Interview 34: Tatia Gordon-Troy

Years editing: 25+ years
Job title: Founder and CEO of Ramses House Publishing LLC
Job description: Helps lawyers and law firms self-publish to market themselves
Location: Maryland

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
When I started as a staff editor, I responded to an ad in the newspaper. That should tell you how long ago that was. 

Six years ago, I started Ramses House Publishing LLC out of necessity. Ramses House is an author services company designed to help lawyers and law firms self-publish to market themselves and their practices, leverage their expertise, grow their businesses, and build thought leadership. It also serves as an outsourced editorial department for small associations that publish member magazines and other publications.

After 15 years with my previous employer, I became a victim of downsizing. But I was determined not to stay a victim for long. I brokered a deal with my former employer to have publishing projects outsourced to me, while I reached out to my contacts throughout the industry. Once I landed my first client, I knew I was on to something. Was it a struggle? Yes, and it still is. Starting and maintaining a business requires constant hustle.

What training do you have in copyediting, and what positions have you held?
I have no formal training as an editor, just a passion for the written word. During my second year of law school, I enrolled in a handful of journalism courses at another university, and I published op-eds in the university newspaper. 

Upon graduation, I landed a job with Court TV but was unable to relocate to New York. Instead, I took a legal reporter job with a local law and business newspaper, where I honed my skills in both writing and editing. That job led me to serve as press secretary to a very busy congressman, for whom I wrote everything under the sun, honing my skills even more.

After a short stint with a law firm, I started with my previous employer as a staff editor and rose through the ranks to head the publishing program, with a $4 million annual budget. By the time I’d left my employer, I had edited and published more than 500 books and more than 2,000 articles.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I am a regular contributor on LinkedIn — it’s where my ideal clients are. Having a presence on social media helps build your personal brand.  

While in trade publishing, I worked closely with the marketing department to develop campaigns for promoting our books and authors. I incorporate that marketing experience into my business to help clients promote their books. I also use Canva for quick and easy designs and branding. 

Other meeting and project management programs — such as Trello, Animoto, and Slack, along with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet — are becoming a part of everyday life. I am now cultivating relationships on Clubhouse, where having a great speaking voice and being able to make your point clearly and succinctly are most helpful.

Also, I have strengthened my skills as a developmental editor. Having this skill can provide an editor an opportunity to advance their status within a company or to qualify for a higher position elsewhere.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I occasionally use ProWritingAid and Grammarly, but I rely on my own editorial prowess. I do keep my Dictionary app handy, as well as Unflubbify Your Writing, by Sara Rosinsky, to double-check for homonyms. In addition, I’ve always been a fan of Eat, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss. It helps me make the case to my clients for using the Oxford comma.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
When I worked at a trade association, my staff developed a style guide to ensure consistency throughout the publications and other written communication created within the association. We would meet monthly to discuss it.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I have been a member of Association Media & Publishing since 2009, when it was known as SNAP. It supports those who are employed in association publishing and media. I serve as a board member on the Associations Council.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Your editing and writing had better be impeccable — that should go without mention. Will that get you to the next step on the ladder? No. The biggest hindrance to an editor’s ability to advance is introversion. I’m an introvert. But if editors are interested in advancement, they must be proactive and find their inner extrovert.

I don’t mean become a social butterfly that talks to anyone who will listen. You must be strategically extroverted. Once you’ve excelled at what you do, and you’re looking to step up your game, you’ll need to increase your proficiency in several skills: public speaking, networking, working on a team, being ambitious, engaging other staff, learning insider knowledge about your organization, advocating for yourself in the face of conflict, and planning a budget.

I also advise editors to make time to promote themselves and their accomplishments outside of what they do for an organization. I publish articles in local and national periodicals.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
This is always a difficult situation. It calls for a proactive approach. Every editorial department should have a set of guidelines to set general expectations that authors’ submissions are subject to certain changes.

If an author’s work requires major editing, it might be better to return the work to the author with a clear explanation regarding how to bring the work up to your organization’s publishing expectations. Another suggestion would be to provide your edits and comments to your direct supervisor and ask that they schedule a conference call with the author to discuss the suggested changes. What you want is approval of your edits from your supervisor so that they can back you up. 

There will always be at least one author who acts like a prima donna. Treat this person with kid gloves so that your life isn’t made increasingly difficult because of one publication.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office?
At Ramses House, I operate as a solopreneur and outsource tasks when necessary. In my previous position as director of a publications department, and as one of only two African American directors on staff, I felt compelled to ensure diversity under my leadership. Whenever there was an opening for an editor in my department, I would interview several people, including people of color. I probably had the most diverse department in the organization, including team members who were LGBTQ, Indian, Hindu, and various ages and genders. 

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 have been in positions where, unbeknownst to me at the time of hire, I was the one breaking the color barrier. I landed my first job in news at a local TV station. After starting the job, I realized I was the only Black person on the news floor. Several months later, I was told by a colleague that when I interviewed, the station was facing a race discrimination suit and hiring me made the newsroom look more diverse. It never bothered me because I used that opportunity as a stepping stone in my career path. I considered it great timing on my part.

When I was hired as a reporter for a local newspaper, I was one of two Blacks in the newsroom; in fact, we were the only Blacks in the building. Several months later, the staff editor who hired me said he had to advocate for me with the editor in chief (EIC), not because of my lack of experience but because the EIC wanted to hire a young White male. My editor, who was a White male, thought the newsroom had enough people who looked like him, so he went to bat for me. He and I are friends to this day. 

You learn to make the best of any and all opportunities without concerning yourself with how those opportunities presented themselves.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
I wish I had known that upon committing to a career as an editor, I would have little to no opportunity to write. Because of that, my writing skills were quite rusty when I started Ramses House. But after a bit of practice, it all came right back. Writing can only be honed with more writing, and the more diverse your writing pieces, the better your writing becomes. 

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I believe a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion calls for conscious and proactive policies. Even more important is individual commitment from those in leadership positions to seek diversity for their own departments. People in leadership must ensure that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with communications and journalism schools receive job notices that encourage people of color to apply. If the human resources (HR) department is screening résumés, the leadership should make sure HR knows that they are interested in seeing résumés from HBCU graduates or candidates that appear to have “ethnic” names. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
A project I am most proud of is a peer-reviewed bimonthly member magazine for which I spearheaded the creation of back in 2003. It was my first substantial project during my early days of being a staff editor. Partly as a result of this effort, I received the Employee of the Year Award.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
My hobby is keeping my 19-year-old son on track to attain his goals, so he can become self-sufficient and allow me to enjoy my golden years without stress and pressure.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
On the topic of buy-in, editors might find helpful an article I recently published: Be Courageous, Get Feedback, Secure Allies, Publicize.

To stay abreast of changes in the industry, join groups such as ACES: The Society for Editing. Editors Only lists other editorial associations here.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I am always intrigued and somewhat surprised when I cross paths with another African American in the publishing industry. We still are very scarce in certain fields, such as academic publishing. But my resolve is renewed whenever I do see them. In fact, I am now seeing Black people on staff at some of the larger, international publishers, with many of them having been added as part of a push to create more opportunities for Blacks in publishing, including Black authors.

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

Interview 17: Tia Ross

Years editing: 35
Job title: Freelancer, business owner
Job description: Consultant, project manager, copyeditor (content, legal, technical), proofreader, writer, writing coach, and editor mentor
Location: Texas

EXPERIENCE

What copyediting training have you had, and what positions have you held?
I was an insatiable reader as a child and teenager, and I remember studying the structure of books I read, character by character. I paid attention to minor things, like the spelling of grunts — the “uh-huhs” and “mm-hmms.” I analyzed dialogue punctuation, tags, and beats. I noticed shifts in point of view, the key differences between first-person and third-person narrative, and the intricacies of internal dialogue.

I studied proofreading in grade school, but I didn’t get serious about it until the early ’90s. That was when I took my first college-level proofreading and editing courses.

I began freelance editing professionally in 1986 for United States military recruiters and classmates in high school, then for lawyers in 1989, but I didn’t start my first official editing business until 1995.

I moonlighted as an editor while working full time at law firms, advertising agencies, and telecommunications companies as a legal editor and proofreader, advertising editor, and technical writer and editor, respectively. I’m also skilled with software development and programming, and have worked as an intranet developer and content editor. 

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
As an entrepreneur, I wear all the hats, doing tasks myself or delegating them. My roles require skill in analytics, contract creation, email management/communications, graphic design, image editing, invoices/fiscal management, marketing, newsletter development, project management, search engine optimization, social media, and web design, to name a few. 

Then there are the critical soft skills one must have to be successful: active listening, flexibility, honesty, integrity, leadership, negotiation, optimism, reliability, responsiveness, time management, and transparency.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I’ve tried PerfectIt, ProWritingAid, Grammarly, and Ginger. PerfectIt is my tool of choice right now, although it’s painfully slow. Grammarly is second. While recently editing the 140,000-word U.S. Civil Rights Trail guide for Moon Travel/Hachette Book Group, for example, I used PerfectIt to ensure consistency in acronyms and abbreviations. 

When proofreading galleys, charts, magazine pages, and other PDFs, I use iAnnotate. I’ve also used ProofHQ (now Workfront) and Ziflow for online corporate proofing that requires a team review.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I currently have two editors working with me at WordWiser Ink, Brandy Patton and Sherian Brown. We have a great private group on Telegram. We also enjoy discussions with other Black editors in an online community, Black Editors Network, where we talk about business, projects, other opportunities, work-life balance, health and fitness, etc.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Only Black Editors Network at this time. It’s the only real community of editors I’ve ever been part of. It was originally created for members of the Black Editors & Proofreaders Directory but has recently been opened to all Black editors.

I was a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). I served on the board of directors and as conference planner for its national conferences. I was a member of the email discussion list and forums, but I always felt like an outsider. I was also a member of ACES: The Society for Editing for one year, but I don’t know if they had a community where editors could discuss issues. 

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
For freelance editors, yes, networking and referring clients to other editors of your ilk can be worthwhile, particularly when other freelancers refer clients to you in return.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
When I first started editing, it mattered more to me if authors were receptive, but not anymore. As a freelancer, I tell them what the rules of style are according to The Chicago Manual of Style, AP style, or whatever style manual I’m using. Whether they decide to reject that is not within my control, so I don’t concern myself with it.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
My firm is 100% Black-owned and woman-owned, with two Black female 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? 
No. I forged my own path as an editor, and I find that authors and other editors seek me out because I’m Black, experienced, and skilled at what I do. Companies (Black-owned and otherwise) want to work with me for the expertise I lend to their projects, and Black individuals want me on their teams because “we” like working with “us” when we find someone who’s capable, reliable, responsive, honest, and professional, and who operates with integrity. 

I am all of those things, and I discovered long ago that hurdles tend to move aside when I operate in my gift.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I should preface this by saying that I absolutely adore sci-fi, mythology, and fantasy — movies, TV, and books. I am editing a speculative fiction series written by Carolyn Holland called Brothers of the Dark Veil. Its storylines infuse mythology, history, and science fiction in a way that is so engrossing that I have to remind myself while reading her work that I’m supposed to be editing it — despite doing pre-reads! She writes the kind of stories that make readers lose track of time and have ’em sitting up in the bed turning pages in the wee hours of the night. 

Her standards for the production of these books are top-notch. I’m so proud of her and this project that I seriously consider it an honor to be part of her team and to edit her work. I can’t wait to have the entire series grace my bookshelf. 

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I enjoy cycling, yoga, Pilates, hi-fi audio, traveling, superhero films and shows, and sourcing venues for retreats and conferences for writers and editors. My next event will be a retreat for editors in conjunction with the next Writeful Places Writers Retreat at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort, June 5–8, 2021 — if COVID-19 will let us be great — followed by the next EFA conference.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Other than Blackeditors.net, another online community worth checking out or referring to is Blackwriters.org, an online community for Black creative and freelance writers. It offers job leads from employers seeking diverse applicants, calls for submissions, fellowship and grant leads, critique groups, and an accountability/writing tribe, to name a few of the benefits.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
In the current environment, I see a strong, ongoing demand for skilled developmental editors and substantive editors of color. To aspiring freelance editors: Don’t be deterred by how many other editors are offering these services, and don’t believe that all of them are competition. What’s important is the distinction between quantity and quality. All editors are not equal. Strive to be the standout.

Also, be careful about with whom you affiliate as an editor. In this business, reputation is everything. Find your tribe. If you’re an independent, whether self-employed or the only Black editor in your office, you don’t have to be solo. We’re out here!

Interview #5: S. Dorothy Smith

  • Years editing: 10 years
  • Job title: Copywriter, scopist, copyeditor, proofreader, translator
  • Location: Virginia

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I edit stenographers’ legal transcripts, and I write copy. I also do French-to-English subtitles and translations, and edit books. For many years, I got editing clients from my ProZ.com translation profile. Then I joined the Editorial Freelancers Association and the Christian Editors Network and began to gain clients from those profiles. I also get clients from Facebook groups.

What copyediting training have you had?
I have a strong linguistics background and am self-taught.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Marketing, graphic design, and social media skills are important. You need to have a little of each to be a successful freelancer — unless you are blessed to have dedicated staff to take on these roles. It also helps to be familiar with the subject matter. Whether you’re scoping the deposition of a handwriting expert or a criminal trial, it helps to be familiar (or you can use Google to help you to be familiar) with the subject matter you are scoping and its associated vocabulary.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I am a member of Facebook scopist groups. Most are private and by invitation only. Just for Scopists is one private Facebook group composed of working scopists who support each other in both work and play.

Some think the editing speaks for itself, that the hard work alone will advance their careers. Do you have any thoughts on whether editors need to do more (e.g., networking and talking about what they do)?
It depends on what you want to get out of editing. If you want jobs, then network and market. I was never in it for the acclaim. I consider it a solitary profession.

Any advice for editors on getting buy-in from the non-editor colleagues with whom they work?
Writers who are not receptive to being edited might be unwittingly shooting themselves in the foot. Even the best writer can benefit from a second pair of eyes. Yet I do not push my services on others. I offer my availability and expertise. If it is not wanted, then I leave it at that.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
It’s just me. I’m a black woman, but I network with people of all races and backgrounds. My best writing friend lives in Sweden.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I recently scoped a court hearing where John Bolton was present. That was a career highlight for me.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
When I’m not editing, I am a Keen psychic advisor.  

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Scoping is a facet of editing that can be very lucrative. A recent article in Times of Entrepreneurship discusses the thriving court reporting market and its associated editing roles.

One of my colleagues provides a training course at Internet Scoping School. In addition, my Overview of the Scoping Profession course will be launching soon on Udemy. Readers can email me at scopist@stenomagic.com to be alerted when it goes live.

Interview #4: Antonn Park

  • Years editing: 5 copyediting, 1 line editing
  • Job title: Owner of Blue Flower Editing
  • Job description: Primarily edit economic and financial papers and reports; other content areas: cannabis market research reports and criminal justice/law papers
  • Location: Massachusetts

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job, and what positions have you held?
I officially started my company almost three years ago. Before that, for two years, I worked as an assistant site director at an assisted living facility for previously homeless elders. I wanted direct service work experience. While working there, I became a board member of the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, took a grant-writing class, and wrote (and partially won) my first grant for the organization.

I then started writing more grants as a volunteer and doing prospect research for nonprofits. I eventually left the living facility and became an educational programs assistant at a company that managed educational trips to Africa, where I wrote and edited itineraries and educational material. I also briefly worked at the Greater Boston Food Bank as a grant writer. 

I realized I enjoyed editing more than writing. I wanted to copyedit but couldn’t find any copyediting jobs. So I looked for something that wasn’t just copyediting.

I got a job as a production coordinator at a transcription company and was tasked with duties that included editing a variety of transcripts: finance, legal, academic, medical, government, marketing, and history. I persuaded the director to let me copyedit their training manuals, operational documents, and marketing materials. While I was at this job, I got more involved in the editing community, worked on getting a copyediting certificate from University of California, San Diego (UCSD), did volunteer copyediting, and set up my business. The day I quit, I was informed that I passed a copyediting test for a journal and was offered a weekly amount of work that paid close to what I was being paid at my employer. So I was thrilled!

What copyediting training have you had?
I completed the UCSD copyediting certification program and have taken numerous webinars. I also read a lot of books on writing, editing, and grammar. 

Before I started my company, I took the Freelance Accelerator Workshop led by Laura Poole (of Archer Editorial Services) and Erin Brenner (of Right Touch Editing), which really helped me learn how to run an editing business. 

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I have a B.S. in economics and an M.S. in crime and justice studies. Since I mainly edit in those areas, having that education really helps me understand the material.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use PerfectIt, and I use Adobe stamps when I am marking up text in PDFs.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors? 
I am part of a mastermind group that consists of three other women who are similar in age (late 30s to mid-40s). Two editors in the group came up with the idea and invited me and another editor. We meet once a month and discuss a topic, e.g., professional development, marketing, websites, systems, and metrics. 

I am also a member of ACES: The Society for Editing and the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). I was a chapter coordinator for the EFA Boston chapter for two years. I’m also part of Facebook groups for editors: Editors of Earth (public), EAE Backroom (private), Business + Professional Development for Editors (private), and Academic Editors (private).

Some think the editing speaks for itself, that the hard work alone will advance their careers. Do you have any thoughts on whether editors need to do more (e.g., networking and talking about what they do)?
Networking is helpful, but learning how to market yourself is really important. I had a business mentor (a fellow editor) who helped me figure out how to market myself to my ideal client. So finding a mentor, clarifying what makes you stand out, finding where your clients are, engaging with them, and finding a niche can really help your business. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
There’s not one in particular. I mainly do academic editing, so when I see a published paper that I’ve worked on, I get pretty happy.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I enjoy swimming, biking, and spending time with my husband and seven-year-old dog.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
The EFA and ACES and their Twitter chats, along with Facebook groups.