Website changes that can lead to finding new clients

By Nate Hoffelder, The Digital Reader

Guest Columnist

With the pandemic dragging on in the U.S., public events such as conferences and trade shows are effectively canceled for the indefinite future. Your chance of meeting new clients (or colleagues who might refer you to new clients) in person is essentially nil, which means that your website is 10 times more important today than it was last year.

If you haven’t taken some time to refresh your site recently, now is a good time to do so.

In my last post for An American Editor, I discussed 18 questions you should ask when refreshing your site. Today I would like to share seven specific changes you can make to your site to win more clients.

Let’s start with email.

Get a professional email address

One easy way to set yourself apart from all the other editors out there is to get an email address that matches your website’s domain. Almost everyone has their email with Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or another of the big web service companies. Those services are fine, to varying degrees, but using MyName@MySite.com simply looks more professional. It sends the message that you are serious enough about your work that you choose to present a professional image. (Editor’s note: It also gives you a permanent e-ddress, so you can change providers as necessary without having to notify everyone you’ve ever corresponded with about a new point of contact.)

At the same time, you should also choose an address that starts with your name or occupation. If your current email address references either your kids, pets or hobbies, that again does not present a professional image. My email address is Nate@NateHoffelder.com. It’s not terribly original, no, but it does present the right image, while an email address ending in Verizon, Comcast or AOL would not.

Add a Services page

Clients can’t hire you if they don’t know what you do, and that is why your website needs one or more pages listing your services.

I used to have several service pages, each focused on a single service, but now I just have the one services page on my site. I list four services on that page, and for each service, I explain what I do and how my clients benefit. I also have a button that links to my contact form.

Pro tip: The easier you make it for a website visitor to take action, the more likely they are to become a client. (Repeat after me: A frustrated visitor is a lost client, while an engaged visitor is one step away from being a paying client.)

Include testimonials

One of the best ways to convince a potential client to hire you is to tell them what others are saying about your work, which is why you should add at least a few testimonials to your website. I have about 20, which might be overkill, but I formatted my testimonial page so they are not too overwhelming.

Find the eight or 10 testimonials in your files that you think are the best, and copy them to a new page on your site. Be sure to fix the formatting so the client’s name is in bold, and use enough white space between each testimonial for them to stand out.

Add samples of your work

Your website’s visitors are going to wonder whether you have the skills they need. The best way to show them that you do is to have samples of your work, either on your site as links or images, or as PDFs that can be downloaded.

If possible, try to include both a before and after. This will give potential clients a better understanding of your style, and what you bring to the table. (Editor’s note: One important caveat for editors and proofreaders, though — Be sure you have the client’s permission to show what you did for their material. Not everyone wants the world to see the “before” version. And even with that permission, do your best to anonymize the material to minimize the potential for embarrassing the client.)

Collect emails for your mailing list

Email newsletters are one of the most-effective ways of marketing your services. An e-letter is your best opportunity to be invited to talk to potential clients by sending messages to their inboxes. But before you can send newsletters, you need to get email addresses for prospective readers, and for that, you need a mailing list sign-up form.

Even if you don’t want to send newsletters now, you should still have a sign-up form just in case your plans change. I can’t tell you how many years I wasted by not collecting email addresses, and I don’t want you to repeat my mistake, so please do yourself a favor, and add a mailing list form to your site.

While we are on the topic, why stop at one form? My recommendation is that you have a form for your mailing list in the footer of every page, in the sidebar next to blog posts, as a pop-up, and at least twice on your home page.

Speaking of which, what does your home page look like?

Create a home page

One common problem I have seen with neglected websites is that they usually do not have a custom-written home page. Instead, blog posts take up the prime real estate. This is a terrible oversight because the home page is one of the most-viewed pages on a website. It is the best chance to introduce yourself to potential clients and win them over.

The marketing industry knows website home pages are so important that marketers have written whole book chapters about only that page. They’ve written 2,000- or 3,000-word blog posts explaining in detail how to get just one aspect of the page perfect.

I am not going to make you go read those voluminous posts, but I do have a post for you. It covers the six key elements you should have on your home page. I think that a website’s home page is so important that it has its own 996-word blog post. If you have limited funds or time, it is the one part of your website that you need to work on.

Ideally, however, I think you should improve all parts of your website. You never know which part will influence your next client the most.

Any questions?

Nate Hoffelder has been building and running WordPress websites since 2010. He blogs about indie publishing and helps authors connect with readers by customizing websites to suit each author’s voice. You may have heard his site, the Digital Reader (https://the-digital-reader.com), mentioned on news sites such as the NYTimes, Forbes, BoingBoing, Techcrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo or Ars Technica. He is scheduled to discuss websites for the 2020 virtual Communication Central/NAIWE/An American EditorBe a Better Freelancer® conference this fall. The Digital Reader was a sponsor of the 2019 conference.

August 5, 2020

On the Basics: The power of saying no as a reputation-builder

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Owner, An American Editor

As editorial professionals, whether in-house or freelance, how do we build our reputations for not only what we do, but how we do it and who we are?

It may seem self-evident that doing good work is the first and most-important element of establishing a reputation of someone worth hiring, recommending, referring or subcontracting with. There’s more to it, though.

How we do business contributes mightily to an editorial professional’s reputation as well. And a huge factor in that process is knowing when, and how, to say no.

Saying no

It might seem odd to think of saying no as a way of establishing or solidifying your professional reputation, but it can work. Saying no to projects or clients means you know what’s right — or wrong — for your editorial business.

It’s hard to say no to a client or project, especially when you’re just starting out or funds are low and you’re worried about how you’ll pay the mortgage or rent, but doing so can be essential to the health of both your editorial business and your reputation. Saying no means you’re standing up for what you need from your business and what you expect from the people you work with or for. It means you have standards for, and limits on, how you do your work, and are willing to enforce them. Having the chutzpah to say no when appropriate gives you power.

Those standards or limits, and how saying no relates to them, can include:

Hours when you’re available — and saying no to requests (or demands) that you work outside those hours.

Type of projects you will accept and work on — and saying no to projects that aren’t right for you.

Rates you will work for — and saying no to rates that are too low.

Deadlines you will accept — and saying no to ridiculous ones that would make you crazy.

Treatment you expect from clients — and saying no to rudeness, unreasonableness, demandingness (is that a word?) and any other behavior that disrespects you as a professional.

Getting the message across

You can use your website to present your policies on these kinds of topics, as well as creating a template for responding to messages so you’re prepared to deal with challenges when they occur instead of feeling as if you’re a deer in the headlights of an unreasonable, confusing or inappropriate request. Here are a few suggestions for relaying your “just say no” message without actually saying no (at least, not upfront).

Posting work hours

The best way to head off client calls or messages at hours when you prefer not to be available is to put your “office hours” at your website (you do have your own website, of course). Many colleagues use their websites to let potential and current clients know that they aren’t available on weekends or outside specific hours.

Some people will still push that envelope, but posting your office hours means you have a way to push back. It’s also possible to set up a form of autoresponse that says something like “Thank you for your inquiry. I will respond at 9 a.m. of the next business day to discuss your project.”

You also can still do work outside those posted hours if and when you want — or need — to do so. That can mean saying no to the client but yes to whatever you have to do for a project or deadline to work in your favor.

Choosing your projects

Many colleagues prefer not to work on projects with content that is erotic, violent, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or involves some other aspect that might be difficult to read. That’s our right. Some of us also have specific preferences for the genres we want to work on: fiction vs. nonfiction, young adult vs. adult or middle grade, fantasy, sci-fi, memoir, etc. You can make those go/no-go decisions as your business policy, post them at your website and incorporate them into your e-mail template for responding to potential clients. Like posting your office hours, that can say no for you.

Again, some people just don’t read such material and might contact you anyhow with the offer of work you don’t want, for whatever reason. You don’t even have to quote a reason, but it’s immensely helpful to be able to couch your no in terms of “Thank you for your inquiry, but as you can see from my website, I don’t work on projects such as this.”

Standing up for your rates

Most of us start out charging at the lower end of rates or accepting salaries at the low end of the bar for a variety of reasons, from lack of experience to lack of confidence. If you haven’t had any formal training or experience in your corner of the editorial world, are just launching a freelance business, want to try working in a new genre or topic area, or have no way of confirming that you’re good at what you do (or want to do), it makes sense to charge less rather than more. That goes for salary levels when you’re job-hunting in the traditional work world, as well as for freelancing.

Keep in mind that if you under-charge, you run the risk of spending so much time on low-paying projects to generate enough income to pay your bills that you won’t have the time or energy to find better-paying work.

Just be sure to, first of all, research rates through professional organizations and resources (such as Writer’s Market information, the Editorial Freelancers Association chart of common rates, conversations with colleagues, etc.) for a sense of what you might be able to charge based on your training, experience and skills.

Second, look for ways to defend what you want or need to charge. Your rates or salary should reflect that combination of training, experience and skill level with the added factor of what you need to cover your expenses and have something left for fun. An American Editor founder Rich Adin calls this your effective hourly rate: the income you have to generate to live your life on a level that is not just sufficient but rewarding; a rate based on you, not on someone else, whether a colleague or a client.

If you’re low on training, get some. Look to professional associations, college certificate programs and business resources to do two things: improve your knowledge and skills, and bolster your credibility. If you’re low on experience, look for ways to do more editorial work, even if it’s on a volunteer basis or at a starting-out rate. If your skills seem below par, look for volunteer opportunities, whether with a professional association or a charity you believe in, to do the kind of work you’re interested in and build up those skills. You might even look for a mentor who could help you strengthen your overall knowledge and specific areas of weakness.

The more you can show that you’re skilled and qualified, the easier it will be to say no to prospective clients that only pay peanuts.

Practice makes perfect

Because the necessity to say no is going to crop up for all of us, be prepared. Write out a script for how to turn down work that isn’t right for you, rates that don’t respect you, deadlines that are impossible for you to meet, etc. It can be brief. It doesn’t have to go into any detail or offer any excuses for your no. You might also want to create a backup script for the insistent client who doesn’t want to hear your no.

If you think about and plan for these moments beforehand, it will be much easier to stand up for what you want your business and your reputation to represent.

The bottom line

So how do all these aspects of saying no contribute to establishing your reputation?

Steeling yourself to say no when appropriate creates the impression of someone who is confident enough to have standards and stand up for them. Someone who is strong enough to resist pressure to behave in ways that would undermine their success and their ability to continually improve the quality of their editorial business. Someone who is more than reliable and skilled.

If you develop your ability to say no, you will establish your reputation as someone who is not only an editorial professional worth hiring, but one who can’t be scammed, scolded, underpaid or pushed around. That’s a reputation worth having.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also created and co-hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

July 31, 2020

2020 “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference will go virtual

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 6:16 pm

Dear Colleagues:

We have made the very, very difficult decision to cancel the in-person 2020 “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference out of concern for the safety of speakers and attendees, especially anyone who would have to travel by plane or train to participate. We plan to develop a virtual version of this year’s conference. Watch this space for details in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for your understanding – and see you in person next year!

 

July 29, 2020

On the Basics: Webinar on “generalist vs. specialist” coming up on August 12

Time to toot my own horn a bit, which I’ve been remiss about in recent weeks.

As you can see, I’m presenting a webinar for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) about whether to position your freelance business — or even your in-house identity, now that I think about it — as a generalist vs. a specialist. The session will be held from 7–8 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, August 12. To register, go to:

Generalist vs. Specialist—Which Works for You? (webinar) SU20

If you missed my pearls of wisdom about “Basics of Proofreading” and “Freelancing 101” in recent webinars, recordings can be purchased from the EFA. Nothing like a “Ruth-full” library!

Being able to do online/virtual presentations in the current challenging times is both rewarding and humbling. My heartfelt thanks to all who have signed up for or purchased recordings of these events. I love sharing information and appreciate opportunities to help colleagues do better at their editorial work.

July 24, 2020

AAE columnist to present “Indexing: Arabic Names” webinar for ASI on August 12

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 1:23 pm

By Ælfwine Mischler

I will present a webinar about “Indexing Arabic Names: What Everyone Needs to Know” for the American Society for Indexing (ASI) at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. This article is only the beginning of what you will learn in the webinar.

Definitive approach to definite articles

In my earlier series about romanized Arabic in English texts, I wrote my blog posts “Spelling the Definite Article” and “Omitting, Capitalizing, and Alphabetizing the Definite Article” primarily for copyeditors. By the time the PDF of a book goes to the indexer, the decisions on whether to include the definite article and how to spell it have been made. This might not be the case if a book has an embedded index, which is often written while the book is still being copyedited — or worse, before the manuscript is submitted to the publisher.

Indexers have other concerns with the definite article. The first that comes to mind is how to deal with the article when it comes at the beginning of an entry, whether a main entry or a subentry (also called main head and subhead. See my post “Basic Vocabulary.”)

Publishers vary in how they treat the article at the beginning of a main entry. Some want the article cut off there and tacked on at the end of the name (Hakim, Tawfiq al-), while others want the article to remain in place but be ignored in sorting (al-Hakim, Tawfiq alphabetized under H).

In a subentry, The Chicago Manual of Style, which many U.S. publishers follow, suggests that in a run-in index, most often found in scholarly books, the definite article be left in place and ignored in sorting. In an indented index, however, the article should be moved to the end of the name. If the publisher keeps the article in place and ignores it in the main entry, I do the same in the subentry in both run-in and indented indexes.

But the beginning of an entry is not the only position where indexers have to worry about the definite article in Arabic names. It appears as part of the second element in many compound names and should also be ignored in sorting. If there are a lot of such names in an index, it is better to sort word by word rather than letter by letter. (See “The ABCs of Alphabetizing.”)

Here are some examples of sorting with different treatments of the definite article. After the long vowel in Abi, the vowel of the article is elided and replaced with an apostrophe in this style of transcription. (For simplification, I am not using diacritics in these names.)

Note how the two names Ibn Abi Khisal and Ibn Abi ’l-Khisal sort relative to each other. These are probably the same person, but the author was a bit careless in writing the name with and without a definite article. When the two names sort one after the other, the author is more likely to see the error (if it was an error) and can tell the indexer to merge the entries.

In the following examples, the articles and ibn (son of) have been ignored but the sorting is different. The advantage of word-by-word sorting becomes apparent when you have a mixture of classical and modern Arabic names, as I have here. When readers are scanning a long list of names beginning with ‘Abd or one of its modern variants, they are more likely to see the variants when those fall together with word-by-word sorting.

This article is only the beginning of what you need to know when indexing Arabic names. In recent weeks, I have looked at a lot of indexes containing Arabic names, and there is a lot that indexers and editors should learn. The link to take my webinar, “Indexing Arabic Names: What Everyone Should Know,” is available on the American Society for Indexing website. A recording of the webinar will be available to registrants, and it will be available for purchase later on the ASI Webinar page.

 

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books about Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

June 15, 2020

On the Basics: Coping with recent events

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics,Philosophy & Ethics — An American Editor @ 2:07 pm

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

I’ve been quiet here because I haven’t known what to say about the various crises we’re all facing these days. I’m still not sure, but a few things started bubbling up that I hope will be helpful to colleagues.

COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic offers some lessons for moving on and thinking about the future. Among other aspects, it’s a hard lesson in financial planning. I’ve written several times about planning for emergencies, and this event certainly qualifies as a huge one for so many of us. It reinforces the importance of moves like these.

  • Try to save money as you go along. The best and easiest way to do this is to “Pay yourself first” — take a certain percentage out of every payment and stash it in a savings account. What you don’t see, you can’t spend. If the habit is ingrained, it will also be much easier to maintain in uncertain times.
  • Diversify your work. If you freelance, make sure you have more than one client and type of project, just in case someone you rely on for income has to cut back. If you work in-house and can moonlight without jeopardizing your job, have at least one freelance project in hand. It could be a lifesaver if your company cuts back on your hours or salary during a crisis like this one.
  • Swallow your pride. We all go through hills and valleys in our work. If yours tanks due to circumstances beyond your control, you might have to find a different kind of work to get by. At least one of my colleagues took a job with one of the big-box stores when her freelance work dried up recently. She plans to go back to freelancing, but in the meantime, she has a paycheck and health insurance, even if it means doing non-editorial work. Others have turned to some of the low-paying job sites just to have income for now.
    Several organizations have put together financial aid services for members and colleagues. If you need help, look for those resources and make use of them.
    If you qualified for any of the pandemic-related government loan or grant programs, try not to use all of the funds at once; sock some away in savings for the coming months — we don’t really know if the pandemic is under control or might come back in another wave.
  • Live frugally. Don’t go overboard and make yourself and your family miserable, but try to keep impulse buying and living expenses under control. Such habits come in handy in difficult times and are easier to maintain if they aren’t new.
  • Communicate. Most of us have been quarantined in recent weeks, many of us have been home alone and some of us aren’t comfortable with resuming regular activities yet. Try not to cut yourself off from the world, even when it seems to be coming apart. Use the phone, social media, blogs like this one, and resources of professional associations and community services to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Look after yourself. Get out of the house for walks around the block or neighborhood or to nearby parks. Take up new hobbies that you can do at home. Order meals from local businesses that do pick up or delivery. Ask for help if you need it. As businesses reopen and people try to go back to “normal,” continue to use smart health and safety habits.

Civil rights protests

The efforts to respond to, make sense of and prevent deaths of Black people by police officers don’t seem likely to end any time soon. As someone who worked for the Urban League and has been active in the Black press for years, I just don’t know how to handle recent and continuing events in this arena, or what to say here. I just hope there will be positive change, and soon. All I can suggest to colleagues is to be aware, make efforts to be inclusive and stay safe.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), this year co-hosted for the second time with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor, and (still) planned for October 2–4 in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

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