KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Editor's Stress-Reliever

The editor's stress-reliever

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Copyeditors' Knowledge Base Has Moved

Editorial professionals, this post is for you.

As part of the conversion of my business web site from HTML to PHP, the Copyeditors' Knowledge Base has moved. After you update your bookmarks, you'll want to check out all of the helpful sections within it:

    If you know of any items that should be added to the knowledge base, please e-mail me with links to information about them.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    How to Find Medical Editing Freelance Work

    As a self-employed medical editor, I'm often asked how freelancers can find medical editing work. This topic came up recently on the Freelance e-mail list (also called the Publishing Industry Freelancers list) and in a discussion within the Freelance Editing Network, a LinkedIn group. Today I'm sharing with you both my response in those discussions and the response of my colleague Susan London.

    My Advice
    First, see the Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Medical Writer; it applies to medical editors too [updated 1/13/2020].

    To develop a clientele in medical editing, you may want to contact the managing editors of various medical journals to pitch your services to them. There are plenty of places online where you can find lists of medical journals so that you can then hunt down their websites to find contact info, including these:

    • List of All Journals Cited in PubMed (download a text-only file listing information about journals indexed in PubMed and MEDLINE, to search them for journal-name abbreviations; PubMed is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that allows free access to citations and abstracts in journals in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary sciences, health care, and preclinical sciences)

    I also suggest that you consider joining the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA); it counts medical editors among its members, including me. The AMWA website has lots of excellent resources for both medical editors and medical writers. Its private e-mail list is great for networking and learning from colleagues, and members who are freelancers can purchase an entry in the website's freelance directory [updated 1/13/2020]. You can also follow AMWA on Twitter. And once you are a confirmed member of AMWA, you can join the AMWA LinkedIn group [updated 1/13/2020].

    There is a large market, for those who are persistent, in doing medical editing for researcher-authors who are non-native speakers of English and need their journal-article manuscripts polished before submission to U.S. and UK journals. See the article "Building Good Relationships with ESL Authors" from Science Editor, the publication of the Council of Science Editors (CSE).

    Susan's Advice
    In response to my post to the Freelance e-mail list, Susan posted some additional helpful information, and she gave me her permission to share it with others as long as I credited her. So here's what she posted to that list:

    What Katharine said! All great advice. I'd add just a few things.

    The Council of Science Editors also has a Job Bank open to all.

    The National Association of Science Writers (NASW) has many medical writers and editors among its ranks, a great freelance discussion list for NASW members [updated 1/13/2020], and job postings for members.

    Katharine interrupting here: And, I add, BELS—the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences—offers certification of applicants' skills as editors in the life sciences through a rigorous 3-hour examination. I have this certification, and it has made my services more desirable to some clients.

    A wonderful medical writer, Emma Hitt, sends out a list of medical writing and editing jobs weekly (the HittList), although it goes out to hundreds (maybe thousands now) of subscribers, so standing out is hard [updated 1/13/2020].

    [If you are] interested in a certain genre of medical writing or editing, [you] might want to look into organizations specific to that area, such as the Association of Health Care Journalists, mainly for reporters and feature writers.

    I'm still a big fan of cold calling, as hard as it can be. Just prepare a brief pitch, research some companies, and give them a call and be sure to get to a top person in publications. The worst that happens is they decline. In that case, always ask (1) if they know of someone else who might be looking for a medical writer or editor and (2) if you could send along a résumé for them to keep on file should their needs change.

    As with all types of freelance writing and editing, you have to get a foot in the door, [and] then things get easier.

    Your Advice?
    If you're a medical editor, what advice would you add?

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Do Freelance Editorial Professionals Keep 9-to-5 Schedules?

    One of the big attractions of self-employment is the ability to set your own work hours. The variety of schedules that freelance editorial pros keep is quite large, as shown by a discussion this week on the Copyediting-L e-mail list. What freelancers' schedules look like depends on their workload; their clients' needs; their circadian rhythms; whether they must accommodate the needs of life partners, children, aging parents, and/or pets; and the activities they're involved in outside of work.

    I'm sharing my general schedule here in hopes of helping other freelancers see the possibilities and inspiring them to share their schedules in the comments section.

    Several factors affect my schedule because they require my attention:

    • I'm married.
    • I have a 9-year-old son and a 16-year-old son.
    • I have an adult daughter who visits us, with her husband and my 4-year-old granddaughter, on some weekends.
    • My husband, a cabinetmaker, is self-employed like me. Periodically, I take time away from my work to help him with his project estimates, because I'm better at estimating time than he is, and to write up his estimates and help him with customer e-mails, because effective writing is one of my skills rather than one of his.
    • My in-laws live in the downstairs apartment within my home.
    • There are 2 dogs and 1 cat in my home.

    So here's my approximate weekday schedule:

    • ~7:30–10 a.m.: Eat breakfast in my office, while I alternate between helping my husband get the boys out the front door (if it's during the school year) and doing workday-startup tasks:
      • Read and respond to e-mails.
      • Do my Facebook rounds for the following people or groups: the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences ([BELS] I'm one of the page administrators), the Council of Science Editors ([CSE] I'm one of the admins), members of my extended family, me, and friends and colleagues.
      • Do my Twitter rounds for accounts held by the following: BELS (I'm on its Twitter team), CSE (I'm on its Twitter team), KOK Edit.
      • Create proposals and invoices for projects as necessary.
      • Review my calendar items for the day.

    • ~10 a.m.: Shower.
    • ~11 a.m.: Start editing the first project of the day.
    • ~12:30 p.m.: Eat lunch.
    • ~1 p.m.: Get back to work.
    • ~7 p.m.: Knock off work and eat dinner, unless I'm facing a dire deadline. If it's a deadline night, stop for dinner and then go back to work till ~10:30 p.m.
    • ~Throughout the day:
      • Answer client e-mails and e-mails from colleagues and mentees; spot-check profession-related e-mail lists; spot-check Facebook walls for BELS, CSE, and me; spot-check Twitter for BELS, CSE, and KOK Edit.
      • Write up project estimates for my husband's cabinetmaking business when necessary and edit his e-mails to clients.
      • Brew multiple cups of tea.
      • Pet and/or play with my dog.
      • Take breaks with my husband and my kids or go flop on the hammock under the giant old maple tree in my backyard (in warm weather).
      • Make sure that my sons are on track for chores, for music practice (for the one who plays the cello), and for homework if it's during the school year.
    I often do some work on weekends, but I don't get up for the day until about 9 or 10 a.m. I don't usually post anything to Facebook or Twitter on weekends, and I much do more hanging out with family members than on weekdays.

    Even with a work schedule that spreads widely across the day, I answer e-mails and phone calls from U.S. clients only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, to help me separate my work life from my home life. But I do make some exceptions for my authors in other nations; I sometimes answer their e-mails in the evening or early morning because of the time-zone difference.

    So, colleagues, what's your schedule like, given your lifestyle and personal and work needs?

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Building Lasting Relationships with Authors Who Are Nonnative English Speakers

    There is now a huge and lucrative market for medical copyeditors like me who can polish the language of researchers who are nonnative English speakers and who must get their reports published in US and UK English-language peer-reviewed journals.

    It takes constant work to build up and maintain a clientele in that arena. But it's worth doing, and not just for the income that we editors can earn but also for the sake of getting important research findings out there that might not become widely known without our assistance. I share my techniques for doing so in "Building Good Relationships with ESL Authors," my article in the April–June 2011 issue [2011;34(2):57–58] of Science Editor, the journal of the Council of Science Editors, of which I am a member.

    After you've read my article, please come back to the comments section of this post and share additional techniques for working with ESL authors. Let's work together to further international cooperation in the science community.


    Saturday, July 02, 2011

    All About Medical Copyediting

    I'm pleased to be featured in a blog post on the field of medical copyediting, "A Primer on Medical Copyediting." The blog (Angilee Shah's Career GPS) on which the post appears is part of ReportingOnHealth.org, a project of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

    If you're thinking of moving into medical editing, the post will fill you in on what to expect.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Etiquette and Social Media

    Social-media platforms may be somewhat new communication tools—Facebook was opened up to use by the general public in 2006, Twitter was launched in 2006, and LinkedIn was launched in 2003—but the age-old rules of etiquette still apply when you use them. Sure, be yourself, but also be kind and be polite, because (1) if you put something on the Internet, it'll be out there forever for everyone to see, and (2) your online reputation is built on the totality of what you say online. That general advice aside, here are some specific etiquette rules that I find important to follow:

    On Facebook
    • When you send a friend request to someone, personalize your request, unless you are a member of the person's immediate family or best friend, by adding a sentence or two to explain how you know them. With the wide networks we're all developing online now, sometimes people don't immediately recognize the name behind a friend request. You could find yourself locked out of connecting with an acquaintance or colleague simply because that person didn't recognize your name in your friend request.
    • Give credit where it's due. When you see something on someone else's wall and want to repost it yourself, note who made you aware of the item. Intellectual honesty is always appreciated, and it makes you look really good too.
    • Think before you comment on someone's wall post. If their post invites debate, then fine—debate all you like, as long as you're civil and don't take potshots at the original poster. If, however, the post expresses happiness because of some event, some thing, or some person, don't start debating the merits of what or who brings that person happiness. For that second type of wall post, comments should be appropriate to the post's tone and intent and should add something to it, not detract from it or dismay the original poster. After all, you "friended" the person because you admire them, not because you want to annoy, offend, or hurt them.

    On Twitter
    • Include enough information so that it's clear what you're responding to when you send an @ message (a message addressed to one person but viewable by everyone else) or a direct message (a private message addressed to one person). Not everyone sees responses to their tweets immediately after they're sent, and most people interact with more than a few people on Twitter and thus may read lots of other tweets before seeing your response, so it's not helpful to send cryptic replies.
    • If you have multiple tweets to make in a day, spread them out. Don't overwhelm your followers by flooding their Twitter timeline with loads of tweets. You can use a feed reader with scheduling capabilities (such as TweetDeck) to space your clumps of tweets into individual tweets appearing at different times of day.
    • Don't tweet others' material without credit. When someone tweets something interesting that you'd like to share with your followers, put it out there via a retweet, so that you give credit to the original poster. Nobody likes people who pretend to be the first to spot something.

    On LinkedIn
    • When you send someone an invitation to connect, include information about how you know them, even if you think they'll recognize your name. Some people have lots of colleagues and online friends and acquaintances, so if you use LinkedIn's unedited basic invitation, "I use LinkedIn to keep track of my professional network, and would like to add you," your would-be connection may not realize who you are and may ignore your request to connect. When I get an invitation that gives me no clues about how I know the person, I have to take the time to reply to the invitation to ask how that person and I know each other, which I find annoying.
    • When someone in one of your LinkedIn discussion groups provides terrific advice, thank them in a private message. A heartfelt thank-you goes a long way. The recipient will feel rewarded for their efforts and will be more likely to be helpful again, and they will think even better of you than they did before.
    • Be willing to trade favors. If one of your connections asks you to put them in contact with another of your connections, do so. Favors beget favors.

    I'm not the first person to write on social-media etiquette; I wrote this post to emphasize some etiquette points that matter most to me. Here is some additional reading on the subject:

    What are some of etiquette points that you wish people would follow on social-media platforms?

    Tuesday, May 03, 2011

    Editor's Choice: Dandelion Tea

    If you've followed my blog or Twitter stream for even just a few months, you know that I adore tea—whole-leaf or whole-flower teas, not overprocessed and chopped tea leaves in tea bags. Usually I drink Japanese, Chinese, Nepalese, or Indian teas—white, green, black, oolong, and darjeeling—but one of my seasonal favorites is dandelion tea.

    Dandelion tea has a light vegetal taste. To make it, I collect two handfuls of flowers, rinse them in cold water to make sure that they're free of miniature guests such as ants, then pour boiling water over them into my steeping pot and let everything steep for 2 minutes. (Some people like to steep the flowers for less time, maybe 1 to 1.5 minutes.) Then I decant the tea into a cup for drinking. My steeping pot produces a little more than two 6-ounce cups of tea. You can sweeten the tea with a little honey; I drink mine plain.

    Some people prefer to use the dandelion leaves instead of the flowers for making tea. If you use the greens, then you'll have some tasty steamed greens to eat afterward; they taste sort of like chicory or escarole. You can also eat the greens raw as part of a mixed-greens salad. I do that all the time because one of my favorite dishes is a salad with as many different kinds of greens in it as I can find. If you do use the greens for tea and/or eating, pick young greens. The older and larger the leaves get, the more bitter their taste.

    Other people use dandelion roots for brewing tea. Here are instructions for doing so.

    Dandelions have plenty of vitamin A (more than in carrots!), vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron, and other nutrients. Dandelions are good for promoting liver health, as a digestive aid, as an antioxidant, for reducing high cholesterol levels (a reason I drink it), for reducing blood-glucose spikes (a reason I drink it), reducing blood pressure (a reason I drink it), reducing arthritis pain, and for other things. You'll want to be aware that dandelion tea is a diuretic; in other words, it'll make you pee.

    Online and in health-food stores, you can buy dried dandelion flowers, leaves, and roots for tea, which is handy in fall and winter when dandelions aren't growing, but I like to use the free supply in my yard when it's available. I've never tried drying the overabundance of dandelions from my yard for use in fall or winter, but here are some instructions for doing so.

    Do not eat or drink dandelions in any form if you pick them from a location where chemical grass treatments and weed killers might have been used, because the dandelions will absorb these toxins: know your source. I'm comfortable harvesting dandelions from my suburban lawn because I don't use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides on it. Also, be sure to tell your health-care provider that you drink dandelion tea and how often you do so, both because of its diuretic effects and because it may change how your body handles medications that you take.

    What are your favorite medicinal herbal teas? Please tell us about them in the comments and provide links to stores that offer them.

    Information resources consulted for this post:

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    The Value of Joining Multiple Professional Associations and Subscribing to Multiple Professional E-mail Lists

    If you're an editorial professional, it's a mistake to limit your memberships to only one or two profession-related groups and to severely limit how many profession-related e-mail lists you subscribe to. And to get any benefits from joining and subscribing, you must actively participate.

    Placing too many limits on your memberships, subscriptions, and participation level doesn't help you get exposed to the bigger professional picture. In addition, you won't get exposed to as many professionals who might need your business services or who can refer you to others who do. I started out years ago as a generalist copyeditor. At this point in my career, I focus mostly on medical editing, but I'm not about to give up contact with and exposure to generalist editors and generalists in other editorial professions, because I can learn from them all and can get referrals from them all. I pay membership dues to

    I subscribe to the following e-mail lists:

    • The members-only list of the EFA
    • Two AMWA members-only lists
    • The members-only list of BELS
    • Freelance, aka Publishing Industry Freelancers

    I appear in the online professional directories maintained by the following groups and e-mail lists:

    • The EFA
    • AMWA
    • The CSE
    • BELS
    • CE-L

    I do volunteer work for the following groups:

    • The EFA
    • AMWA
    • CE-L
    • BELS

    Why do I do all of that, in addition to being visible on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? To learn, to grow professionally, to help others ... but most of all, to avoid the dreaded freelancer feast-or-famine work cycle.

    I don't have any more time available in the day than anyone else does: I have a husband, three children, one grandchild, another grandchild on the way, in-laws (one of whom has Alzheimer disease) who live in my home, a dog, friends, and non-work-related interests. I need to sleep, take time away from work, have a life. But I'm out there networking as much as I can, to keep my name and business image in front of as many eyes as possible. I haven't had to hunt for new clients in quite a long time (but I do so when I want to) because I'm always in lots of virtual places where people who hand out work can find me, learn about my skills and experience, and get a glimpse of my business personality and ethics.

    I didn't join any profession-related associations with the expectation that benefits from being a member would just start flowing my way. Doing that would be as foolish as trying to get years of good mileage and trouble-free transportation from my car without ever putting gas in the tank, changing its oil, checking the wear and tear on the tires, or doing other maintenance tasks. I joined those associations because I know that you get something out of an organization only when you put something into it. Just paying membership dues or just subscribing to an e-mail list does not give you much of value. But getting involved in organizations and e-mail lists gives back a world of benefits, including the chance to make new business contacts, to impress potential clients and subcontracting-minded colleagues with the skills you display in communicating and doing volunteer work, and to build a reputation as a seasoned pro.

    Want more choices for networking? Follow the links here for profession-related associations, e-mail discussion lists, and professional groups on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you're a member of any editorial-related associations or e-mail lists not shown there, please tell everyone about them in the comments, and be sure to include links.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Why I Went From Employee to Self-Employed Editor

    Everyone who ends up an editorial freelancer comes to self-employment from a unique path. Lots of us on the Copyediting-L e-mail list told our own tales yesterday, which inspired me to share mine here.

    I had been working for book publishers as a production editor or the equivalent since 1984. Though I loved what I was doing, I hated the office politics. And by 1994, I had spent 7 years commuting by car, train, and subway for a total of 3 hours each weekday, having to drop my daughter off with a babysitter before school at 6:30 a.m. and then to retrieve her at 7:30 p.m. after the train ride home from work. It hit me that I just could not stand the thought of doing that to my second child, who was then on the way.

    So without the cushion of savings that everyone tells would-be freelancers to have available when starting up their business, I began freelancing full time 2 weeks (yes, you read that right) after the birth of my first son in December 1994. With no savings cushion, my husband and I couldn't afford for me not to start working that soon.

    At first, my clients were all former employers. When individual contacts at those several companies later moved on to jobs with other publishers, they "took me with them," and I then had freelance projects both from former employers and from the companies those contacts moved on to. Over the years, I got comfortable contacting new-to-me publishers for projects, and then after I was well enough established, new-to-me publishers contacted me to offer projects. I also developed a reputation for being skilled at ESL (English as a second language) medical editing. (My final former employer was a medical publisher, and I honed that skill while working for that company.) I didn't actively seek out such authors; publishers and satisfied ESL authors referred more such authors to me. Now, loads of them track me down.

    Just over 16 years after that son was born, I'm doing quite well as a full-time freelance editor, and I'd never go back to employment willingly. I went on to have one more child after that one, in September 2001, and just as happened with his older brother, I was working on freelance projects full time just a couple of weeks after he was born.

    If you subscribe to Copyediting-L, watch for (or search the archives for) the subject line BIZ: Freelancing... what made you "go" there? to read other freelancers' stories. And if you're so inclined, please tell your story here, in the comments. We can all learn from one another, and it's enjoyable, reassuring, and inspiring to hear others' stories.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2011

    What's in a Contract?

    Contracts—some freelance editorial pros swear by them, and others would rather use the proverbial handshake. And because freelancers are individuals, the contracts created by those who use them can take many different forms.

    All of my editing projects are with individual authors, medical-specialty societies that produce journals, and book publishers. No multiyear projects with fees in the 6- or 7-digit range. Freelancers who work on the latter type of projects will want what one of my colleagues has described as "a multipart, multipage, multilawyer agreement signed in triplicate, notarized under the full moon." But those who work on much smaller projects may handle contracts in a way similar to how I do them.

    I have a formal signed-in-triplicate contract only with very large publishing houses whose lawyers require them and with individual book authors whom I'm working with for the first time.

    With my ESL (English as a second language) authors who make arrangements for me to do an English-language edit of their medical-journal articles, our e-mails back and forth constitute a contract. I lay everything out in my first response to an author's inquiry. I've been doing this for so long that I have standardized text ready to place in an e-mail; I tweak it here and there for each particular author. Then when he or she sends me all manuscript materials so that I can provide a fee estimate, I write the author back requesting that he or she agree to my fee and editing schedule by return e-mail. Ta-da—contract! I don't repeat that initial boilerplate for returning authors, though, unless it's been a couple of years since I last worked with them. I just write a short e-mail specifying fees and due dates because I figure that we have an understanding that is based on our initial contract; in this situation too, I ask the author to e-mail me back to agree to my fees and schedule.

    With repeat-client publishers and book authors, I don't create a new signed-in-triplicate contract for each new project. I do summarize in an e-mail what the project parameters are, including number of rounds of revisions, project delivery date(s), the down payment I require, my fee, due dates for the down payment and fee, acceptable forms of payment (i.e., wire transfers, direct deposit, corporate checks, bank cashier's checks—no personal checks), what happens if either I or the client decides to end the working relationship before the end of the project, and so on.

    Having a contract in place, in whatever form you use, doesn't erode trust. I believe that it fosters trust, because both parties know how the collaboration process will proceed. They both can stop worrying about outcome and start focusing on process.

    Do you use contracts? If so, what forms do they take?

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    The Name Game

    How do you address potential clients when they contact you by e-mail?

    E-mail is such an immediate medium—well, okay, less immediate than instant messaging or Twitter—that it can be easy to assume that your correspondents won't mind being addressed by their given name. I'm not a formal person, so I like being addressed by my given name, but not everyone from every culture will feel the same way. And an important part of good client care is putting the client at ease.

    Regardless of what nation my potential clients reside in, I address them however they present themselves in our initial contact, until they ask me to use a more familiar form of their name. Of course, if a potential client signs her first e-mail to me with her given name, like this

    With all good wishes,

    Marguerite Girard, MD, PhD, PsyD, JD, MPH
    Chief Intelligent Person in Europe
    Extremely Prestigious Academic Institution

    then I'll address her as Marguerite in my reply, rather than as Dr. Girard or as Chief Intelligent Person Girard. And I'll sign my reply like this

    Best wishes,

    Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, ELS
    KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984sm

    to signal that I too can be addressed by my given name.

    But because most of my international ESL (English as a second language) authors sign their initial e-mails to me like this

    With all good wishes,
    Marguerite Girard, MD, PhD, JD, MPS, PsyD
    Chief Intelligent Person in the Western Hemisphere
    Extremely Prestigious Academic Institution

    I address them formally in my reply. Why? I like to meet my clients where they are, rather than where I might want to put them. Showing respect for your clients' personal comfort goes a long way toward establishing goodwill, something that's vital when it comes time to get those clients to accept your editing of their manuscripts.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Editing Hacks, or How to Edit

    Editorial professionals usually put together web sites that focus on getting clients to use their services—to buy editing—so it's a pleasure when one of my kind does something different.

    My colleague Shane Arthur has put together Editing Hacks, a site that focuses on how to edit. I think that's pretty cool. He shows viewers the processes that an editor goes through on the job. Read the text tutorials and watch the video tutorials there and you'll learn exactly what we editors do to help make our clients' copy be its best self.

    Another facet of Shane's site that I enjoy is its editor interviews. In the four that he's posted so far, he talks with each editor about how she got into editing, why she loves doing it, and skills and traits an editor needs, and what editing tools each editor likes. I'm pleased to have been his first interviewee.

    Thanks, Shane, for lifting the curtain on the mysteries of editing.

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    When an Author Goes Ballistic

    I am pleased to present this blog's first-ever guest post. It was written by my colleague Carolyn Haley, a talented editor and author. She has some excellent advice for those rare occasions when we editors encounter authors who not only don't want to be edited but also are unprofessional in how they express their dislike of editing.

    What do you do when an author goes ballistic over your edits and returns the manuscript loaded with vicious insults and rejecting all changes?

    If that author is your private client, then you can respond as you see fit.

    If you're employed by the author's publisher, then there's probably a code of conduct mapped out for you, or a manager who can advise you on the proper response.

    If you're a freelancer hired by the publisher for this particular project, however, things aren't so simple. You've been made to look bad by people who could damage your reputation. Your weeks of careful and respectful work have been trashed, and your integrity, skill, and professionalism have been impugned. Like most folks, you'll want to storm away from the job or throttle the author!

    Instead, you must freeze in place and let the anger wash through. Vent to your friends, family, colleagues—any place safe—so that you get it out of your system before reacting.

    Next, be grateful that you're not the project coordinator, who has to deal directly with raging authors while handling irate contractors and stressed-out coworkers, under the eye of an employer who holds your livelihood in its hands. Yes, the situation could be worse!

    To chart your way out of it, just remember that your obligation is to the hiring party—the publisher—as one business to another. The publisher's business is to produce the author's book; the editor's business is to apply a toolkit of skills that will polish the book to the publisher's standards.

    Except in rare cases, the author has nothing to do with this relationship. The author, in fact, is out of the picture during the editing phase, until the manuscript is returned to him or her. At that point, the author's job is to accept or reject the changes, leaving you out of the picture until cleanup (if that's part of your job agreement). Either way, the author is not your responsibility.

    So counterattacking would be foolish and would gain nothing beyond a short sense of relief. That relief might well be paid for down the road by losing the publisher client because you went around the coordinator to make a personal stab at the author, by inflaming the author into retaliation that escalates the affair into lunacy, or simply by harming your own energy because you've sustained a negativity loop that should have been cut and cauterized by moving on.

    The coordinator is the only person you need interact with. Of course, you're probably mad at the coordinator too for passing along the author's venom without intervention. Such excuses as "Sorry, the author is a [bleep], but your work was OK, we still like you" don't cut it. The coordinator should share your offense and explain his or her position, saying something like "Yikes, this author is over the top! We think your edits are fine, but because of [ABC political or financial reason], we need you to stet as many changes as possible and only question the XYZ items so we don't all get fired or blow the publication schedule."

    That's all it takes to defuse the outrage and reaffirm that you're a team. Some generous coordinators will go a step further, vetting the changes, striking out derogatory language, having a private word with the author, and sending you the manuscript with clear instructions. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen often.

    In the absence of such support, you must initiate a boundary-defining chat with the coordinator. This chat has a two-part theme. On the professional side, convey that your priority is to serve the publisher's interests, which you believe are being compromised by the author's choices and downgrading the quality of the work to the point that it may cause embarrassment. Ask the coordinator for explicit directions on how to handle the author's responses because you find them so confusing and contradictory that you can't exercise your normal judgment. (Key concept here: Ask for help versus complaining.)

    On the personal side, state that although the barrage of insults is unacceptable, you will happily be a good sport, because you love working with the organization, and who knew such a tirade was coming? We're all in this together, etc. But if anything like it happens again, you will return the manuscript and bill them for work completed to that minute. For this job, request that your name be mentioned nowhere in the final product. Then focus on getting instructions from the coordinator. Don't consider bailing out unless the coordinator turns hostile too.

    Underneath it all, this is merely an exaggerated version of a common editing dilemma: being required to use house style that contradicts the Chicago Manual of Style or the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or other authority on what constitutes good writing and clear language. In those cases, regardless of what you think and feel, the publisher’s preference rules. The same applies here.

    So if the coordinator says, "Stet everything," then swallow your bile and stet it. If the coordinator directs otherwise, do that instead—even if asked to waste your time justifying every change to the author. Your goal is no longer to do the best job possible but to get this job off your desk ASAP and be paid for every bit of it, without closing the door to future work.

    An author tantrum is a good opportunity to prove to the publisher that you are reliable and honest and professional and flexible, all of which might bump you up a rung on their contractor list and earn you more projects. It's an opportunity to honor old words of wisdom and make lemonade out of a lemon!


    Carolyn Haley operates DocuMania, a freelance editing and writing service based in rural Vermont. She works with a diverse mix of commercial, environmental, and academic clients on their books and articles for publication, as well as teaches novice authors and editors.

    Where to find Carolyn: businessLinkedIn profilebooksblogbook reviews

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    How to Keep Your Introversion from Getting in Your Way Professionally

    The only way to bring in enough money when you're self-employed is to constantly market your services. If you're an introvert, you may find your introversion getting in the way of putting yourself out there.

    You may not believe me when I say that I'm an introvert, especially because you can find me all over the Internet—here on my blog, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and on profession-related e-mail lists. But I am indeed introverted, and I've found several ways to work with my introversion rather than against it to keep it from hampering my success as a self-employed editor:

    • Rather than using the phone, I correspond with colleagues and clients by e-mail (or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn) whenever possible. This allows me time to think through what I want to communicate and usually decreases the likelihood that I'll communicate in a foolish manner. When I'm on the phone with someone, I worry about whether I sound goofy, whether I'm remembering to say all of the things that I wanted to communicate, and whether I'm boring the other person. Baseless fears, maybe, but there they are.
    • I do work that doesn't require lots of face time. Rather than being someone who covers science meetings (like many of my medical-writer colleagues) and who therefore has to go around interviewing people in person, I'm someone who edits documents that come out of science meetings. Believe it or not, I started my career as a newspaper journalist. Despite being an excellent writer who garnered many front-page stories, I lasted only 2 years. It was emotionally exhausting!
    • I use social-media platforms to appear as the extrovert that I am not.
    • I team up with extroverts when I need to appear in public, such as at meetings of professional associations (or at parties at the homes of friends). I let them be the conversation-starters and thus take the pressure off myself to perform.
    • I don't schedule public appearances on the fly. I schedule them well in advance so that I have time to get ready mentally. It's not that we introverts hate being around people; it's just that spending extended time with others tends to tire us mentally and emotionally, so we need time to prepare ahead of time and then time to recuperate afterward.
    • I've stopped mentally bashing myself for being an introvert. I used to think that society devalued introversion in favor of extroversion. Extroverts may get a lot of attention from others, but that's because they command it, not because their way of being is better than introverts' way of being. Both extroverts and introverts are valuable parts of the human mix.

    If you're an introvert, what things do you do to help yourself?

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Sources of Tea, the Editing Fuel

    All good editing, in my opinion, is fueled by tea. (Don't believe me? Read this.) And to me, all good tea is brewed from whole tea leaves and is enjoyed without any sugar or honey. Of course, you may disagree with those points, but you'll have to agree that this is a good starter list of tea vendors. If you have favorites that aren't listed there, please provide links in the comments here, and I'll consider adding them to my list.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    How Much Does Editing Cost?

    I occasionally get inquiries from authors new to editing—or new to paying for it themselves—who want to know how much it would cost to edit their book or medical-journal article. They assume that the cost is the same for all books or for all journal articles.

    But that's like asking a mechanic how much it will cost to repair your car without letting the mechanic look at the car and figure out how much work the repair will entail and what replacement parts must be ordered. That's why I don't post rates on my business web site and don't quote fees without having a chance to assess the full manuscript. Here's how I explain it on my web site:

    Why does KOK Edit not post a fee schedule here? Every manuscript, just like every client, is different. The level of editing needed, and thus the amount of time spent editing, varies with each project. Some clients prefer to pay page rates or project fees instead of hourly rates. Therefore, fees are negotiated for each project, depending on level of editing, project parameters, and project time frame. (However, you can get an idea of the range of fees charged for editing in the publishing industry by following many of the links on this page. Also, see this blog post for a discussion of several methods for structuring editing fees.) In all fee negotiations, 1 manuscript page is defined as 250 words; physical pagination is irrelevant.

    KOK Edit's Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, ELS, cannot determine the cost of editing for a project without having the opportunity to assess the manuscript regarding subject matter, quality of writing, complexity, length, and the level of editing needed versus the level of editing desired by the client. She will also need to know how many rounds of editing are desired, what the project deadlines are, and what the manuscript’s target audience is.

    For large projects, KOK Edit may require periodic partial fee payments to be made during the editing process. Many times, a down payment of one third to one half of large project fees is required. Rush projects are accepted when possible, but they incur higher fees than nonrush jobs do.

    All fee quotes are valid for 30 days; KOK Edit reserves the right to revise a quote if you take more than 30 days to decide to go ahead with the project. If the size, scope, or nature of the project changes after a quote has been accepted, a revised fee may be negotiated.

    If you're an editorial professional, how do you handle this issue with potential clients?

    Monday, February 07, 2011

    Thank-Yous Are Good Business

    My husband, a cabinetmaker, just finished a small project to help a colleague out; he did it as a subcontractor to the colleague. A few days later, he received a check in the mail in payment for his work, and it was tucked inside a thank-you card. How cool is it to get both money and thanks at the end of a project?

    I don't subcontract out work to colleagues; instead I refer clients to them when my workload is too heavy to allow me to take on more work. So I can't use the thank-you-card idea in exactly the same way, but I'm going to find a way to work it into my business practice somehow, because I know how much those two little words, thank you, can mean to people.

    I already do the following:

    • Thank both potential and existing clients by e-mail when they ask me to bid on a project
    • Send new clients thank-you e-mails after a project is complete
    • Send new clients a KOK Edit tea/coffee mug after we've worked on our first project together, so that they'll have something tactile to remember me by
    • Send my international clients e-mails wishing them a happy holiday—or whatever other sentiment is appropriate—on holidays that are important in their respective cultures and thanking them for their continued trust in my skills
    • Send thank-you cards—and sometimes small thank-you gifts—to colleagues who refer me to clients for whom I go on to do several projects
    • Send thank-you e-mails—and sometimes small thank-you gifts—to colleagues who go out of their way to help me
    What other techniques do you use to thank clients and colleagues?

    Thursday, February 03, 2011

    Prejudice Against Editorial Professionals from India

    I'm angry.

    I'm more than tired of hearing U.S. editorial professionals put down editorial pros from other nations—I'm appalled. Currently, most of this broad-brush denigration is directed at editorial pros who live in India.

    I understand feeling financially desperate because your best publishing clients have begun offshoring work to nations with poor economies, taking financial advantage of workers there to cut business expenses. But those workers are not at fault for taking on paying work. You want to get angry? Get angry at U.S. publishers and book packagers who engage in economic exploitation in other nations. And get angry at the publishers who are cheaping out here in the United States by refusing to pay decent rates.

    But don't put down the skills of all editorial pros in India. Just as happens with any nation, including the United States, poor work, mediocre work, and excellent work come out of India. I have several editor colleagues in India who do excellent work, and I am editing the autobiography of an American author who emigrated from India years ago. These individuals' English is flawless. Also, numerous editors in India are board-certified as editors in the life sciences, as I am. Among approximately 900 certified life-science editors worldwide, 49 (more than 5%) are associated with the India-based editing company Editage and its related business unit, Cactus.

    Those of you who put down Indian editors and proofreaders are simply exhibiting prejudice. That's ugly. Just stop it.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    Choosing An Editor: What to Look for, What to Expect

    Over on Deliberate Ink, the blog of my colleague Shakirah Dawud, I've written a guest post on the subject of how to chose an editor and how to work with one.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Find Your Editorial Niche

    I am pleased to tell you that an interview that I did as part of a series on finding your niche as an editorial professional is now up as a post on The Accidental Freelancer, the blog of my mentee Cassie Armstrong. If you enjoy that post, you'll want to read the first one in the series too, in which Cassie interviewed freelance editor Laura Poole. And watch Cassie's blog for the third part of the series, in which she interviews editor Allison Parker. I admire Laura and Allison a great deal, and I think we can all learn a lot from them. If you're new to freelancing, you can learn a lot from Cassie herself too.

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    How Come You're Not Getting the Rates You Want as an Editorial Pro?

    At some point in your career as a self-employed editorial professional, you're going to compare your fees with those of your colleagues. And some of you are going to wonder why you earn so much less than they do. It just might be your clientele.

    Unfortunately, the arena that may most interest some freelance editors but that consistently pays low rates and even angles for lower rates is academic publishing. University presses historically have had little funding and thus very small budgets, which means they pay very low rates to freelancers. If academic book and journal manuscripts are your focus, then, you're going to earn very little. As the saying goes, you can't get blood from a turnip.

    There is no shame in pulling in low fees if you do it for love of the material you edit. But if money is a problem, you'll have to decide which is more important to you: working on materials that you love—but earning very little because that's what that kind of work pays—or being able to command higher fees, even if the topics that you edit aren't perhaps your first love. If you decide that you want to go where the money is, you can do either of two things:

    • Look for arenas that pay more and that don't require you to earn additional degrees or certifications, such as business-to-business materials, web-site copy, public-relations materials, books and articles published outside academia.
    • Do some research to find a potentially interesting and higher-paying niche that requires more training ... and then invest time and money in getting that training, additional degree(s), or certification.

    It's like the situation my husband, a cabinetmaker, faces: He'd love to not have to travel much and work on cabinetry only for nearby folks, but if he did, he'd go out of business for lack of funds. Most of the local folks are members of the middle class and can't and won't pay much at all for his services. So he travels a bit more to go out to Long Island's Hamptons, home to many extremely wealthy people who want all sorts of unheard-of things done with cabinetry and will pay whatever they have to to get those things. He's chosen his market, and it's not the penny-pinching middle class.

    Have you put thought into finding a higher-paying clientele?

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Sending Holiday Greeting Cards to Clients Gets Results

    Most years, I send out "Happy New Year" greeting cards by snail mail to every single one of my clients, even those I haven't edited a project for in several months. At the end of 2010, this amounted to 57 cards, enough to give my writing hand cramps. And I tucked 3 of my business cards into each envelope. In each card, I wished the recipient a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011; thanked him or her for working with me in the past; and expressed the hope that we would have a chance to work together in 2011.

    This marketing practice—one of many I engage in—always pays off.

    Already this month, several clients I haven't heard from in a while, mostly international researcher-authors who need ESL (English as a second language) editing of their medical-journal manuscripts, have e-mailed me after getting a greeting card and asked me to edit a manuscript for them. One physician-researcher from China, whose surgical techniques and research appear to be impeccable, though her English definitely is not, e-mailed me yesterday:

    Hi, Katharine.

    Yesterday, I received your best wishes—a happy new year card. I am excited very much! I have received two gifts from you, a cup* and the card. The three [business] cards of you have been sended to my friends. I inform them to e-mail you if they have papers to edit. If I have paper to edit I will e-mail you too. You are my best partner. I am successful with your help in the past time. I also appreciate you very much.

    Of course I e-mailed her right back:

    What a delightful message! Thank you so much for giving my business cards to your friends. You have given me a great gift by recommending my editing to them.

    I couldn't have wished for a better response to mailing out the cards than from that one author. From her alone, I got my business cards passed along in person to three other researcher-authors and I got three enthusiastic recommendations. Imagine how many potential clients could end up with my contact information if all 57 greeting-card recipients did the same: 171! Even if only some of them do so, that's wonderful.

    *Another of my marketing practices is to send a KOK Edit coffee/tea mug to a new client.

    After I conducted an ESL edit of the author's last research article, the journal she submitted it to accepted it for publication. That was the first time any of her research articles had been published in a U.S. medical journal, which was a prestigious accomplishment for her.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Resources for Writing and Editing Grant Proposals

    I was recently privileged to edit sections of a physician-researcher's proposal for a grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund an experiment whose findings would benefit very ill children. Because this was my first foray into the world of grant proposals, I needed help from colleagues to get up to speed. I asked for links to information resources, and wow, were they helpful! I'm sharing these resources with you here so that maybe you'll be able to spend less time hunting for resources and more time working on grant proposals.


    Courses and Online Resources
      • "Grant Writing," Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center

      Most of the resources listed here were recommended to me by members of the private Editing-Writing e-mail list of the American Medical Writers Association, the private e-mail list of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and the public Copyediting-L e-mail list. A few of them are courtesy of this blog post from medical writer and editor Stacey C. Tobin.

      A Mentee's Tale

      I'm so proud of self-employed proofreader and copyeditor Cassie Armstrong, one of my mentees! She's such a go-getter. Read her story here, at the blog of my colleague Shakirah Dawud. You can find Cassie on Twitter as @cassiemon.

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