In Part I, Louise and Katy discussed their experience of writing about editing and proofreading, offered some hints about how to get started, and explained what topics they most loved to write about. Here in Part II, the conversation turns to blogging in relation to the wider publishing world, what they feel they've achieved to date, the challenges they've faced, and their future plans.
Q: Has blogging changed your view of the editing profession/publishing world?
Katy: Blogging has helped me to see common ground between editorial practices around the world – at least in those countries where editors work in English, since I don’t work in other languages! There are issues that confront all of us, particularly in the areas of technology, principles of editing, client management, freelancing … the list goes on. This is great because it means that if I want tips on developing a particular area of my practice, chances are I can find what I need in Canada, Britain, the USA, or elsewhere, as well as here in Australia. And my blog is part of that international conversation now. I love that.
Blogging has also made me realize that, much as I embrace learning every day about editing and publishing, there is almost too much information, too much noise, out there! (I’m aware of the irony: I’m a contributor to the general babble …) Look at how many blog posts there are on the theme of “the future of publishing”, and you can probably see what I mean. What it tells me is that all sorts of people are fascinated by, and trying to keep up with, where the publishing industry is going. But there’s a need to focus on those blogs that you trust and value in your own area of interest, and tune out the rest, at least most of the time. I don’t work on YA fiction, so I don’t follow that conversation. But academic, educational, professional and non-fiction publishing? Absolutely.
Louise: I, too, love that idea of being part of an “international conversation”. The fact that you and I can have this conversation, and share it on our blogs, simply couldn't have happened two decades ago!
I came from the world of academic publishing – in fact, I've worked in it for my entire career (22 years and counting) – and blogging has expanded my view of that profession. The Parlour has given me the chance to interview publishers, and not just the academic ones that I’m most familiar with. One of my favourite presses is the Norfolk-based independent, Salt. I had the pleasure of doing an interview with one of its directors, Jen Hamilton-Emery. Our discussion highlighted how much Salt values and supports its authors. There’s so much negative talk in the blogosphere about publishers but that particular interview was a brilliant reminder that publishing is not a homogeneous entity dominated by celebrity memoir or cripplingly expensive academic journals. It’s vibrant, creative, nurturing, and exciting! One of Salt’s authors, Alison Moore, ended up in the Man Booker shortlist with her fabulous book The Lighthouse – it’s wonderful to engage with people in the publishing industry who are so committed to writing as art.
And then there’s the author point of view. Blogging has given me the chance to talk to writers, too. Recently, speculative-fiction writer Michael K Rose joined me for a chat. Another great example is fellow editor and debut novelist Eva Blaskovic. I interviewed her before she’d even finished her novel, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE. Now she’s at the submission stage. Blogging has given me (and my readers) the opportunity to follow her journey, which is an true privilege.
Q: What achievements are you proud of so far?
Louise: It’s not so much about achievements but rather the feedback I've had that’s been so thrilling. To give one example, I've had an incredible response to the PDF proofreading stamps files that I posted online early on in the Parlour’s life. Hundreds of people from all over the world have downloaded them and many people have taken the time to thank me for making them available. A couple of major UK publishers are even recommending them to their freelance proofreaders. When you know that the content you've placed on your blog is helping people to work more productively on different platforms, and expand the skill sets they can offer to clients, it makes all the hard work you put into it worthwhile. It’s a reflection of the fact that you are managing to communicate with people – the blog isn't just some isolated entity in the digital universe; rather, people are actively engaging with it.
What about you, though, Katy? PublishEd Adelaide was nominated for an excellence award, wasn't it? Tell me a bit more about that. That must have meant a lot to you. It was certainly well deserved!
Katy: I’m so glad you've had that positive feedback – that must feel great! I guess I’m mainly in this for the pleasure I get in writing about the job I love, and also for the feeling of community I get from sharing information, advice, resources, and all the rest of it. And feedback from readers is part of that feeling of connection. In terms of achievements, though, the highlight was (as you mentioned) being shortlisted as a finalist in the Sydney Writers’ Centre’s Best Australian Blogs Competition 2012. I had only been writing for 6 months at the time, and wasn't expecting to place anywhere – so it was a big deal for me. The nicest part of the experience was meeting other bloggers – particularly Lisa Hill of ANZ LitLovers LitBlog, who won the category PublishEd was in – and of course the free publicity didn't hurt either!
Q: Any challenges that you’ve faced?
Louise: I think the biggest issue I face is trying to keep the structure of the blog accessible. The larger the repository, the more important it becomes to help readers navigate their way around it so that they can find the information relevant to them. I recall Katharine O’Moore-Klopf talking about just this issue with regards to her wonderful Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base. Something that good, and that popular, takes on a life of its own, and can grow too big for itself if the structure isn’t right. Katharine’s worked hard to make sure that her visitors can find the information they need and I've taken note of that. Blogging, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is not an exact science, so I’m learning from my colleagues all the time – looking at what they’re doing, how they’re structuring things, the way they communicate the information they’re publishing – in the hope that I might achieve their standards of excellence.
I’m also just starting to find comment spamming an issue. I guess that’s inevitable once your blog starts to make an impact. Have you had any problems with this or are your main challenges in other areas?
Katy: I don’t get a lot of spam, thanks to Akismet, which is WordPress’s filter of choice. The junk mail that makes it through is often comedy gold. Who doesn't like being addressed as “Dear Kind Web Admin Officer of the Web” and being offered cheapo SEO services in dodgy quasi-English?
Seriously, my biggest challenge without a doubt is finding the time to write. This year has been a crazy/busy one, with a real mix of personal and professional challenges, both good and bad. Sometimes the blog is a solace, allowing me to retreat to my office for a couple of hours and just write. Sometimes it has to just sit for a few weeks until I have time to get to it, and that feels pretty awful. Since I've had an editorial calendar, I have been better placed to prepare posts well before the planned publication date, which means that I have a little stash of posts ready or almost ready to go. This has made a big difference to the practical side of managing my commitment to the blog in harmony with the rest of my life (which is less about high-brow editing talk and more about dashing from home to school to office to childcare to … OK, I’m now out of breath!).
Louise: I know what you mean! My partner refers to my laptop as my other lover! Time’s a huge issue. I often do my writing quite late at night, but our old friend Muphry does come alive in the wee small hours so I always hold off from posting until the next day. That gives me a chance to look at the piece with fresh eyes and make any necessary revisions.
Q: What do you want to do next with your blog? Any news or plans to share?
Katy: I’m about to go solo as a full-time freelance editor, and I’m hoping to have a little more time to devote to writing – although I could be wrong about how much time I actually have! I’d like to get more editors to write about their experiences, particularly sharing thoughts about living and working as an editor. I’m also planning to develop a new, client-focused blog at my business website, which will be more about hints and tips for effective writing and manuscript development. My focus at PublishEd and at the business site will continue to be on the practical management of writing and editing projects. I’m excited to start exploring issues that are important to authors, in particular, as editing can be opaque and even slightly scary-looking for authors who are either new to working with an editor, or facing specific challenges in their editorial relationships.
My big message is that editing should be a friendly, collaborative process – and it can even be a meeting of creative minds if you’re really lucky. Make it work for you!
Louise: That’s really exciting, though with two blogs rather than one I can see that you’re going to be as busy as ever! One thing I’m really keen to do is expand my coverage of freelancing from the client’s point of view. Publishers are key clients for me and for many of my colleagues. If you've never worked in publishing then it can be difficult to ascertain what publishers are looking for. With that in mind, I've recently started a new feature called Client Talk that interviews the people who employ people like you and me. To date I've two marvellous contributions from a UK project management agency, Out of House Publishing, and US education press Corwin. It’s been fascinating to hear their take on the developments taking place in publishing, the stresses and rewards of in-house production processes, and the hurdles freelancers have to go through to work with them.
Obviously this story will differ depending on where the client is based and what product they’re publishing. Over time I aim to be as international as possible and post contributions from organizations elsewhere in the world, too – Canada, Australia, India, the Netherlands, South Africa, Germany and France, for example. In the future, I’d like to make room for more self-publishing authors, too, to find out how they use people like us, how the find us, and what their concerns and expectations are. Indie author Michael K Rose has already contributed a great piece for me, and that's a great start to getting under the skin of the self-publishing market.
Thanks for chatting with me about all of this, Katy. I've really enjoyed our collaboration!
Katy: Likewise, Louise! It's wonderful to be able to share our discussion on two blogs from opposite sides of the world!
Click here to read Part I of Katy and Louise's blog chat.
Katy McDevitt is the editor behind the PublishEd Adelaide blog. Based in Adelaide, Australia, she has commissioned and developed books and other resources for some of the world’s leading publishers in the UK and Australia, including Cambridge University Press, Taylor & Francis, Pearson Education, and McGraw-Hill. Katy’s freelance business is Katy McDevitt Editorial Services, specializing in developmental and copy editing for publishers and authors of academic, educational, professional, and non-fiction materials.
Louise Harnby is the proofreader behind the Proofreader’s Parlour. Now based in Norwich, UK, she began her career in publishing in 1990 with medical publisher Williams & Wilkins, and then moved to SAGE Publications, where she spent 15 wonderful years in the world of social science. She set up her freelance business Louise Harnby | Proofreader in 2005 and specializes in proofreading social science, humanities, fiction and commercial non-fiction books for academic and trade publishers.
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