Sep 8, 2016

Introduction to Copy-Editing - Alicia @ Awesome Book Assessment || LITHW 16

Hello bookworms! This is Jillian, and I am really grateful to have with me here today a close blogging buddy whom I've known for quite some time now. Alicia does an online editing service over at her blog, and she's here today to share with you all information on copy-editing.

Hello everyone! First of all, thanks so much to Jillie and Mishma for having me on their blog.
I’m Alicia, and I blog over at Awesome Book Assessment. I also have a craft website and editing services offered through my blog. The latter is what I’ll be talking about today. So without further ado, here’s some advice on freelance editing!

#1: Do your research
Find others who are doing what you want to do and see how they do it. Look at several websites. Notice patterns and commonalities. Ask them questions; ask how they got started, what works for them, what mistakes they made that you can learn from, etc. You can model your business after theirs, but you should always strive to be unique in some way. Remember, they can be your friends, but they’re also your competition, and they probably have more experience than you do.

Bonus tip: You’ll want to build experience fast. So every small project that you do, you should list on your website. Most authors will be looking for people that are at least a little bit experienced and established. Not many will chance a newbie.

#2: Start with a blog or website
You have to have a way for people to find out about your services, right? Whether they’re stumbling across your services on the web or learning more information, you should have one place that says it all. That way you can refer people to your website for more details.

#3: Clearly detail what you offer
Your website should say what kind of services you provide and what you are willing/not willing to edit. You can do copyediting, content editing, beta reading, etc. You can choose what sorts of works you’ll edit, from books to poetry to articles and essays. You can choose fiction or nonfiction, and if fiction, which genres you prefer. This will help immensely for people stumbling across your services on the web. They will immediately be able to tell whether their work would be a good fit for your services, and that may save time and a lot of fruitless communication.

#4: Tell potential clients what they can expect from you
You should clearly lay out your process. Tell them exactly what’s going to happen at each stage in the process. Provide a plan for any variation; for instance, if their work is X pages long, it will take Y days longer or Z more read-throughs. Definitely provide as much pricing information as you can—most people do it per word, but some do it per page. Let them know that you can provide an exact quote after they give you more details, as the price can depend on a number of factors. Check out my page for examples. You should start out with a competitively low price, as you don’t have as much experience as others might and you want to reflect that while also giving people an incentive to try you out.

Bonus tip: Definitely remember to increase your pricing as you gain experience. After maybe 2 projects, you should increase it by a small amount. For example, start off at maybe $.001 per word and then increase to $.002 after two projects. It may not seem like much, but it can make a huge difference when you do the math. Do not worry that your current clients will leave you after a price increase. They understand, and if they are sticking with you over other editors, they will stick with you despite the price increase. Once you’ve established regulars, you are their editor. You are the one. Generally people stick with one editor unless they can afford more, and you’ll probably be getting a lot of indie authors, at least at first. And you can also offer discounts for customer loyalty. That’s always nice.

#5: Provide a list of works you’ve edited
No matter how big or small, you need to have a list. It will show off your experience. Along with this, you should try getting as many testimonials as possible from authors. This is immensely helpful. This might convince people to choose you over other editors—reading why other authors have chosen you. Also, potential clients may note the status of the authors you’ve worked with and that may affect their decision. If you’ve edited mostly indie works, published on Amazon, then that might be looked at differently from a list containing well-known best-selling authors. But truly, I don’t think it matters that much. And you shouldn’t worry if you get only indie authors. Work is work, experience is experience, and the more you get, the higher up you will move in the editing world. (:

Note: I am not trying to bash indie authors in any way. On my blog I have worked with mostly indie authors and some of them have written truly fantastic works. I am simply pointing out that they are much more common and perhaps not as well-known as others.

#6: Offer a contract
This is a must. It looks professional on your part. It is professional. You can look at examples online, or contact editors (myself included) for templates. If the author wants a contract, fill it out with the relevant information, sign it (digitally or handwritten), and send it to them to sign. This will state that you will finish the work by X date and they will pay you Y amount for it. This protects both of you legally. Most authors will opt to have a contract. Be prepared with one in case they ask. (I wasn’t the very first time and I had to quickly draw one up.)

#7: Develop a thick skin
As for the actual editing process—it doesn’t matter if you know more about grammar than the author, or if you believe your style guide is the ultimate and final word on any rules. You’re still going to disagree with the author about certain things, and they will want to keep it their way. You can protest all you want and throw as many sources at them as you can find, but in the end, it really is up to the author whether they want to accept your edit or not. That’s why I propose most of my edits as suggestions. Sometimes I give options. I say “this should be rephrased” and I offer a few ideas, but I leave it up to the author which one will be used. This works quite well. Some things are not worth making a big stink about. Sure, you may be worried that someone will read the final version and notice something the author decided to leave in and you will be blamed, but this is really not the case. Most people blame the author for mistakes—often not even thinking of the editor. And in this case they would be right.

#8: Get to know your client’s style
If you work with a particular author for a long time, you will soon notice that they have their own style and you may be correcting the same things over and over again. Sometimes they will improve and try to correct these things themselves, but sometimes they will forget. It helps to develop a list of things to look for in case you yourself forget. It will also allow you to make corrections without changing the author’s style or voice.

#9: Get your work done on time
Don’t procrastinate! It may be freelance, but that does not mean it isn’t serious work. You are still on a deadline, and you are still getting paid. I tend to be a bit lazy about this because I haven’t had exact deadlines yet, so I leave things for last-minute, and then I’m rushing to get 150 pages edited in two weeks. It’s quite stressful trying to do 20 pages in a day! It seems like nothing if you’re just reading it, but if you’re editing, 20 pages can (and will) take hours, no matter how good or bad the writing is. Please don’t do this. Get started right away to meet that deadline! (Even if you don’t have an exact one!)

#10: Become very familiar with a specific style
I believe that most copyeditors these days use Chicago style. I have a copy of the 16th (latest) edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and it is my editing bible. I have read some sections just for fun (I love grammar) but I definitely use it as a resource if I come across something in a project that I’m not sure about. Sure, you can look it up on Google, but you will likely receive conflicting answers. You need a definite source.

#11: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Whether it’s a question about starting an editing business, protocol in a specific instance, or whether this grammar rule applies here, please ask others for help. Ask people with experience. Ask many people to get as many opinions as possible. We editors are a community, just like the book blogging community, and we love what we do. We stick together.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope this post has been super helpful and perhaps inspiring to anyone bookish looking to start a business. Please contact me with any questions. Being a freelance editor is a fantastic job—you can set your own hours, read books all day for, utilize grammar rules, and it pays quite well depending on your experience level. The only real drawback is that if you’re just starting out, the work isn’t regular. It’s best as a side job or money-making hobby until you become more established.

Massive thanks to Alicia for an amazing post.

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