Sameen Siddiqui

Years editing: 11
Job title: Freelance copyeditor and trainer 
Job description: Copyedits scientific and academic content
Location: India and Qatar

How did you get your current job?
I am working for an online medical journal. The job opening was posted on the Indian Copyeditors Forum. After passing the editing test, I was hired as a junior editor in 2019. I get my other gigs by applying to jobs on LinkedIn and being approached by clients.

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
One has to be very organized, meticulous, and target oriented, especially when you are in the freelance business. Being a team player and possessing good networking and marketing skills are essential.

In the editing field, there is no substitute for excellent communication. Unless you are able to effectively and clearly communicate with the author, there can be a lot of confusion and delay in the publication process.

Last but not least, one should make a conscious effort to keep oneself updated about changes in the editing domain — for example, the latest editions of style manuals — and engage in continuous professional development if time and resources permit.

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? 
Being a person of color has not been a barrier yet, but there is no denying that marginalization exists. The only stigma I face when hunting for clients abroad is that of the preference for “native editors from the UK, US, Canada,” etc., over “non-native editors.”

Though I understand that there are many nuances and dialects that only a native of a particular country might be versed in, it is very disheartening when you know you are qualified, or at times overqualified, for a job but you do not get a response or get a response simply stating that “only natives are considered.”

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
The one thing that I feel I should have known when taking the plunge into copyediting is the importance of taking professional editing courses from the start. During my stint as a full-time copyeditor, around four years, my job was target based, and I did not pay much attention to self-learning and continuous professional development, as I was too engrossed in meeting the daily targets.

After 11 years of solid experience, I am planning to take up an advanced course in copyediting or marketing (e.g., from UC San Diego, Poynter and ACES, or the Publishing Training Centre). I also plan to join a professional editing society that suits my interests and goals (e.g., ACES, the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, the Council of Science Editors, or Editorial Freelancers Association). 

To all editors at a nascent stage: Never be ashamed to acknowledge your mistakes, and never hesitate to ask questions and get help. Receiving negative feedback with grace and learning from your mistakes will only make you a better editor.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I think that companies and clients should give more chances to people generally and to non-natives and not be so restrictive. They need to widen their horizons; reach out to experienced people irrespective of race, ethnicity, and country; and change the dogmatic approach toward non-natives.

The naive notion that only natives can be proficient when it comes to the English language needs to be changed.

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Every manuscript I work on comes with its own set of challenges, and thus any paper I finish with satisfaction — and, of course, the author’s satisfaction — is something to be proud of.

But the latest work that I am extraproud of involved helping a Japanese author and their co-authors with the publication of their paper. There was a huge language barrier, and the corresponding author was not able to respond clearly about what exactly was needed. After many email exchanges, the paper was in good shape.

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Resources that should be handy while editing are dictionaries (Lexico, Oxford English Dictionary for UK English, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for US English), a thesaurus, style manuals (AMA, APA, CMOS, MLA, etc.), in-house style guides (if applicable), online resources (blog posts by editors), and online tools (Grammarly, PerfectIt, and even Title Case Converter).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I am very passionate about the work I do. But in my part of the world, the concept of copyediting is still relatively unknown. People address me as a writer.

If readers want to know about editing, or want guidance, they can connect with me through LinkedIn, and I will extend all the support I can.

Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on
Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com

Jevon Bolden

Years editing: 18
Job title: Founder, CEO, principal, Embolden Media Group 
Job description: Leads a publishing consulting firm and literary agency
Location: Central Florida

How did you get your current job?
Short answer: After 14 years working as an editor for traditional publishers, I started a company and hired myself.

Longer answer: After 12 years working for Charisma House as an editor and building really great author relationships, I felt my time there had come to an end. What I wanted to contribute to Christian publishing was different from what Charisma House was publishing at the time. After having such great training there, it was time for me to expand beyond the categories they published.

I searched high and low for another senior editor position — or even editorial director, managing editor, executive editor, or associate publisher position — but there were very few opportunities I could leverage, having signed an NDA at Charisma House. This meant I essentially could not work for another Christian publisher and created a challenge for me over and above the industry-level limitations I faced as an editor of color seeking a new position.

I eventually found a nice position with the largest children’s book publisher in the world: Scholastic. And it was local! I didn’t have to move to New York, so I applied. After working with the recruiter, I negotiated for a higher title and higher salary range due to my previous experience. I was hired as a senior editor for Tangerine Press, a nonfiction children’s book-plus imprint that produced book products for kids ages 7-12 and sold directly into Scholastic Book Fairs. It was an incredible opportunity.

Because I had built such strong relationships with the authors at the previous publisher, word traveled that I was no longer working with them. The authors I had worked with began requesting my help with their books. One of those authors, who had a significant platform, hosted a writer’s conference, for which they asked me to lead the entire publishing track. I brought in my diverse group of publishing friends — editors, marketing specialists, and more — and we served hundreds of writers of color, about 98% of whom had never attended a writer’s conference before.

We taught sessions on writing, editing, and marketing. We also sat with them for one-on-one publishing appointments. It was a huge success, so much so that I received an influx of interest from authors who wanted to work with me writing, editing, and publishing their books. Over the next few months after the writers’ conference, I was inundated with so much work, I was earning more at the side hustle than I was with my full-time work. 

This realization led me to a decision to resign from Scholastic in 2017 and launch Embolden Media Group full time.

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? 
It is no secret that the editorial part of publishing is 85% white, according to Lee & Low’s 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey. I am part of the 1% of Black, Afro American, Afro Caribbean editors in all of publishing.

The first issue in becoming a copyeditor is that there is very little information about publishing at the collegiate level. I didn’t even know anything about book publishing while I was pursuing an English degree. I just knew I loved literature and books. I stumbled upon the potential to get a job in publishing because I was aggressively job hunting based on positions that matched my degree. No recruiters from publishing houses came to my university.

Publishing is also very regional. The chances of entering book publishing decrease if you do not live in the northeast near New York — or in Nashville, Grand Rapids, or Colorado Springs for Christian publishing. I lived in Huntsville, Alabama, at the time. I got a job at a small Christian publisher in Florida and moved for the entry-level position at my own expense. It was incredibly challenging financially. What I risked and sacrificed as a young professional with a young family can be a pretty big turnoff for new professionals of color.

But let me say this, and it’s very important: I absolutely love publishing. I loved everything in those days about being a new editor. The sacrifice still feels worth it to me.

I moved up quickly within the company I started with (at the time, I was the only person of color in the department and the only one with a college degree in English), but then there was nowhere else for me to go. Their career path was not clear, and once you got to a certain position, there wasn’t much more room for advancement. I wrote more about this here.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
Outside of being better educated on the career path for an editor and being allowed to explore the publishing industry as a whole, my direct and necessary on-the-job training was superb — better than most. I am grateful for that.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Yes, I wrote about five best DEI practices for organizations here.

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Too many to name. You can see a list of books I’ve worked on here.

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
See the image below, from my editorial bookshelf to yours. Also Conscious Style Guide is a great online style guide for issues regarding race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. 


Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com

Pro Tips from Your Favorite Editors

CaTyra Polland and Cynthia Williams

Editing is art and science. Two editors can look at the same copy and use very different approaches to get it in the best condition. Though a colleague often can’t tell us the “right” way to do an editing task, sometimes, we can benefit from seeing how other professionals work. Here, Editor Knows Best and Outside the Book have curated some tricks of the trade from your favorite word nerds.



Adrienne Michelle Horn
Editor, I A.M. Editing, Ink LLC
Years editing: 7
Specialty: Line editing, copyediting
Type of material: Articles, blogs, dissertations, manuscripts

Do: Always inform your client of what type of editing is needed and why.

Don’t: Never return a draft to a client without reviewing your changes at least once. We are all human and make mistakes.



Amber Riaz
Editor, A4 Editing
Years editing: 14
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Academic manuscripts, web content

Do: Find an editorial niche that makes you happy, so you wake up every day actually looking forward to your workday.

Don’t: Treat grammar rules as immutable/unchanging. Language evolves constantly, so editors must keep themselves informed of new ways of using words and phrases. A prescriptivist attitude to editing suppresses creativity


Andrae D. Smith
Editor
Specialty: Primarily nonfiction
Type of material: Self-help and personal development books

Do: Know your reading and editing pace and plan accordingly. Check your availability and never be afraid to ask for a sample to see if you can reasonably take on a project.

Don’t: Rush or procrastinate. Take on more than you can handle. Overbook or book outside of your skill level, even if you need the money. The worst thing you can do for your reputation, your business, and your clients is take on so much that you’re rushing to get done and you do a bad job. Each project deserves your full attention.



Chris Obudho
Editor and proofreader, CJO Writing + Editing LLC
Years editing: 25
Specialty: Substantive editing
Type of material: Everything from digital ads to scientific journal articles

Do: Read everything you can. Of course, read books about the business, process, and art of editing and proofreading, to keep your skills sharp — but don’t neglect other forms of prose: cookbooks, catalogs, random websites, dictionaries, “junk” mail/sales letters, old textbooks, etc. These seemingly weird sources of information can give you great insight into how words are used and how sentences are formed. Reading broadly also helps hone your sense of curiosity, which can build knowledge. This knowledge base can then be used to help you better understand what you’re editing. The broader your knowledge about various topics (you don’t have to be an expert!), the more you’ll be able to help (1) your author express an idea and (2) your reader understand that idea.

Don’t: Never forget why you’re editing or proofreading a particular document. It’s not about your ability to redline a document so it looks like a crime scene. It’s not about showing how smart you are. It’s not about making the author’s work “better” by your standards. The editing or proofreading is about the reader.



Crystal Shelley
Editor and proofreader, Rabbit with a Red Pen
Years editing: 4
Specialty: Line editing, copyediting, proofreading, sensitivity reading
Type of material: Novels

Do: Don’t settle for the existing style guide. Style guides are meant to be a reference, to aid us in making decisions for consistency. Sometimes, following the style guide results in choices that don’t suit the circumstance. This is especially true given how quickly language evolves through the work of advocates and social justice movements. Style guides and dictionaries don’t always keep up with how to style terms related to social identities and human rights. If we come across a style guide that’s outdated, we can ask that it be updated to reflect current guidance.

Don’t: Never assume you know everything. The best editors are curious and recognize when they don’t know something or aren’t sure. We are trained to look things up so that the story or the copy is as accurate and clear as possible. If we have any doubt, it’s safer to double-check and be right than to assume and get it wrong.



Debbie Innes
Editor and proofreader, Debbie the Editor
Years editing: 10
Specialty: Copyediting, proofreading
Type of material: Annual reports, website content, corporate reports, nonfiction manuscripts, children’s books, newsletters, brochures, members’ magazines, university student handbooks, media advisories and news releases

Do: If you’re a freelance editor, don’t accept a project with a very low rate, if you can help it. Your skills and experience are worth more than that. Know your worth.

Don’t: Never stop learning. (Most editors know this, but I’m saying it anyway.)



Erica James
Editor, MasterPieces Writing and Editing LLC
Years editing: 6
Specialty: Book coaching (which includes developmental, line, and copyediting)
Type of material: Book manuscripts, academic papers, professional writing, business copy, social media content, website content, digital products

Do: Operate in your gifts both proudly and boldly. Regardless of how many other editors are making their mark on the literary world, no one is making their mark exactly the same. It’s important to know what you do best and to do it well, without fearing the outcome.

Don’t: Don’t take on projects without a clear game plan. To ensure your clients receive high- quality work, it’s best to implement a process that reduces stress and allows you to complete tasks within a reasonable time frame. Editing can be tedious at times; therefore, it’s crucial to know how much of your time and resources will be needed for each project and to plan accordingly. Also, be willing to say no if a project doesn’t align with your process.



Jessica LeeAnn
Editor, Chocolate Readings
Years editing: 14
Specialty: Developmental
Type of material: Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts

Do: Be honest.
Don’t: Discount your rates.



Kassel Pierre-Jean
Editor, Razorfish Health
Years editing: 15
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Print/digital ads, direct mailers, websites, banner ads, conference panels, white papers

Do: Find an editor who is better than you and learn from them. They don’t necessarily need to be a mentor. Just someone you feel has mastered the skill and craft of editing — someone you respect.

Don’t: Don’t be a narcissist. Never act like you know it all. There’s always more to learn, and language and grammar are always changing. Be humble.



Lakeisha Bell Cadogan
Editor, Freelancer
Years editing: 3
Specialty: Substantive
Type of material: Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts

Do: Continuously strive to become a better editor. In the same way that writers should be consistently honing their craft, we, as editors, need to do the same. Taking courses is great, but there are other options too, like reading books and attending seminars (in -person or online). Also, join editing groups on social media. It’s a great way to make friends and learn from other people.

Don’t: A core principle in my business is: Do no harm. As editors, we should never remove the writer’s voice when editing their work. Yes, we can make changes, but that doesn’t mean we should impose our personal views on the writer’s work. The primary goal is to help the writer achieve their best work.



Lourdes Venard
Editor and instructor, University of California, San Diego’s Copyediting Program and Editorial Freelancers Association
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts

Do: Read, read, read — especially in the genre or subject area in which you edit or hope to edit. The late Amy Einsohn, who wrote The Copyeditor’s Handbook, said the novice should have a “well-tuned ear.” But this ear can be difficult to develop if you aren’t reading widely. And if you are editing fiction, join a book club. It forces you to read books you might not pick up, and it also is an education to hear how other readers feel about a book and the writing.

Don’t: Don’t be inflexible. Yes, there are grammar and style rules to be followed, but some of these are not set in stone. And even those set in stone can be broken at times. Novice editors often get so hung up on the “rules” that they miss what the writer is trying to achieve. Language can be playful; we, as editors, should allow for that and be open to how language is always changing.



Lyric Dodson
Editor, Editing by Lyric
Years editing: 6
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Blog posts, nonfiction books

Do: If you’re working as a freelancer, get everything in writing! It can seem intimidating to write up a contract that hits all the important points, but it’s absolutely imperative that you do so. You most likely won’t encounter troublesome clients too often as you work, but there is a chance you will — and you want to be prepared if anything happens.

Don’t: Never undersell yourself! Setting your prices is one of the most important things you’ll do, so it’s incredibly important that you charge what you’re worth, no matter how “outrageous” you think your prices are. Remember, you’re charging not only for your time and expertise, but also for the potential return on investment your client can expect to gain in the long run. Don’t price gouge for the sake of making a few extra dollars, but don’t undercut yourself either.



Renee’ D. Campbell
Editor and proofreader, MyPen Syl Writes
Years editing: 15+
Specialty: Substantive editing
Type of material: Résumés, books (fiction, comedy, sci-fi, poetry), white papers, research papers, marketing material, presentations, infographics, websites

Do: Attention to detail is key when editing. Take the role of editor seriously, as the author is entrusting their words to you.
Don’t: Do not promise what you cannot deliver! Deadlines are key!



Taiia Smart Young
Editor, Smart Girl Media
Years editing: 26
Specialty: Developmental editing
Type of material: Self-help, memoir, personal development, spirituality

Do: Edit work that you have some experience with or connection to.
Don’t: Never be afraid to turn down a client.


CaTyra Polland, MA, is the CEO of Love for Words, an editing boutique. She is also a published author and the hostess/creator of Editor Knows Best Podcast. http://www.pollandllc.com.

Cynthia Williams is a department manager at Dragonfly Editorial and interviews editors of color at Outside-the-Book.com.

Perspectives: Rob Reinalda

Working with copyeditors

As solitary a vocation as editing can be, collaboration is nonetheless crucial. Exchanging ideas and perspectives can enrich all parties. I’ve learned a great deal over the years, from older and younger colleagues, and I’ve tried to share that institutional knowledge, along with my own understanding of linguistics, as my career has rolled out. 

I’ve worked in newspapers and in online communications, the latter covering the corporate sector. They are strikingly different entities. 

In both cases, though, linguistic structure must be sound. Imagine you’re constructing a building; regardless of its purpose or aesthetics, the foundation must be solid, or it will collapse. That’s every bit as true for a piece of writing. Editors, to further the analogy, are building inspectors.

Diversity and inclusion

This movement must be much, much more than meeting quotas for an annual report. Beyond the moral and ethical reasons for hiring a diverse workforce, there is a pragmatic element that many companies might overlook: It’s smart to do so. 

A more inclusive workforce — at all levels of an organization — is a stronger workforce. In the communications field, it’s essential. 

It’s a grave mistake to shun or dismiss alternative takes on any given subject, and certainly perspectives on text that represents the company in the public sphere. An opposing or diagonal perspective can save you. What’s perfectly fine within one group or culture can prove offensive, even damaging, in another. I mentioned the importance of institutional knowledge earlier; that’s something to cultivate. 

An organization would do well to set up a subject index on its intranet (or other internal hub) in which employees can offer their fields of relative expertise. It could be cultural (hip-hop to classical, 1960s sitcoms to Spike Lee movies), linguistic (Esperanto to Cantonese to Chaucer’s English), life-experience related (Iraq war vets to knitters to weekend stand-up comics), and so on.

Ultimately, it’s about getting it right for your audience, business partners, or customer base — and, above all, not getting it wrong

What makes a good copyeditor

Command of the language, of course, is essential, as is a solid knowledge of punctuation. 

I stress six Cs. Good writing should be:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Correct
  • Clean
  • Comprehensive 
  • Colorful

Beyond that, an editor should serve the reader’s interest first and foremost. When that happens, it serves the writer well, too. An important part of that is respecting the reader’s time. Streamline text whenever possible.

Double-check everything. Consult with others, as I mentioned above, divining connotation as well as denotation. To root out ambiguity, try to misread every passage.

Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com.

Perspectives: Cynthia Leitich Smith

  • Job title: Author-curator 
  • Job description: Outreach, developmental writing support, writer mentorship, in-house consultations, and ambassadorship of books and their creators
  • Education: William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Kansas; The University of Michigan Law School
  • Background: Author and faculty member, Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program
  • Location: Texas

The beginnings of Heartdrum

Over a conference-hotel breakfast, author Ellen Oh, co-founder and CEO of We Need Diverse Books, suggested that I consider launching a Native-focused imprint at a major trade publisher. At first, that sounded like a pie-in-the-sky kind of dream. But after reflecting on the need for some months, I reached out to legendary editor Rosemary Brosnan at HarperChildren’s. She enthusiastically embraced the idea, and we now work together on the Heartdrum children’s and young adult book imprint.

What an author-curator does

I’m a longtime author and faculty member of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. (I also publish with Candlewick Press.) Much of the mindset and skill set that go with all that transfer well to Heartdrum. 

Typically, I offer the author a few (two to four) rounds of feedback for revisions prior to, if appropriate, sending a manuscript to Rosemary for consideration. Agents are also welcome to send to her/us directly for immediate consideration, but I’ve found that those submissions that have been the subject of a prior craft exchange with me (even if it’s just my green light!) are much more likely to be acquired. 

At that stage, my goal is by no means to ready the manuscript for copyediting but rather to help bring it to a stage where the full potential shines through. It should be noted, though, that if/when a manuscript is ready to go, I’ll prepare a thoughtful note for Rosemary, offering my reasons for supporting it, including any relevant context related to the Native cultural content.

Once we’ve acquired a manuscript — Rosemary handles that entire legal-financial process — I often offer craft feedback alongside hers and consult about potential illustrators as well as all stages of the art, the marketing copy, teacher guides, and so forth. I also help with promotion — both officially, through opportunities facilitated by Harper Marketing, and unofficially, through my own grassroots efforts. 

Along the way, I’m available as a mentor of sorts to our authors, especially because many of them are new or up-and-coming voices.

Working with authors

The goal is to bring forth the author’s vision in a way that best serves the intended audience. So I begin from a place of respect, erring toward suggestions and questions, while making it clear that we must be mindful of the young-reader experience and developmental reading level.

Perspectives on lessons learned

I wish that I’d taken a longer view from the start, but maybe that’s impossible until you’re in a position to do so. Part of me longs to go back in time and offer a pep talk to the young writer I once was, to let her know that someday enough hearts and minds in publishing would open up to welcome in more than one prominent Indigenous voice at a time. s

I also spent too long worrying about other people’s misinformed preconceptions about me and my intertribal creative community. It’s better for my productivity and mental health to focus on the work itself and on those who’re genuinely supportive. 

Notable projects

I’m wowed by all of our authors’ and illustrators’ work. 

The Jo Jo Makoons chapter books are written by Dawn Quigley and illustrated by Tara Audibert. It’s the first contemporary trade chapter book series featuring a Native American protagonist and published by a major publisher. It’s also smart, hilarious, and radiates heart.

Debut author Brian Young’s middle-grade novel, Healer of the Water Monster, is about an everyday Navajo boy who comes to the aid of a holy being while navigating family dynamics.

American Indian Youth Literature Award winner and author Christine Day’s middle-grade novel, The Sea in Winter, is extraordinarily emotionally intelligent. Many educators have pointed to it as an excellent book for young readers needing to process the loss of childhood normality during pandemic times.

Big picture, so far we’ve published five books — including my own middle-grade anthology, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, and middle-grade novel, Sisters of the Neversea. To date, Heartdrum titles have garnered a combined 19 starred reviews, which is truly jaw-dropping, especially for the size of the list.

Notes on diversity

As an author-curator, I’m in a new role in the industry, one that’s still being defined. But I have been a working writer in children’s publishing since the late 1990s. Change is slower than it should be, but it’s remarkable how much of a positive difference one person can make in the conversation and community. If it weren’t for genius author-activist Ellen Oh first suggesting the idea to me, Heartdrum wouldn’t exist.

Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com.

Yateendra Joshi

Years editing: 30+
Job title: Freelance copyeditor and academic trainer 
Job description: Helps scientists and academics write, publish, and present
Location: Pune, Maharashtra, India

EXPERIENCE

What copyediting training have you had?
I participated in a 14-week intensive course in editing and publication led by Ian Montagnes, the then editor in chief of University of Toronto Press. This was in 1987; subsequently, I learned on the job.

What positions have you held?
I’ve been a scientist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research; a fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi; a senior editor at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Hyderabad; and a senior fellow at World Institute of Sustainable Energy, Pune. 

My editing career started with a book, Changing Concepts of Reference Service. It sparked my interest in information science and documentation. However, I had no formal qualifications to work in that field. When I sent my CV to Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), expressing my interest, Dr. R. K. Pachauri, who headed TERI and interviewed me, suggested that I consider editing as a career. When I managed to acquire some formal qualifications in editing, I took him up on that offer.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
In this field, editors should have familiarity with word processing and page layout software packages, some knowledge of printing and publishing, and an appreciation of research methods and academic publishing.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use PerfectIt.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I am part of the Indian Copyeditors Forum (ICF). The main benefit of ICF is the opportunity to meet fellow copyeditors (valuable, because copyediting is such a solitary occupation). The forum has a dynamic and active coordinator, Vivek Kumar, who organizes many useful webinars on topics related to copyediting, and members get to present some of those. In recent months, we had a webinar on PerfectIt and on Board of Editors in the Life Sciences certification.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Copyediting is mostly a solitary occupation, which is why copyeditors need to be in touch not only with fellow copyeditors but also with authors. In particular, copyeditors need to convince authors that copyediting can add value to their work. 

When authors see a well-edited file (with track changes), they need no other convincing. But to convince them to entrust their manuscript to a copyeditor in the first place, we must point out to authors that a well-edited manuscript is less likely to be “desk rejected” (rejected without peer review) and that with a well-edited manuscript, both journal editors and peer reviewers will focus more on the substance of the manuscript, because they are no longer distracted by errors that a copyeditor would have fixed.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Refer to style manuals and journals’ instructions to authors. Point to good examples published in books or journals the authors are likely to have read. You could also explain the logic behind the changes.

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 so far. In fact, the European Association of Science Editors (EASE) has always been of great help and even made me a member of its council. When I switched from being a researcher to being an editor, I wanted to be better at my job. This desire prompted me to become a member of EASE. That was more than 30 years ago, and I have benefited a great deal from the good advice of its members — from the articles in European Science Editing and several EASE conferences.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
I wish I had been aware of the importance of keeping accurate records (e.g., number of manuscripts edited, word counts, number of articles and blog posts written). Although the best way to assess copyeditors’ proficiency is to examine documents they have copyedited, that takes too long. As a proxy, these numbers offer some objective evidence of your experience and competency.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Employers should judge on the basis of the candidate’s or employee’s work.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Dr. R. K. Pachauri: The Visionary Institution Builder, a commemorative volume on my former boss. I’m proud of it first because I was the one who suggested that we publish it. The suggestion was readily accepted, and scores of authors readily contributed to it.  Second, although I had volunteered to copyedit and design the volume, the two editors insisted that my name appear before their names as editors of the volume. Third, the volume was appreciated by many, the most important among them being Dr. Pachauri’s wife and son — they called it a beautiful gift. Last, this publication offered me the opportunity to pay tribute to the man who was the most important influence on my editing career. (My contribution to the volume starts on page 64.)

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I like to garden and play Scrabble.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
I’d share the training programs I have conducted for fellow copyeditors. 
– On bulleted lists 
– On house styles and style manuals
– On page layout and refined typography with Microsoft Word 

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I think we need to work much harder simply to stay in place!

Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com?
Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com

Rahul D’souza

Years editing: 11
Job title: Senior editor at Packt
Job description: Development editor for IT books
Location: Bangalore and Mumbai, India

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I had stayed in touch with the manager of a previous company I worked for. When I began looking for a change from editing scholarly papers, I got in touch with him. He had a book publishing role that was exactly what I was looking for, so I took it.

What copyediting training have you had?
When I was just out of graduate school, I was lucky to find a job at a publishing house that specialized in art history, archaeology, and other subjects (my degree was in the history of art and archaeology). The average work experience in the editing room was 25 years, so I benefited from working there. I learned copyediting from a group of very experienced mentors. The publishing house was still transitioning away from editing on paper, so I learned to do things the old way for the first three and a half years, and while computers have made my job more convenient, that experience helped me develop instincts about how editing and proofreading changes affect the final product. 

What positions have you held?
I was an editorial intern at my first publishing job, and after six months, I transitioned to a full-time role in the editing room. After that, I tried freelancing for about a year and a half but missed editing as part of a team. So I took a job as a copyeditor at an e-learning firm. This was a change of pace from the academic editing I was used to, and I learned the ins and outs of what we called “instructional writing” (which was a fancy name for writing instructional material in a conversational tone). 

I felt the pull of academic publishing again and joined a copyediting company that specialized in editing articles meant to be published in scholarly journals. I was a part of the Quality and Training Team, evaluating editor work quality and providing feedback and training based on my evaluations. After this, I transitioned back to my publishing roots by joining Packt, where I now work as a senior editor, looking after the editorial quality of books and training junior editors.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
At Packt, I work with authors on much longer time scales than I did at my previous job; this makes communication very important. You can edit a book perfectly and be left with an angry author if you forget that there’s a human being behind all the words. Communication is necessary for all forms of editing but is especially important when working with authors on long-term projects. 

Also, given how the content world is quickly moving away from mono-specialization to multi-specialization, I find it important to develop basic photo-editing and page-layout skills. The dynamic nature of our field values the ability to perform more than one role. 

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
In the past, I’ve used PerfectIt and MEROPS. These days, I use Grammarly. What I’d really like is something that combines PerfectIt’s ability to customize how it runs based on wildcards with Grammarly’s interface and grammar tips. 

Ultimately, these tools take away a lot of mechanical work from our workflow, but you need to be vigilant. They can often come up with incorrect suggestions, because English is quite a weird, abstract language.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
Talking to other editors on my team is one of the most important aspects of the job. There’s an endless number of hurdles that come up when you publish books, and being able to draw on the experience of a big team gives all of us a better chance of solving these issues quickly. When I first began working, all the editors sat in the same room and spoke face-to-face everyday. These days, we rarely see each other (especially because of the pandemic), but tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack make collaboration and discussion quite easy. 

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I’m a part of a few editor groups on Facebook, such as Indian Copyeditors Forum and Editors’ Association of Earth. I learn a lot of important culturally specific information that becomes useful when editing books by authors who are from different parts of the world and who write in different types of English.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Networking is quite important for editors. Being able to build relationships in different companies and across different countries allows editors to find new opportunities and learn important lessons that are essential for staying up to date and keeping our editing relevant. Content work has become so dynamic that being able to connect to new people, new ways of working, and new applications for our skill sets makes networking one of the most important parts about being an editor.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
It’s important to understand where your author’s reluctance is coming from. You have to approach with boundaries in mind. The author will always be protective about their writing, even when they accept our changes.

Once you have that mindset, you need to begin thinking about what compromises you can make to ease the author into the more important changes. Very often, when you demonstrate to the author that you are willing to meet them where they are, they become more inclined to listen to your reasoning for proposing changes. 

For example, if you are editing a book that’s supposed to be in a conversational style, but your author likes their writing to be very formal, you can compromise on aspects like contractions. Instead, focus on getting the author to tone down the word choice, to use less jargon, and to use active voice.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
Our company has offices in Birmingham (UK) and Mumbai, so we have a substantial Indian workforce. Even our Birmingham office has people from different parts of the world, as Birmingham is quite a diverse city. In my time here, I’ve found that besides having a diverse workforce, the management is open minded and always ready to make changes to fix any issues that crop up. 

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? 
Whenever I have tried to work as a freelance editor, I’ve faced reluctance from clients and scholarly editing companies to give high-paying editorial work to editors who don’t come from “native” English–speaking countries. While I’ve always been an L1 speaker of English, as a freelance editor from India, I feel like there’s a higher standard applied to my language skills than to editors who come from the Anglophone world.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
Because I began working at a publishing house that edited and proofread on paper, I learned to use macros and wildcards much later in my career than I should have. 

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I’m a big supporter of companies getting involved in the communities based around them. Editorial companies and publishers have the ability to mentor young people who wouldn’t otherwise think about working in our field. These companies can also provide paid internships (unpaid internships tend to exclude people who do not come from privileged backgrounds) and ultimately help young people transition into full-time jobs. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I worked on a project to bring on board a very important economics journal as a client. We needed to carefully select the editors who worked on the project. Besides delivering high-quality edits, we were also expected to provide quick turnarounds. As the quality manager for the project, I was expected to monitor the quality of all the edited articles and to make sure that the editors working on them had all of the editorial support they needed. 

Ultimately, we managed not only to get the project but also to keep the quality and speed of our edits to the standards we set for the client. It felt good to know that some important academic work out there had been my responsibility.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I like reading, karaoke, and cooking for friends.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Right at the start of my journey as an editor, I read The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson. It is a quick, fun history of the English language and one that helped me get rid of a lot of biases that I carried about “proper” English. I like to keep a copy of the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. I also like to follow a few linguists on Twitter, especially Nicole Holliday. I like to think of linguists as people who are continuously questioning my perception of language and pushing me to reinvent the way I look at editing.  

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
There are a few personal beliefs that I always try to live by. Firstly, we need to build healthy diversity. This means not just ticking numbers but making sure that everyone is empowered and that nobody’s privilege gives them an unfair advantage over others. We can only do this as a collective, so it’s important to establish solidarity across all organizations and build from that foundation. 

Secondly, it’s important for each individual to understand their privilege to ensure that they aren’t standing in the way of someone else and to ensure that they don’t deny people a platform. 

Finally — and this goes beyond the physical community around us — as editors, we must fight to normalize inclusive, humanizing language. Whether that’s something as simple as inclusive pronouns or something as complex as getting rid of oppressive words, phrases, literary characters, and so on. 

Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com

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. 

Sindhu Jose

Years editing: 7
Job title: Proposal editor/administrator
Job description: Offers editorial and administrative support to researchers applying for federal grants
Location: Texas

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I live in a university town, and I was specifically looking for an editorial job. I had previous experience in editing, which gave me the confidence to apply, but I was also nervous, as I had little to no knowledge of proposal development. I’ve been with my organization two years now. 

What copyediting training have you had?
My academic degrees are in English and related disciplines. While earning my master’s, I was introduced to style guides and other aspects of editing, but I had no formal training. Editing and proofreading for friends, I recognized that I had an eye for detail and started to hone my skills. 

Soon, I was invited to join the editorial team of a nonprofit magazine, where I reviewed and edited articles in English and Malayalam. (Malayalam is my mother tongue. English is my second language.) This was a great experience, for I learned the craft of editing by doing it. I remained in academia for a couple more years, and by the time I submitted my PhD dissertation, I knew that if I did not teach, I would edit. In other words, I didn’t know what else to do! 

What positions have you held?
Soon after earning my PhD, I joined a government agency in India as a content editor. I mostly edited content for the state of Kerala’s official websites and social media pages. I managed content in English and Malayalam. When I moved to the United States, I left that job and started volunteering as list editor for an academic organization (Kerala Scholars eGroup). This was a valuable experience, as I had a mentor there, Ashok. R. Chandran, from whom I learned quite a lot about editing — everything from precision to ethics. 

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Communication skills (which all of us editors have). These skills have come in handy when managing external communication and coordinating at work. Also, the ability to quickly distill and interpret information in lengthy documents is especially useful in research, be it for resource development or to understand requests for proposals. (I have this skill thanks to the years I spent in grad school!)

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)?
We use Grammarly Premium at work. However, I turn it on only after I do the first round of edits, and except for the punctuation and spelling corrections, I don’t always accept the suggestions. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
Editing is more than half the work my colleagues and I do, though we have different titles. In other words, we speak the same language. We have an open thread where we alert each other of available courses, profiles to be followed on Twitter and LinkedIn, and other resources, such as webinars and conferences.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I am an ACES: The Society for Editing member, but I am not active in the community. This is partly due to the deadline-driven nature of our industry and partly due to my unfamiliarity with the communities and networks in the United States. However, this is changing, as I am now more active on LinkedIn and other platforms. I attended the ACES 2021 conference.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Since I was mostly on my own during my early days of editing, I did not know who to turn to if I had a question. Google did not always give me the right answer. Eventually, as I started frequenting groups and forums on the internet, I got answers from experienced editors, and there was a sense of community. In addition, networking gives you visibility. For me, as an editor of color, this visibility, my presence, is a statement.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Editing a scientific proposal for linguistic clarity when you are not a subject matter expert is like walking a tightrope. I edit for grammar, punctuation, and minor edits using Track Changes in the text. Otherwise, I rewrite the sentence in the comment box and explain why I made the suggestion. At times, I give multiple options and let the principal investigators decide. Also, while noting inconsistencies and offering suggestions, I use the pronoun “we” (“Can we move this paragraph?” “Can we rewrite this as follows?” “Are we talking about … ?”) and frame the issue as a query. “Can we rewrite?” definitely sounds better than “Rewrite.” 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
Our organization is part of a university system, and we have a diverse group of people working here. However, I haven’t met many in editing whose first language is not English. 

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? 
I haven’t faced any such hurdles, but as a person of color and as someone with a heavy accent, I often feel the need to prove myself. (Yes, self-doubt and marginality.) 

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
This is proposal specific: I wish I had known how to edit proposals with the deadline in mind (sometimes two days and sometimes two hours), rather than aiming for perfection. I also wish I had known that compliance comes first and then the details.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Hiring diverse staff should be a conscious decision. No structural change happens without conscious thinking and decision making, especially in India, where newsrooms and publishing houses are still not accessible to the Bahujans.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
A couple of months back, I edited a multi–principal investigator proposal. The document required language support, and the principal investigator was very receptive to the changes and suggestions I made. It was a confidence booster to go one step ahead, to rewrite the nontechnical part. I thoroughly enjoyed working with that team.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Reading and cooking. These days, books about editing and by editors dominate my reading list. The last book I read by an editor was Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, by Mary Norris, and the one on my table right now is Stet: An Editor’s Life, by Diana Athill. Food and culture is another area of interest. 

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Apart from dictionaries, CMOS Shop Talk, KOK Edit, (SM)EDITS, Rabbit with a Red Pen, and Quick and Dirty Tips are some of the places I frequent. I also use Ludwig to see a sentence or phrase in context. Editors’ Association of Earth is one of my favorite hangouts on Facebook.

Gwendolyn Walker

Recent graduate: Louisiana Tech University
Major: English, with a concentration in creative writing
Location: Louisiana

What interests you about copyediting?
I love to fix things. Editing has been a passion of mine since I was in middle school, and I love to help transform work to convey a clear message.

What area of copyediting are you interested in?
I’m passionate about books and publishing books.

How are you nurturing/developing your interest in copyediting, especially during COVID?
I am doing a lot of research — reading a lot of copyediting, editing, and publishing books — and having informational interviews with people already in the publishing industry to understand the industry and editing. 

What, if any, copyediting experience have you had so far, and what did you like about the project, organization, or tasks?
I am an editorial intern for a local newspaper. The job has helped me focus on the skills that I need to edit and to make sure that the articles are appropriate for the audience and informative. 

In my senior year of college, I worked as a temporary editor for my alumni’s Her Campus chapter. This position also added more insight on making sure the edits match the tone of the publication and making the content enjoyable.  

What would most help young editors (and editors of color) enter the editing profession?
More “getting into publishing” seminars and seminars for beginners could be helpful. I’ve attended a few virtual ones, and I’ve found them to be useful. These seminars give young editors a peek at what it’s like to run and work in a company — whether its focus is book publishing or journalism. The seminars also help young editors narrow their passions. 

Anything else you might want readers to know about diversity in editing/publishing, or about starting out in this profession?
I consider myself a beginner editor, since I’ve been editing for fewer than five years. Since quarantine started, I’ve focused on learning about publishing and editing, listening to seminars, and preparing myself to work in the industry. This knowledge will come in handy, especially during interviews — and it’ll show my passion and dedication. 

I’ve noticed more companies are mentioning inclusion in their internship and job descriptions, and I think that this is a great start to having a more diverse staff.