Interview 26: Lyric Dodson

Years editing: 5
Job title: Freelance editor and proofreader for nonfiction self-publishing authors
Job description: Edits memoirs, self-help, personal development, and spirituality books
Location: Colorado

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I’ve found success in freelancing by putting myself out there on social media platforms. In the beginning of my freelancing journey, I reached out to many self-publishing authors on Instagram and LinkedIn to create relationships. Some of the projects I worked on in 2020 were from potential clients I reached out to several months prior; freelance marketing is often a long game. In addition, establishing relationships with small businesses and publishing companies has allowed me to fill the gaps in my schedule with consistent, quality work.

The only substantial hurdle I faced was with employers who wanted experienced editors — and the only way I could become experienced was to be hired by someone. I’ve since passed this stage (yay), but it’s an annoying part of the journey that I’m sure people in every industry deal with. I was able to overcome this hurdle by continuing to put myself out there. I didn’t let rejections get me down because editors are needed everywhere. I knew someone would take a chance on me, and they did!

What copyediting training have you had?
I received a B.A. in English from Northern Illinois University, and I’ve attended a few online editing workshops and webinars. Most of my training, though, has come from experience and constantly studying The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP style guide (exciting, I know).

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
You have to be cordial, responsive, helpful, engaging, and professional. Marketing and social media skills can also be helpful, but if you plan on freelancing (as opposed to running an editorial business that caters to everyday people), those skills are not always required. For instance, if you want to freelance with a bunch of different publishing companies, you don’t really need to market your services on social media, but if you want a substantial roster of personal clients, social media marketing is pretty much mandatory, at least in the beginning. Above all, you absolutely have to know your worth and be diligent in providing excellent service. If you stay true to that, the clients will come.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
Nope. Some of my editor friends use software like Grammarly or PerfectIt as a final check, but when used on their own, these programs can be wildly inaccurate. They also cannot account for colloquialisms, slang, or stylistic writing. I use my eyeballs, style guides, and dictionaries, and I give each project I work on at least two passes in each round of edits. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I’m a one-woman show, but I often consult with other editing colleagues if I’m having trouble with a sentence or need a second opinion on something.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I’m a part of several Facebook editing groups, editors’ associations, and editor Slack groups. Editors’ Association of Earth and Editor Alliance are two great groups on Facebook. We talk about our sometimes-exhausting workloads, share opportunities with one another, bounce ideas off of each other, and ask questions.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
It always helps to network. I’ve had several jobs and clients referred to me by fellow editors, and I’ve passed along jobs to others as well. However, you still have to produce great work. It doesn’t matter how many people you know — if you do a subpar job, no one will reach out with opportunities, or the clients who do come your way will go elsewhere. 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
The editing community as a whole is becoming fairly diverse, though it’s still predominantly white. I’ve come across quite a few editors of color who have found great success either as freelancers or as the head of their own editorial businesses. I don’t know too much about what it’s like as an in-house editor, but freelancing or running their own business gives editors of color the opportunity to control exactly what projects, clients, and jobs they undertake. Everything is up to the individual.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to the industry’s diversity, but I’ve been delighted to get to know so many black and brown editors. 

Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Or have you observed such barriers for others? 
Since I’m a remote freelancer, I’m not entirely sure if my skin color has had any impact on whether I’ve received a job or project, but knowing the social climate of the world, it would be ignorant of me to dismiss the idea altogether.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Be more deliberate when searching for editors of color. We’re out here, and we’re not hard to find. Also, it’s not enough to hire black and brown freelancers to “diversify your pool.” You must also actively engage with those editors and reach out to them for projects and other opportunities. Otherwise, the hiring was just for show, and the very editors of color you’ve recruited will not feel valued enough to stick around or accept projects once they’re offered.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Is saying “all of them” a cop-out? LOL! I seriously can’t choose just one. My clients are all amazing writers with incredible stories to tell and inspirational advice to share. I’m just happy I was trusted enough to be a part of their writing journey.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I’m a true-crime junkie. I love shows like Snapped, Forensic Files, and Unsolved Mysteries. I’m also currently studying astrology, and I’ve been an avid bowler for about seven years now. 

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Check out ACES: The Society for Editing and the Editorial Freelancers Association for more editing information than you will probably ever need. Louise Harnby and Denise Cowle host The Editing Podcast, which is mostly aimed at writers but could be helpful for editors, too, if they’re discussing the nuances of your niche. There are many Facebook groups for editors: Editor Alliance, EAE Ad Space (for those looking for editing work), and the Editors’ Association of Earth, to name a few.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession? 
Contrary to what some may think, there is enough room for all of us to thrive on this career path. Whether you’re into cookbooks, comic books, movie/TV scripts, or travel books, editors are needed in virtually every corner of the world. Don’t think you have to stick to only fiction books or only business books. There’s an entire world out there with millions of people who are ready to share their stories and expertise. It’s up to you to find them and wow them with your skills.

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