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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
Tag 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 received a thought-provoking comment from a fellow freelance editorial professional who has been working alongside me on a project I’ve been managing. The projects I manage are typically very large (hundreds of thousands or even millions of words), and there are inevitably hiccups that arise and have to be resolved. So I found it interesting when the other editor commented that I am more understanding than some other project managers about these kinds of hiccups.
My first reaction, I’ll admit, was an irrational sense of worry: Am I a soft touch? Am I checking editors’ work thoroughly enough? Am I setting high enough standards?
It’s always good to self-evaluate when such questions arise, and there will always be things I can learn about my management of other editors’ work. However, a short bout of reflection and a thorough check of the text re-confirmed that I set high standards and ensure they are met.… 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 >>
The basics of proofreading are easy, right? You read through the text and mark errors to be corrected. Simple. But of course, as any competent proofreader at any level of experience knows, that’s not the whole story. A proofreader has to carry out numerous tasks to do with technical aspects, style and sense – not just spot where a crucial name is misspelled. As a result, a great deal of finesse is needed to pull off a truly professional proofreading job.
During nearly 12 years in publishing, both in-house and freelance, I’ve seen and done a lot of proofreading. As well as proofreading for other project managers, I manage upwards of 5 million words per year as a project manager of academic encyclopedias and books. Most of those words have to be proofread, so I spend a lot of my time briefing proofreaders, answering their questions, and checking and collating their corrections.… 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.