Interview 9: Tiffany Cole

  • Years editing: 9 years
  • Job title: Editorial assistant of product development, Goodheart-Willcox
  • Job description: Market research, copyediting and proofreading, manuscript reviews, and general administrative support for agricultural, child development, college success, and nursing textbooks
  • Location: Illinois

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
When I joined Chicago Women in Publishing last year, I approached the previous president, an educational consultant for Goodheart-Willcox, and set up a few informational meetings to learn more about the publisher and her experience getting hired there. She guided me through the interview process. I was also a mentee with the Representation Matters Mentor Program for six months (the organization partners with editors from publishing houses to advance diversity in publishing). My two mentors — one from Penguin Random House and one from Sourcebooks — helped me understand how to write a cover letter and résumé that would appeal to publishers.  

Previously, I’d spent months applying to dozens of publishing industry jobs and only making it to the first interview — if that. I was frustrated with the hiring process for becoming an in-house editor, especially because I thought my years of experience as a freelance editor would’ve been more helpful. In publishing, it often feels like you need to know someone to get in. However, the mentors I had and the informational interview with someone who actually worked at the publishing house I was applying to helped me immensely.

Even though I had years of experience as a writer, freelance copyeditor, and freelance developmental editor, I applied for the entry-level role because I didn’t have experience working in the acquisitions department of a textbook publisher and wanted to start in a beginning role to learn as much as I can about textbook publishing and acquisitions.

What copyediting training have you had?
When I first started, years ago, my training came from a variety of experiences: taking free online courses, copyediting for my university newspaper, taking on freelance clients for cheap rates to gain experience, and job shadowing editors as a volunteer editorial assistant/intern. 

What positions have you held?
I’ve been a freelance copyeditor, a freelance developmental editor, a freelance writer, a book reviewer, the lead copyeditor for my university’s award-winning newspaper, and an editorial assistant of product development. 

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
In my role as an editorial assistant, having project management skills and being a good writer — for the many emails I send — have been very important. The ability to be both a team player and a leader is also important. In most publishing environments, a team of people is working on a project, from acquisitions to copyediting to marketing and onward. So for a project to be successful, you need to be able to help others working on the projects while being able to take charge of your portion of the project. 

For instance, I take the lead on the peer review process and regularly report my progress in weekly meetings with the team.  

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
The only editing tool I use is Microsoft Word. In some of my previous roles, I’ve worked in InDesign for proofing.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
Even though the Acquisitions Department is new, my team consists entirely of editors, so there are about six to eight of us. Talk about editing is mostly regarding collaboration. This is a mixture of weekly status meetings with the team (when we make sure we’re all on the same page about our projects) as well as comments and notes within documents for editing purposes, to help whoever will receive the document next. 

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Yes, I’m involved in a few communities that support editors. I’m now the president of Chicago Women in Publishing, which has a big editorial community. Though the organization is located in Chicago, it offers a cheaper membership option to those living outside of the city, with all the same benefits. I also attend events hosted by the Freelancers Union and ACES: The Society for Editing.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
If you’re a freelance editor, I highly recommend networking at conferences your clients will attend, by being active in the audience and trying your best to get on a panel. Showing my expertise on stage or in the audience helped me consistently get clients when I was a full-time freelance editor. 

If you’re an in-house editor, it is very important to give back to the publishing community as a mentor, continue to network at events, and continually look for opportunities to advance your career and knowledge. 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
In terms of gender, my office is very diverse. In terms of race, Goodheart-Willcox is working to have a more diverse office. I feel welcome and accepted, even though there aren’t many African Americans in the office and no other people of color on my team.

Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Have you observed such barriers for others? 
When I was freelancing full time, many people didn’t know my race when they worked with me, and I felt that was empowering — people were choosing to work with me solely because of my expertise and weren’t applying any preconceived notions to my work. 

For the most part, I felt like the companies I worked for that were aware of my race were happy to work with someone of color because there has been a movement in publishing to get more people of color in the field. (I experienced this movement as a mentee with Representation Matters, and when I was hired at Goodheart-Willcox, the mission for more diversity was mentioned in an email. Furthermore, before I was hired at Goodheart-Willcox, I was interested in the Mellon Foundation’s Diversity Grant and highly recommend it.)

The main hurdle was that at most publishing events, I was often the only person of color in the room. It’s been that way for a while, so I’ve become used to it, but it can be uncomfortable and disheartening. I instinctively felt like I had to code-switch or alter my appearance or way of speaking to match everyone else in the room, and subconsciously, it makes you feel like you don’t completely belong. It’s not that I experienced any outright racism or even unkindness, but there was a sense that I stood out for reasons I didn’t want to stand out. 

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
In terms of recruitment, offices/employers should reach out to organizations dedicated to people of color in editing, such as Editors of Color

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
When I was lead copyeditor, the Purdue University Northwest student-run newspaper won many awards from the Illinois College Press Association. Many of the articles which won first and second place were articles I edited extensively. I learned a lot from that experience.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I’m still a freelance editor. I now accept only projects that are 5,000 words or less, if I can fit them into my schedule. I’m transitioning to becoming a YouTuber, and I really like helping people work smarter with business tips and, coming soon, advice about getting hired in the publishing industry. You can watch my videos at BusinessAtTiffany’s

I also love going on hikes, trying out new breweries and craft beers, and experiencing different cultures through food and fashion.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Take advantage of the events at organizations like Chicago Women in Publishing and ACES. If you’re a person of color new to the industry, I highly suggest you try out a mentorship program, like Representation Matters Mentor Program or the mentorship program for members of Chicago Women in Publishing.

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