A little promo: Simply Ebooks SA

SimplyEbooksSAI’m excited to tell you about the launch of Simply Ebooks SA, the new sister company to Katy McDevitt Editorial Services. It’s an Adelaide-based ebook publishing services company for SA’s independent authors. You can read all about what we’re doing at www.simplyebookssa.com, and if you’re an indie author thinking about publishing an ebook (and maybe unsure where to start), please do get in touch. You can contact us at <publisher@simplyebookssa.com> or via the website.

Following on from what I said in my most recent post, I’m aiming to help local authors continue to build what is an increasingly vibrant publishing scene here in SA, because I think it’s important our indie writers get on the publishing ladder and join in the conversation about ebooks. I’ll certainly keep you posted about our progress here and at the Simply Ebooks SA blog in the coming months!


Editing lives: freelance update!

Katy McDevitt Editorial Services homepageTowards the end of 2012 I made a huge (for me) decision. I left my office-based editing role in the South Australian education sector to pursue a long-held dream – building my editing and publishing consultancy business into a full-time enterprise. Here’s an update about my latest steps on the freelance journey.

One of my objectives in going freelance is to work in the whole range of publishing areas that interest me – from academic and educational books and solutions, to popular business and management books and other non-fiction works, to corporate editing for the education sector and other fields. I always chose to specialise in particular areas when I was in-house, so I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with a truly diverse range of publishers and authors.

I’m also mixing it up in terms of the type of editing I do. I’ve spent the past few years honing my copy-editorial and proofreading skills – leading to IPEd accreditation in 2012 – but what you may not know about me is that before I moved to Australia I was a commissioning editor and publisher. So I like to work with authors to develop their ideas into books, just as much as I enjoy polishing a completed manuscript.

Here’s a summary of the kind of editing I’m doing now.

Copy editing

I’m whipping several manuscripts into shape at the moment, on behalf of a number of publisher and author clients. With so many new clients, I’m focusing on really getting to know each company’s preferred style and publishing process, and I’m meeting quite a few new authors along the way, which is lovely.

I’m also working on some short-term corporate editing projects. Here, the critical skills are in understanding the client’s brief and delivering a professional service to the agreed timescale and budget. It’s also a great way to get to know the local market for editing, especially here in Adelaide where there are many governmental and organisational publishers and fewer traditional publishing companies.

Development editing

I have several long-term development editing projects, which allow me to enjoy an extended engagement with materials for a year or even longer. This work draws on my publishing project management skills, too, with lots of detailed scheduling and author care.

I’m also working with some individual authors to develop and hone their draft manuscripts, and this is fascinating to do because it demands a balanced critique and a personal viewpoint as well as an understanding of the market for which an author is aiming to publish. I find this kind of editing especially rewarding because I’m able to help with an author’s personal writing goals. Working with authors was the reason I got into publishing in the first place, and it remains one of my biggest motivations.

Publishing research and analysis

Of course, before a publisher commits time, energy, and resources to developing a new publishing program, list, or title, they want to figure out its commercial potential. So, they need high-quality publishing market research and analysis. This was a core part of my work as an in-house publisher, and it’s something I understand and like to do – sourcing hard numbers and other information about a market, finding out about competing titles, predicting trends, and making publishing recommendations. I’m taking on more research and analysis jobs this year, so watch this space!

That’s a snapshot of a few of my editing projects right now; you can read about the full range of my work at my website. Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you posted about my freelance journey! And how about you – what’s on your editing plate right now?

(By the way, I’m looking for editors to write profiles about their editing lives and businesses here at PublishEd Adelaide: why not drop me a line?)

Can a British editor thrive in Australia? Guest post at Proofreader’s Parlour

This week, in a neat little bit of timing, Louise Harnby and I published each other’s guest posts on our blogs!

Louise writes about her growing confidence in saying no to editing projects (a skill that takes time: what if the work runs out?). In my guest post, I talk about some of the pros and cons of making the transition from British to Aussie editing (more pros than cons, you’ll be glad to see).

My post is now up at The Proofreader’s Parlour – do drop by. Louise has masses of useful links, resources, and commentary on the blog, too. Recommended.

Louise’s post is currently on the home page at PublishEd, or you can click here. Enjoy!

Editorial reports: why you should love them

Imagine. You’re a publisher, busy-busy all the time, signing new projects, eating expense-account lunches and generally schmoozing (yeah, right). Or maybe you’re an author, wondering whether what you’ve written is any good, and wishing you already had a publisher to give you an insider take on its potential. What’s the answer – how about an editorial report?

The job of appraising draft and final manuscripts has traditionally belonged to in-house editors. This made sense back in the day – after all, the editor who commissioned the piece of writing in the first place wears the commercial success or failure of the work and has a massive stake in developing its potential.

But now, publishers often commission a freelance editor or publishing consultant to delve into material that has landed on their desk. Boozy lunches that run for hours don’t feature in this picture, sadly. It’s as simple as this: when you’re busy acquiring new projects and feeding into strategy and planning activities, there’s incredibly little time to spend on the kind of detailed feedback of the kind your authors need and deserve.

I’m talking here about editorial reports for non-fiction writing – educational, research-based or scholarly, or general (AKA ‘trade’) non-fiction. There’s a blossoming feedback industry out there for fiction writers, and an even more intricate development process for school and uni-level textbooks – maybe another day…

Editors want to give feedback, they really do… but when?

In my life as a commissioning editor – before I came to Australia – I had to put a big, tall, strong fence around the time I had available for reading materials and feeding back to my authors about them, if I wanted it to happen. And I did want it to happen. But it wasn’t easy to find time for it, and late-night emails written at my kitchen table sometimes had to do.

My authors back then were always hugely appreciative of outside viewpoints, even if the viewpoints I suggested were sometimes challenging – and that gave me a sense of how hard it must be as an author to have to wait, wait, wait for that precious critical appraisal from an editor whose perspective you trust.

So it makes a lot of sense to me that a publisher would want to give the job of critical appraisal to an expert reader outside the firm. In turn, this is someone the publisher can trust for that precious feedback. And there could even be an argument that the outside editor is more detached, more willing to spot the detailed fixes that will take the material up a notch or twelve.

The review doesn’t replace the commissioning editor’s judgement on the material, of course, but it does provide detached and measured – not necessarily objective – feedback about, well, whatever you want. From commercial viability to line-by-line content criticism, if you can brief it, you can have commentary on it. 

Is an editorial report for authors too?

The way I’ve described it here, you’d think that an editorial report is just a way for publishers to get around having to give feedback in person.  But for an author, there are big benefits to having a stranger view your material, as daunting as that might sound. Here’s why.

1. The reader isn’t wedded to you (probably). What I mean is that the report can capture a genuinely fresh viewpoint from someone who has no form with you. So, even if your project has been around a while as a baby, adolescent, or more-mature-than-we’ll-admit manuscript, you can benefit from a report.

Think of it as a bit like trying to see if the back of your hair looks good in a mirror. Pretty difficult by yourself, but easy if you have someone to hold that mirror up good and straight.

2. You can glean all sorts of information about your material and the market. I know, ‘market’ is such an awful word, but if you are planning on being published that’s what any publisher – or you, if you’re self-publishing – will need to navigate. Sometimes the reader will put figures to their market descriptions, but more often you’ll get trend and niche information based on what has been published recently and how it relates to your work’s content. Here, the reader’s market knowledge – gained perhaps through editing other materials on your topic – is invaluable.

3. You can ask questions and get answers! Whenever I write a report, I take it as a bad sign if I don’t get any questions at all after I’ve clicked ‘send’. Have I scared the client off – too forward, too opinionated, too harsh? Or have they read the first page and decided I’m an idiot, to be safely ignored and let’s pretend the report never happened? I hope not. So I like to get questions and I love to answer them! It closes the loop and gives me great feedback about what worked in the report, and what needed more detail or explanation. All good!

What’s the focus of the report?

A report should be detailed enough to provide solid evidence to support publication, and short enough for a publisher or author to read without feeling sick about the distance the project still needs to travel.

The detail depends on the needs of the author and/or publisher. If there are concerns about particular areas of a project, a publisher usually (but not always) tells the reader about them up front so that they can be addressed up front. Discussions about scope and approach may have a long history and could even still be rumbling on. Broadly, look for these areas to be covered:

  • Is the material complete and presented in the right format?
  • Is all the content relevant and appropriate?
  • Is the material structured well – logical and ordered?
  • How about the style and language?
  • Is the text presented professionally and to a polished standard?
  • How is visual material handled – does each image earn its place?
  • What editing or development work does the material need? How much might it cost?
  • Is the material suitable for its planned target market? If not, what changes need to be made?
  • What competitors will the book/material have, and does this title have specific advantages and/or disadvantages over them?

All of this leads to the biggest question of all: is this material publishable and will it sell?

How expensive is a report and can you brief what it covers?

The cost of preparing an editorial report varies a bit, depending on the size and scope of the material. Logically, a 400-page academic manuscript with references just takes longer to get through than a 150-page general-interest trade paperback with photos. You’re also paying for the reader’s experience and knowledge — you can expect them to be an established editor in their own right.

Some freelancers charge two rates, one for publishers and one for authors. Others go with a flat rate for everybody. A rule of thumb: if you’re in Australia and paying more than $500-600 for this service, you should probably look at what’s included in the report to make sure it is as tightly specified as it should be.

I recommend that you find out what the reader is planning to cover, in any case, to make sure that the report tackles only relevant issues. A publisher will often brief the reader very clearly, and authors can do that too. So, you may not want to know about the commercial competition your material is up against if you’re the author — not everybody ‘does’ markets — but you may want lots of feedback on your writing style. Make sure the report is honed just how you like it.

I’m not advising you to try to influence the outcome here – in fact, it’s very important that you don’t. But knowing the scope and limitations of the reading will help you to understand what the reader is looking for and to take on board the feedback when it comes.

So that’s my take on editorial reports. They’re well worth looking into, whether you’re an author or a publisher.

If you’re an author or publisher and you’ve had a great report from an expert reader, let me know – what did it cover and how did you handle the feedback? And if you want to know more about this topic, message me and I’ll be happy to talk!