The Writing Resources Section of my Website Has Been Revamped

The Writing Resources section of my website has been revamped – the original resources have been repurposed for a future collection. It’s a revamp inspired by some of my communications with clients and some of the experiences I’ve had applying for proofreading and editing roles. It’s both informed me what writers like to know before hiring someone and it’s affirmed my beliefs in the editing services and approaches I prefer to offer.

If you don’t have time to look at it now I’ll share some of the resources later in the month.

Q: Have any applications or experiences informed you what to post about or affirmed your approach in how you offer your business?

Editing Company

The home page has been updated. End of post. No … now it’s time for me to roll towards my proofreading and editing hat role: it’s important when you’re running a freelance business to adapt and learn from your mistakes, successes, and from feedback in general. Mistakes are obvious things to watch out for, and to learn from feedback requires an open mind and a touch of imagination to see how it can be implemented. But learning from successes was something I’d not initially foreseen as a factor towards adapting and improving the way I do things.

The thing is, if something works, then do more of it or make it obvious to other potential clients or readers or audiences that you provide that thing. In my case it has meant spelling things out on my website and in my email correspondence, working towards a business model that I feel is fair towards my clients and readers.

I utilise a step-by-step approach to booking a client in, though in some cases when I’m dealing with a small project I have decided a ‘jump in’ approach was best. No one size fits all, they say, after reading a proofreading or editing sample. And it’s something that chimes with my experience of client handling. Yet, there are editors and author services companies that offer exactly that who are doing well by their audience and likely getting business from it.

Recent experience with this conflict between whole service packages and employers who seek proofreaders and editors who offer it has definitely encouraged me to take another look at what I offer writers and why it’s different, in the hope the right people can better find me and know exactly what they’d get if they hired me.

Have your successes, failures, or client/employer experiences taught you anything about what you can offer clients?

Which Edit Do I Need?

Incomplete story/project/manuscript: critique/structural edit

Complete story/project/manuscript to be ready for publishing/target audience: copy edit

Complete story/project/manuscript to be ready for publishing/target audience with language, voice and style to be given a lift/improved: line edit (Alex James Novels does not offer line edits)

Final check for sense and error: proofread

Which Editor Do I Choose?

No-one can tell you which editor is right for your book, though people and professionals can advise you. Ultimately, you have to decide that for yourself, which isn’t always easy, especially when there are a number of editors who provide different services with similar-sounding names.

Some editors offer:

  • Copy edits and line edits
  • Copy edits only
  • Line edits only
  • Copy edits and proofreads
  • Proofreads only
  • Developmental/structural/critique edits and copy/line edits/proofreads
  • Developmental/structural/critique edits only

And then, to complicate things, there are things called proof-edits, which sound like a combination of proofreading and editing.

Alex James Novels offers developmental/structural/critique edits and copy edits and proofreads, but will not offer line edits, and unless the crossover requirements are minimal will not wish to offer more than one service at the same time i.e. a copy edit and a line edit or a developmental edit and a copy edit.

Difference Between Proofreading and Copy Editing

There is a difference between copy editing and proofreading. Copy editing’s focus is on making the manuscript suitable for its target audience, by focusing on sentence-level editing of the language, but copy editors check for many aspects beyond spelling, punctuation, and grammar to ensure a manuscript is consistent, logical, and structurally complete (not to be confused with editing the structure of a manuscript).

Copy editing comes before proofreading in the publishing process.

The proofreading job was to ensure everything was accurately reflected on the proof and that no new errors were introduced by the publishing process and the team that has so far worked on it (copy editor, typesetter, author, etc.). Proofreaders check for consistency in presentation, errors of omission (what’s missing), and errors of commission (errors introduced by someone). Where language was concerned they’d focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sense, sometimes reading once for error and once for sense, before tackling anything else inconsistent or that required querying.

In conclusion, editing and proofreading used to be seen as different, and many writers, editors, and publishers still believe that they are, but sometimes there are trends that suggest otherwise for a variety of reasons when:

  • Writers don’t understand the difference between the skills.
  • Writers or publishers seek a cost-effective solution to publishing, thereby cutting out some editing stages/skills or seeking a do-it-all editor as part of a whole package.
  • There is a project that is initially required for a proofread but the proofreader notices more intervention is required at the editing stage, and the skill/service becomes a ‘proof-edit’.

The Origins of Copy Editing and Proofreading

Copy editing and proofreading as skills, have their origin in publishing houses. The proofreader would basically have two sheets of paper and if they were right handed they would compare the double-spaced copy (left side on their desk) with the single-spaced proof (right side on their desk) to ensure that amendments made on the copy had been transferred smoothly and that no new errors were introduced by the publishing team’s process – a process that included, among others, a copy editor, typesetter, and author.

These practices were from days and times when typewriters were used, and a typesetter would rekey the entire manuscript with the copy editor’s and author’s amendments, but these days most people do their writing on PCs, other computers, or using online applications and there is therefore less need for a typesetter to rekey the entire material.

In practice a proofreader would look left and right a lot, as you could imagine. When a proofreader was asked to look at a single sheet it was called a ‘blind proofread’, which meant there was no copy. Most proofreading nowadays is a blind proofread!

Traditional book publishers wouldn’t have a single ‘go to’ person to sort out the manuscript, as we sometimes have nowadays when hiring freelances, and although over time publishers have hired out freelances to cut costs, they would still follow a rigorous quality control process. They’d do it in stages to prepare the manuscript for publishing and to help catch errors before it was too late.

How to Proofread

I’ve read today that one proofreader learnt copy editing while working for a publisher, comparing the copy editor’s notes with the author’s, giving them insight into the sort of things to look out for and how to do the job. I found this fascinating.

There probably isn’t a single way you can go about it. Some readers are particularly apt at spotting errors – or new angles of thought – in the books they read. Some, like myself, got started by helping author friends prepare for publishing. There are those who want the freedom that comes with running your own business, or for other reasons find working from home suitable.

Professional courses, colleague advice, and membership of professional organisations can help alongside experience. My view is that if you’re a writer getting your own writing edited or proofread it can help you see the value of the processes in action rather than just taking it for granted.