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Post Publishing Institute #7: I’m Free! Freelancing! (Part 2)

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Hello and welcome to Part 2 of my discussion on Freelance Writing/Editing. Or as I like to call it, FREELANCE WRITING: THE SEQUEL!

Attack-of-the-Sequels

The ONLY appropriate reaction.

Being a freelance writer, and all that it entails, is very busy work. When one isn’t editing someone’s work, or scribing the latest blurb for a fashion magazine, they have to self promote. I would go into more detail, but I touched on these in the previous blog post.

Instead, allow me to fill your mind with some new and exciting information. As you’ve likely guessed this post still has to do with freelancing, so you may be asking:

“But Zach, haven’t we covered this topic already? Surely you’ve beaten us over the head with all there is to know. How much more could you possibly have to share?”

Well fear not fellow writers and readers, for the world of freelancing is more vast than any Greek epic yet to be read.

"Good, good. Let the long windedness flow through you." -Homer

“Good, good. Let the long windedness flow through you.”
-Homer

Yes, it seems like I covered the gamut but did you know there are freelancers that specialize in what they do? In fact many in this line of work make a living through one type of writing/editing. And since the world of book publishing can always use a more help, these people can take jobs that would normally garner an employed editor/marketer’s attention.

Sarcastic Wonka

I certainly will, Gene Wilder.

Scared Wonka

Now while this may seem like total grunt work, it can actually be a lot of fun. Since book publishing has always been a relatively small market (some businesses having as many as 3 employees) with a small time budget (the yearly budget for most publishing companies is usually 1/10th the budget of one Hollywood movie.) they need all the help they can get planning, editing, writing, and even socializing with the author.

As such, here is a list of a freelance writer/editors many specialized jobs. Check them out and see which ones you jive with the most.

((Disclaimer: As a beginner, chances are you’ll end up doing many of these at once. Like I said before, it’s a busy job that doesn’t allow for slacking.))

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Job 1: Editor

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Figured i’d get the most obvious out of the way first. Being an editor means you will edit. Simple as that. However, how you will edit, what you will edit, and when it’s due, are completely up to the whims of your employers.

When taking on these tasks, always ask the basic questions: How much am I editing? What format is this editing under? (typically fiction is done under Chicago Manual of Style, but it never hurts to ask.) When will you need this done? What are you paying me?

Job 2: Coaching, Consulting.

CoachingSolutions1

Another job that’s pretty easy to grasp. Rather than editing, this job means you’ll be working with the author to make the story better. Typically this falls under the workload of Line Editors, since they’re tasked with working out the fundamental ideas within the story.

Keep in mind, this job is highly personable and requires a great amount of tact and empathy. As many of my friends can attest, writers are not machines made to churn out epic novels for others amusement. They have feelings, wants, hopes, and dreams like any other human being. Understanding this, and being adaptable to your author’s needs, while finding the right way to discuss and motivate, is paramount in this line of work.

Job 3: Book Doctoring

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Sometimes an author falls way behind on a deadline. Sometimes the planned publishing process gets muddled or distorted. Sometimes a book needs a massive overhaul, but it’s too much work for even the most skilled editor on staff. So what do you do? You call a book doctor.

This tends to be the most stressful job for a multitude of reasons. First, you can likely expect whatever it is that’s handed to you will be a monstrous affront to all things literature. Second, it will likely be riddled with issues that need fixing, most of which may be so minuscule that only a keen eye can fix. Third, you’re likely not given nearly enough time to fix all these issues (I mean,heck, they needed a book doctor for a reason.)

It’s not a pleasant job, and half the time you won’t be able to make something half as good as you wanted it to be. Yet it does have its merits, and can be the most rewarding for both the gratitude and paycheck you’d receive.

Job 4: Collaborating and Co-Authoring

GearHeadsCollaborating

There are many reasons an editor/writer becomes a co-author to a work. Maybe your works inspired the author in question. Maybe your previous workings are a significant part of the writings. Maybe the author likes you a lot and thinks you should be signed on. Whatever the reason, Co-Authoring and collaborating connects you to the work on multiple levels, and can be a major boon to your publishing cred.

However, what this job makes up for in bragging rights it takes away in time. Anyone who has ever written a book can say that it was a major emotional, physical, and mental investment. Working with a second author can lessen the physical portion, but the emotional and mental investments are doubled to compensate. Plus, with two authors you may end up writing something twice as long, meaning the physical effort is doubled instead of halved. These assignments can also eat into your other projects as well. So proceed with caution when presented with these opportunities.

Job 5: Ghost Writing

ghost writing

I honestly couldn’t have found a better picture to describe this process.

Ghost writing is when an unknown/unannounced author writes the story, but another author’s name is signed onto it. Examples of this include many James Patterson novels, in which his many understudies write his books while he puts his name on them.

Now, before we jump the gun and say “That’s not fair. Who would be dumb enough to do that?” keep in mind the reason ghost writing exists. Often times an author will want to make a point, but feels their name is associated with too many things. Case in point, Mel Brooks wrote and directed The Elephant Man, but kept his name out so no one would mistake the movie for a comedy. In another example, M. Night Shyamalan allowed Will Smith to take credit as director for After Earth’s production so people would think it was a good movie.

In a way this is what ghost writing does: allow the author to make something they wish to write, but not have their name associated with it. Or, alternatively, it allows a new writer to get their start, but under a more famous person’s name so it’ll sell. No matter what happens, the one writing will always be appropriately compensated and, if you do a good enough job, it could mean greater opportunities and connections.

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That concludes the lesson on freelance writing/editing. Hopefully by now you’ll have amassed enough knowledge to get your start in freelance writing.

Remember, it’s a tough business out there, and requires a considerable amount of time and effort. However, if you keep at it, you’ll find a very rewarding career managed by no one other than you, yourself, and thee.

So what do you think? Have any of you done a job such as these? Have any ever needed someone to do any of these jobs? Do they sound like something you’d be interested in doing?

If you have questions, concerns, critiques, or compliments be sure to leave them in the comments below.

Until next time.

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Post Publishing Institute #6: I’m Free! Freelancing! (Part 1)

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Hey y’all. For those who don’t know i’ve lately been doing a bunch of freelance writing to pass the time. Lately it’s mostly been for recreation and most jobs I’ve taken on are small editing and criticism tasks. That being said I’ve gleaned a lot from my time as a freelancer with regards to the writing and publishing process as a whole. In addition i’ve even earned a spot on the staff of a really neat online magazine called The Ranting Dragon.

I’ll talk more on that later but if you’re interested the website proper can be found here.

Actually, what I want to talk about most is what a freelancer writer/editor does. Some may recall an earlier post I made titled “Things your Editor is not!” where I touch upon the stereotypes regarding editors. Rather than doing that, i’m going to go into specifics, or rather the types of roles one can expect to perform as a freelance writer/editor. For those seeking to be the former the next section is for you. For those curious as to the types of freelancers out there my next post will likely be more up your alley.

So you want to be a Freelance Writer/Editor

When you clicked on this page chances are you noticed the swarthy dwarf blacksmith pounding away at an unfinished weapon. While the picture is very pretty I chose it because it fits the theme of a freelance writer/editor in more ways than one. In fact it may be the best metaphor out there for the profession. So, for anyone hoping to make a living off freelancing, here are a few things you should know.

1) The first step is knowledge.

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It goes without saying that anyone worth their salt in any subject has to know what they’re talking about. Yet some people seem to think being a freelancer is as simple as declaring it so. While this may be true, it does one no good to call yourself something and have no experience or education. It’s the same reason why blacksmithing begins with being an apprentice. Years of manual labor dedicated to honing your craft if needed for any smithy to have a hope of succeeding.

Fortunately being a writer or editor is something you’ve likely done since you first went to school. If you’ve ever taken a writing class or edited a friend’s paper then you have some experience. Even fanfiction or poetry counts as personal experience. It’s not professional experience mind you, but it’s definitely something one should keep in mind when going into this line of work. Should you wish to take it a step further there are plenty of writing centers, schools for editors, and even literary groups willing to teach and give guidance.

2) The second step is practice.

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Ah practice, that dreadful word that goes hand in hand with effort. Learning the ropes is all fine and dandy but to truly succeed you have to continuously hone your skills. It’s also why blacksmith apprentices work for years before they’re allowed to handle projects on their own. Fortunately writing is not so dangerous a profession, and you can practice your craft without fear of losing your fingers.

So how does one practice being an editor/writer? Well here are a few suggestions I gleaned from my time at DPI:

  • Just as an apprentice needs lessons, learning begins in places that are chock full of knowledge. In the case of a freelanc writer/editor, there are several books that teach proper techniques and etiquette in the publishing world. In an earlier blog post I listed many books that come in handy when learning how to edit. At the same these books can help you become a better writer since they show what editors and publishers look for in a piece.
  • Many blacksmith apprentices are expected to glean from those who were already masters of their craft. You can do the same by taking your local newspapers and editing them yourselves. It comes as no surprise that some newspapers are riddled with faulty writing or grammar. Either due to negligence or apathy, these mistakes are the perfect opportunity to hone a keen eye for detail, while giving you the satisfaction of catching something other people might not.  This works for magazines and even (le gasp!) your favorite books.
  • You know how they say you can’t trust a skinny cook, a tan engineer student, or a clean blacksmith? Well that’s because they spend all their time refining skills they already have. In this case, the best refinement comes in the form of reading. This simple act, which you likely already do for recreation, will broaden your mind and give fuel to your own burgeoning creativity. It helps you understand the writing style of whatever you wish to edit, and makes you invaluable to anyone who wants your help. Better yet, you can accomplish twice as much by editing as you read.

3) The third step is putting yourself out there.

I put this one last because it is both the easiest and hardest step to take. As writers and editors we tend toward sheltered lifestyles, and would be content to keeping to ourselves while the world comes to us. In a sense, we’d all love to be that great blacksmith in the mountains whom people come to from far and wide, seeking out majestic expertise in craftsmanship.

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“Hey Bob. How much longer til we get to this great Editor person?”
“Just five more mountain ranges, Ethel.”
“Five? Screw this! Wanna get tacos instead?”
“Sure.”

Now while the above was poking fun at that conceit, it does speak the truth. Freelancing is a business in which you are selling your skills, and while that comes with all sorts of freedom, it also comes with a massive amount of responsibility on your part. When you freelance you are typically your only boss, but you are also your only employee. As such it falls upon you to make your work known. How does one do this? Why it’s actually quite simple: put yourself out there.

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I don’t mean go out on the corner and chase people with your claims of editorial/writing skills. Chances are you’ll more than likely scare people away. Rather put yourself in a position where your name can be easily seen. In this day and age, advertising can be done with little  Bug your friends. Make a facebook page. Set up a blog (wink wink). Heck, if you have to make flyers and post them on street signs.

Just let people know you’re out there. Let them know what you’re all about. It may not get you a lot of customers but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. If you stick to it you’ll either get an audience or you’ll get better. No matter how you slice it I don’t see how either one will hurt. 

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So that’s my first half discussing the work of the freelance writer/editor. In my next post I’ll go into specifics on the kinds of work freelancers and editors do.

If you have a few suggestions, a couple words of advice, or even some experiences you want to share then say so in the comments. If not then I hope you have a wonderful day.

Until next time.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Publishing Institute Post #1: Opening Day, And The Great Peter Osnos

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On July 14th, 2013, the Denver Publishing Institute had it’s orientation. One day later (more like 19 hours, 15 minutes, and 24 seconds but who’s counting?) we had our official Opening Breakfast. During which the wonderful Joyce Meskis, head of the program, was accompanied by Governor John Hickenlooper in the introductory speech. To say I was both honored and amazed would be a massive understatement as the Colorado Governor took the time out his busy schedule to laud and applaud our aspirations.

As if this weren’t an already phenomenal start to our program, our first lecture was held by none other than Peter Osnos.

Peter Osnos

Now if the name above leaves you scratching your head, it’s okay. This man would rather dedicate his life to producing and publishing quality over being a public figure. He’s a man who’d rather have his legacy do the talking, and what a legacy he has!

Having worked for the Washington Post for 18 years, he went on to become the Editor At Large of the publishing house Public Affairs. In addition to this he:

  • Became the Vice Chairman to the Columbia Journalism Review
  • Managed the Caravan Project as the Executive Director.
  • Was a Bureau Chief (aka in charge of the news) in Indochina and London.
  • Is a member on the Council of Foreign Relations
  • Worked as a Moscow Correspondent during the Cold War.

In spite of this some of his greatest achievements came from his time as the Editor At Large. Chances are you’ve never noticed something with his name, since most editors go unnoticed. Nevertheless if you’ve heard of:

This guy,

donald

This dude,

bill-clinton

This Lady,

220px-Nancy_Reagan

This woman,

Molly Ivins

And this individual,

Obama

Then keep in mind these are but a few of the people he has worked with personally. Throughout his career as the Editor At Large, he was the one these fine men and women turned to when they wanted their stories told. Hence, if you’ve seen these books in your local Barnes & Noble:

e6821af208_51N8M2PQ6GL Dreams_From_My_Father  Between_Hope_and_History_(Bill_Clinton_book)_cover_art

Then know that Peter Osnos was the man who helped channel the voices of these public giants.

And yet, in spite of his pedestal, crafted from years of hard work and dedication, the man was remarkably humble. Rather than talk about himself during his lecture, he talked about the people with whom he worked. He regaled the class with lessons he learned from working with these people. From meeting and learning about President Regan through his wife’s musings, to the sleeper hit that was Obama’s book, he spared no detail in these stories all with the hope that it will help us be better publishers.

I could write for several more pages about his lecture, but for the sake of keeping this from becoming a novel I’ll leave it with a quote.

“There is no substitute for the conscientiousness of a good editor… or the value of a dedicated sales team. We are here to serve.”

In a previous posting, you may recall that I claimed Editors to be like waiters or coaches. From the sincerity of Peter Osnos’ words, to the actions and meetings I’ve had with the people of this institute, I can honestly say this is nothing but the truth.

With a final kernel of wisdom, and an uplifting message, Peter Osnos concluded our first lecture by reminding us of why we chose this profession, and how to continue from there. For that I will always be grateful, for both his wisdom and the opportunity this institute provides.

So this is my first post on the Publishing Institute. For the next four weeks expect updates regarding information relevant to what the Institute is teaching. If you wish to know anything, or wish for me to focus on anything in particular, drop a message in the comments below. Otherwise, stick around! I promise it will be worth your while.

Until next time.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Publishing Institute

 

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Pre-Publishing Institute: Things Your Editor Is Not

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Totally a picture of me… If I were a woman… and had money…

I’ve been reading a book titled The Chicago Manual of Style.

For those who don’t know, it’s basically everything you need to know about the technicalities of being a Professional Editor.

Seeing as this is a highly likely career choice, I read this book with much gusto. As such, many times I made this face while reading:

Shocked

And said this:

o-rly

And when people asked if I enjoyed reading it i’d respond:

relevant-to-my-interests

Now if you thought goofed around more than I read you might not be far from the truth. However, like a good student, I did in fact glean some useful information. The lesson that stood out the most is, in a nutshell, what an Editor is supposed to do.

Mind you, I did not say what an Editor is “expected” to do. If I were to do that I’d probably render half the book moot due to stereotypes. So, for the sake of my fellow readers and anyone else who dares to read this poor excuse for a blog, I shall list:

Things Your Editor is NOT Going To, Allowed To, or Will Do.

1) Your editor is NOT in it for the money.
-For some reason people my age think Editing is a lucrative job. They think that editors pull out their expensive quill pens from the 15th century, lean back on their authentic Shakespearean recliners, and draw strands of red ink across a page while huge stacks of money get delivered to them by the dump truck.

Hate to say it but editing is not the most high paying profession. If you’re an editor, chances are you’re paid by commission. Pay on commission means: you get paid whenever someone wants you to work for them, and you charge for your services. I don’t know about you guys, but living on $30-50  a commission doesn’t sound as glamorous when you only get 2-3 commissions a week, if they come that often.

2) Your editor is NOT out to steal your work.
-As someone who works via commission, getting work in the first place means your name needs to be known. When you business spreads via word of mouth/internet/smoke signal/etc. the most important facet is your reputation. The better it is, the more commissions you get: plain and simple.

So if an Editor, for some reason, thinks it’s a good idea to disregard International Copyright Laws and steal ideas from patrons, chances are they won’t being working for long.

3) Your editor is NOT out to get you.
-Remember what I said about reputation? In a way being an Editor is a lot like being a server in a restaurant. One who cares about their job only wants to serve and see other people do well. It’s this kind of selfless delusion that implies that some people might, for some strange reason, consider that the happiness of others is somewhat important. However, while a server may end up getting tips from stroking your ego, an editor’s job is much different. In fact, editors get by on constructive criticism, which is basically the same as your server telling you not to eat that steak because of your cholesterol.

Actually being an editor is a lot like being a coach: and I’ve yet to know of a good coach that doesn’t yell at his/her team every once in a while. If you don’t like it, you can always go to a different one, but please don’t expect them to lie and stroke egos if your work sucks. Being critical is their way of helping you succeed.

I could go on, but I find this list is sufficient. Besides, I have a lot more material to cover this month, especially before I head out for Denver on the 12th. Anyone with any follow up opinions or comments is more than welcome to contribute. If I got something wrong please don’t hesitate to scold me down below. And with that, I bid thee all adieu.

Until next time.

 

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