Interview 39: Malini Devadas

Years editing: 17
Job title: Editor and coach
Job description: Helps editors earn more money in their businesses
Location: Canberra, Australia

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I was in the right place at the right time when I got my in-house job. In 2013, I decided I wanted the freedom of freelance life because I had a number of caring duties and wanted to be at home.

What training do you have in copyediting and what positions have you held?
I received a graduate certificate in editing and publishing from the University of Southern Queensland in 2006–2007. I passed the Institute of Professional Editors’ written accreditation exam in 2009, after some intensive study. I worked in-house for 10 years, and there were a number of in-house training sessions. I have also been to many conferences. In 2019 I did a structural editing module at Queens University. I believe that continuing professional development is critical in any field.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I used to be a scientist, and while that didn’t teach me any explicit editing skills, it did make me more confident to edit journal articles in health and medicine. My clients also seem to like the fact that I was a scientist. But I do take the time to explain to academics that editing is a specific skill that requires training.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
When I worked in-house, I loved being able to chat with colleagues and ask questions about tricky issues. Once I went freelance, I joined online editing groups to get the same support.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I don’t work as an editor much these days, so I’m not in any other groups. I set up a second business a few years ago, working as a mindset coach to help editors earn more money in their businesses. I have a free Facebook group associated with that business, and the aim of that group is to provide a safe space for editors to share their business goals and then reflect on what is stopping them from taking action. Mindset plays a huge part in running a business, but there are not many editing groups that have this focus. So I wanted to create something that would fill the void.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?Ah, I could write a book on this (and am planning to do so — hopefully this year). Yes, editors absolutely need to be “out there” meeting potential clients and talking about what they do.

But the focus needs to be on solving a problem that a client has. There’s no point talking about copyediting if an author is worried that their book isn’t good enough to send to an agent, for example. In that case, the editor should talk about how they can give the author honest feedback and help them get the book into shape, ready for an agent.

In general, editors spend too much time talking about their work as if they’re talking to other editors, rather than looking at their business through the eyes of their potential clients.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
I think if we make it clear that we are a partner in the publishing process and we want the best for the author, we can build trust and a strong rapport with our author. If we have that, then we don’t need buy-in. 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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? 
Not that I know of. I haven’t had trouble getting clients. If anything, I find that clients from Asian backgrounds feel comfortable with me because my family was from Asia. (I was born and raised in Australia.)

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
Probably to not be afraid to ask questions of the author. 

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I think to start with, just look around your office and see whether your staff reflect the population in your area. 

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
My podcast, the Edit Boost Podcast. I started it last year to help editors take action to grow their editing businesses. 

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