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Hazel Bird is privileged to project manage, copy-edit and proofread sometimes dizzying quantities of interesting words for clients ranging from global academic and trade publishers to government policy units to publishers of creative non-fiction. Her focus is on developing dynamic collaborations with her clients in order to help make their goals a reality. Her biggest project to date was a twelve-volume international encyclopedia with over a thousand contributors. She lives in the stunning countryside of the Wye Valley in Herefordshire, UK, and spends her free time trying to corral her ancestors into some sort of order and attempting to offset a severe doughnut preoccupation with heavy lifting.
ABOUT THE BLOG
The Wordstitch Blog brings together my experience working in publishing on both sides of the client–freelancer relationship (often simultaneously). It aims to foster great working relationships, from a belief that the best text products (of whatever kind) emerge out of genuine collaboration and excellent communication.
- Difficult feedback: should you send it and, if so, how?
- When editorial project managers expect too much
- How to use bubble charts to get a snapshot of your clients’ value to your business
- How to close an editorial project effectively
- Proofreading pitfalls: Nine tips to improve your proofreading strategy
- A day in a life of a freelance copy-editor and editorial project manager
- Plagiarism: How to spot it and what to do about it
- Monetising feedback and embracing fragility
Category Archives: Client relations
At some point (hopefully very rarely), every proofreader and copy-editor will find themselves working on a project where it seems that somebody, somewhere, at some point, dropped the ball in a big way.
As a copy-editor, you might discover that the developmental editor seems to have let through major inconsistencies and that swathes of detail are missing. Or, as a proofreader, you might find that the copy-editor appears to have fed the style guide to a passing llama or didn’t seem to heed that the order of words in a sentence is actually somewhat important.
It can be really difficult to determine the most ethical and professional way to approach a situation of this kind. On the one hand, you might feel that the issues are so bad – so systemic – that they raise serious questions about the quality of the previous work. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that you have the whole picture: there are all sorts of potential reasons a manuscript could have reached you in a poor state, and you have no way of knowing who is responsible – if, indeed, any single person is responsible.… read the rest >>
I recently read a helpful post (with handy infographic) on how to close a project over at the A Girl’s Guide to Project Management blog, run by Elizabeth Harrin. Although I get a lot out of reading project management blogs, the tips don’t always straightforwardly translate into the kind of work I do, which usually involves delivering an encyclopedia or book project for publication rather than conducting the sort of change-management process more typically associated with project management outside publishing.
However, the more I looked at Harrin’s seven steps, the more I thought of ways they fit in with closing editorial projects. Let’s take each of the steps in turn.
1 and 2 Handover to users (training and support)
Although I don’t have to train anybody in what to do next with my project deliverables (my publisher clients are, unsurprisingly, very familiar with how to print and digitally publish a book!), I do have to give some context for the files I’m handing over.… read the rest >>
Whether it’s done accidentally, unthinkingly or with malice aforethought, plagiarism is a perennial problem in publishing. Sometimes it might result from an author’s genuine ignorance of the rules and conventions surrounding the reproduction of others’ work; sometimes it might be a shortcut (for example, if an author is commissioned to write in a language other than their own and struggles to formulate their own words); and sometimes it is simply the deliberate theft of another author’s words.
Whatever the case, it is deemed ethically unacceptable and may lead to major legal and reputational damage for the plagiariser and the publisher.
Definition of plagiarism
Plagiarism is the reproduction without credit or permission of material (text or images) previously published elsewhere in such a way that the material appears to be one’s own. It applies to material of any length, even a few words, and it encompasses ideas as well as actual words.… read the rest >>
Not long ago, I met up with three old university friends who are all employed by (or have been employed by) large public-sector organisations. Their work environments (the support and demands of a corporate structure; the necessity of wearing shoes with rigid soles) couldn’t be more different from mine (the freedom to improve or damage my business unchecked by rules set by others; an office six metres from my bed). Yet I always learn things from our work-related chats, whether in the form of direct tips to apply to my business or reflections that give me an altered viewpoint on how I exist as a small business owner. I’d like to share two of those reflections with you.
Next to money, feedback is the most valuable commodity we get from our clients
Whether through direct reporting, receipt of career mentoring, performance evaluations or 360-degree reviews, my employed friends receive a vast amount more feedback on their work than I do as a self-employed person.… read the rest >>
Copy-editors and proofreaders rarely get any direct contact with or feedback from typesetters. As such, we can never quite be sure whether our markup and working practices are helpful and sufficient or whether we’re causing confusion and wasted time. Developments in technology – for example, the use of styles in Word and the use of Acrobat’s built-in markup tools – have led to further options and possibilities, with the result that there is no single ‘right’ way of marking up text.
As a project manager, I am lucky to be in the middle of this process, so I have an insight into what works (i.e., what causes a project to progress smoothly) and what doesn’t (i.e., what causes errors, delays and even additional costs).
I’m delighted, too, to be able to welcome the voices of the major India-based typesetters Aptara and SPi to this post. These typesetters handle hundreds of titles per week for many of the world’s major publishers, so they work with mark-up from huge numbers of copy-editors and proofreaders.… read the rest >>
But, however good your editorial skills, they may not be able to save you from losing a client to certain common etiquette pitfalls. I’ve collected seven of these below. These examples particularly apply to relationships with traditional project managers (PMs) or production editors. However, they can apply to relationships with business or self-publisher clients too.
Avoid these ‘sins’ to lessen your chances of irritating your client into dropping you as a supplier.
1. Bad filing
Unhelpfully named documentation can be a hindrance and gives a poor impression of your professionalism. When communicating with your PM or other members of the project team, try to pick email subjects and file names that will be helpful to everyone. For example:
- Never title an email ‘Index’, ‘Queries’, ‘Complete’, ‘Help please!’ or any other unspecific term.
In a recent post I said that copy-editors and proofreaders should always ask, ask, ask if they find their client’s instructions unclear or aren’t sure what’s wanted. In this impromptu post I’d like to expand on that a little.
When editorial project managers (PMs) write briefs, they try to make them perfect. They really do. They endeavour to make them complete, unambiguous and as concise as possible.
But the reality is that they will make mistakes. Especially with more complex, bespoke books.
I recently wrote a detailed twenty-one-page brief for the copy-editors of an encyclopaedia. I started the brief almost from scratch as I was in the midst of a major overhaul of my paperwork, and inevitably the brief contained some inconsistencies, typos and ambiguities. It would be crazy if it hadn’t; after all, the very premise we editors and proofreaders build our livelihoods on is that no human being – whether publisher, author or indeed professional copy-editor or proofreader – is capable of editing their own work with a clear eye.… read the rest >>
As the awed daughter and granddaughter of several teachers, I have long believed I would be unsuited to that most demanding of professions. Luckily, I stumbled on a career that would enable me to help people who could already write rather than attempt to teach smaller people to write in the first place. Proofreading turned into copyediting and project management, and here I am.
But, now that I’m here, I’ve realised I haven’t entirely avoided the teaching profession after all. In my previous post I said a little about how editors are natural teachers and mentors. Think about it:
- We guide and nurture others to a better expression of ideas.
- We act as mediators to help authors develop the skills they need to be recognised in the big, wide, ‘grown-up’ world of publishing.
- We are creative problem solvers whose expertise must continually evolve to meet the challenges our clients present us with and changes in the industry.
In my previous post I gave some tips for freelance editors, proofreaders and indexers on how to keep getting rehired by clients. A contact subsequently suggested a mirror article on how those clients could improve in their dealings with freelancers.
Given that client relations are a perennial bugbear of freelancers, this seemed an interesting topic to tackle. So, here are my thoughts on what editorial project managers (PMs) – including me – can do to stop their freelancers jumping ship and swimming off towards more appealing prospects, and also how PMs can support the freelance community more generally.
For brevity I’ll shape my thoughts around a traditional publishing scenario, but my aim is for these points to be relevant to all sorts of contexts in which clients send text out to freelancers for them to work their magic.
1. Look at the manuscript
The first step in project management is to actually look at the manuscript, in detail, for at least the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea.… read the rest >>