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

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.

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