Awhile back, an author client of mine emailed me, asking about marketing himself as a copyeditor/proofreader. He was planning to leave academia and NYC to head west for the mountains and a more rural lifestyle. Way cool idea!
My response turned out to be a pretty nice synopsis of connections and resources for someone starting out in the biz, at least from my point of view as an editor.
The following includes style resources, professional organizations that I know about, using social media and my usual marketing approach.
Yep, there are still publishers to work with (although most if not all are not as old as Herr Gutenberg here). Not everything is self-publishing, at least not yet, although many of my most recent clients have been self-publishing authors. I do still recommend selectively contacting publishers. Just ten to twenty that seem to be small-to-medium sized and focused on the kinds of subject matter you want to work with seem to be best. Big publishers are OK if you can find a way in, but I’ve found a pretty low return on effort with them, and they often push down hardest on rates, even after they’ve outsourced overseas and returned because the quality wasn’t up to par.
Also, big publishers tend to outsource their entire production effort to packagers in lower-wage locations like India. You may end up in a relationship with the production editors at the packager, who will also be looking to lower their costs by paying you less so they get their “cut.” It might still be worthwhile to work for them, but just be aware.
Couple ways to find direct publisher contact information: 1) Go pay for a week’s subscription to the Literary Marketplace. You’ll get some info all in one place about possible contacts (managing editor or production editor is best) as well as being able to search by size and subject matter; 2) you can also check out individual publisher websites to see if they give out more contact info there than at LMP. I normally send a physical post card on eye-catching stationary followed by an email a couple of weeks later. My return on the time investment for ten publishers is usually one or two that put me on their lists, usually after I take an editing test.
Your own website should be the hub for your marketing effort. There may seem like a slow, organic growth of visibility with a new site, but be patient. In the end, this is your online territory (you don’t own your space on social media sites), and you can develop a long-term influence reputation with a regular blog. I use WordPress.org (not WordPress.com; pros and cons to each version) and recommend Siteground or Hostgator for web hosting. Hostgator is cheaper, but still decent as far as a user interface. Siteground has more extras they take care of for you for a higher price.
If you need help with this piece, check out my WordPress site design biz. I specialize in freelancer and other very small business sites and love to give tutorials to help people take control of their own sites.
I use social media as an outpost for my website and as a way to get the attention of individual authors. If you’re not an extrovert, being connected to all the social networks may end up being just a time suck. It’s important to be selective, particularly for business purposes; there are just too many networks out there. I find LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups to be the most useful for business purposes. If you want to focus on just one, or don’t like FB for other reasons, I think LinkedIn has value in building an informal network that can lead to referrals, as long as you participate regularly (at least three days a week). I wouldn’t pay for extra access to people, though, unless you are already established and just want to expand your potential client base. If you are new to the field, participating in groups and sharing your learning process may be helpful.
I’ve found FB pages much less than useful, although your mileage may vary. Groups, whether on LinkedIn or Facebook, collect people with common interests (writers, editors, niche publishers), as well as providing for professional discussion. This approach really helps me focus my social media interactions and allows me to show what I can do by serving others with shared experiences and bits of advice rather than by constantly pushing to sell my stuff.
Keep in mind that relationships are everything. 🙂 Nothing will happen on any social network unless you comment, repost (but retweeting/sharing can’t be everything you do) and generally be human with it. Then when you advertise something every once in a while, people will pay more attention, because you paid attention to them. I know, in the “real world” that’s probably obvious, but so many folks go on social media and forget this, thinking it’s just one big, blank billboard.
Know your bibles. If you don’t have the Chicago Manual of Style (online version here) , get it. Also, a lot of scholarly places use the APA style manual (I know, I thought it was weird to use it for stuff outside of psychology, but it’s become quite popular in the sciences generally). As I recall, the physical APA manual is expensive, but they have a lot of guidance online here. And if you happen to get involved in newspaper/magazine editing, they may use AP style (more here).
I have my own old grammar books, and the Chicago Manual has grammar recommendations now, too. But keep in mind that a lot of things are style choices, and subjective judgments are often necessary. I focus on consistency and clarity when I’m reading. If I have to stop to figure out what’s being said, I will be inclined to recommend a comma or rephrase, but I’m not going to get anal about rules. I turn the cover with an attitude of respect for the writer’s voice and will allow some variations and irregularities to accommodate that voice. I also keep up with the latest debates on usage through blogs and email discussions to see what other editors are considering. Language is an ever-evolving entity, so being rigidly prescriptive is not a best practice, in my opinion.
Nothing like professional networking to keep the work flowing and your skill set up to date.
The EFA (Editorial Freelancers Association) is a great resource and well worth the annual fee. They provide an incredible array of benefits including a job listing announcement service, email discussion group, and ongoing courses on all aspects of editing and proofreading; even local lunches with your fellow editors if you live in New York City. 🙂
The newer professional organization kid on the block is ACES (American Copy Editors Society), which has a more reasonable annual fee so far. If you like Twitter (I used to do Twitter, but not anymore), they have a good Twitter chat thing they do at least once a month, lots of resources on their site, and what sounds like a great annual conference.
Email Discussion Lists
And a great resource to participate in is an old-fashioned but very effective email discussion list called Copyediting-L. Also, there’s one editor (also the owner of CE-L now), very active on Twitter and Copyediting-L who also has lots of resources in the knowledge base on her website: Katherine O’Moore-Klopf.
Let me know if any of this proves useful to you, or if you’d like to add anything for me to look into. Thanks!