Awhile back, an author client of mine emailed me, asking about marketing himself as a copyeditor/proofreader because he was planning to leave academia and NYC to head west for the mountains and a more rural lifestyle. Way cool idea!
My response turned out to be a pretty nice synopsis of connections and resources for someone starting out in the biz, at least from my point of view as an editor.
The following includes style resources, professional organizations that I know about, using social media and my usual marketing approach.
Yep, there are still publishers to work with (although not as old as Herr Gutenberg here). Not everything is self-publishing, although there’s that, also. I do still recommend contacting publishers, and not millions of ’em, but just ten to twenty that seem to be small-to-medium sized and focused on the kinds of subject matter you want to work with. Big publishers are OK if you can find a way in, but I’ve found a pretty low return on effort with them, and they often push down hardest on rates, even after they’ve outsourced overseas and returned because the quality wasn’t up to par.
Couple ways to find publisher contact information: 1) Go pay for a week’s subscription to the Literary Marketplace. You’ll get some info all in one place about possible contacts (managing editor or production editor is best) as well as being able to search by size and subject matter; 2) you can also check out individual publisher websites to see if they give out more contact info there than at LMP. I normally send a physical post card on eye-catching stationary followed by an email a couple of weeks later. My return on the time investment for ten publishers is usually one or two that put me on their lists, usually after I take an editing test.
I use social media as an outpost for my blog/website and as a way to get the attention of individual authors. If you’re not an extrovert, being connected to all the social networks may just be a time suck if you’re not careful. It’s important to be selective, particularly for business purposes; there are just too many networks out there. I find Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook groups (just the groups) to be the most useful for business purposes.
Following and interacting with folks on Twitter who write on editing topics (search on the hashtags for topics of interest to find folks) has proven useful for general networking and referrals.
Otherwise, it seems to be about the groups. I’ve found FB pages much less than useful, although your mileage may vary. The groups, whether on LinkedIn or Facebook, collect people with common interests (writers, editors, niche publishers), as well as providing for professional discussion. This approach really helps me focus my social media interactions and allows me to show what I can do by serving others with shared experiences and bits of advice rather than by constantly pushing to sell my stuff.
Keep in mind that relationships are everything. 🙂 Nothing will happen on any social network unless you comment, repost (but retweeting/sharing can’t be everything you do) and generally be human with it. Then when you advertise something every once in a while, people will pay more attention, because you paid attention to them. I know, in the “real world” that’s probably obvious, but so many folks go on social media and forget this, thinking it’s just one big, blank billboard.
Know your bibles. If you don’t have the Chicago Manual of Style (online version here) , get it. Also, a lot of scholarly places use the APA style manual (I know, I thought it was weird to use it for stuff outside of psychology, but it’s become quite popular in the sciences generally). As I recall, the physical APA manual is expensive, but they have a lot of guidance online here. And if you happen to get involved in newspaper/magazine editing, they may use AP style (more here).
I have my own old grammar books, and the Chicago Manual has grammar recommendations now, too. But keep in mind that a lot of things are style choices and subjective judgments are often necessary. I focus on consistency and clarity when I’m reading. If I have to stop to figure out what’s being said, I will be inclined to recommend a comma or rephrase, but I’m not going to get anal about rules. I turn the cover with an attitude of respect for the writer’s voice and will allow some variations and irregularities to accommodate that voice. I also keep up with the latest debates on usage through blogs and email discussions to see what other editors are considering. Language is an ever-evolving entity, so being rigidly prescriptive is not a best practice, in my opinion.
Nothing like professional networking to keep the work flowing and your skill set up to date.
EFA (Editorial Freelancers Association) is a great resource and well worth the annual fee. They provide an incredible array of benefits including a job listing announcement service, email discussion group, ongoing courses on all aspects of editing and proofreading; even local lunches with your fellow editors if you live in New York City. 🙂
The newer professional organization kid on the block is ACES (American Copy Editors Society), which has a more reasonable annual fee so far. They have a good Twitter chat thing they do at least once a month, lots of resources on their site, and what sounds like a great annual conference.
Email Discussion Lists
And a great resource to participate in is an old-fashioned but very effective email discussion list called Copyediting-L. Also, there’s one editor, very active on Twitter and Copyediting-L who also has lots of resources in the knowledge base on her website: Katherine O’Moore-Klopf.
Your own website should be the hub for your marketing effort. I use WordPress.org (not WordPress.com; pros and cons to each version) and recommend Hostgator for web hosting. They make it easy to set up a WordPress.org style site through their control panel.
Let me know if any of this proves useful to you, or if you’d like to add anything for me to look into. Thanks!