Eva van Emden, Freelance Editor

Certified Copy Editor and Proofreader


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.

February 22, 2016

The Don’t Just Read Dudes Project

I read a lot. It’s what I do when I’m not doing anything else. And since 2001, I’ve been keeping a list of what I’ve been reading. Once in a while, I scan through this list, and it’s noticeable that a lot of the authors on my list have . . . Y chromosomes. It’s also noticeable that there are a lot of fantastic books by women on the list. I loved The Martian and of course I ripped through Seveneves, but now I’m ready to spend some time with a different focus. Lois McMaster Bujold, Dorothy Sayers, Octavia Butler, Ann Leckie, Ursula Le Guin, Maggie Stiefvater, and Katherine Addison are all writers I’ve read recently who write (or wrote) masterful, insightful, gripping books that make me want to read more like them.

So I decided in January that I’m going out of my way to read more great books by women. I’m going to say twenty books in the first half of 2016. I’m counting rereads, but only if it’s been at least fifteen years since the first read. I’m also not sticking to this diet exclusively, because I wanted to finish Accidents in North American Mountaineering, and Fifty Degrees Below had showed up in the interlibrary loan queue (but I was a little frustrated with Fifty: as Frank burbles on about how logical it is to sleep in the park and hang out with homeless guys every night, I can’t stop noticing how unworkable that solution would be for most people with breasts). This isn’t going to be any effort to survey the great classics of female authors, by the way; I’m just going to read whatever seems fun.

Read so far

  1. What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
  2. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  3. Pride and Prejudice (reread) by Jane Austen
  4. The Left Hand of Darkness (reread) by Ursula Le Guin
  5. Ellen in Pieces by Caroline Adderson
  6. Over Sea, under Stone (again) by Susan Cooper. Book one of the Dark Is Rising series, which I read through except for The Dark Is Rising itself, which I reread two years ago.
  7. Greenwitch (again) by Susan Cooper
  8. The Grey King (again) by Susan Cooper
  9. Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper. I think this was the first time. The other books are very good, but this one I didn’t like as much. Too much magic, I think.
  10. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
  11. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
  12. Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World by Lynn Hill and Greg Child. I’m very interested in motivation, and check out this one: “For me, the ascent represented a kind of performance art to demonstrate the values I believed in.”
  13. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  14. Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin
  15. Merchanter’s Luck by C. J. Cherryh
  16. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  17. The Just City by Jo Walton
  18. The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby
  19. Republic of Dirt by Susan Juby
  20. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Update, June 19

Earlier this month, I finished The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It makes twenty books, so I’m calling the project finished for now. Lots of pleasant surprises in that book list. There was a bit of a digression when I blew off a Pulitzer-prize-winning Anne Tyler book to read a long piece of Harry Potter fan fiction. After the Harry Potter fan fic I had to reread the first two Harry Potters for comparison; then after The Song of Achilles, I had to dip into the Iliad for comparison.

February 9, 2016

What Makes This Book So Great?

I’ve just devoured a book I’ve been waiting to get my hands on for a while: Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy. There are two reasons this book is so great: Jo Walton likes the kinds of books I like, which means I get to read essays about some of my favourites. And she also enjoys books in the same way I do: she reads a lot, she reads books she likes, and she re-reads.

I read in cafes and tea houses. I don’t think of this as going there especially to read, any more than I think of going there to breathe. I will be reading and breathing while I am there drinking tea, that goes without saying.
I don’t know a lot of people who re-read, but to me it’s central to getting to know and enjoying a book. There’s an interesting discussion in this book about the reasons for re-reading—how sometimes you want something you know you like, and how if you read a lot there’s not an infinite supply of books that you really like. Re-readers will be enlightened by essay on the Suck Fairy, a phenomenon known to re-readers everywhere. (The Suck Fairy sprinkles suck on your favourite books, so that when you re-read them, you find racism, sexism, and authorial tics that can’t possibly have been there when you were younger.) There are tantalizing hints throughout this book of a household that collects books because they might not be in print, or they may not be in the library. A family and a circle of friends who collect books, share them, and talk about how great they are. I would love to see those bookshelves.

I used to only read in-print paperbacks and current SF magazines in the bath, but since I moved here where I have a huge old bath and very hot summers, I have given in and now even read hardbacks, as long as they belong to me.
I read with great pleasure the series of essays on the Vorkosigan Saga, but I’ve also learned that my reading has some large gaps in it, so I’ll be reading some C. J. Cherryh and Steven Brust, and then re-reading the parts of What Makes This Book So Great that discuss them. In fact, I’ve got a whole list of authors to check out, so that’s a gift that keeps on giving.

These essays appear online at Tor.com. The above quotes are from “Gulp or Sip: How Do You Read?