A drawing of two people with flowers in their hair and text next to them that reads "Take care of yourself so you have space to care for others."

How To Stay Sane in the Publishing Industry

Okay, so we all know COVID-19 is happening right now, right? We’re all caught up, we all get the gist? Keep your mask on, stay six feet apart, wash your hands for twenty seconds, try to isolate—do I have to keep going? I think we should all have caught on to this massive world event by now.
Yes? Great.
The first few months of isolation weren’t terrible. I’m pretty sure we all had the same mind set: I’m going to get fit, make some banana bread, and get my life together. That didn’t happen.
Then we hit four months. Reality really set in, and I realized I actually hate banana bread.
Suddenly we were at nine months: “Holy crap, this winter was awful, there is so much upset in the world and I have no hope. What are we going to do? Should I try to make banana bread again?”
Now we’re at twelve months: “I don’t even remember what real life is anymore. GIVE ME THE VACCINE.”
Staying sane in these tumultuous times and just living through the fact that we are in a massive disaster has been . . . less than easy. Every industry is being hit hard, and the publishing industry isn’t doing any better than the rest of them—especially independent presses who were struggling to get by in the first place. On top of it, no one can even cry with their friends over the struggles unless they schedule a Zoom meeting.
So what’s someone in this book publishing program to do? The people here are in grad school, working full time at Ooligan Press, living through a pandemic and social uprising, and some of them are even writing a thesis. Where’s the time for self-care?
In truth, self-care can be found in boundaries. It’s easy to let work and education overwhelm you, especially in this time of isolation we find ourselves in. There are so many things to do in the press, in classes, and in our own lives that we can lose the time we need to, well, take time. It can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or minutes in the hours we get, to just take time for ourselves—but there are when you add boundaries.
When I first came to Ooligan, I would lose my day to editing assignments or overthinking mini-essays for classes. I suddenly didn’t have time to grab a beer with friends or hike that one trail, and it was all because I refused to establish the boundaries that are needed in everyday life.
Now I only work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekdays unless there’s an emergency and I make sure to go on walks during my lunch. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have time to work on my next art project or even stretch my legs. In the end, the change in comma placement can wait and the concern about proper ISBNs isn’t an absolute emergency.
If boundaries aren’t established with work, school, and social life, then you don’t have time to focus on what really needs your attention. You.

How to Build Community with Other Editors

Editing can be a lonely profession. The number of in-house editing positions has declined in recent years, and more and more editors are working as freelancers. This means editors spend a lot of time at home, toiling away in Track Changes with only Merriam-Webster and The Chicago Manual of Style for company. But although editors are a notoriously introverted bunch, we all stand to benefit from a little social connection. What happens when you run into a truly perplexing problem—be it a difficult client or a questionable comma—and you need to turn to other editors for advice? Where can editors go to receive mentoring and to swap war stories? This post outlines some of the ways in which editors can connect with each other—virtually as well as in person—in order to grow as professionals and build a sense of community.

Social Media
Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to connect with other editors is through social media. Joining online editors’ groups will enable you to tap into vast networks of editors from all over the world—many of whom are sitting at home alone, faces illuminated by the bluish glow of their computer screens, just like you! There are various Facebook groups specifically for editors, the most prominent of which is probably the Editors’ Association of Earth. Boasting over ten thousand members, this robust online community includes various forums and subgroups where editors of all stripes come together to share tips and tools, ask each other for advice, vent their professional frustrations, and have a good chuckle over language-related jokes and memes.

It’s also a good idea to maintain an active presence on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, which allow you to follow other editors and publishing professionals and maintain a solid network. (It’s worth noting here that Merriam-Webster has an insightful, entertaining, and often combative Twitter presence—all editors should follow this sassy dictionary.)

Editors’ Associations and Guilds
While communities on social media are fun and free to take part in, editors should also consider joining professional associations. These usually cost money to join, but the benefits are often worth it. One of the major editors’ associations is ACES: The Society for Editing, which hosts an annual conference (although the 2020 conference was sadly canceled due to COVID-19) and offers membership benefits that include a free listing in a freelancer directory, access to the society’s quarterly journal, and discounts on editing-related conferences, publications, and tools. Membership costs $75 a year for regular members and $40 a year for students.

Another organization to consider joining is the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). The cost of membership with the EFA is steeper: $145 a year (or $260 for two years), plus an initial processing fee of $35. However, the EFA does offer some valuable perks, like discounts on editing courses, access to the EFA job list, and—in some regions—discounts on healthcare.

And then there are local editors’ associations, which offer more opportunities to get to know local editors and network face-to-face. For example, editors based in the Pacific Northwest might consider joining the Northwest Editors Guild. Membership costs $65 a year, and benefits include access to an online job board, local networking happy hours, and mentoring sessions with more experienced editors.

Conferences
Another great way to meet editors, writers, and publishing professionals is to attend conferences. In addition to the annual ACES conference, there are a variety of editing- and publishing-related conferences held across the U.S. every year (pandemics notwithstanding). These include large-scale national conferences like AWP, along with smaller local conferences like those hosted by PubWest and Willamette Writers.

In Conclusion
No matter what kind of editor you are, you’re never alone! By reaching out to other editors through social media, professional associations, and conferences, you can grow your professional network and develop a support system of like-minded word nerds.