An American Editor

January 6, 2016

Should Editors Give Trigger Warnings?

I was catching up with some reading of magazines I haven’t had time to get to (for months), when I came across an article on trigger warnings at the university level (“The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, September 2015, pp. 42-52). I am surprised at how different the expectations are today on a college campus than when I attended college 50 years ago.

One example given in the article was a demand by some law school students that “professors at Harvard not […] teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in ‘that violates the law’) lest it cause students distress” (p. 44). Having gone to law school myself, I wondered how that would work. How could a professor ignore the subject of rape or abuse (spousal or child) in a class on, for example, criminal law, criminal procedure, or constitutional law? How will these future attorneys make it in the real-world practice of law where “violates” is a commonly used word? And what about their clients? How well would a rape victim (or a rapist) be served by a lawyer who doesn’t acknowledge the word rape?

But that got me thinking about editing. Not once in my 32 years of editing have I given a warning at the beginning of a manuscript. Have I been remiss? Have I neglected to take into account the sensibilities or sensitivities of my client or my client’s author?

Of course, I also have never received a warning that the manuscript contains explicit descriptions of things that would not make for everyday conversation in “polite” society. Have my clients or my clients’ authors been remiss by not warning me of the horrors to come should I proceed with editing their manuscript?

I am currently editing a book that requires a heavy editing hand, just the opposite of what I was told when I was hired (“It only needs a very light edit.”). Should I put a warning at the beginning of each chapter, one that says:

WARNING! Read the edited version of this chapter with caution. You may be offended by the number and type of queries added and corrections made to your manuscript. They might cause you undue stress, especially if you perceive it as an attack on your language skills rather than an attempt to help you improve your manuscript.

Okay, perhaps the warning needs a little work but the idea is conveyed. What if a person needs to be warned about literature?

WARNING: William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice contains blatant anti-Semitic text that may offend you. As this text is foundational to this course on works by Shakespeare, perhaps you should consider taking a different, potentially less-offending course.

Or a about a book that focuses on a genre of literature?

WARNING: In this book on 19th-century American literature of the South, words that are politically incorrect today and that might remind you of slavery and/or second-class status are common. If such words deeply offend you, perhaps you should consider reading a different, potentially less-offending book.

Or about the contents of a book discussing history?

WARNING: Since the beginning of recorded history, slavery has been a prominent part of history. Consequently, slavery is discussed in this book. If a discussion of slavery deeply offends you, perhaps you should consider reading a different, potentially less-offending book.

Perhaps, then, editors need to warn clients that the perfect manuscript the client submitted was found to be imperfect, so the client should be prepared to deal with the stress that the discovered imperfections may cause.

Then, again, perhaps clients owe editors a warning that editing a manuscript may be stressful.

I understand that the traumas some people have experienced are such that reliving those traumas can be exceedingly painful and that some subjects trigger that reexperiencing. The goal of trigger warnings is commendable; I just wonder how well those who require trigger warnings to deal with life on the college campus will be able to deal with work life after college, when the shelter college affords is no longer available.

I also wonder where the line is drawn. Are we not to talk about the Holocaust because it may trigger anxiety in someone who lost much of their family in the concentration camps? Do we not mention the Vietnam War because it may trigger posttraumatic stress disorder in a Vietnam veteran? Do we not discuss the march on Selma because it may trigger severe stress in someone by reminding them of the Ferguson events? Are we not to mention President Obama because it may cause severe stress in an ultraconservative Republican?

I know there are defenders of trigger warnings (see the comments to Trigger Warning: This Essay May Cause Mental Disturbance), but no one has yet defined the boundary beyond which trigger warnings need not be given. In addition, the argument always seems to be one-sided and focused on offering protection to the person that might be offended and ignoring everyone else. Yet the movement grows.

An article by Rani Neutill, “My trigger-warning disaster: ‘9 1/2 Weeks,’ ‘The Wire’ and how coddled young radicals got discomfort all wrong,” (Salon, October 28, 2015), and the video of a HuffPost Live discussion at the end of the article are worth reading and watching.

In the end, however, the question remains: Should I offer the trigger warning about the editing or not? For now my answer is no, but if the trigger-warning movement keeps its momentum, the trigger warning will become a necessary tool in the editor’s toolkit because the future generation of authors will have grown up in an academic environment where such warnings were routinely given and so they will expect them everywhere, including on edited versions of their manuscript.

The question will be this: Will these new authors give warnings to editors that their manuscript might be poorly written and stressful to edit, or that it contains such potentially distasteful and stress-causing things as putting milk and sugar in tea or an allusion to sex between bees?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

January 4, 2016

On the Basics: A Tangible Expression of the Value of Editing

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Editors don’t always get to see acknowledgment of what we bring to the publishing process, but sometimes — oh, sometimes!

In November, I had the exciting experience of receiving a Big Pencil Award from Writers and Books, the literary center here in my hometown of Rochester, NY. The initial announcement said the award was for being “A teacher of adults who has inspired the creation and appreciation of literature” and someone who has “contributed significantly in the advancement, creation, and understanding of literature in the Rochester community.”

That surprised me a bit — sure, I’ve been presenting classes at Writers and Books for many years now, but I never thought of myself as in the literary side of the writing, editing, or publishing business in general. I see myself more as a journalist or a freelance generalist. I write nonfiction, and most of what I edit or proofread is also in the nonfiction realm. I did publish one piece of fiction way back in high school, in a regional magazine that no longer exists; I did launch and edit a literary magazine with friends at around the same time, after being turned down for the official school magazine; and I did get a 5 (the top score) on the AP English exam in part thanks to writing a poem in answer to one of the essay questions. The only “literary” project I’m involved with nowadays is “wrangling” the website of Gargoyle, a DC-based literary magazine, and its companion business, Paycock Press. Even there, though, my contributions are more on the practical side than the creative or literary aspect of the publications.

Then I thought, “Well, I do teach classes at Writers and Books on the basics of editing and proofreading, and on grammar (in addition to ones on freelancing and websites for writers), and those are essential to good literature. Maybe I’m entitled to this recognition after all.”

Going to the award presentation event was exciting, but I had no idea what to expect. I assumed the presentation itself would involve the head of Writers and Books repeating that language of the award that I had seen up to that point and handing each recipient — there were six of us altogether — a framed certificate. (A literal Big Pencil would have been neat, but I knew ahead of time that that wouldn’t be the expression of the award.)

To my surprise and delight, the presentation included this, from the director of education at Writers and Books: “Good grammar, editing, proofreading: these are practices that we often take for granted, but are also a necessary part to crafting our stories. For years, Ruth Thaler-Carter has been the generous, guiding hand that has helped individuals develop these habits.…Ruth has given writers the tools they need to succeed, and does so in a way that is clear and accessible.…She has been an important part of the writing community, providing essential services to so many people.…”

Rest assured, I’m still blushing over this, but I use it here not to brag. It illustrates how some people see the value of editing, so I present it in appreciation of having that value recognized; not just for myself, but for everyone who labors in this particular vineyard. So often, what we do is not acknowledged, even when we catch and fix what would have been our clients’ horribly embarrassing typos, turn sludge into interesting reading, make the difference in whether a piece of writing gets published, and more.

These words say it for me — the skills and knowledge that editors bring to publications in any and every genre are essential to work that is readable and publishable. Of course, plenty of garbage gets published nowadays, thanks to many factors, including the ease of digital self-publishing; decisions by many publishers and publications to dispense with copy editors; changes in the academic rigor in the editing “arts”; and the ability of just about anyone to hang out a shingle as an “editor” these days. A lot of self-publishing authors, as we’ve discussed in various posts here, don’t use professional editing services, either because they don’t understand our value or because they have no idea of how that value translates to the quality of their work or to dollars. I’m hoping that the wording accompanying my award may help open the eyes of potential clients in a variety of fields — not just ones for me to work with, but ones for any of us.

There’s more to this than the feel-good glow for me, or any colleague who gets a gratifyingly warm thank-you from a client. For those of us who do editing, obtaining and promoting compliments or testimonials from our clients is especially important, because we often can’t show prospective new clients the work that we’ve done. Many clients don’t want anyone to see the “before” versions of their material, and some ask us to work on projects that involved protected, proprietary information that can’t be shown to a general public as either before or after. We need to constantly remind current and prospective clients of our value, not just by participating in conversations about the importance of editing (and proofreading) but by our sharing the complimentary things that clients say about our work.

Our websites and other promotional material should emphasize that value — not just list our skills and the software programs we can use, but explain what we bring to a project and why it’s worth hiring someone with professional skills and solid experience. Compliments from satisfied clients can help bolster such information, so we also have to make sure to ask our clients for feedback that we can post as testimonials at our websites and recommendations at LinkedIn. I know that it can be hard for the more introverted of my colleagues to ask for testimonials, but doing so is important if we want to establish our editorial credibility and show the world that editing does have value and is valued.

Recognition of the value of editing serves another important purpose: It helps us justify higher fees. The more valuable a service is perceived as being, the more willing someone will be to pay a higher price for that service. Think of it like an automobile: We perceive that a Cadillac is more valuable than a Chevy Spark, and thus are willing to pay more for that Cadillac than for the Spark, even though both can take us from Point A to Point B at 65 miles per hour.

Because recognition of the value we provide can be rare, I’d like to see examples of how colleagues here have been complimented on what they brought to a project. Please feel free to share your kudos and compliments, how that praise came to you — whether spontaneously or by request — and how you are using it to enhance current and future clients’ understanding of why editing is important.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, author of the Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.

January 1, 2016

Worth Noting: EditTools Version 7.0 Released

Filed under: A Good Deal,Worth Noting — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , ,

Happy New Year!

EditTools 7.0 is now available!

With the new year, wordsnSync Ltd has released EditTools version 7.0. Significant enhancements have been made to many macros in EditTools. EditTools macros are designed by and for editors to make editing more efficient and accurate.

The release is a free upgrade for registered users. If you haven’t yet tried EditTools, now is a good time to do so.

To obtain version 7, click or paste this link: http://wordsnsync.com/download/edittools-v70.zip. Alternatively, go to the Downloads page at wordsnSync (www.wordsnSync.com) and click on “Download EditTools v7.0”.

To discover which macros have been improved, go to the EditTools product page (http://wordsnsync.com/edittools.php or at the website, click in the main menu Products > EditTools) and look for the . Information about the enhancements is found on each macros’ description page. More in-depth information will be coming to An American Editor in the coming weeks.

The most extensive improvements have been made to the Journals Manager, the Toggle Managers, and to Reference # Order Check and Click List. However, be sure to check the other improved macros, too.

NOTE: EditTools requires Windows (either 32- or 64-bit) and Word (32-bit only). To use on a Mac, you need to use a program like Parallels to run Windows and Word for Windows.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015

Filed under: Editorial Matters — americaneditor @ 4:00 am

At An American Editor, we are taking some time off to celebrate the holidays. We will be back on Monday, January 4, 2016.

In the meantime, we hope these will entertain you.

First up is Abba, my most favorite group of all time, with Happy New Year —

One of my favorite groups is the a capella group Pentatonix. Here are two songs from them. The first is The First Noel —

The second is A Little Drummer Boy

Okay, here’s a third Pentatonix for those who enjoyed the previous two videos. This is their Coming Home Tour: The Complete Concert. It takes about a minute for them to appear, so be patient. It is a great concert —

Finally, Mariah Carey and Auld Lang Syne

Best wishes for a happy holiday from all of us
at An American Editor to all of you!

Happy Holidays!

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Louise Harnby

Ruth Thaler-Carter

Jack Lyon

Carolyn Haley

December 16, 2015

Mark Your Calendar for the 2016 “Be a Better Freelancer” Conference

It’s time to start planning to attend the conference of the year!

Our “On the Basics” columnist Ruth Thaler-Carter has told me that the 2016 Communication Central conference — the 11th annual Be a Better Freelancer™ conference — will be held October 28–29, 2016, at a new Hilton Garden Inn in Rochester, NY.

While the core focus of the 2016 Communication Central conference is on freelancing/entrepreneurship as opposed to editing per se, there are always skills-oriented sessions focusing on the tools that editors must know to succeed and thrive professionally, such as Word, Acrobat, social media platforms, and more. Concept-oriented sessions focus on publishing trends; marketing and promotions; networking; finding and keeping worthwhile clients; and increasing earnings by increasing efficiency and adding in-demand, skilled services to your repertoire, whether you’re an editor, proofreader, writer, indexer, or other editorial freelancer.

Speakers for the 2016 conference will include Ally Machate, Dick Margulis, Kat Friedrich, Carolyn Haley, Lori Paximadis, Bevi Chagnon, Adrienne Montgomery, Jack Lyon, Daniel Heuman, Pamela Hilliard Owens, Janice Campbell, and me.

As always, the program will benefit aspiring, new, and experienced freelancers, by providing ideas for enhancing and expanding your business. The conference will also provide invaluable opportunities for in-person networking.

Ruth has informed me that subscribers to An American Editor will again be eligible for a special discount on early registration, and that details will be coming in January. So be sure to mark your calendar now for the 11th annual Be a Better Freelancer™ conference, October 28–29, 2016. Registration should open by early January (details will be announced on AAE and at Communication Central).

Is there a topic you would like to see addressed at the conference? If you have a special request or a suggestion for a conference topic or speaker, let Ruth know by writing a comment. I’ve already put in my request for a discussion of editor ethics.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 14, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Tackling Editorial Learning Anxiety (or Embracing Change Rather Than Resisting It) — Part II

by Louise Harnby

In this two-part series, I consider how resistance to change can stop us from learning new skills or testing new methods to make our editorial businesses more successful.

In Part I, I discussed “learning anxiety” and how it can stop us from embracing change. I introduced three ideas for how to tackle anxiety: planning the change so that it’s considered and systematic; redefining “failure” as “lessons learned”; and doing a cost-to-benefit analysis.

In Part II, I present a personal case study of how I dealt with anxiety about offering a new customer-engagement service with regard to quoting. I explain how I used a cost-to-benefit analysis to identify my concerns and come up with a solution that enabled me to move forward rather than rejecting change outright.

Case study

I recently carried out an exercise with regard to a new marketing technique. My colleagues Adrienne Montgomerie and Nick Jones were the inspiration for it. Nick’s Full Proof website includes a Get a Quote button and a page that details a range of rates per 1,000 words. Adrienne’s Right Angels and Polo Bears website has an Instant Estimate tab.

I love the customer-centric nature of these websites – when I’m considering buying something, I want to have a rough idea of what it’s going to cost, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that my customers are the same. Nick and Adrienne already provide this sense of immediacy and customer engagement, though in different ways. Up until recently, I’d resisted including such a device on my own website. I’d read a lot of opinions on the issue, most of it focusing on how one can’t offer a quotation unless one’s seen a sample of the work. That’s all well and good, but is it what the customer wants? Both Nick and Adrienne make it clear that their instant quotations are preliminary and nonbinding. I wanted to take this idea and run with it in my own way – provide a quick way for the customer to engage with me, a device that would give them a sense of immediacy. I wanted to be able to provide them with a ballpark price for proofreading that they could use to decide whether to continue the discussion. So I tackled the questions above, and the answers helped me to map out a solution that I could test.

What are the potential gains from the change?

  • Customers who previously passed me over because they wanted an immediate sense of what the cost would be might be more inclined to contact me.
  • In particular, I might be a more attractive prospect for self-publishing authors (a client group that I particularly enjoy working with) scouting for editorial assistance but who have a fixed budget in mind.
  • I’ve always provided detailed value-on quotations in the past (see “Value-on or money-off? Putting a price on your editorial services”, Proofreader’s Parlour, September 2013 http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog-the-proofreaders-parlour/value-on-or-money-off-putting-a-price-on-your-editorial-services) but these take time to produce, and if the price isn’t even in the customer’s ballpark I’ve invested a lot of time for no return. The quick-quote option would be an interesting alternative to test.

What will I potentially lose if I introduce a quick-quote function?

  • I’m always “on” – customers can contact me whenever they want and I’ll be committed to responding to them accordingly.
  • An instant quotation is all about the money, not about the value.
  • If I want to avoid placing prices on my website, I’ll need to have a device with me that enables me to calculate a price – this could be a challenge, as I want to offer different rates for different client groups, and I want to introduce economies of scale for larger word counts.

What will stay the same, even though I’ve made this change?

  • My proofreading website is still focused on providing comprehensive advice about the value I bring to the table. The customer comes through that medium and so will see this information.
  • My current client list is not affected.
  • I’m still offering a proofreading service.
  • I can still refuse the work after I’ve seen a sample if I don’t think I’m a good fit for the customer – the quote is preliminary with no obligation on either side. Critics can argue that no matter how much one protests that the quote is not binding, it gives the user a number around which to wrap their thinking. If my quote is £150 but then I see the manuscript and realize that the real quote needs to be £450, I have a major hill to climb to move the client off the £150 mark. However, I’d counter this as follows: I’m a proofreader. If the sample file arrives with me and it needs so much work that there is going to be a significant difference between the preliminary quote and the post-sample quote, the manuscript is not ready for me to work on and I’ll decline the work anyway.
  • I’m still in a position to turn down the work if it doesn’t fit in my schedule.

How will the changes make me feel once I’ve completed them?

  • I hope I’ll be glad that I’ve tried something new.
  • I’ll be excited to see what the results are.
  • It will give me even more confidence to embrace future ideas for change that I might have rejected in the past.
  • I’m in control of my website, so I’ll still feel secure in the knowledge that I can withdraw the quick-quote service instantly if I deem this to be necessary.

My solution was to offer a “Within 1 hour” service via text messaging to customers requiring a preliminary ballpark price. I require a few words of description, a deadline, and a word count. I commit to responding within 1 hour to any request that comes in prior to 10 p.m. GMT. I don’t want to have to carry around a tablet or laptop all the time because I won’t always have internet access, but my phone is always with me and I can always take calls or texts. I’ve set up a spreadsheet in the Excel app on my phone; this contains formulae that calculate the preliminary price based on different word-count ranges and client types. When a text comes through, I can place the word count into the spreadsheet; the fee is calculated automatically. I reply to the customer with the preliminary price and an invitation to continue the discussion, this time with a sample. At that point, I’ll be able to demonstrate the value I can offer.

I’ve placed this quick-quote service on a dedicated “Get a quote” page of my website. I’ve copied some of the client testimonials onto the page so that customers have a sense of the quality of service I offer.

On the same page I also offer a “Within 1 day” service via email. This provides customers with a confirmed quotation (rather than a preliminary ballpark figure) but requires them to furnish me with additional information and a sample of the work.

The quick-quotation tool has been up for a month at the time of writing, and early results are encouraging. I’ve had around 20 enquiries via text messaging, 4 of which have led to commissions to proofread works of self-published fiction. I also acquired a small, fast-turnaround job for a business client. I’ve turned down requests to proofread a business book and several theses, owing to the time frame.

I’m delighted that I decided to work out a creative solution to my earlier resistance. I’m even more delighted that the outcome has been positive. My fears about what I’d lose have been overshadowed by the decisions I made on how to manage the service: The time limit means that I’m not available 24/7; the fact that I’ve limited the service to text messaging means that I’m using a device that is always with me, so there’s no added inconvenience on that front; I’ve not been so inundated with requests that the service has felt intrusive; I can tweak the Excel spreadsheet at will; and if I decide to withdraw the service, I can update my website in an instant, even from my phone. I’ve also found a way to display the information in a way that provides social proof of the quality of service I offer.

Even more importantly, perhaps, carrying out this exercise has forced me to think more broadly how customer trust relates to pricing transparency, and about whether I want to increase my customer engagement further by being more explicit on my website about my pricing model – but that’s another test for another time! For the next few months, I’m going to focus on monitoring the “Within 1 hour” text-messaging service.

Taking professional responsibility

Resistance to change is a normal human emotion. However, we are business owners. We work for ourselves. There’s no one in the HR department to walk us through the changes we might need to make even though we feel nervous about them. Change is inevitable. The fact that it can be anxiety-inducing needs to be acknowledged. The key is to ensure that anxiety doesn’t get in the way of action. The decision I’ve made about my quick-quote service will not be something all my colleagues will agree with or want to implement. That’s fine – they have their businesses to run and I have mine. They make the decisions that are best for them while I make the decisions that are best for me.

Still feel reluctant to make a change, or learn something new? Break it down into smaller components so that it seems more manageable. View it as an opportunity for discovery rather than failure. And analyze it in terms of what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. Whatever happens, you’ll know that Woody and Thomas would pat you on the back for it!

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

December 9, 2015

On Today’s Bookshelf (XXIII)

It’s the holiday season again and time to be thinking about gifts for family, friends, even clients. What could be a better or more appropriate gift from an editor than a book?

I have three books in particular to recommend: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski; SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard; and The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. As I write this essay, I have completed The Fellowship and am nearly done with the other two.

From reading The Fellowship, I finally discovered why Lewis and Tolkien (especially) were such great fantasy writers, something I will never be. The change in education, especially what is taught at the university level, from their school days to mine is dramatic. They were literate in Greek and Latin and well grounded in mythology, especially Norse mythology, and religion. The strengths, weaknesses, and meandering paths that the lives of Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, and Williams took are fascinating.

SPQR (which stands for “The Senate and People of Rome”) is a well-presented, fascinating look at one of the foundations of Western civilization — ancient Rome. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of that history for a nonhistorian, but I was constantly surprised at what Mary Beard had to teach me and at how off-track my education of 50 years ago in this area was. If you want to understand and learn about one of the foundational pillars of Western civilization without being hampered by dense annotated academic writing, then SPQR is the place to start. (If you prefer a broader world view in survey style, then the best bet would be The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer, which can be followed by her books, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade and The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople. All three of Bauer’s books are excellent.)

Americans are fascinated by the Salem witch trials. The story has been told many different ways — in novels, histories, plays — and I have read several variations on the theme. I originally didn’t think there was room for yet another telling, but I was wrong. Schiff’s The Witches is one of the best nonfiction histories I have read on the invasion of Puritan Salem by the Devil through his witch emissaries. The Witches is a well-crafted story of this American moment.

Aside from those three recommendations, my acquisition of new titles to read never ends. Here is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I am reading or acquired and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf essay:

Nonfiction –

  • Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation by John Ferling
  • Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors by James D. Hornfischer
  • The Story of England by Michael Wood
  • Caligula: A Biography by Aloys Winterling
  • The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg
  • Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  • Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric by Veronica Buckley
  • The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
  • Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad by Brian A. Catlos
  • The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 by Edward J, Larson
  • For Fear of an Elective King: George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789 by Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon
  • Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion by Harold Holzer
  • It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliches by Orin Hargraves
  • The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama (volume 1 of 2)
  • Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama (volume 2 of 2)
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright
  • The Reign of Arthur: From History to Legend by Christopher Gidlow
  • Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler by Antony Sutton
  • The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder by Abram de Swaan
  • Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed
  • Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose
  • The British Execution: 1500-1964 by Stephen Banks
  • The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide by Gary J. Bass
  • Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 by Frank Dikötter
  • Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age by James Essinger
  • A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy Greenberg
  • Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives by Daisy Hay

Fiction –

  • The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry
  • Archive 17 by Sam Eastland
  • The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
  • Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town by Blake Crouch (3 books)
  • The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse
  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
  • Island Madness by Tim Binding
  • Black Fly Season and By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt
  • The Hidden Man by David Ellis
  • Hell’s Foundations Quiver and The Sword of the South by David Weber
  • A Call to Arms by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and  Thomas Pope

For those of you who have young children or grandchildren, there are three educational toys I recommend for gift giving or for having around the house: Kids First Amusement Park Engineer Kit, Kids First Automobile Engineer Kit, and Kids First Aircraft Engineer Kit. These are designed for ages 3+ years (Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the toys or the toys’ manufacturer.)

We bought these kits to have as projects for us and our granddaughters to do together when they visit. Each kit comes with a storybook. As you read the story to the child, the child is presented with instructions to build, for example, an airplane, to help the children in the story get to their next destination, where they will need to build yet another airplane (or automobile or amusement ride).

The Aircraft and Automobile kits each build 10 models; the Amusement Park kit builds 20 models. These are great teaching toys. And, because storage is important, each comes in a plastic storage container.

For additional book suggestions, take another look at past On Today’s Bookshelf essays.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 7, 2015

On the Basics: Who are Those “Right People to Know” — and Do We Really Need to Know Them?

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

In an online discussion sparked by my mentioning that I recently got an editing project from the son of a high-school–days friend who knew my work because he works for a law firm for which I do proofreading, someone responded with, in part, “… the world is not a level playing field. I have a friend who cannot get editing work because he doesn’t know the right people and doesn’t know how to properly market himself.”

Putting aside my initial reaction of “Who said the world was fair?” and “The friend should quit whining and do what he needs to do,” here are a few suggestions for anyone who feels the same way — that you only can get editing work if you “know someone.”

Few of us started out by “knowing someone” important in the field. Some of us started as lowly interns, in secretarial positions, or — at best — as gofers and slush-pile readers at publishing houses. Others started in jobs at associations or companies where a natural eye for editing got them out of clerical positions and into something related to in-house publishing. Still others might have been entry-level reporters thanks to journalism degrees.

There’s also the question of who these mysterious “right people” might be. In my book, anyone who has work to offer is a “right person.” So is any colleague who refers me for work, past employer or coworker who remembers and hires or refers me, family member or old friend who cheers me on. Yes, there are major players in the editing world, and we can get to know them by attending conferences, reading their books and blogs, taking their classes, following them on Twitter. But we get work from clients, and the way to get to know them — or for them to get to know us — is to find them and pitch them.

Regardless, most of us started out at ground zero. We didn’t know anyone important. We weren’t known for our skills. If we’ve become successful either in in-house jobs or as freelancers, it’s because we made the effort to develop strong skills, develop networks with colleagues, and make names for ourselves.

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to become known and to get to know prospective clients (or colleagues who might recommend us, subcontract to us, even hire us or hand off excess work to us).

Someone who “doesn’t know the right people” can remedy that by joining a professional organization, such as the EAC, SfEP, EFA, ACES, etc., to become known and respected among colleagues, or just to have his or her name listed in an association membership directory. And even the rankest newcomer actually may know people who could be leads to work. If that’s you (or if you’re established but have hit a slow time), assess your past employers and coworkers, friends, family, classmates (at all levels), etc., and consider sending them something about what you’re doing and the kind of work you’re looking for.

The reality, though, is that you must market yourself if you want to have a successful editing, proofreading, or other publishing-oriented business. It might seem hard to do, but it’s essential. Work won’t just float in the door without the worker making that kind of effort.

The good news for anyone who feels uncomfortable with that reality is that you can find work without being in with the in crowd. Judging from what I see from colleagues, quite a few find editing work without doing a lot of networking — primarily through cold queries and by using association/organization resources such as job services or directory listings.

If you think you have to know “the right people” to succeed in your editing career, this is the moment to take control and do something about it. The new year is right around the corner. Start planning now to meet some of those people, either online or in person, and to become someone they want to meet — and hire.

You can use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook’s business groups, and a boatload of other online resources to find people worth connecting with because they might need an editor, and to position yourself as both skilled and worth knowing and hiring. That’s marketing yourself, and all it takes is time. It doesn’t require much in the way of interpersonal connections, so those among us who are introverts can manage it without the terrible pressure of interacting in person.

Identify the types of projects you want to do and the kinds of clients who might have such projects for you. Look for them in Literary Market Place, Writer’s Market, online, at websites, in colleagues’ conversations — and go after them. Polish up your résumé, craft a convincing cover letter, and go for it.

You also have to be findable, because sometimes work will come to us without our trying. Being listed in a membership directory is a good way to make it possible to be found for projects without making any further effort. Having a website is essential, even if it’s only minimal. Being at least a little visible in social media can make a difference — especially if you can give as well as take: offer advice, share resources, answer questions. And don’t be shy about mentioning your projects, skills, and successes.

There’s also self-marketing, which includes somewhat traditional approaches such as putting together and mailing out a promotional brochure or postcard; creating and distributing a newsletter about your skills, achievements, and projects; and doing the occasional press release — you start your freelance business, when you land an impressive client (but wait to announce that until after you’ve completed at least once project with that client!), win an award, make a presentation, etc. These kinds of activities will bring you the attention of prospective clients who are not in your network of colleagues or friends and family.

It may seem that some people have better luck than others when it comes to finding work. Whenever I would attribute a new job or project to luck, my beloved dad would say that I made my own luck. And he was right. Luck is a combination of effort and serendipity, among other things. Getting a new editing project because I stay in touch with old friends and do good work for current clients, as in the recent experience that touched off this column, is a form of luck, but I don’t stay in contact with friends to make use of them as potential clients or referrers. I stay in contact because I like them. It’s part of who I am. If those connections result in new work sometimes, that’s a bonus. You can call it luck, if you’d like.

If a one-time project turns into an ongoing relationship and series of projects, that’s a form of luck. It’s also the result of my letting that client know that I enjoyed doing the first project and would like to do more, or my suggesting new topics I could work on for that client, rather than my sitting by the computer waiting for the client to call with a new assignment.

You need a combination of both aggressive and passive marketing efforts to succeed in any profession, including editing. Even passive marketing is better than no marketing. You can’t sit back and wait for success, and you won’t succeed by worrying or whining about not knowing the “right people.”

Instead of complaining about not knowing the right people, make your own luck by looking for them and becoming findable by them.

Have you developed a network? How did you find “the right people” to know? How long did it take? Was there one key moment, effort, or connection that did the trick? Who are your “right people”?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, author of the Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.

December 2, 2015

Market Magic: The In-Tandem Duo — Declining Price & Declining Quality

There is a disconnect in the editorial marketplace. The disconnect occurs at several levels but is most prominent when a publisher outsources production and editorial work to a single provider (a packager), often an offshore provider, that promises to deliver high-quality editing at a price lower than the publisher itself can get directly in the editorial market it wants tapped (e.g., a U.S. publisher wanting a U.S. editor).

The disconnect occurs because the packager has not first determined that, when tapping the publisher’s desired editor market, it can obtain and deliver the promised quality for a price even lower than the price it promised the publisher. The disconnect also occurs because the publisher has misbudgeted for a manuscript’s editorial work on the basis of the packager’s representations.

There is a line below which quality and price decrease as one, and packagers have been embracing that downward trajectory for short-term gains, at the expense of long-term survival and growth. If the reports are correct, many packagers are facing revenue and growth problems — the long-term penalty is now starting to be paid for their having focused on the short term. They have entered that cycle in which they must continue to promise low editorial costs (sometimes even lower than previously promised) in exchange for more short-term business. However, the packagers increasingly find that they cannot hire the better editors and so return to the publisher lower-quality editing (often, much lower quality) than was promised. The editorial members of the publisher’s staff are unhappy, but the accounting staff remains unmoved.

As a result, the publisher continues to budget low prices for high-quality editing because the packager continues to represent that it can provide that level of editing using the publisher’s preferred editors at the lower price, a price that the publishers themselves cannot get in the editorial marketplace for high-quality editing. (One publisher, for example, budgets $1.25 per manuscript page for high-level editing and lesser amounts for “normal” editing; a second publisher budgets less than $1 per page based on promises from its packagers. In both instances, the publishers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of editing their books have received, making the relationship with the packager less secure than the packager requires, and sometimes the publishers will insist that the editing be redone at the packager’s expense using specifically named editors.)

What the publisher ignores is that if it pays the packager $2 per page for editing, the packager pays the editor significantly less as the packager retains some of the price for its own coffers. The publisher also ignores that it has required the packager to hire skilled editors from a certain editorial marketplace. For example, it is not unusual for a U.S. publisher to insist that “a U.S. editor” be hired, without considering whether a U.S. editor who delivers the level of editing quality the publisher wants can be hired for the amount that the packager will offer to pay. (A companion problem is that publishers will tell a packager that a particular manuscript requires a “high” or “medium” edit “by a U.S. editor,” but neither the publisher nor the packager adjusts the editing price so that it matches the editing expectations.)

The result is that between the packager’s actions and the publisher’s acquiescence in and promotion of the packager’s actions, neither the packager’s promise nor the publisher’s expectation of high-quality editing comes about. As the price paid to the editor declines, so does the quality of the edit. (We are addressing just the effect of pricing on quality and ignoring the effect of scheduling.)

Recently, I was discussing future projects with a publisher. The publisher needs — not just wants — the particular manuscripts to receive a high-quality edit. The problem is that we are a universe apart on fee. The budgeters at the publisher have become accustomed to the prices paid to packagers and have decided to reduce those already low prices by 15% as part of a cost-saving measure. Apparently, many of the packagers they work with have agreed to that price lowering. The result is that while the publisher is willing to pay me more directly, its “more” is what it was paying the packagers before the new lower fee. The budgeters consider those rates the “standard.” They are immune to complaints about the poor editorial quality from in-house editorial staff and from authors and purchasers of the publisher’s books.

The packagers have set marketplace expectations without having determined beforehand whether they can deliver. Those expectations have leaked so as to infect relationships with nonpackagers, and when publishers deal directly with editors so that they can ensure the quality they want and need, they are unprepared to face the cost.

Unfortunately for packagers, the expectations they have created are beginning to harm their businesses. In discussions with colleagues, I find that many of the better-skilled editors are resisting, preferring to pass on work that is too low priced. This is, I think, a result of editors becoming more businesslike and actually understanding what they require to run a profitable business. Over the years, packagers have been both a bane and a boon to editors: a bane because of the high demands for low pay, but a boon because they have forced editors to increasingly recognize that they are a business and must act like a business.

I am finding that packagers are increasingly, albeit slowly, becoming flexible about editing fees — although the range of flexibility is not wide — as long as the majority of projects are still undertaken at the “standard” price. But that there is any flexibility speaks volumes about the long-term problems of the packager industry’s business plan; not so long ago, a packager faced with a demand for higher pay would simply say “no” and move the project to another editor. What they have found is that, as with all things in life, some editors have better skills than other editors and are more appropriate for a particular project; that is, editors are not wholly interchangeable — an experienced medical editor is likely to do a better editing job on a medical tome than an editor whose experience has been primarily in historical romance fiction. Both may be excellent editors in their genres, but poor choices outside their genres. And within genres, there are levels of editors, levels based on experience, learned skills, editing methodology, education, and so on.

I have suggested many times to packagers that it is smarter, thinking long term, to take less profit and deliver higher-quality editing than to focus on the short term and seek higher profit at the expense of editing quality — a short-term focus may lead to having nothing on which to make a profit long term. The message may finally be getting through. It will be interesting to see which packagers survive. My bet is that the packagers who revert to more realistic pricing for high-quality editing, thereby changing unreasonable and unrealistic expectations, will be the survivors. They may struggle in the beginning, but survive in the end.

Do you turn down work because of price? Are you finding that packagers are making changes for the better in your relationships with them?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 30, 2015

Thinking Fiction: Editing Tools in Action

by Carolyn Haley

We’ve talked a lot about tools on this blog — my own “Fiction Editors’ Resource Kit,” Jack Lyon’s many essays about wildcards and macros in Word, Amy Schneider’s quartet on style sheets, and Rich Adin’s articles on productivity macros (see, e.g., “The Business of Editing: Keeping Reference Callouts in Number Order”) — all to make editing a more efficient process and profitable business.

This essay discusses how different software tools can be applied at specific points in copyediting or line editing fiction. The example used is my own process, with the caveat that it is one of many approaches, no better or worse than someone else’s; and it is dynamic, constantly being refined as I learn more. (For another view, see the three-part series “The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage,” “II — The Copyediting Stage,” and “III — The Proofing Stage”). The point is to share ideas with editors unfamiliar with the tools, and invite editors who do use them to share their own ways. Noneditors, meanwhile, can gain a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

The tasks for which I use software tools divide into pre- and postediting, which I call preflight and cleanup. The preflight pass removes minor errors and inconsistencies that cause distraction during content editing, while the cleanup pass lets me catch anything left over or introduced. In both, the tasks are global sweeps using applications selected from packages designed for editors: Editor’s ToolKit, EditTools, Computer Tools for Editors, and PerfectIt (described below), plus some of my own. During the editing pass, however, I stick with Microsoft Word’s internal features: Track Changes to show content revisions and queries, and find/replace to make any global changes that result from editorial decisions as I go. Simultaneously I use an Internet browser for reference checks and lookups.

Preflight tasks

When a manuscript arrives, I immediately make a new copy for editing, leaving the original file intact. Occasionally a client will submit the book as separate chapters, in which case I consolidate them into one file, because I find it easier and faster to work with the book as a unit. Then I employ the following tools:

  1. Editorium’s FileCleaner — This does exactly what its name suggests: cleans up extraneous elements in the text, such as extra spaces, tabs, and carriage returns; errors such as mistyped numbers (e.g., lowercase L for numeral 1); and incorrect characters, such as straight quotation marks instead of “smart” or typographer-style quotes. I don’t allow the automatic fixes for dash style, small cap usage, and italics, because I deal with those separately on a manuscript-by-manuscript basis.
  2. EditTools’ Never Spell WordI’ve customized this tool to flag terms I frequently misread: lets/let’s, its/it’s, woman/women, vice/vise, form/from, awhile/a while, lead/led, and the like. Never Spell highlights these terms so you can’t miss them. Either I review them in a dedicated pass, making corrections then clearing out the highlights, or I review them individually while editing, and unhighlight one at a time.
  3. Paul Beverly’s ProperNounAlyse This macro from Beverly’s Computer Tools for Editors collection generates a list of words starting with a capital letter. I like this tool because it identifies different kinds of terms I use to build my style sheet (along with misspellings thereof). It gathers not only character and place names, but also unusual proper nouns that might appear in genre fiction, such as titles and honorifics, peoples, magical systems, planets, ships, autos, and firearms. As well, ProperNounAlyse grabs words that may be capped in one context, lowercased in another (e.g., Hell, Christ, God — are they exclamations or religious places/figures?) and OK (which I change to okay). If the author has provided a list of names and special terms, I combine it with the list generated as a second way to uncover spelling variants or term omissions. Unfortunately, ProperNounAlyse includes every word that starts a sentence, plus other information, so manual pruning must be done before the desired words can be transferred to the style sheet. The labor is tedious but relatively swift and saves me from oversights. As I come across the words while editing, I color-code them on the style sheet. That makes the leftovers stand out so I can investigate them. Without fail, this cross-check identifies something I missed or forgot to address.

The big variable: Formatting

Because I get manuscripts from many different publishers and authors, I’ve opted to format them myself rather than try to get everybody to conform to a standard. By formatting I mean making the presentation uniform and professional-looking, using Word’s Styles feature. All formatting is done with Track Changes turned off to avoid overloading the document with markups.

How much formatting I do influences my rate and turnaround time. With publisher jobs, formatting is a nonissue, because their manuscripts come in with Styles already applied, customized to house preference. All I have to do is adhere to their preferences while editing.

Indie author jobs, in contrast, often arrive in a messy state. A minority of authors understand how to use Styles or even do basic word processing, and many are as creative in their presentation as they are with their stories. For those manuscripts I turn on the hidden characters view to see whether paragraph indents are tabs or spaces, chapters are separated by page breaks or extra carriage returns, and so forth. I tidy things up using find/replace, then start at the top and set Styles for chapter heads, body text, epigraphs, and anything else relevant to the novel.

When I know in advance whether the author will be traditionally or self-publishing, I tailor ellipses and dashes as part of formatting. Print books commonly use ellipses with spaces between points and before/after ( . . . ); plus em dashes without spaces on either end ( — ). Ebooks, conversely, often use the ellipses character with no spaces between points (…), and maybe spaces before/after; plus en dashes with spaces on either end ( – ). Adjusting these via find/replace takes little time, though it expands if I add hard spaces to link the symbols to adjacent words to prevent bad line breaks. At present I’m testing different combinations in EditTools’ F&R Master to gain a quicker way to achieve the same end.

Recently I’ve added a separate styling pass for italics. Italic use, like dialogue, can be heavy in novels, and it’s a nightmare for everyone when italics vanish from a document during its passage between hands. Assigning a character style to italics preserves them from draft to publication. At the same time I can check that any punctuation following italics is properly italicized or roman.

Yes, formatting is extra work. But it makes life easier for both me and the people who follow. For me, Styles allows a one-step adjustment of the typeface for optimum onscreen reading, which I can then return to the client’s preference before delivery. For authors, a formatted file lets them just plug in their revisions and move on. For production folks, a consistently styled manuscript uploads into a page layout or ebook conversion program with fewer headaches.

Cleanup tasks

Being human, I err; therefore I use electronic tools to check my work before delivering the manuscript. But not before creating a fresh copy of the edited file. Then I run:

  1. Paul Beverly’s TestQuotes to catch unpaired quotation marks. His macro collection in Computer Tools for Editors also includes CheckParens to find unpaired parentheses, which I’ll run if the story contains parenthetical material.
  2. Manual searches for inverted quotes and apostrophes, leftover or introduced straight ones, incorrect or missing punctuation inside the quotes, extra spaces before and after all punctuation, missing periods at ends of lines, et cetera. I do these searches manually instead of rerunning FileCleaner, because there are just enough exceptions that I don’t dare do a background or global process. For the same reason, I haven’t bundled these individual searches into a custom macro.
  3. Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIt to catch mismatches in hyphenation, spelling, capitalization, and number usage. I turn off the tests unrelated to fiction; for instance, checking table and figure heads, abbreviations, and bullet lists. I also skip the test for contractions, having already checked for troublesome ones like it’s and let’s, you’re and we’re.
  4. Word’s spellchecker. This is the final task for every job. It always catches something I missed or change my mind about.

A final proofread always catches something, too, but not every job allows that, owing to constraints in scope of work, schedule, or budget. Electronic tools are doubly important in such cases. When I do proofread my edit, I change the manuscript’s appearance through type size, font, and line spacing (made easy when Styles have been applied) and turn off Track Changes. I also alter my physical setup, moving the file from desktop to laptop and myself from chair to couch. The combination makes the material seem new and lingering errors more visible.

One size does not fit all

As mentioned above, this system isn’t the be-all, end-all for manuscript editing. (“Your mileage may vary,” colleagues regularly say.) I offer my system to illustrate how and where in the process different tools can be used. And there are so many more to investigate! Just adopting my current set has been an investment that keeps paying back with increased speed and accuracy. Other combinations work better for other editors; we’d love to hear about yours.

Carolyn Haley lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books.

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