What is editing really about?

I’m excited to be working with a group of authors at the Editing Bootcamp at the SA Writers Centre later this week — it should be a lot of fun and we’re going to help people get their manuscripts ready for editing! If you’re in SA, have a completed or nearly completed manuscript, and are wondering what kind of editing you might need — and you’re free next weekend (16 to 18 May) — you may want to book a spot. Read the program here, and my fellow presenter Kevin O’Brien’s guest post here.

In the meantime, here’s the post I wrote for SA Writers Centre, which should get you thinking! <http://sawriterscentre.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/what-is-editing-really-about>. Of course, the question ‘What is editing?’ could take us in a lot of different directions, so here’s a slightly more specific follow-up: ‘How can editing improve my manuscript?’ I’ll be exploring that with the Editing Bootcamp authors on Friday 16 May, bright and early. Hope you can join us.


Updated editing + publishing resources

Blog-typewriter-1Hi all. I’ve updated the KM Editorial blogroll (which you’ll find on this page… keep looking… there you go!), so you can now browse a wide range of high-quality editing and publishing resources at your leisure. I especially want you to visit the editors’ and publishing professionals’ blogs that I’ve listed — there are lots of good people writing useful, insightful things about the art/science and business of editing, so it’s worth visiting some or all of them when you have the time. Most of them are individual editors, proofreaders or publishers and they’re working hard to inform and raise the level of debate about the future of publishing — I hope you’ll find some inspiring or thought-provoking posts out there (and do let me know which ones you find useful!).

If you’d like to recommend a website or blog that you think should be listed, contact me and I’ll take a look. Thanks!


Image © Ivicans | Dreamstime.com

Adelaide Writers’ Week: celebrating SA’s publishing community

Reading under a shady tree is one of the many pleasures of #AdlWW

Reading under a shady tree is one of the many pleasures of #AdlWW

I’ve recently returned to my editing projects after a couple of days at Adelaide Writers’ Week, the event I enjoy most in SA’s crazy festival season. Writers’ Week is a great chance to see and talk to the best of local and visiting authors, editors and publishers — and I have to say, I’m proud of how SA’s publishing community has represented itself this year, from Adelaide novelist Hannah Kent talking about her novel Burial Rites to adoptive Adelaidean and Writers’ Week Director Laura Kroetsch leading a discussion about readerships (the last session I attended and probably the one I enjoyed the most).
   So far, so brilliant. However, I must admit that a couple of festival-goers asked me questions that I wished they hadn’t: ‘Do SA publishers do much publishing, then?’ and its cousin ‘Is there much editing to do in Adelaide?’ Of course, we have many highly professional people making great publishing, right alongside our energetic local authors. Read on, then, for a celebration of SA’s publishing talent, inspired by all the good folks who contributed to Writers’ Week this year.

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Editing lives: Marisa Wikramanayake

Marisa image 2I’m delighted to introduce a guest post by Marisa Wikramanayake. Many Aussie editors will know Marisa as a dynamic and experienced journalist, writer, and editor, based in Western Australia. I worked with Marisa at last month’s IPEd national editors’ conference, as I furiously typed my conference blog posts from various corners of the venue and she was seemingly everywhere at once. Marisa hugely impressed me with her energy and sheer determination to get things not just done, but done right. It turns out that Marisa’s path to writing and editing has been eventful and has shaped her distinctive journalistic voice and editorial approach. Over to Marisa.

So I helped organise this conference and Katy was there, blogging about it, as one does. When I said ‘I want to guest post!’ she said ‘Awesome! Tell me why and how you manage to be so positive? You seem so calm about everything’. Calm. Oh dear. Calm, she says. Positive, she says. OK, Katy, let me tell you all about it then. The simple answer is that I have a few secret weapons.

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Let’s talk about editing: 3 ways to communicate about your editing

Editor friends sometimes ask me ‘How come you’re brave enough to blog about editing?’ It’s a good question. Blogging about editing involves putting yourself out there, expressing an opinion, accepting that others may not agree. It also demands creative thinking about the work, which is something I love doing even after 10+ years in the profession. There is always so much more to find out about, adopt, and develop in your practice.

So, my view is that blogging about editing is great because, in a small way, it contributes to the big-picture conversation about the contribution editors make to publishing in Australia and overseas. PublishEd Adelaide is my way of communicating about what editing means to me – and I hope the questions I ask here may get others thinking about what it means to them, too.

So, here’s a quick question for you: how are you communicating with others about editing?

Great editorial communication, happy clients

Maybe you’re great at talking with prospective clients about what editing involves, or you have converted a reluctant author into a champion of the editing process. Good for you! You’re helping to make editing a practical reality for the people who provide our bread-and-butter work. Editing can be a scary, or at least an opaque, process for many authors, until it’s explained or demonstrated well.

Little kindnesses that make a difference

Perhaps you connect with your community through pro bono or paid work for organisations you care about, or edit the work of friends, family, and others. You’re a generous sort, I can see. The individual contributions that editors make in their personal time can help people who, perhaps, don’t deal every day with material that needs editing, but still need high-quality material that stands up to detailed reading. This is communication in the sense of one-on-one, locally meaningful conversations about editing — and those individual conversations count for a lot.

Writing about your experiences

Finally, maybe you’re like me: you love to write about editing, and want to encourage people to think deeply about what it is editors do. Blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and of course writing more formally about editing are all contributions to the growing profile of editors around Australia. Let’s go ahead and demystify the process all we can, and let others know that editing isn’t an obscure art: it’s a discipline and a way – actually, ways – of thinking about writing. And let’s talk to each other about where we think the profession is heading; how editors can contribute even more in the future.

All of these are great ways to spread the word about what editors do, and why editing is so important. There are no doubt many other ways to do it – and I’d love to hear how you choose to communicate with others about your work.

Until next time, happy editing and publishing.

Complete this sentence: EBook success is…

Last weekend, the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) kindly laid on a day of discussion and presentations about e-publishing, at the SA Writers’ Centre in Adelaide. A whole day talking about eBooks, blogs, and web marketing? Great! And it really got me thinking. Here’s my take on it.

The presenters included Emily Craven, a writer and eBook expert; Michael Bollen, MD of Wakefield Press; and Paul Higgs of leading book/eBook production and distribution company, Palmer Higgs. The crowd was full of published and aspiring authors, and I think I may have been the only editor in the room. Surrounded… *Gulp*.

Each session gave me a new perspective on what authors want from e-publishing, the challenges of publishing digitally, and the sheer awesome marketing potential of the web.  Now, I have to confess that I really hate it when I hear eBook hype along the lines of ‘Hey! You can be the next Amanda Hocking overnight!’ The E Exchange was blessedly free of that kind of thing, and focused on concrete strategies and approaches for what Emily Craven called the ‘slow build’ of an eBook-based writing career. Everybody said it: the key to eBook success is to write a great book.

The E Exchange also demonstrated a modern fact of life: self-publishing an eBook is now a realistic option for even the most cash-strapped author.You can do it pretty cheaply if you plan your publishing carefully – we’re talking hundreds, not thousands, of dollars to get together enough material for a Smashwords publication. If you like the idea of quick-and-easy publishing, without worrying about the fiddle-faddle of other people [read: publishers and editors] reading, advising on, and altering or even rejecting your work, you can do it if you really want to. If you sense a ‘but’ on the way, you’re right.

I noticed that nobody at the E Exchange recommended publishing without investing something in editing, and I see that as a very good thing. I reckon that editorial input on material before publication is an absolute must – for content-development as well as style/presentation reasons. The key to eBook success is to be realistic about what’s involved in preparing your material for publication. If you want to compete in a market where 2.5 million people Google ‘free eBook’ every month, it’s healthy to realise that a whole lot of authors and publishers are thinking the same thing as you: let’s grab some of that 2.5 million! For me, getting a competitive advantage is not just about pricing your book lower than the rest. It’s vital to present a more professional package than the writers you’re up against.

For this reason, eBooks need the same detailed pre-press and technical prep work as any other kind of publishing – in other words, the editing, design and layout work, typesetting, and proofreading that ensure a top-quality, professionally presented product. Unless you’re going to do it yourself (which is demanding and costs your time and effort if not actual dollars), you’re going to need an editor and probably other specialists too.

If you’re self-publishing, you may be able to get some of these services for free by roping in suitably qualified family, friends, or community/crowdsourcing sites. But if you want to ensure that competitive advantage I just talked about, you’re better off hiring a professional. There’s a strong correlation between the level of a specialist’s expertise and the fee he or she charges; as one app developer at the E Exchange pointed out, what you’re paying when you hire a professional – for example, an editor, designer, or developer – is a combination of that person’s study, training, and proven industry experience, carefully applied and tailored to the specific needs of your project.

The upshot is that the cost of hiring professionals to get your material ready for eBook publication isn’t usually over the top, but a self-published author should always factor it into his or her financial plan.

There’s so much hype about how easy it is to self-publish an eBook, and in some ways it really is that easy. And given the royalty splits available through online self-publishing platforms, I can see that it’s really tempting to focus on the return rather the costs. So, I was so glad that the E Exchange Day gave a more realistic perspective on eBook publishing – it addressed what’s practical, not just what’s aspirational, about eBooks.

Finally, let me cheerfully stick my neck out and big-up the editor’s role in e-publishing one last time. A professional edit is just as indispensable for an eBook as it is for printed material, because readers deserve the highest quality content no matter how they like their books served up and how much they pay. I’d love to hear what you think about that statement.

ASA runs a full program of training and workshops about writing and publishing: visit their website at www.asauthors.org.

PublishEd post at ANZLitLovers: how much content is enough?

Let me start by saying that ANZLitLovers LitBlog is the best blog about words in Australia – and that’s official! It has just won the Best Australian Blogs Competition 2012 for the Words group — congratulations, Lisa! Over the course of the competition, I have got to know Lisa and her blog, and I have to say that ANZLitLovers is now a firm fixture on my daily tour of blogs about writing and publishing.

Coincidentally, Lisa has just published a guest post that I wrote, all about the tricky matter of judging the right length for a book. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it at www.anzlitlovers.com. Because Lisa’s such a measured but compassionate reader of contemporary Australian and New Zealand writing, it’s all the sweeter to have her accept a post of mine for the blog. I hope you like what I’ve written — if so, why not add your voice to this exciting blog and tell Lisa what you think?

Happy editing and publishing, until next time.


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!

PublishEd is a Best Australian Blogs finalist!

I’m incredibly excited to tell you that PublishEd Adelaide is a finalist in the Best Australian Blogs Competition 2012.

With more than 1000 blogs in the competition, and loads of fantastic ‘Words and Writing’ sites in the same category as PublishEd, I wasn’t at all sure how my small-but-growing blog would fare. After all (if you’ll forgive me for borrowing from two of my significant life experiences) I’ve been writing for slightly less time than it takes to have a baby and slightly more time than it takes to graduate from probation in a publishing house. All I know is that I love writing about editing and publishing and I’m glad to have the chance to reach more editing-minded readers through this great competition.

I’m honoured (a lot) and nervous (in a good way) to be in the company of the fantastic blogs which have also made the short list. And I just had to look up ‘short list’ in Macquarie. (It would be bad to get the spelling wrong on such an august occasion, right?)

If you want to get an immediate hit of wordy inspiration, I highly recommend you check out some of the other blogs in the competition, which you can do at the ‘Finalists’ page on the competition website. You can follow the news from the comp at #bestblogs2012, and I’m tweeting about what’s happening too (@katymcdevitt).

Thanks for your support and visits and I’ll update you when I know more…

Saying No – Staying in Control of a Freelance Career

A guest post by Louise Harnby, a UK-based publishing professional with many years’ experience in proofreading and editing. Louise’s blog, The Proofreader’s Parlour, is a great spot for all sorts of guidance, opinion, and resources about professional editing issues. I found Louise’s blog not long ago and we struck up a conversation — discovering, in the course of swapping posts, that we share some life/work values – particularly that, like many other editors, we’re juggling work and kids and trying to find the right mix of fascinating work and family time. Here, Louise talks about how you know when you’re ready to say no to new work for a while. It’s worth learning how to do. Over to Louise…

A UK colleague recently delighted her Facebook friends by announcing that after many years of hard graft she’d finally earned a liveable wage and felt comfortable describing herself as a professional editor. After she’d posted her news she became concerned that she might have sounded smug – not at all, we all said. On the contrary, her fellow freelancers were delighted that she’d achieved this goal and felt that “newbies” would be encouraged to continue on their journey.

It made me reflect on my own situation over the past few weeks. Getting to a point where you have a regular flow of work from a group of reliable clients is a true watershed in editorial freelancing. I’ve worked hard since 2005 to get my proofreading business up and running, and enjoyed the thrill of saying yes when a job offer hits my email inbox… so hard in fact that saying no has become a challenge.

Here in the UK the kids have just had a couple of weeks off school for Easter. My eight-year-old was ready for the break. So was I – I’d been flat out with work for the past three months. But I was offered a couple of proofreading projects from one client, and then another publisher offered me one more. My response? Yes, yes, yes.

With the small one at home, I had to work in the evenings. This is something I’m perfectly happy to do if needs be. As long as I’m strict about a reasonable cut-off time, and providing I get the lighting set up properly, it doesn’t present a challenge for me once in a while. And anyway, the work I’d been offered was interesting…

Well, sort of interesting. It depends on what you’re comparing it with. Saying yes meant two weeks of running around with young children, then hastily stuffing my dinner in my mouth before settling down to a few hours’ proofreading every night, when I could have spent my evenings relaxing with my husband, snuggled up on the sofa with the Labrador, watching our latest batch of DVDs. And hadn’t I been ready for a break?

Somewhere along the road of multi-tasking, choice-making, and work/life balancing, I have rendered myself dysfunctional in the “no” stakes. I remember why I always said yes back at the start of my freelance career – it wasn’t so much the money as the desire to be seen as a “call worth making” to my new clients. Let’s ask Louise – she’s reliable; she’s available; she always says yes. That’s how I built up my business and I didn’t want to slip off the radar.

This week my daughter is back at school. The precious routine of doing the school drop-off, walking the dog and knuckling down to the day’s proofreading before my chirpy girl walks through the door at 3.30 pm is back in place.

I chose freelance work back in 2005 because it offered me the opportunity to make choices about when and how I worked. No office job could match the deal. But lately I’ve been so busy saying yes that I’ve failed to achieve the “how and when” choices that underpinned my original goals. I need to shift the balance. I understand that some freelancers can’t afford to lose these valuable weeks of income; I recognize that due to the nature of their client base this isn’t an option for everyone. But it is an option for me – I set out on this very journey because of that fact. Indeed, my entire business plan was premised on it. My client base is now established enough that I can stay on the radar if I take a few weeks’ vacation throughout the year. The realm of “no” beckons, and I need to heed its calling.

Louise Harnby is a UK-based freelance proofreader with 22 years’ publishing experience. Her clients are primarily academic publishing houses specializing in the social sciences and humanities, though she also works in the trade sector on fiction and commercial non-fiction. She trained with the London-based Publishing Training Centre and is a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Louise hosts The Proofreader’s Parlour, a blog that offers information, advice, opinion, comment, tips, resources and knowledge sharing on proofreading and editing.

Other ways to get in touch with Louise: FacebookLinkedInGoogle+, Twitter (@LouiseHarnby), the SfEP’s Directory of Editorial Services, and her website: Louise Harnby | Proofreader.