A person sits on their bed with their computer on their lap.

Platforms for Freelance Editors

There are many perks to being a freelance editor. You can set your own schedule, choose editorial tasks that suit you and play to your strengths, and you can often work from the comfort of your own home. But if you’re a new freelance editor on the scene, you might have some trouble breaking into the field and establishing yourself as an authority in your particular specialty. Whether you specialize in developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, or some combination of the three, there are a few great online platforms you can use to kickstart or revamp your career.
The first platform is great for editors who are just getting started and want to establish themselves in the field. Upwork is a platform that allows freelancers of all types to find remote work opportunities posted by companies and individuals looking for experts. All you need to do to get started is create a profile on their site, upload some personal information, and provide your past relevant work experience. Once your profile has been approved, you’re all set to start applying for jobs.
Reedsy is another great site for freelance editors to find work, and it has the added bonus of focusing specifically on the development and production of books. If you’re a freelance book editor looking to expand your client base and get more projects, this is a great place to start. As with most sites, it may take a little time to get fully established, and Reedsy is especially useful for editors who already have a portfolio of work they can showcase.
Another popular platform for freelancers that editors can make use of is Fiverr. While this particular site doesn’t focus exclusively on book production like Reedsy does, it still offers numerous opportunities for editors to find work, especially those who specialize in copyediting and proofreading. It also gives you the opportunity to curate your own presence on the site with images and work samples so you can attract the kind of editorial clients you’d ultimately like to work with.
These three sites are all great starting points for editors looking to find their first clients or for those looking to revamp their careers. They allow editors to start out and get some basic editorial experience, and your success on these sites will compound the more experience you get. Be sure to collect work samples from each project you complete, as well as testimonials from clients you work with so you can add them to your profile to attract future clients. There’s a lot of competition for editors out there, so it’s important to make yourself stand out and highlight what makes you unique.
When setting your rates, be sure to refer to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association and their editorial rates page as well as considering the going rates for comparable editors on the site you choose. Remember that one of the biggest mistakes new editors make is not charging enough for their services, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve! You want your rates to be competitive, but above all, to reflect your talent, expertise, and the value of your work.

old typewriter with words

Lies My Teachers Taught Me: The Evolution of the Writing Process

I want you to think back to your high school English classes. What was your biggest takeaway from those four years? For me, it was the basic writing process: find your topic, research it, organize your notes, create an outline, write a rough draft, revise it, proofread it, and submit. Every paper I wrote used this method.

My senior year, everything I learned about this process changed when my AP English teacher introduced us to a different way of thinking about revision. He argued that the writing process we had been taught underestimated the value of revision and its importance in the writing process. Writing should be 70 percent revision, 25 percent writing, and the rest minor editing. Writers should constantly be revising their work—looking at their work with fresh eyes and reimagining it until it reaches its full potential.

Writing has always been stressful for me, but this new mindset helped take away a lot of the pressure because it meant that I didn’t have to have everything written—I could start with the most critical elements and come back to it later. It revolutionized my writing process and I became a better writer because of it.

By the time I finished my bachelor’s degree, I had developed my own personal writing style that focused on revising my work in multiple rounds. It was a blend of everything I had been taught about writing and the “correct” processes. I thought I was set when it came to my writing and that this process would be my method for life.

Within two weeks of starting my master’s program, my writing world once again imploded on itself. While learning about the different stages of the editing process, I learned that revising is not actually revision—it’s the standard editing process.

Go back to high school English again, this time concentrating on what you were taught to look for when revising: big picture errors like inconsistencies in plot, character development, organization, and flow. In my own process, I reread my paper looking for inconsistencies, reorganizing sentences and paragraphs, and joining sentences together. In the editing world we call this developmental editing.

When we were asked to proofread our papers and look for errors in grammar, tone, verb tense, syntax, and voice, I obsessed over every word, every sentence, and every paragraph. I was line and copyediting without realizing it. The final read-through before turning in our papers is proofreading and typesetting.

Putting these pieces together blew my mind. But it makes sense when you take a step back and think about it in terms of the endgame. Editors want to ensure that a manuscript is the absolute best it can be so that it will be picked up by publishers and distributed into the world; authors have this same goal: to be published and get their work out there. In high school, and even in college, we wanted our work to be good enough to be accepted and approved by our teachers. The shared goal is to be accepted, and to be told that we produced quality work.

I wish I had learned about the connection between editing and revising sooner. I fell in love with revision and realized that my passion is in helping other writers create their best work. Revising helped me realize that I want to work in the publishing industry; I just wish these connections were made clearer in high school. I would have realized my passion much sooner.

Easy Listening: The Importance and Challenges of Audiobook Proofreading for Misophonia

Audiobooks are becoming a popular format in publishing for many reasons: they allow people of all reading levels to passively enjoy their books, sometimes while multitasking. Most of all, audiobooks are often seen both by publishing houses and readers as a blanket solution to accessibility issues in book readership. Certainly, this is true for a lot of conditions; audiobooks can overcome blindness, dyslexia, and various mobility and visual impairments. However, mediums involving oracular involvement come with their own set of conditions that can make enjoying the content a challenge. For every blind person that is well-served by an audiobook, there is a misophonic listener that is underserved by underutilized proofreading practices.

If this is your first time reading about misophonia, its name should help imply its meaning: an aversion to certain sounds, to the extent that those afflicted have negative reactions and limited ability to function when exposed to those particular sounds. Misophonia is a condition that affects
only about 15 percent of the population, yet understanding the condition and avoiding its triggers has benefits that extend far beyond that narrow demographic. It’s a classic instance of the curb-cut effect: when concerns of accessibility are met, others ultimately benefit from it. Many triggers for misophonia—such as microphone pops, chewing, or whistling when breathing in—aren’t necessarily painful for people without the condition, but certainly detract from the experience of listening to an audiobook for anyone.

But saying that looking out for misophonic readers is a beneficial thing is not the same as saying it is easy. There isn’t exactly a style guide for audiobook proofreading in general, let alone one for catching misophonia triggers. Were such a guide to be created, it would need to factor in the variations in triggers. For some with the condition, pitch is the major factor of concern, for others it is tonality, and others still cannot stand droning noises of any pitch or tonality. In addition, the onus of creating misophonia-friendly audiobooks does not begin and end with proofreaders. Audiobook narrators must be made aware of avoiding volume modulation or unnecessary mouth sounds (not breathing into the mouth or clearing one’s voice, to name a few examples), and audiobook editors will have to be careful to edit around such noises. Some publishers will certainly consider such additional work burdensome, and will elect to not raise these concerns.

And yet, other publishers will consider it worth the effort, and will be richly rewarded for it in an overall increase in audio quality. If proofreaders are going to seek out misspoken words, they might as well seek out distracting or potentially distressing sounds that add nothing to the story being read. Some editors will jump at the challenge of creating such tight audio mixing to avoid microphone pops or other minor background noises, and if only one takes the liberty of creating a style guide for such editing, the entire industry could benefit from it. If audiobooks are going to continue to hold a reputation as an accessible medium, it is not enough that they passively address disabilities by the nature of their format; a more active role must be taken by publishers to ensure a product that everyone can enjoy.

A Writer’s Guide to Editing

Writing a story takes blood, sweat, and tears, and the process of revising one’s own work takes time and dedication. All this hard work culminates in a promising manuscript, but in order to achieve the most success, a manuscript needs the attention of a professional editor. Authors can hire freelance editors to work on their manuscripts, or they can go through the editing process with the publishing house that accepts their work. To receive the best editing, it’s important to know what to ask for—and that requires knowing the levels of editing offered. The most common types of editing fall into these four categories:

Developmental Editing
Also called substantive, structural, or content editing, developmental editing is big-picture editing. As Nancy S. Miller, the associate publisher and editorial director at Bloomsbury Publishing, says in her essay “The Book’s Journey” (published in the book What Editors Do), this form of editing addresses issues with “structure, focus, pacing, plotting, shaping an argument, gaps in the narrative, believability of characters, enhancing or cutting subplots, excising extraneous material, and interweaving strands into a cohesive whole,” which gets the book roughly into shape. Some books don’t need any developmental editing at all; some need five rounds. It’s done on a case-by-case basis, and many authors find it useful to begin developmental edits before the manuscript is complete to save time and money.

Line Editing
Also called stylistic editing, this is paragraph-level editing that focuses on sentence flow and structure. Editors at this stage ensure that the tone and writing style of the book remain consistent throughout by carefully evaluating the writer’s syntax, phrasing, transitions, and dialogue. They will often cut sections of paragraphs or move them around in order to achieve this. This level of editing often overlaps with developmental editing and can even be entirely included in the developmental edits.

Copyediting is sentence-level editing that ensures consistency and proper grammar. If a character’s name is spelled “Christina” in chapter three but “Kristina” in chapter seven, it is a copyeditor’s job to catch it. Copyeditors make sure that no one’s eyes suddenly change color, that the verb tenses are correct, and that there aren’t any spelling or punctuation errors. This level of editing should not include any substantial changes to the manuscript.

Proofreading involves comparing the edited manuscript with the designed version. A proofreader catches errors that were introduced during the design process, as well as sneaky errors that weren’t caught during the copyedit. Proofreaders will also highlight any design issues, such as orphans and widows. If the book is to be published as an ebook, proofreaders will view it on an ereader to ensure that all the coding has been done correctly and everything appears as it should. Proofreading is a time-consuming process for an editor, as it requires a keen eye and several passes over a manuscript.

Though all this editing may seem like overkill to a new author having to go through the entire process, every editorial stage has its purpose. In fact, some books are able to skip the earlier steps if they have been sufficiently edited before reaching the publishing house’s inbox. In the end, the editing process is there to improve a text, not hack away at it needlessly. Editors are often the writer’s biggest fans, and their job is to elevate the text to the heights they know it can achieve.

An Ode to Proofreading, Part II

In my previous Manager Monday post, I sang the praises of proofreading—an important yet often undervalued skill in the complex web of the editorial process. For many aspiring freelance editors, proofreading is the best (and in some cases, the only) way to get a foot in the door. But what are proofreaders actually looking for?

Whereas copyeditors focus on grammar, spelling, wordiness, clarity, redundancy, and other aspects of the text itself, proofreaders search for and identify errors introduced during the design process. Quite literally, they’re reading the proofs—the typeset pages—to make sure everything is formatted correctly. Back in the days when each letter of type was set by hand, there were plenty of opportunities for mistakes to be introduced, but modern book designers use software such as InDesign and import the text directly. It’s less likely a proofreader will find errors introduced by imperfect humans and more likely a proofreader will find errors introduced by imperfect machines.

While proofreading The Widmer Way and Breaking Cadence, the most common errors we found were bad breaks, word stacks, inconsistencies in formatting, and small typos that slipped through the previous editing rounds. (Normally, proofreaders would also keep an eye out for runts, widows, and orphans, but Ooligan’s designers are so good that they fixed all of those before sending the proofs to the editorial department.)

Bad breaks: Bad breaks are one of those things that you can’t stop seeing once you know what to look for. A bad break refers to end-of-line hyphenation where a word “breaks” onto another line where it shouldn’t, such as in The Widmer Way, where the word “brewhouse” broke as “bre-whouse.” The break made the line difficult to read because it broke the word into two nonsense syllables. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends following Merriam-Webster’s syllabication for breaking words (i.e., “publishing” could break as either “pub-lishing” or “publish-ing”). Bad breaks also commonly occur in hyphenated phrases, such as “great-grandmother.” Design software will see no problem in adding another hyphen between “grand” and “mother,” turning it into “great-grand-mother,” but if possible, it’s better to break at the hard hyphen between “great” and “grand.” Some publishers also avoid breaking words that come immediately before or after an em dash, such as “—pub-lishing” or “publish-ing—”. To indicate a bad break while handmarking a proof, circle the break and write “BB” in the margin.

Word stacks: Stacks occur when the same word (or words) appear “stacked” on two or more lines. They most often occur at the very beginning or end of a line of text, but they can also appear in the middle of a paragraph. Stacks are sometimes unavoidable, and in some cases, leaving them alone might be preferable, as “fixing” them might negatively alter other lines by creating text that is too loosely or tightly spaced. To mark a stack, just circle the offending words.

Inconsistencies in formatting: The Widmer Way has a lot of italics throughout, and Ooligan’s design process makes it easy for italic and boldface fonts to get lost. In conducting our proofreads for both Widmer and Breaking Cadence, we checked the final Word document against the design proofs to make sure italics appeared where they needed to. To flag problems with a font face, underline the section that is incorrect and write “ital” (for italics), “bf” (for boldface), or “rom” (for roman, neither bold nor italic) in the margin.

Things we missed during earlier rounds: This includes everything from typos to factual errors, such as a sentence in Widmer that misidentified a building as having been constructed during a period of growth for a city, when in fact, the city in question had ceased to formally exist by the time the building was built.

I hope this short guide helps illustrate some of the most common errors a proofreader may encounter. Knowing about stacks and bad breaks certainly would have helped me with my first freelance proofreading project!

An Ode to Proofreading

As the final stage of the editorial process, proofreading often feels like an afterthought. It’s sort of a joke in the publishing industry that everyone wants to be an editor; a few people aspire specifically to copyediting, but I’ve never heard anyone say they want to be a proofreader. Even the publishing program at Portland State, which has a robust editorial track, tends to gloss over proofreading. But proofreading is more than a superlight copyedit—it’s an integral stage in a book’s development that requires its own special skill set.

Amy Einsohn explains the difference between copyediting and proofreading in The Copyeditor’s Handbook:

Copyeditors work on an author’s manuscript and are concerned with imposing mechanical consistency; correcting infelicities of grammar, usage, and diction; and querying internal inconsistencies of fact or tone. Proofreaders, in contrast, are charged with correcting errors introduced during the typesetting, formatting, or file conversion of the final document and with identifying any serious errors that were not caught during copyediting.

Ooligan’s editorial department just finished up proofreading The Widmer Way, and as I attempted to explain the goals and expectations that accompany a proofread, I began to realize just how involved proofreading is.

Unlike copyediting, which focuses purely on the text, proofreaders engage with the book after the interior has been designed and laid out. That means that in addition to keeping an eye out for egregious grammar errors and typos, the proofreader is focused on aesthetics: eliminating typographic gaffes such as widows, orphans, and runts; marking bad breaks and word stacks; and ensuring design elements such as subheads and running heads are handled consistently. (If that sentence confused you, I hope you now understand what I mean about proofreading being a separate skill.)

Runts and stacks may seem minor in the grand scheme of things—nobody is going to put a book down because of a quirk of typesetting—but proofreaders, as the last line of defense before a book goes to print, walk a uniquely fine line. By the time a manuscript arrives to the proofreader, it’s past the stage where the text can be substantially changed; proofreaders, in addition to flagging typesetting issues, must decide if an error, whether grammatical or factual, is minor enough or major enough to warrant changing. A missing comma is a minor change and can be suggested without a second thought; an easily verifiable factual error is a more difficult call.

Proofreading is also one of the last realms of publishing that takes place on paper rather than electronically (except at Ooligan, which uses a rather complicated system involving Google Sheets). Those mysterious markings and symbols that proofreaders use to communicate with designers and typesetters are important for any proofreader to know, and although the symbols themselves are easily found online and in the Chicago Manual of Style, the intricacies of how to use them is not always as intuitive.

Even though proofreading tends to be the lowest-paid of the editorial stages (at least per the Editorial Freelancers Association’s suggested rates), it’s no less important than developmental editing and copyediting.

Editing Outside the Lines

Throughout its life before printing, a manuscript can and will undergo many different kinds of editing. Here at Ooligan Press, we break up our editing into developmental editing, line-editing, copyediting, and proofreading. In her article “Understanding Different Types of Editing: What Kind of Freelance Editor do I Need”, Jenna Rose Robins describes several different kinds of editing. These can then be divided even further into levels of editing, depending on the needs of the manuscript.

Ultimately, each kind of editing can mean different things to different editors. But even when you have the lines between the various types of editing more clearly defined, certain styles of editing can bleed over between types and others cannot. It all depends on timing and the needs of the manuscript or publishing house.

Developmental editing usually happens first while a manuscript is still in need of organization and narrative development. This is when a story changes the most, and there’s the most leeway for change. Editors will prioritize development in this stage, but comments pointing out global line edits or copyedits can help a writer fix large-scale mistakes before they become a problem later.

Line editing approaches the manuscript from a global language scale. A line editor will point out consistent language errors and concerns such as repeated phrases or unvarying sentence length and patterns. Line editing can often look like heavy copyediting when there is time to focus on specific scenes or bring up large issues with the plot.

Copyediting comes in various levels: heavy, in which sentences and scenes can be modified greatly, medium, in which suggestions for changes are given, and light, in which manuscripts are made to fit style guides. For an in-depth discussion of the levels of copyediting, check out Amy Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook. Copyediting can often include the other kinds of editing, but by a light copyedit, there’s little to no time to make big changes to a manuscript.

A proofread is the strictest form of editing. By the time a book arrives at the proofreading stage, the manuscript has often been designed with tracking and kerning changes. The proofread finalizes punctuation and spelling, making only the small and most glaring changes. At this point, there is no room for plot changes and little room for larger sentence-level changes.

While there are different forms of editing and as an editor you will usually be hired to focus on one kind of editing at a time, you can use the tools from each type to assist you throughout the process. A proofreader’s ability to spot small errors can help a developmental editor find important plot holes. The ability to make large developmental changes with an author can help an editor handling tricky scenes amidst heavy and light copyedits. These kinds of tools and skills are helpful for all types of editing, and there are many ways to bring in the different forms of editing outside the lines of traditional editing itself.

Grammar Checkers and What They Mean for Today’s Writers

Lately, I’ve been seeing an influx of advertisements for online grammar checkers on almost all of my social media accounts. For a while now, I’ve tried to ignore them, chalking up the barrage of ads to the internet gods knowing how to market to a book lover, but I’ve begun to wonder what these online checkers mean for today’s writers and editors. I see the most ads for Grammarly, but one website names ProWritingAid, Ginger, SpellCheckPlus Pro, and WhiteSmoke as other current top contenders. I decided to do some digging and explore what the popularity of these grammar checkers indicates about today’s writers, editors, and proofreaders.

It turns out, the popularity of grammar checkers can be largely traced back to technology’s effects on our writing skills. As one article details, “means of communication started to accelerate, which negatively affected the quality of young people’s writing, because modern methods of communication often ignore the English grammar rules.” In other words, recent fast-paced technological advances have had an enormous linguistic effect—an effect that, in turn, has negatively influenced our writing skills. Online checkers like Grammarly can help correct bad habits developed while using social media and ensure writers adhere to grammar rules. In other words, like the spell checker on your word processor, these newer grammar checkers help safeguard against grammar slip-ups and broken sentence structures.

However, many editors and linguists caution eager writers looking for an easy software program to rely on. Stefanie Flaxman advises using these checkers with skepticism and warns against the temptation to treat them like a personal proofreader or editor. “Your own personal proofreader would be a human being, not computer software. Editors help content marketers produce engaging experiences for their audiences.” In other words, human editors and proofreaders understand the critical nuances of grammar and writing in ways a computer program cannot—an idea certainly shared by the editors here at Ooligan. This sentiment is echoed by linguist Andreea S. Calude, who points out that “grammar is slippery and hard to pin down,” a matter further complicated by the fact that written grammar is constantly being influenced by changes in our spoken language. The flexibility and shifting landscape of language and grammar is better left in the hands of editors and proofreaders well-versed in this world, rather than with online grammar checkers. Yet another problem with these programs falls closer to home for the book publishing industry. Writers who use grammar checkers often accept all suggestions with no hesitation, and while editors keep the writer’s context and style in mind, a software program will not. Accepting every change without any consideration is a huge risk for today’s writers, and introduces a major fallback for these checkers.

So while the consensus among editors and linguists concerning popular grammar checkers seems to be largely one of skepticism and caution, the threat these programs pose to print book editors is relatively small. Arguably of greater importance are the linguistic effects of technology and social media on our writing skills. It certainly appears that we should approach these new tools much as we’ve learned to handle our word processors’ spell checkers: with plenty of skepticism. We may have new tools at our fingertips, but nothing can replace the nuanced expertise of editors and proofreaders. So try out that free Grammarly trial, but remember to proceed with caution.

The Compilation Edit

I’ve had the pleasure of serving a one-year tenure as the managing editor of Ooligan Press, and now that I’ve reached the end of my time in this position, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on how singular this experience has been. Ooligan is a general trade publisher with a national distribution, but we also operate as a teaching press. We’re staffed by students pursuing master’s degrees, and leadership positions are entrusted each year to a new team of second-year students. With yearly transitions in the management team, the people interacting with our authors is almost certain to change at some juncture.

In addition to the yearly management turnover, Ooligan’s status as a teaching press is at the center of everything we do, meaning that we involve as many students as possible in each project. Our system has its advantages; students obtain valuable experience before graduating and entering the workforce, and the press enjoys a constant introduction of new ideas. It does, however, present some challenges in terms of maintaining consistency—especially for the editorial department.

Students enter Ooligan with a variety of different skill sets and backgrounds, and part of the job of the managing editor is to ensure that editors are assigned to projects within their abilities that still allow them to grow. Giving new editors a chance to hone their skills while maintaining a high-quality editorial process is the main goal of the Ooligan editorial department, and it’s made possible by using an approach we call the compilation edit.

A compilation edit is the best method we’ve found to make manuscript editing a collaborative process. For every editing round, a team of editors is assembled and briefed on the project. The approach varies depending on the book project and type of editing needed, but team sizes usually range from three to eight editors. Editors are then assigned individual tasks that often include focusing on a specific section. After each team member submits their work, an editorial department manager implements the team’s notes and cleans up comments to send to the author that will maintain a consistent voice and line of communication. Having a manager review and adjust a team’s edits is the most important part of a successful compilation edit. By establishing a dependable tone and methodology across the board, communication with our authors is much smoother and more efficient for all involved.

I’ve spent the last year looking over and compiling work from more than twenty-five editors, and I’ve gained some insights that can be applied to almost any editing task. Here are a few things that combining editorial comments from a team of editors into cohesive documents has taught me about editing:

  • Establish consistency: I can’t stress enough how important it is to establish consistency in manuscript editing, and this includes creating a style sheet specific to each book project as early as possible. An Ooligan style sheet is a living, collaborative document that evolves with a manuscript. Even if an editing team changes from one editing round to the next, the style sheet remains a fixture that helps guide future editing decisions.
  • Be flexible: Editorial suggestions are often subjective in nature. For example, I’d sometimes assign two editors to the same section and receive two entirely different edits that I’d need to vet and then harmonize together. This helped me understand that—as with writers—all editors have unique backgrounds and styles that influence their work.
  • Serve the text: A successfully edited manuscript usually comes down to making judgment calls that keep the author’s intentions at the forefront. Often I’d understand why an editor made a choice, but as the managing editor, I was usually familiar enough with the author’s intentions to understand when a change wouldn’t serve the text in the best possible way.

The compilation edit is unique to the operations of our teaching press, but coordinating this type of edit has been an invaluable learning experience for me as an editing professional. Editorial work is often more of a flexible art than a task that follows a standard procedure, as there are many ways to work with an author to bring out the best in their work. Although I will likely edit most projects on my own after I leave Ooligan, I will continue to carry with me the voices of all the talented editors I’ve collaborated with this year.

Grand Designs

Another season has passed for the 50 Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests team, and the project feels ever more real to us. Since our last update, our talented design team has brought together the many elements of this book—the photographs, maps, illustrations, informational icons, and text—into a cohesive product.

Our advance reader copies (ARCs) are being printed and will soon be on their way; once they arrive, they’ll go straight out the door to reviewers, booksellers, bloggers, and others who may have an interest in our book—either to sell or feature on their respective platforms. We are confident our ARCs will be well received, setting the stage for the finished product’s success.

Our publication date of March 1, 2018, seems both far away and extremely close. It’s hard to imagine sipping cocktails at our launch event, yet it’s very easy to imagine the amount of work left to do. The most daunting task is the proofread. Given the book’s many authors and disparate elements, we will have to be especially meticulous as we ensure grammatical and factual accuracy. However, we have no shortage of eager and talented proofreaders to help make this book the best it can be.

As our pub date draws near, you can expect more 50 Hikes social media posts in your feed as we seek to spread our enthusiasm for this book to the general public. Fortunately, the beautiful Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests speak for themselves. We can’t wait for you to enjoy them with our handy guide nestled in your day pack.