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You just never know . . .

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but the-freelance-editor is once again located in Raleigh, North Carolina!  No, I never thought I would be back, either (I never even thought I would leave Orlando), but when a good opportunity knocked I could not resist the temptation.

The whirlwind that brought me back began shortly before Thanksgiving last year, after finding out that an editorial position had opened up at the Museum of History. This was not the same position I vacated roughly thirteen years ago, when I left to help care for aging relatives outside and around Orlando, but it was a comparable position—working primarily with the museum’s events and programs staff, its membership and fund-raising arms, and its Web presence.

After lots of encouragement (and just a little pause), I applied for the position, and a week before Christmas, I was driving to Raleigh, not just for an interview but also to revisit the setting and its current players. In what I gather is a customary feeling, I did not feel I had interviewed well; however, I had been able to see how the museum and the city had changed and to catch up with a friend or two. Surprisingly, I did get news&#0151and just a few days later: I had made the short list and the decision would be contingent largely on the comments of references. While I took that as a promising omen, I was beginning to wonder what those references had said as Christmas week . . .  then New Years week . . .  then another week dragged by. But the call—the text, actually—did come: “How many days would you need to get here?”

I’m not sure they expected me so quickly, but I booked a hotel room for the following week and drove back to start the next Tuesday, January 15!

What this means to my existing and future clients is that I’ll be more in tune with the editorial world, again. While I will be working as a full-time editor at the museum, I will no longer have to change gears from accounting during the day to editing at night; I’ll be editor-oriented at all times. And, while I’ll be getting back into the swing of things for a few months, I do plan to get back to you—slowly at first, by working with bloggers and business clients, I suspect; then, graduating back to lengthier, more in-depth projects.

Thanks for all the help, all the support, and all the patience during my transition. I’m as anxious to get back to my passion as all of you!

Hoping you’re finding yours, too,

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
e-mail: editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)

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The top ten mistakes authors make, new or not!: from getting-published.com

Off the bat, let me warn you that I do not endorse the Getting-Published.com Web site, or the related BooksToBelieveIn.com Web site, or any of the products and services mentioned there because I do not know anything about them; however, I present their list of “The top 10 mistakes new authors make and how to avoid them” as one of the most thoughtful, in-one-place lists of common author mistakes I’ve come across in recent times. Below are the ten points of Getting-Published.com’s list (with some needed editorial adjustments on my part), along with some minimal commentary of my own; for their complete discussions, please visit their site.

     1. Placing a “forward” in your book  . . .  the truth is, few books should even have a foreward!  (And, be careful with the title on that “acknowledgments” page, too!)

     2. Using a “spell checker” to substitute for professional editing  . . .  I don’t need to go any farther in this discussion, do I?

     3. Falling victim to predatory editors, designers, publishers, and agents  . . .  Web sites do exist to help you weed through the greedy, villainous, untrained, unscrupulous, ungrateful b$#@%ds that give us all a bad name.

     4. Forgetting that your book’s title and subtitle are the most important pieces of sales copy your book has!  . . .  Seconded!  And, when your editor suggests that you might want to consider options, please, do consider them!

     5. Forgetting to apply the “Who cares?” test to every sentence of your content!  . . .  ’Nuf said on that one!

     6. Being ambiguous or unclear  . . .  The authors of the list discuss this so well that I won’t even bother trying to restate it:

This is one of the main reasons that authors can not edit their own books. Ambiguity creeps in because they are too close to their own work. . . . The author can see it very visually, because they are writing down what they see in their imagination, but it just doesn’t always get communicated well in the text.  [all errors in original blog text]

     7. Being inconsistent and arrogant  . . .  In fictional works, I’ve found that the major issue is inconsistency; in nonfiction works, it’s more often arrogance—as explained at the blog.

     8. Placing the wrong information in jacket copy and other promotions  . . .  The blog provides a good, informative discussion of this point, too.

     9. Mismanaging schedules and sequencing of your project  . . .  In addition to the blog’s issues with sequencing, I more often find that authors have trouble fitting editorial assistance into their project’s schedule. Editors should be involved in a project as early as possible so that a rapport can be established during substantive reviews, copyedits, and proofs. Nonfiction authors also need to allow time for research and fact-checking. And, if artwork is involved, additional time needs to be included for researching provenance and securing rights.

     10. Allowing “fear storms” to destroy your confidence  . . .  Yet another reason to form a publication team instead of venturing out on your own.  Run with your idea—write, write, write. But, then, rely on a good team for advice. A good team will not try to take away your authorial privilege; rather, its members will complement and support you and provide professional assistance—and constructive suggestions, not destructive criticisms.

Remember to visit the original blog post at http://getting-published.com/toptenmistakes.php for complete discussions and to thank them for putting together such a good list.

Excellent work, guys,

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
phone: 407-495-4801 (temporary)
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)

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Categories: Editing, Writing

“Ten ways to save the publishing industry”: from the Guardian

For several days, now, I’ve been watching an article/commentary that appeared in the online version of the Manchester Guardian, “Ten ways to save the publishing industry,” by experienced publisher Colin Robinson.  The article has drawn quite a bit of controversial and insightful conversation on what he believes needs to be done to create a healthier publishing industry.

I’m happy to say that my chief concern for the publishing industry turns up third on his list. While Robinson’s new publishing model

dispenses with a variety of traditional functions . . . other tasks such as editing and design take on additional importance. Ensuring that books are readable and attractive is a vital way for publishers to stay afloat in an ocean of self-published titles.

I would like to point out that I don’t think the jab at self-published titles is necessarily warranted; as I’ve noted before, small presses have fought for years to improve their reputation on the editorial side . . . just as, apparently, some of the major houses have lost sight of what elements make up a quality product.

While other discussions related to the editorial function and the reader’s experience turn up throughout Robinson’s piece, I want to look at the comment string that has developed, too—there, I found two comments that were overwhelmingly relevant to my concern for the editorial industry.

One was made by “Jeniche” (note that Jeniche’s use of the term “gatekeeper” references a statement by Jeff Bezos, chair and CEO of amazon.com, that implied many of the long-time roles of publishers might be obsolete):

If publishers wish to keep gate-keeper status they really need to start employing people who know what they are doing. People have turned to self publishing in part because they are pissed off by the hypocrisy of gatekeepers. The [gatekeepers] bang on about the need for quality writing, good editing, blah blah blah and then fall over themselves to sign up the most atrocious garbage with inflated advances. Throw out the middle management and sons and daughters of wealthy chums who work as interns and start employing people with a good balance of life experience and literary expertise.

The second relevant comment was written by manyeyedhydra and begins with an excellent question. Her answer, in fact, was the central guiding principle in a publishing entity I ventured into a few years ago:

What is a publisher’s chief asset – it’s their writers.  A writer no longer needs a publisher, but publishers cannot exist without writers. Publishers need to brand this thought right down into their DNA. The world has changed. They need to think about what they can offer writers that is better than the writer going it alone. They need to unearth the best writers and provide the necessary polish to make their works considerably better than their peers. . . . They need to be the ones putting these writers forward right at the start and getting it right.

I couldn’t have said it better myself; so, I won’t!  Take a look at the article and its comments and let me know what strikes  you  as important . . .

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
phone: 407-495-4801 (temporary)
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)

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Three years later . . .

It’s difficult to believe that nearly three years have passed since my “landmark” post (aka, rant), “Reality Bites”, about having to find employment outside the editorial services business.  Chief among my explanatory rants were these two reasons:

[1.]  Just as people have come to think they can put together a brochure, a Web site, or a newsletter without the need of a trained, professional designer, now the presumption is that they can complete the task by clicking on the spell-check button and eliminate the need for an editor.

[2.]  A sad tangent of this phenomenon is that a majority of readers no longer even expect properly edited copy. They take in written text, mistakes and all, viewing it without acknowledging or analyzing what message is conveyed or how the message is conveyed.

That second reason was a tangent of what I saw as an impending scenario for the demise of the publishing industry; little did I know how quickly that demise would hit a major—by many standards—publishing house: Signet, an imprint of New American Library.

Self-Publishing is no excuse; neither is e-publishing

A few months ago, I was enticed to start reading a series of vampire novels because several of the folks I work with on my current assignment were raving about them. In particular, they spoke of the intricately interwoven story lines that connected each novel, and its characters and relationships, with the others. The premise of the series also sounded interesting. So, I borrowed the first volume and was poised to join in their excited, almost daily, discussions.

Now, while I haven’t been able to validate the information, the earlier volumes in the series were allegedly self-published and may have been initially released only in electronic form. For the record, I have no issue with either form of publishing; in fact, several of the authors I have worked with over the years chose to self-publish their works, primarily in electronic form, for a variety of reasons. My only caveat with either has always been that authors take enough pride in their work to continue following some semblance of the route to traditional publication, especially by not skipping over or cheating at the reviewing and editing and revising steps of the process.

Sadly, this book suffered greatly from what appears to have been a total disregard for those steps!  I struggled to continue reading past the first few chapters . . . and I only forced myself to finish the book because my coworkers (accountants, by training and trade) would not stop encouraging me to keep reading.  “It gets better,” they told me.  They just could not comprehend my irritation over the distractions that were keeping me from enjoying the magic of the book.

Indeed, the story line  might  have been as intricate and well written as they thought it was.  But, I couldn’t even notice the story line because of the grammatical errors and editorial blunders—and, believe me, this book had practically all of them!  And, even if the story had been originally self-published and even if the advice of an editor had been side-stepped at that time (still a major mistake, in my opinion), the version I was reading had been commercially published by a division of the Penguin Group.

Too many errors to read around!

In no particular order, here are the distractions that drew my attention away from the author’s talents (as well as any interest in buying future books written by her or sold by Signet): comma splices, illogical arguments, misplaced modifiers, bad paragraph breaks, missing words, misused words, sentence fragments and broken clauses, out-of-place “cutesy” words and not-very-well-known slang (including abbreviations), and even misspelled words!  I would dare to say, you could not read twenty pages without finding examples of each!  Oh; and, I forgot to mention that a question mark is seldom used at the end of an obvious question.

A few other bits of information that feed the fear for editorial quality in my mind: (1) more than one title in this series has appeared on The New York Times bestseller list; (2) the author has won numerous other awards and is immensely popular among her fans; and (3) not one review or mention of her books or one interview even mentions the problems above . . . as if they don’t exist!  One somewhat encouraging side note is that, as popular as the author and her different series are, none have been reviewed in the The Times—my hope is that this is because the editorial review board there feels that the reader’s experience suffers because of the book’s sloppiness.

Regardless, do I fear the end of professional editing for no reason?  I can only hope not—for my sake and yours—but at this point, that is only a hope!

Wishing you better experiences,

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
phone: 407-495-4801 (temporary)
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)

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Reality bites!

December 25, 2009 1 comment

It’s an international phenomenon that I’ve done my best to ignore—for a couple of years. But, I am finally forced to face reality: The world of professional editing is in a state of transition. And, I can easily identify three causes for this phenomenon.

The first cause is a continuation of the desktop publishing transition that began in the late 1980s. Only at that time, the so-called desktop publishers (who believed themselves to be “designers,” even though they seldom knew anything about publication design, graphic design, or instructional design, by the way) still acknowledged that they needed editors. Today’s desktop publishers—indeed, I can dare say all publishers—do not see the importance of calculating proper word choice, creating a logical arrangement for the flow of ideas, applying rules of consistency, or adhering to traditional grammatical constructions; nor do they even acknowledge the many other minor and major flaws that a trained, professional editor strives to identify and correct. Read practically any magazine or newspaper; visit nearly any Web site; scan almost any book—and I bet you’ll find an error of some sort.

Just as people have come to think they can put together a brochure, a Web site, or a newsletter without the need of a trained, professional designer, now the presumption is that they can complete the task by clicking on the spell-check button and eliminate the need for an editor.

The second cause is related to the recent demise of the publishing industry. Book publishers started this trend nearly a decade ago with the closing of imprints and the eventual merging of entire houses. But more recently, magazines and newspapers have been forced to lay off whole departments, expand their Web presences, and in several cases cease print production. These closures have led to a glut of editors who, granted, know their specialized aspects of the publication world but who are not trained or experienced in seeing, analyzing, deconstructing, and re-stitching the proverbial big picture, the whole scope of a project.

A sad tangent of this phenomenon is that a majority of readers no longer even expect properly edited copy. They take in written text, mistakes and all, viewing it without acknowledging or analyzing what message is conveyed or how the message is conveyed.

The third cause is another sad facet of the current world economy. Every person (at least some days, it seems like every person) who is out of a job and has a computer at home thinks he or she can edit. After all, these folks were “pretty good at spelling” in grade school; they got straight A’s in high school English; they had a dissertation published. These amateurs are now marketing themselves as “editors”—and, while I’ll admit that some might be able to do a passing job, they will never equal a trained professional who has read histories of the English language, who has analyzed word etymologies, who has studied the Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook or the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and who can organize intellectual jargon or unorganized thought into understandable strings of words and textual images.

Today’s writers have unfortunately not learned to appreciate the value of a good editor. Yes, I still believe anyone can write, but no one’s writing is automatically readable, unquestionably logical, inherently grammatical, or necessarily even clear—and making it so is not a writer’s job. A writer’s job is to write; worrying about the technicalities is just another distraction to his or her creativity.

Other causes underly the problems of today’s professional editors, but these are the three that are forcing me to wander from my passion for the time being. I ignored the initial exodus from American clients that I saw in the fall of 2007; I could do so because I still had international clients (who were primarily based in Australia and Europe) to keep me busy. However, when those clients—and, some of those relationships went back many, many years—fell away for lower bids, I had to think about the writing on the wall. I still managed to ignore the inevitable until just a couple of weeks ago . . . until I was forced to take on a full-time position in an unrelated field, because it’s all I could find to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.

If writers don’t want my help to make their work the best it can be and if readers don’t demand quality material, what’s left for me to do?

Am I bitter? Well, okay, yes—maybe a little. But for the most part, I’m disappointed that I won’t be practicing the profession I’ve trained for and practiced in for more than thirty years; and I’m saddened that I’ll not be able “to help writers say what they want to say to the audience they want to reach” (that’s been my slogan for several years, in case you don’t know me) or to protect the readers that make up those audiences from having to stumble over confusing sections of unedited text. On the other hand, as the eternal optimist, I’m also expectant, because I know I’ll be back when the dust settles and the economy improves and respect for the English language returns.

Until then, don’t rely entirely on your word processor’s spelling checker and be wary of misleading, inexperienced “editors”—they may be cheap, but you might get exactly what you pay for!

Stephen Evans,
www.the-freelance-editor.com

Now scheduling for late spring . . . and . . . summer?

Over the past few months, I have prepared sample edits and estimates for projects all around the globe—including my first request from Alaska! As those materials were received, some of the writers wrote back to let me know they were not quite ready to begin the editorial process. A few others replied that they needed to save up money! Others never wrote back, so I’m not sure what their plans are.

Regardless, believe it or not, I am currently starting to schedule work for the middle and end of May and early to mid June (and thereafter, of course). So, if any of you are interested in blocking some time, whether I’ve already done a sample and prepared an estimate or not, I would invite you to let me know so we can talk about tentative plans. If you know for sure that you want to block out a period on my schedule, all I need is a small deposit (deposits are transferable to other dates or projects, but not refundable)—that way, the time will be yours to aim for.

I also have some openings in the writing retreat. For more information, check out

> > http://www.the-freelance-editor.com/WritingRetreat.htm or
> > http://www.Orlando-MulfordAve.com

I hope all your winters passed easily and that spring is somewhere in the air; and, I look forward to hearing back about the variety of projects you have underway. Take care,

Stephen Evans,
the-freelance-editor.com

Categories: Editing, Writing

A new service for clients of the-freelance-editor

As of this morning, the-freelance-editor was approved for live consultations through the Live Person “world of experts.” As of this afternoon, links have been added from each of the contact pages on the network sites that have been updated:

A link from the contact page of our primary site, the-freelance-editor.com, is also available. And, one will be added to the sidebar of this blog eventually. Here are samples of the links:

A separate button is also used in some cases:

This new service will add another way for clients, old and new, to reach the-freelance-editor at almost any time. If I’m online at my desk, I’ll be on call—and, since I work an average of fourteen hours a day, you should be able to catch me! I’ll be available to answer questions and address concerns about

  • grammar and wording,
  • organization and structural issues,
  • writer’s block,
  • fact-checking and research,
  • blogging,
  • Web site arrangement and Web page development,
  • business and professional publications,
  • ghostwriting projects,
  • personal histories, family histories, and memoirs, and
  • museum-related issues.

I would invite you to try out the service, but a small charge is involved. Still, if you have the need, you now know where to find me.

See you there,

Stephen Evans,
the-freelance-editor.com