Eva van Emden, Freelance Editor

Certified Copy Editor and Proofreader


September 30, 2016

Editorial fingerprints

Ideally, editing is invisible. Typos are corrected, small errors of fact pointed out, plot howlers averted, and the end result is a seamless, polished work that doesn’t betray any hint of multiple minds at work. Usually when I read books that I didn’t work on, I see text that seems to have sprung fully formed out of the author’s mind, but once in a while I see, not a scar exactly, but perhaps a band-aid.

In an excellently edited, smart, well-written thriller, the protagonist releases the safety catch on his Glock. Aha! I said. The Glock doesn’t have a safety catch. But a few pages later, there’s a passing reference to the gun being “modified.” What do you think? Author’s original vision or editorial band-aid?

I laughed out loud when I came across a sentence in another book that read, “Some people say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.” I bet there was a query on that manuscript that said, “Actually, [Albert Einstein/Mother Teresa/Benjamin Franklin/Leonardo da Vinci] probably didn’t say this. This quote seems to be attributed to various people without any evidence. I’ve edited to read ‘some people say’ instead. OK?” Dubious quote provenances are the bane of fact checking.

And on rare occasions, a disagreement bursts right out into the open. On the copyright page of Garner on Language and Writing, the eight-line American Bar Association policy statement is supplemented by an exemplary plain language rewrite titled “How Bryan Garner wanted the statement to read.”

From Garner on Language and Writing by Bryan Garner.

It’s not about the turtle—or the elephants either

It’s been six months since Sir Terry Pratchett’s death, and I never did finish my thoughts.

I started reading him in my late teens, as I worked my way through a friend’s book collection. It took me a little while to warm up to him, but by the time I’d read Lords and Ladies, I was hooked. There is so much more there than funny footnotes, dwarf bread, and oograh.

I’ve met other Pratchett fans here and there—fellow students, the property manager of our old apartment—and every time it’s like discovering a common friend. People have their favourite characters. I’m partial to police commander Vimes in Night Watch, Thud, and Snuff, with his passionate sense of justice. But my favourite stories are the ones about the witch Granny Weatherwax with her goats, and her bees, and her herbs, who traded any possibility of normality and belonging to pursue knowledge instead.

It happens that I just read his collection of nonfiction A Slip of the Keyboard recently. Pratchett argued patiently and reasonably that people in the U.K. should be allowed to have the choice of assisted dying, and it seems that some change has come about.

Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett, from his wonderful introduction to Slip of the Keyboard.

June 19, 2016

How can I protect my work before sending it for editing?

Sometimes writers ask how they can protect their intellectual property before sending it to an editor. Register the copyright? Write a contract? Here’s what I tell authors.

Choose an editor you trust

The most important thing is to choose an editor you trust and feel comfortable with. Your editor is bound by professional ethics to respect your privacy and your ownership of the manuscript. Make sure the person you’re thinking of hiring is a legitimate practitioner. Do an online search for their name and contact information and make sure their information checks out. Make sure their communications with you sound reasonable. You can also discuss the work on the phone, ask for references, see if the editor’s LinkedIn connections look believable, and find out if they belong to a professional organization.

Put your expectations in writing

Although a good editor will respect your ownership rights, there’s no harm in writing a simple letter of agreement or contract that states that the editor cannot share the manuscript with any third party without your explicit permission and that you retain full rights. Editors Canada has a sample editing contract that you could add this to.

Use good computer security

As well as taking precautions to make sure you don’t lose your work to a computer crash, you should also consider computer security. If you are very concerned about security, you might decide not to store your manuscript in a cloud storage service without encryption, or not to email your manuscript without encryption.

Understand that you already have copyright protection

It’s important to understand that under Canadian and US law,* you automatically have copyright on your manuscript as soon as your work is written down, so you can be assured that your rights under copyright law are already in place. It is possible to register a work with the Copyright Board of Canada, but you don’t need to do that to secure your rights. (If you do decide to register your work, it probably makes more sense to register at the time that you publish, when the manuscript is in its final form and you are releasing it into the wild.)

*In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention, copyright comes into being automatically, without the creator having to register their work.

June 18, 2016

Editors Canada Conference 2016: Jessica Oman on a simple growth plan for your business

“I’m sure I can fit that in.”
(Photo by Kaarina Dillabough. Some rights reserved.)
“Get Booked Solid” was the title of this presentation. Irresistible. I couldn’t let a conference go by without attending at least one talk about marketing my services.

Four main errors freelancers make

Jessica suggested that most freelancers who aren’t happy with the amount of work they’re finding are making four mistakes:
  1. allowing the feast or famine cycle
  2. marketing in a nontargeted way
  3. applying marketing strategies inconsistently
  4. not having a plan

Some better ideas

Offer value up front. Most people you talk to don’t need you now. To keep them from forgetting you, offer them something of value right away. Talk about the challenges they have in their work, and then offer them something to help them with that problem, even if it’s a link to a blog post. You can also give away a report or a guide, a sample edit, or a free consultation.

Follow up with your leads (a lead is someone who has expressed an interest in your service). Send them relevant information or case studies about people in their industry or find other things you can give them that will be helpful. Jessica suggests that she usually talks to people about five times before they start working together.

Convey the transformation that your service will bring to their business. Always look for ways to communicate how your service will make their lives easier. (This is relevant to price, as well. If a client is convinced that you’re going to add a lot of value to their business, they won’t balk at your rates.) Do this by sharing testimonials about what you did and how it helped your client. You can also share case histories about other companies who improved their business by hiring editors. Or you can share stories about companies who didn’t hire editors and suffered public disasters as a result (using fear to help sell your service).

Identify your ideal customer:

  • editing tasks;
  • medium;
  • subject matter;
  • field;
  • audience; and
  • demographic details of the customer.
Find out where your ideal customers hang out, and go there. Also, introduce yourself as the editor who works for your ideal customer. Many of us are generalists who work on a variety of materials, but saying so is just not memorable. Jessica suggests that you introduce yourself as the editor you want to be for the best chance of having the work you want come to you.

Be consistent in your marketing efforts, and measure the results:

  • number of leads;
  • number of customers;
  • conversion rate (leads who turn into customers);
  • average customer value (how much they spend);
  • length of retention; and
  • whatever else is meaningful to you.

Avoid thinking and acting from a scarcity perspective where you take jobs that are not ideal because you’re afraid you won’t get anything else. Try to run your business from a perspective of abundance where you can afford to give something away, and you can afford to hold out for your ideal client.

Editors Canada Conference 2016: Bill Walsh’s keynote speech

“You’re the editor,” said Bill Walsh during his keynote speech. His message was that although yes, language change happens, and yes, we’ll move with the times, we’re the editors, and our job is to choose the style option that’s appropriate for the publication and its readers. When Bill saw his first copy of The Associated Press Stylebook, he was delighted (“All that correctness!”). Same when he first read Strunk and White (“Omit needless words!”), but as time passed, he took a more nuanced view. What if omitting needless words makes the text really hard to read?

A descriptivist editor seems like a contradition in terms: What are they going to do? look at the copy and say, “Yep, that’s what the author wrote”? But he points out that there’s a difference between throwing eggs at your neighbour’s house because he uses “impact” as a verb, and getting paid by your neighbour to edit his writing and leaving “impact” in place. You’re the editor. But extreme prescriptivism doesn’t make sense either. If you’re going to try to freeze language at a certain stage, which decade are you going to choose as the one time when English was correct? Bill suggests that style guides should lag a little behind the general trend: seeing e-mail with the hyphen today may look a little old-fashioned, but it doesn’t disturb a reader as much as email did in the late nineties.

Although obviously language is changing, Bill is skeptical about the supposed trend toward lowercasing and the trend to closing hyphenated compounds. In fact, he says, there seems to be a law of conservation of hyphens. The same people who close generally hyphenated compounds lever apart words that have been closed together for a hundred years.