Meeting Notes – April 21, 2018

Attendance

  • Brian Buckley (Coordinator, speaker)
  • Judy Brody (member)
  • Kendra Brown (member)
  • Rebecca Faith (member)
  • Andra Paitz (member)
  • Julia Phelps (member)
  • Lori Green (guest)

Time

1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Format

In person. WSBA conference room, 403 West Main Street, Westerville, Ohio 43081.

Opening comments

Introductions

  • Brian — Copyeditor in Toledo area, has been freelancing about three years now.
  • Kendra — Owns her own publishing services company, has a background in higher-education content developing. Moving more into copyediting, graphic design, other content-related services.
  • Andra — Has been copyediting for a few years. Says she is “really bad at marketing.” (Laughter.)
  • Lori — Recently returned to Ohio, was in fundraising, started getting into proofreading fundraising materials. Wants to learn more about what members of the group do.
  • Rebecca — Has been freelancing for about eight years, mostly in technical editing. Branching out into other areas too.
  • Julia — Does copyediting, mostly science and engineering stuff, including some journals. Looking for ideas on how to branch out from copyediting to other areas.
  • Judy — Does mostly copyright and permissions. Has been doing it for over twenty years. A complicated subject. Will do any subject area. Does a lot of college textbooks.

Brief outline of the EFA as an organization, EFA membership benefits, and Ohio chapter goals.

Brian is excited to have so many people at the meeting.

Brian’s talk

The talk is called “Advice to My Younger Self: Six Lessons from the First Three Years of Freelancing.” Six things I’ve learned from my career so far. This is how it’s been for me — not all of these will be true for everyone.

1. Find a strategy.

I’ve found that I am a generalist. (Specialize, find niche, vs. doing everything.) I drifted into being a generalist at first, taking whatever work I could find. It’s now a deliberate strategy.

I’ve had better luck working with services companies (vs. indie authors or publishers).

2. Develop your tactics.

Tracking a lot more details. I now always track hours worked, not just when working by the hour. Track word count, calculate words/hour rate. Places I’ve applied. Helps me do estimates.

Hofstadter’s Law — “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” I’ve found this to be true.

Also, assume that the author (and everyone in the publishing process) will see any/all comments you make — don’t assume they will go only to their intended audience (e.g., the publisher).

3. Branching out works better than following up.

Periodically checking in or following up with existing clients is good, and doesn’t take much time. But I’ve had surprisingly little luck getting any new work that way. Branching out — seeking entirely new clients, even via “cold” emails — has been surprisingly successful.

4. Having the right tools really matters.

My professional website, which is just a few static web pages on a free host, has helped me more than I expected, mostly when talking with new clients.

Some major style guides are still print-only. Can’t assume everything is online.

Get a second monitor!

Software like PerfectIt, print resources like Garner’s.

Using (for example) AP Style as a second opinion on Chicago.

Taking EFA classes is worth it (more so than others I’ve taken). No bad EFA classes yet.

Question: What were the not-great classes? Answer: For me personally, Poynter U has not been great. Example: the guide to AP Style was for an out-of-date version of the guide.

5. Perfection is not required.

Especially at the beginning, I didn’t know how much was expected. Fortunately, it turns out you don’t need encyclopedic knowledge of everything.

If you’re struggling on one thing for more than a minute, mark it and move on.

Not every sentence has to be perfect. Don’t have to smooth out all awkwardness.

On the other hand, some clients actually do expect perfection (or something close), and that’s okay too. Have to figure out what each new client really expects.

Also — I am a perfectionist, and I’ve accepted that I can only loosen up so much. I’m slow (thorough?) and I account for that in estimates.

6. This is a really good job.

People are friendly. My clients have always paid me (sooner or later). Only minimal problems with scammers.

Questions/thoughts?

Follow-up discussion

Note: For discussions, I generally do not try to keep track of who says what.

Comment: I sometimes have to remind myself, do not care more about their book than they do. “This is not your book. This is not your book.”

  • Can be a problem if your name is on the book, because then it reflects poorly on you.
  • If your name is attached to a book that ends up being bad, what’s the solution there? (No real answer.)
  • If you’re editing a book and the author does something crazy or bizarre, how do you respond? Could frame it as an issue of following the industry standard, and/or following a style guide. Or as an issue of enticing an agent or publisher.

Comment: As one of my strategies, I would read self-published books that I’d want to read anyway, note a few typos, then email author and ask: Do you want to know about typos? Usually authors say yes, so I’ll send a few that I noticed, then offer my services. Results? Getting a lot of positive responses but not many actual sales, may need to change tactics.

  • Suggestion for her: Consider looking at Facebook writers’ groups (especially for fiction).

Comment: I talked to someone who said they got interest because they blogged. But of course blogging takes a lot of time. Does anyone else blog? (Some, but not a whole lot.)

Question: I’m thinking of starting to edit journal articles, but I’m new to that area. How do you get started?

  • A background in the sciences helps. If you don’t have a technical background, consider getting into journals in the humanities (professional/society journals). Don’t necessarily need to be a teacher or researcher.
  • What style do journals use? Journals are mostly “Chicago plus.”

Question: Has anyone done any indexing? (No, not really.)

  • But courses/tools/groups are out there, would be very possible.
  • A niche, but a big niche. And veterans in indexing are supportive of new people.
  • Definitely more complicated than it might seem. Has a perfectionist appeal, a relatively uncommon (valuable) skill.
  • You’ll get materials late and have to do it really fast, because it’s at the end of the publishing process.

Question for Brian: You mentioned tracking your own statistics. What all do you track? Any tools/software?

  • I just use Excel, put in start & end times. I track times that I work, totals & subtotals of hours, effective hourly rate, word count, track what the tasks are (e.g., first pass of chapter 3).
  • For bigger books, I can break down percentages of what I spend time on — how long will first pass take (for example)?

Question: Can you trust the word count in MS Word? (Everyone pretty much trusts it, but we haven’t tested it a lot.)

Question: Is there a good way to get the word count on PDFs?

  • Easier with Acrobat Pro.
  • Any good way to search a PDF effectively — em vs. en dashes, hyphens, quotes vs. smart quotes, special characters, etc.? (Not really, aside from copy/paste into MS Word.)

Question: Is there any good reference-checking software (e.g., for academic papers)?

  • Answer: I bought something a year and a half ago, works great, but the creators stopped updating it. You can’t buy it anymore. Surprising nobody else has rushed in to fill that void.

Question: Do you use macros?

  • In the past, Lori P. has recommended the Paul Beverley suite.
  • Comment: I tried them a bit but don’t use them regularly yet.
  • What are they typically used for? Lots of things. Searching for proper names, variant spellings.
  • There’s also Editor’s Toolkit, loved that. Macros, but it has a front end, so you don’t need to understand macros.

PerfectIt covers a lot of the things that macros do. (It’s PC-only right now, although there are workarounds for Mac users.) A lot of false positives, but worth it. Can work with a style guide too — both built-in stuff and customized.

  • PerfectIt is a one-time fee if you buy it. There’s also a free trial. Highly recommended.

Chapter news

New members in the last six months:

  • Deanna Wendel (Toledo area)
  • Jamie Broughton (Dayton area)
  • Maureen Johnson (Cleveland area)
  • Ben Riggs (Dayton area)
  • Miranda Miller (Columbus area)

Total membership is now 30. A breakdown by geographical region is available on the website, in the member directory.

Question: Have we tried combining events like this meeting with other states? Talking to other coordinators? A little, not too much. And there’s often discussion of going the opposite direction — of splitting Ohio up into smaller chapters for, say, north and south.

About teleconferencing — attendance isn’t any higher for virtual meetings, and actually seems to be lower. Everyone likes in-person meetings better, but even so, it’s a bit surprising.

End of term as Coordinator

Brian is finishing as coordinator — Andra says she may be interested in taking the role, but not 100% sure yet.

Question to Brian: Do you have trouble finding speakers?

  • Yes. Although I haven’t tried using the budget to pay speakers, which would probably help.

We should talk about what kinds of topics we’d like to hear about.

Question: Have we done any kind of chapter survey on topics or whatever?

  • We did some at the beginning. Asked about when/where to have meetings, etc., not so much anymore. Not sure I ever asked about who/what speaker to have.

Tax issues might be an interesting topic for speaker/discussion. Especially at end of year, especially with new tax laws. Also: Something on marketing, especially for freelance/editorial work. Ghostwriting might be interesting too.

Brian: Thanks to everyone for making the Coordinator job easier and more enjoyable!

General discussion

Some discussion about the “new” forums, Vanilla Forums, which have been available for a while now. As far as anyone knows, not much is new there — they aren’t widely used yet.

Attendees exchanged business cards.

Lots of discussion on various other topics, including:

  • 508 accessibility, and offering services related to that
  • Beta reading vs. heavier editing, vs. an even lighter form of feedback called a “book check”
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