Ever wondered how a professional book index is created? My colleague Vanessa Wells offers an honest and humorous glimpse into the world of a pro indexer – the challenges and the joys, and the 'sense of having created a beautiful thing'.
Let's take a peek in Vanessa's diary ...
I attended the Canadian national indexing conference in Montreal, where we – like most conference attendees – go to strengthen connections with colleagues and expand our professional knowledge. Since the indexing community in Canada is very small, this is a valuable investment and full of good people.
As a result of the conference, I’ve received a referral and am being hired by a university professor to write an index for a 220K-word anthology he’s editing with 22 chapters and almost as many contributors. It’s a ‘straightforward’ index of ‘names and titles’ which, of course, means that it’s both a name and subject index in reality. Yikes.
Against my usual policy, I agree to meet the professor in person, as the campus is close by and it would be faster than exchanging several emails. An excellent meeting results in ironing out expectations, discussing needs and agreeing we’re on the same page! It’s due July 26.
I send him my contract to review, and we discuss rates. Rate structure, I find from speaking to other indexers, is variable. Some people will work for $2/page; others charge much more. A figure I often hear is $5/page, but that definitely depends on your market – geographically and by genre, specialization, and timeline.
An independent author writing a non-fiction trade book is not going to generate the same fee as a university-paid gig. Some indexers provide other means of calculating their fees, such as a flat project fee.
I tell him my academic rate, and he agrees. I submit my invoice for a non-refundable 30% deposit, payable before work begins.
Proofs are due. They don’t arrive. They’re rescheduled by publisher for the 30th … While publishing timelines are often shifting (there’s a domino effect when a hitch arises), the end deadlines of proofreading and indexing are rarely budged.
So now I have to recalculate the number of hours and pages per day I’ll have to complete to meet the non-budging due date of July 26. Four days lost means Goodbye, weekends! for the duration.
It’s a long weekend here for #Canada150, our sesquicentenary. I’m so wiped from the previous month of conferences and making a second website for the new arm of my business that I take (most of) the weekend off. I can’t afford to get sick during this project. Self-care and all that.
Forgot I start a weekly course on Tuesday afternoons for the summer, with an appointment this morning. Will have to start tomorrow. Now that I’ve lost another 5 days, I’ll have not only to work weekends but very long days, everyday. My bad.
21 days to go: I begin the pre-read (see above photo) to start gathering my thoughts on how I’ll approach this behemoth. And I need at least 3 days at the end to edit the written index, so really I only have 18 days available.
I note there are A LOT of errors still in the MS. I judiciously email AU to double check that it’s been edited and that no other file is forthcoming. He confirms it has been copyedited … Sigh.
Re-install my $500USD indexing software on my new PC. Pay $39 for TextExpander, which is an online tool that lets you build a library of ‘snippets’, sort of like hot keys or macros, but it’s much simpler and faster. Using TextExpander for repeated, long index headings is making my life so much easier: it works pretty well with .ucdx files!
I’m already 50 pages behind. Indexing academic books is so much harder because you have to interpret the often-verbose language to get to the ideas (then re-edit them in your mind) and THEN start forming index relationships between the ideas on that and every other page.
Since there are almost two dozen authors in this anthology, I’m doing a lot of mental shifts. Why do I pine for indexes so much when they can be so draining?!?
I’m being foiled by the very poor copyediting that was(n’t) done. I email the author-editor several times regarding his preferences for word options that I’m finding in the errata …
Working on a Saturday is particularly annoying when you hear other people having a great day off. Such is the freelance life.
Here’s how I start an indexing day. Wish I had more than one monitor and can’t believe I used to do this on a 15-inch one!
CINDEX software file open; Google to check MS info, with related sites and academic books on the subject; book PDF marked up with terms needing indexing; and TextExpander to cut down on keyboard strokes. For the time being, I just type the entries into the index; refining connections comes later.
I emailed the author again about the serious issues around the practically non-existent copyediting of this book. It’s causing me to complete about 3pg/hr instead of 5–10pg/hr, never mind that I’m not being paid to correct such things, so again my budgeted time has to be rethought.
He’d like errata forwarded to him so he can take the examples to the publisher and complain. (Understandably, he just doesn’t realize how much is involved in corrections before indexing can be done: research, confirm which instance is the error, note error, find other instances of it in MS, return to indexing the term and fixing all related cross-references).
Ctl+F is my BFF. Wish I still drank alcohol.
And for all you fellow CCLs, here’s what’s behind it all (because this, after all, is what’s important in life, not crying over indexes).
I had a good phone chat with the author about the terrible editing. (Again breaking the rules; normally I never share my number – learned the hard way with an abusive client once – but there’s too much to discuss via email.)
We’re hatching a plan to shame the publisher into redoing the copyediting or letting me do it. Either way, my schedule is messed up, and he’s sympathetic. What he’s told me about their process with him this far is appalling.
Email from author: basically, the publisher will redo the copyediting after indexing (!!!). This is a problem because it can affect pagination, thus rendering entries incorrect. I asked that my name not be included due to peer reviews in a trade journal, and I wouldn’t want residual index errors to be ascribed to me. The prof was cool with this; I am not, but that’s life in publishing.
Slogging away, only getting about 35 pages/day done. Have to step it up to get in an extra day for editing the index. I hired a subcontractor to proofread it the day before it’s due. I need an emoji for dollar bills flying away. [Note from Louise: I've obliged.]
Tenth day. Just shoot me.
I’ve put in 12 hours today. I’m starting to wonder if I’m going too deep with this index. Re-evaluating.
Good thing I hate summer weather. I worked smarter today, however, using more automations.
Panic time. I’m only at pg 385 out of 557 and I have less than 4 indexing days left before I start editing.
Trying a new – and, to me, risky – tactic: indexing on the fly, not marking up first. I’ll see how one chapter goes. I’ve got to save time!
I’ve subcontracted out a small job (1–2 hrs) due to the copyedit snafu. I need every hour I can get. I figure it’ll be worth the money.
What happened to yesterday? Feel like I’m getting sick, which would be disastrous. As an editor, I can always subcontract out a project for an emergency, but not only does indexing have a smaller pool of trained professionals, the intricacies of indexing style are so individual that really no one could easily or seamlessly take over. At least, not if the index is to retain its integrity and essence. Sigh.
Yay, I’m not sick! Done the inputting of entries! 6,388 records, which is on par for a book of this size and topic. The hard part is yet to come: finessing the cross-references and making links to interrelated concepts. While the software can help check for bad references and missing locators, there are many variables to consider. Some cross-references will have to be truncated and reworked; others will simply have to go; and yet others will require double posting due to wording.
This is the part that indexers must educate authors and publishers about – explaining that Word’s ‘indexing’ program just cannot replace a trained human brain. Word creates a concordance: that’s like taking the ingredients off a cereal box and listing them in alphabetical order.
An index, analogously, takes the main words, interrelates them, looks at their nutrient values and considers how the ingredients work to give us a food product, but we can also just know what’s in there if that’s all we need.
In fact, there’s our professional comparison: indexers are the food chemists of the book world – ta da!
This stage is exciting and a bit terrifying. I read an article in our UK journal, The Indexer, wherein another indexer (Margie Towery, Ten Characteristics of Quality Indexes) admitted to having two moments of feeling stuck during the process: getting started and this stage. Glad I’m not the only one!
I’m just doing some basic cleanup so that I can get to the editing described yesterday. Fixing typos deletes erroneously duplicated entries and ensures consistency: now’s the time to go back to the MS and confirm correct spellings; get rid of unnecessary, duplicated or differently phrased duplicate subheadings (the latter because you don’t see repeats in the Draft Format that you might have entered previously); add subheadings for entries that have too many unrelated locators, etc.
It’s 11 a.m. and I’m only at the Cs. As the meteorologist at the beginning of Twister says, ‘This is going to be a long day’…
Finished cleanup from the Ms to Z; also a lot of double-checking that sufficient entries existed for major and meta topics, as well as the book’s contributors, which the author-editor requested. I’ve planned out the editing for tomorrow before a review by software on Monday.
And to prevent potential meltdowns, I save every 30 minutes or so, and back up to hard drive and Dropbox every 4 hours. That’s because once someone turned off the fuse box, and I lost a huge part of an index I had been working on. Live and learn.
Sunday morning, so starting late at 10 a.m. I had a good night’s sleep, which is great because today’s to-do list is intimidating … Except my optical mouse isn’t working, so thank god I have a wired spare. Kind of like giving a chef a loaner knife they’re not used to.
The mouse worked after a reboot, but the reboot took about 20 mins, so essentially I’m half an hour behind again.
I can’t just Control + F terms in the PDF, type the page numbers in and I’m done: half of them are in citations, references or footnotes, and the latter should usually only be included when they’re substantive (which can take some time to decide). So whittling down the number is time-consuming. Then they have to be organized by thought. Then entered, and without page-number errors.
Butterflies. I heard a reminder on the radio yesterday talking about how, philosophically, Good Enough should be good enough, i.e. that striving for perfection is not good for us. I don’t think this is the inclination of the indexer (or editor or proofreader for that matter), no matter who says it. But I’m sure Annie Lamott would tell us to be gentler with our sorry-ass selves.
I confirmed that the proofreader is available to complete their part tomorrow. On to my penultimate review …
Due to other commitments, I had to forget about the index today and trust it would be well proofread by my subcontractor. Not easy to do ...
Bad dreams all night about repeatedly calling said subcontractor because the file was late.
Spent several hours correcting, finessing, re-sorting (getting the locator order right – Roman numerals, ascending page numbers interspersed with those with an i for illustration (sometimes we just put illustrated page numbers in italics), so it would show thus: ix–x, 132, i234, 496), and double-checking things before putting it in a double-columned .rtf file.
I’ve heard that before this editing stage, an error rate for page numbers of about 10% can occur, but with the ones my subcontractor found, I was at 0.002% errors: I hope that’s true! Corrected, I hope it’s near-perfect.
Even human indexers with software can make mistakes. In a book of 220K words to be considered for indexing, perfection cannot be expected.
I’ve clicked Send …
Anti-climax: the author couldn’t access the file properly (the .rtf was showing up strangely), so he just asked for a new file format. He hadn’t got past the first 10 lines. But he did thank me for my ‘copious explanatory notes’, i.e. my return-file letter, which outlined info about the parameters of the index and changes that had to be used.
The prof is going to read the index this weekend, as he’s travelling. I could have had extra days after all! Waah!
Author got back to me with a few queries and the following: ‘Thanks for the painstaking and thorough job – it’s clear you took a lot of care, and I appreciate that … Thanks again for all of your hard work.’
Hopefully he’ll call me again in the future or refer a colleague to me. But after a few days’ reflection and relaxation, I’m not sure I’ll accept such a long and dense manuscript again – unless it truly is strictly names and titles!
And I’ve realized that an index you’ve written is more like your baby than a book edit: there’s the same pride of accomplishment, but there’s more of a sense of having created a beautiful thing.
And the labour and delivery stories are way better!
Vanessa Wells is a copyeditor, proofreader and indexer who taught Latin for almost 20 years before becoming a freelance editor. When she’s not working, she’s either reading, watching films, or cat-sitting for senior cats with special medical needs. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with crime, mystery, suspense and thriller writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
FIND OUT MORE
> Get in touch: Louise Harnby | Fiction Editor & Proofreader
> Connect: Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, Facebook and LinkedIn
> Learn: Books and courses
> Discover: Resources for authors and editors
A note from Louise: In 2013, I published my first book – an introductory editorial business-planning guide entitled Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers. I wanted to provide readers with a real-world view of what it’s like to enter the world of editorial freelancing.
Three of my colleagues were kind enough to act as case studies, sharing insights into their experiences of building an editorial business: Johanna Robinson, Mary McCauley and Grace Wilson. At the time of publication, all three were relatively new to the field (their start-ups were under two years old). Each of them created vibrant, successful editorial businesses, working with a range of clients across the UK and Ireland. Their candid accounts illustrated the challenges of editorial freelancing – but also suggested how the path to success could be achieved through determination, skills acquisition, strategic planning and targeted marketing.
Here we are three years later in 2016. My colleagues left behind their new-starter status a long time ago. They’re now established editorial business owners who are not only working for paying clients but also helping less experienced colleagues navigate their way through the world of editorial freelancing via training programmes and conference presentations.
It’s therefore with great pleasure that I hand now you over to Mary McCauley of Mary McCauley Proofreading. Below, Mary tells us what’s changed and what’s stayed the same; how her business has developed; what she’s learned; and what her plans are for the future …
It’s nearly four years since I first wrote a guest article for The Proofreader’s Parlour on how I set up my editorial business, and subsequently appeared as a case study in Louise’s debut book Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers. It feels like a lifetime ago; back in December 2012, I never imagined how my editorial journey would continue. Thankfully, it has been a good four years for me.
What has and hasn’t changed since I started out in 2012
I have moved to full-time hours and my work schedule has been more or less fully booked up for the past two years. However, I no longer regularly work weekends unless I have agreed a premium rate with my client. As for most people setting up a business, the early years involved long hours of work and weeks without a break. This worked for a while, but I learned that I cannot work that way indefinitely; I need regular time away from my desk or I can’t do my best work. And as my turnover has increased year on year as my business grows, I’m now able to take proper holidays at Christmas and during the summer.
When I started out in 2012, my main service offering was proofreading and a little copy-editing; now copy-editing work has overtaken proofreading. I also offer some project management services (including liaison with typesetters, designers and illustrators; picture research; and artwork coordination), as well as e-book conversion review services.
Additionally, I’ve become involved in training delivery. In June 2014, I was invited to present an editing masterclass for fiction authors at our local Wexford Literary Festival. Not long after, I presented a Marketing Tools for the Freelance Editor seminar at the 2014 SfEP conference and, while it was a daunting but exhilarating experience, I learned a lot from it. Last year I was approached by Irish writer and lecturer Claire Keegan to teach a two-day course on grammar, punctuation and style to her students. It went well and we ran the course again earlier this year. The Wexford Literary Festival invited me back this summer as a panel member for an Industry Experts Q&A discussion and I’m also a regular guest speaker on my Local Enterprise Office’s Start Your Own Business course. More recently, I’m signed up as a speed mentor at this year’s SfEP conference. So through contacts and referrals I’ve slowly gained experience in editorial and editorial-business training, and I’m interested in how I might further develop it as a business offering.
At the start, I cast my net wide in search of clients – anything to get experience. I have since narrowed down my client base. On the fiction side, the majority of my work is for independent authors. Not all of these wish to self-publish; some are preparing their manuscript for submission to an agent, publisher or competition. On the non-fiction side, while I also work with independent authors, the majority of my clients are businesses, public sector bodies and publishers. Due to schedule constraints and short turnaround times, for the moment I no longer work for students.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
Investing in quality training has been a priority for me over the past four years and my short-term aim is to continue to invest in learning new skills in a bid to expand the range of services I offer. I’ve completed six editorial courses (SfEP/PTC/Publishing Ireland) since 2012. Each has directly helped pay for itself; for example, the SfEP’s On-screen Editing 1 helped me work more efficiently and thus earn a better rate, while the Publishing Training Centre’s (PTC) Rewriting and Substantive Editing course gave me the confidence to take on an well-paid editing project I otherwise wouldn’t have.
Recently, AFEPI Ireland members have been able to take advantage of the PTC courses now running at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. Ireland-based editors can now avail themselves of these without travelling to the UK as many would have done in the past. The courses also have the added benefit of presenting an opportunity for freelance and in-house editors to meet.
I regularly learn new ideas and tips from the AFEPI Ireland/SfEP/EAE forums and save shared links for future reference. I find these forums an invaluable source of CPD.
Professional membership and networking
Though it is one of my larger yearly expenses, I value my membership of both AFEPI Ireland and SfEP. The support of Irish and UK colleagues, and colleagues further afield, has been one of the most warming experiences of setting up my business. Catching up with AFEPI Ireland friends and colleagues at meetings and training courses in Ireland has been wonderful and energising, and I always come away having learned something. Attending the 2014 SfEP conference in London was an unforgettable experience and I finally understood what ‘finding your tribe’ means.
I joined Twitter in 2012 and continue to find it a useful learning platform that has helped me meet and interact with publishing professionals in Ireland and abroad.
When I receive business enquiries I always ask how the person found me, as I need to know which of my marketing efforts are working. The majority of my enquiries come via my website, which enquirers say they found following a Google search. My website’s probably due an overhaul but I’m pleased with how it has worked for me. I also started my own blog, Letters from an Irish Editor, at the start of 2014. I admit I really struggle to find the time to post regularly (it takes me several hours to write a single article!) but as there is always increased traffic to my website when I do, I’ll battle on.
When I upgraded to Professional Member status, I took out an entry in the SfEP Directory and I’ve seen some enquiries and work from this direction. After my website, most enquiries come via my AFEPI Ireland Directory entry and from referrals from colleagues. I think my AFEPI Ireland entry is more successful than my SfEP one due to my location, both in terms of my Irish clients preferring an Ireland-based service, but also from a currency point of view.
I have had a listing on Find A Proofreader since 2012; as well as receiving the regular job postings I’ve also had direct enquiries and work from it. While a lot of the jobs have too short a turnaround time for my schedule, my entry helps with my website SEO, so at the current advertising rate I find it’s worth the cost.
What I’ve learned since 2012
While I’ve continued to work extremely hard to grow my business and client base, the most important thing I’ve learned is to recognise valuable clients and to pursue a client base that offers me the best rates and projects. As I’ve gained experience and undertaken additional training, I’ve become more confident in my editorial and business abilities and in the worth of my service offering when quoting to clients. I’ve come to realise that some clients cannot afford or are unwilling to pay for my services and that if I clog up my schedule with low-paying projects, I won’t have the capacity to work on a more desirable project when it presents itself.
Keys to success
The following are key ideas/values that I believed in and tried to pursue from the start and which have proven invaluable to my business during the past four years:
Personal highlights of the past four years
Plans for the future
Mary McCauley runs an editorial business providing project management, copy-editing and proofreading services to authors, publishers, corporate clients and public sector bodies. She is a Full Member of the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI Ireland) and a Professional Member of SfEP.
She has taught self-editing courses as part of the Claire Keegan Fiction Clinic series, and has presented seminars at the Wexford Literary Festival and the SfEP’s 2014 conference. She is a regular guest speaker on her Local Enterprise Office’s Start Your Own Business course.
Mary lives near Wexford in the south-east of Ireland. You can contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org, through her website Mary McCauley Proofreading, or via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Having traditional proofreading skills isn’t just a business asset when it comes to working for the mainstream publishing industry. It’s a valuable service that we can offer independent authors, too.
Note: If you fancy giving your eyes a rest, get yourself a cuppa and listen to the podcast instead. Scroll down to the bottom of the article and click on the image.
This article discusses the differences between proofreading (or proof-editing) directly in Word and proofreading post-design page proofs.
When I set up my business back in 2006, I was strictly a proofreader and most of my clients were publishers. For the most part, they expected me to annotate paper page proofs.
As time went on, many of the presses for whom I worked shifted to digital workflows. Proofreaders are still required to annotate page proofs, but they're using a PDF editor’s onboard commenting and markup tools or digital proofreading stamps (see, for example, the free set of downloadable stamps that I’ve created for use in the likes of Acrobat and PDF-XChange; these comply with the British Standards Institution’s BS5261C:2005 proof-correction marks).
What are traditional proofreading skills?
Here, we’re checking the page proofs to ensure not only that the spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct, consistent and in line with the client’s brief, but also that the layout conforms to industry-recognized standards.
In order to carry out these checks, proofreaders need to know not only what to look for, but also when, and when not, to intervene so that they do no harm.
Checks include, but are not limited to, ensuring that running heads match chapter titles; chapter titles match entries in contents list; design of the various text elements is consistent; chapter title drops are consistent; text on facing rectos and versos is balanced; odd page numbers always appear on recto pages; bad word breaks are flagged; part titles appear on new rectos.
Proofreading page proofs
In case you’re unfamiliar with the terminology,
Page proofs, traditionally defined, are so called because they are laid out exactly as they will appear in the final printed book. If all has gone well, what the proofreader is looking at will be almost what the reader sees if they were to walk into a bookshop, pull this title off the shelf and browse through the pages.
The layout process has been taken care of by a professional typesetter who designs the text in a way that is pleasing to the eye and in accordance with a publisher’s brief. (Not all proofreading is the same: Part I – Working with page proofs)
Proofreading raw text
Proofreaders don’t just work on page proofs, though. Increasingly, we’re asked to work on the raw-text files (usually in Microsoft Word).
A core market for the twenty-first century proofreader is the self-publishing client. For most of us, that means that an author will ask for their book to be ‘proofread’, even though what they want is a light edit of their Word document.
Here, the proofreader is directly amending the text, usually with Track Changes switched on so that all the amendments can be reviewed.
The line between copy-editing and proofreading is blurred, and the level of intervention will vary from client to client. The term ‘proof-editing’ is sometimes used within the professional editorial community to describe this tangling of what, traditionally, were two quite distinct services within the publishing industry.
Are the old skills redundant?
Most of my self-publishing clients ask me to work directly in Word. Given that all my work now comes from this sector, are my traditional page-proofreading skills redundant or am I still glad I took the time to learn them?
I think the twenty-first century proofreader who doesn’t have this knowledge is missing an opportunity.
Print isn’t dead
Self-publishers don’t just publish electronically. Many make their books available in print via platforms such as CreateSpace, Lulu, BookBaby and Ingram Spark. That means they produce designed page proofs – just like mainstream publishing houses.
And just like publishing houses, these independent authors need proofreaders with traditional skills that go well beyond checking spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax. Rather, we’re talking about also carrying out the same layout checks that our proofreading colleagues from 40 years ago undertook.
If you’re offering traditional proofreading services to independent authors, and you aren’t familiar with the mainstream publishing industry’s conventions in regard to page layout, you won’t be able to carry out the aforementioned checks with confidence.
That means you won’t be fit for purpose to offer this service to your clients, which means you’re missing out on a potential work stream.
Understanding traditional production standards
Certainly, there’s no law when it comes to layout, and none of us wants to interfere with books that have been deliberately designed in a creative way. However, many self-publishers are looking to mirror the production standards that a traditional publishing contract would have provided them with.
Part of that process involves ensuring that their printed book looks like it belongs on the shelf on the high-street bookshop.
Some readers will have in-house publishing experience through which they’ve learned about layout conventions; others will have acquired this knowledge via formal editorial training.
If you’re a proofreader who isn’t familiar with layout standards, Joel Friedlander’s free Printed Book Design 101 is a short but useful primer. The next stage is to follow up with more detailed guidance provided by an industry-recognized style manual (e.g. New Hart’s Rules or The Chicago Manual of Style).
Ultimately, though, I’d strongly recommend sourcing appropriate training from your national editorial society so that you learn how to manage page proofs effectively while doing no harm.
Doing no harm
The proofreader will need a little artistry and a lot of common sense when it comes to managing the potential problems in page proofs. Consider the following examples of harm:
1. A self-published organization studies monograph
The text on two facing pages of Chapter 1 (pp. 4 and 5) is unbalanced. Page 4 is much shorter than page 5. Page 4 contains text that refers to Figure 1.2, which currently appears on page 5.
You solve the problem by annotating the page proofs with an instruction to move the figure to page 4. The figure is now close to its referring text, and the issue of the imbalanced facing-page depths is solved.
Four chapters later, Figure 1.2 is mentioned again and cross-referenced with a page number. Your seemingly elegant change means the cross-reference is now wrong.
2. A self-published novel
You annotate the page proofs with an instruction to move two lines over to the next page in order to improve the balance of the text on two facing pages. This has a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the book, and causes an extra page to be added. So what? It’s only a page.
The problem here is that printers don’t think only in terms of the number of pages. They also consider, for example, the format of a book, the binding, the grain of the paper and the size of a page. If they can fit eight pages on one sheet for the purposes of printing, it could be that your instruction to add one page actually results in the printer having to create eight pages.
That’s an added expense your author may not have the budget for.
3. A self-published engineering manual
You're asked to proofread. The client has hired an indexer, too, but you don’t know this because the index isn’t included in the page proofs.
You annotate the page proofs with an instruction to change the spelling of a cited author’s name. This proper noun is the last word on the page and the word spacing is so tight that the sentence is difficult to read. You solve this by annotating the proofs with an instruction to move the name onto the next line, which appears on a fresh page.
This cited author is a big name in the engineering field and will be included in the index. You don’t alert the author to the possible consequences of your instruction.
When the book is printed, there’s still a spelling error in the index and an incorrectly numbered page reference.
The three examples above illustrate why formal proofreading training is advisable. Learning what to look out for on page proofs is a lot easier than learning how to properly manage any problems you find.
When you understand not only what to mark but also the consequences of those marks, you’re fit for purpose.
Proofread like it’s 1976, and offer multiple passes
Yes, it’s 2018 at the time of writing, but being able to proofread like it’s 1976 allows you to offer multiple passes to those clients who want to publish digitally and in print.
Knowing how to proofread (or proof-edit) in Word enables you to correct language problems. But if you also know how a book page works, and how to mark up page proofs so that they conform to publishing industry-recognized standards – in a way that does no harm – you can provide your author with the same high-quality proofreading service that those with mainstream publishing contracts have access to.
That’s good news for your client and your business.
The podcast version! Click to listen
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with crime, mystery, suspense and thriller writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Fiction Editor & Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, connect via Facebook and LinkedIn, and check out her books and courses.
Anna Sharman’s recent guest article on working for academic editing agencies prompted an interesting comment from another colleague to the effect that providing language editing services for non-English speaking researchers didn’t necessarily level the playing field at pre-submission stage.
The reason for the imbalance is obvious – researchers in the developing world are much less likely to be able to afford the cost of hiring the services of ESL editors. This leads to a publishing divide between the rich and the poor, where economics rather than academic excellence determines the ability to publish.
So who better to address the issue than Ravi Murugesan, the training coordinator of AuthorAID, a project dedicated to helping academic authors from developing countries to publish their research.
Ravi kindly agreed to an interview with The Parlour. We hope that this Q&A will draw further attention to the valuable work that AuthorAID does on behalf of the developing world’s community of scholars and the people and organizations who support it.
Louise Harnby: Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview Ravi. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about your own background and how you came to be involved with AuthorAID?
Ravi Murugesan: Thank you, Louise, for your interest in AuthorAID at INASP. My academic background is in engineering. I completed a master’s degree in the US, but I decided I wasn’t meant to be an engineer after working in a semiconductor company for a few months. I became an authors’ editor at the Editage office in Mumbai, and after a couple of years I became the manager of the education business in the same organization. When I saw the job advert for the training coordinator position at AuthorAID, I was fascinated by the role, particularly the part about travelling to developing countries to facilitate workshops on scientific writing. I joined AuthorAID in March 2011.
LH: Can you tell me more about the foundations of the AuthorAID programme, such as where it’s based, who it serves, what its objectives are and how it all started? I understand the idea was first mooted by the editors of the Journal of Public Health Policy back in 2004.
RM: AuthorAID is one of the projects run by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), a charity based in Oxford. There are now a number of independent AuthorAID initiatives. At INASP, AuthorAID is part of the Programme for the Enhancement for Research Information, which began in 2002 with the goal of strengthening the research communication cycle in developing countries. In this interview, I talk about just the AuthorAID programme at INASP.
AuthorAID’s mission is to support developing country researchers in publishing their work. We focus on the researchers in INASP’s 22 partner countries, but our website is open to all. We now have 5,000 members on the site, and much of the site’s content is available without registration. But with registration, researchers can join our online mentoring scheme as a mentee or mentor.
We also conduct workshops on research writing in our partner countries, maintain a frequently updated blog and resource library (with hundreds of free e-resources), and offer grants for research communication.
LH: Is the programme for authors in all fields of the academic spectrum, or just the sciences?
RM: Researchers from any field are welcome to register on our website. The workshops we conduct are oriented towards researchers in scientific fields, but we’re looking to improve our offerings for researchers in the humanities and social sciences. A few months back, we were invited by the British Academy to give a talk on mentoring to social science researchers in West Africa at a career development workshop in Ghana.
LH: From a language-editing perspective, how does it work? Let’s say a scholar from Nepal has a research project that they want to write up and submit to an academic journal, but their English-language skills restrict submission and they can’t afford to hire an ESL editor from the developing world. How can they get round the problem of affordability vs quality editing?
RM: They have two options: they can look for a mentor who would be willing to edit their work, or they can contact one of the editing services we have listed on our site. (These companies offer discounts to AuthorAID members.) Some mentors may be more interested in helping with the writing process than editing a paper after it is written. So I would recommend that authors from developing countries look for a mentor when they are about to begin writing a paper.
LH: There may be freelance academic editors reading this who would consider working on manuscripts from AuthorAID members. What should they do if they want to provide language editing services for scholars in the developing world?
RM: We would love to have more academic copy editors join our community as mentors. Because of my own background in this area, I was able to mentor an early-career researcher in Zimbabwe. I helped him develop a hypothesis and write his paper. I also clarified many questions he had about referencing and the peer review process. By being a mentor, I developed a greater appreciation of the effort that a researcher invests in writing a paper.
Even if academic copy editors don’t wish to get involved in the writing process as mentors, they can still provide a valuable service by editing the papers of mentees. You must be aware that a lot of journal editors and peer reviewers consider the language in a paper to be indicative of the quality of the research reported. By presenting a well-written (or well-edited) paper, a researcher has a better chance of getting published.
We recommend that mentees acknowledge their mentors in any published papers, so editorial mentors can request their mentees for such acknowledgement. However, I would advise mentors to think of this as a possible bonus and not a goal as such. AuthorAID mentees often work in resource-poor settings and may face numerous hurdles in the journey to publication. Sometimes, the dedicated effort of a mentor may not be enough for a mentee to get published. But usually both the mentor and mentee learn a lot, and the mentee may be better equipped to publish in the future.
LH: Who are your key partners in the programme, broadly speaking?
RM: We have organized joint workshops with science foundations and networks, such as the International Foundation for Science and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In fact, just a month back we organized two workshops in Kenya with these partners. We are always looking to partner with other organizations that have missions similar to ours.
LH: Do you offer financial help to researchers from lower-income countries, and if so what are the criteria for assessment?
RM: We provide travel and workshop grants, and these are explained in our latest call for applications.
LH: Can you share some examples of people who AuthorAID has helped on their scholarly publishing journey?
RM: A few weeks back, our country coordinator in Ethiopia told me that one of the researchers who attended the workshop I facilitated last November has just published a paper in a journal. I was thrilled and did an interview with her, which has just gone up on the AuthorAID blog.
In April, a scientist who attended the AuthorAID workshop in Zambia won the workshop grant, and she is very motivated to share her knowledge with female researchers in her department.
Every now and then, we do formal impact assessments. When we did this last year for the AuthorAID workshop in Rwanda that was held in 2009, we were pleased to see that there had been a substantial increase in the publications of the participants.
LH: What’s coming up in the future for AuthorAID? Are there any special events or plans in the pipeline that you’d like to share?
RM: The AuthorAID e-learning system has just been launched, and the blog post from last week has more details.
LH: To round off, Ravi, please tell us how to get in touch with AuthorAID.
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