Most of you know that I make my living as a freelance copyeditor. I hope one day that the writing will bring in enough income that I can do it full-time, but right now, it’s important I maintain my editing clients. I’m okay with that because at this point in my career, I can be pickier about the projects I take on. I’m getting more into fiction editing, which I adore, and I have several nonfiction clients whose work is always a treat. All in all, things are good on the editing front.
One of my clients is a huge computer title publisher and I’m just crazy about them. The folks there are kind and fun to work with and they respect my opinions and work. Usually, my name might appear in the front of a book as the copyeditor, but this particular client has a little bio and contact info for all the people who work on a book. Having my contact info out there has occasionally produced some interesting emails over the years. Like the one from the guy (whose first language was clearly not English) who wrote to ask me why one of the code listings in a certain computer application title wasn’t working for him. Um… so sorry, dude, I have no idea. I’m the line editor, not the tech editor. I sent him on to someone who could help him.
I once got a note from the author of a title I’d copyedited, telling me how much he appreciated my work. He told me I’d made him sound really smart. I had to smile at that one because he obviously was really smart—hell, he’d written an entire book on a topic I couldn’t even being to comprehend. His issue was explaining it to laymen and that’s where I came in. Together, along with the tech editor, the development editor, and the project editor, we produced a book that was understandable and very readable. He was happy and how nice of him to tell me!
I confess I am sort of a hands-off editor, which means I try hard to maintain my author’s voice as much as I can while at the same time sticking to the basic rules of grammar. I even do this with my nonfiction clients. I think that’s because I’m a writer myself and I know how important it is to writers to have an editor respect my words. So when a project editor contacted me once to tell me that my copyedit made her a better editor–that she was honing her skills by watching my work, I was truly honored. It’s often difficult to keep an author’s voice when you’re editing within a series where maintaining a certain style of book is important.
I also get pinged by folks looking for a copyeditor or at least that’s what they say they’re looking for. Sometimes what they really want is a ghostwriter or a coauthor or a proofreader (a different job entirely from copyediting) or just someone to tell them they’re brilliant. Sometimes I take them on, sometimes I don’t, but it’s always intriguing. Last week I got a note from a guy whose project was way out of my area–it was just not a good fit. I wrote him back and kindly turned him down, but offered him the website for the Editorial Freelancers Association–a national network of publishing professionals. They have a link where you can post your project to a JobList that goes out to everyone in the organization,. I’m hoping he’ll find someone to work with him. The nice part was he wrote me back and thanked me for responding and for not giving him a hard time about his ideas.
The moral of the story is really my basic philosophy about my editing business. Always be gracious, always be kind, even when you have to say no to a potential client. And always try to offer alternatives. People remember who was nice to them and who shut them down cold. Being nice is simply good business.