Forums Getting Editorial Work from Book Publishers and Packagers Discussions about getting work

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    • #196164 Reply
      Jennifer Lawler
      Keymaster

      Use this forum to post questions, comments, and thoughts about the course material.

    • #196192 Reply
      Eugenia Lazaris Schluter
      Guest

      Reading this week’s lesson has prompted me to start looking at some book publishers to test the waters and see who I would reach out to with an LOI. My search brought up a few questions about finding the right person to reach out to. The readings suggest to send LOI’s to the Editor-in-Chief, Senior Developmental Editor, or Copy Chief, which is pretty straightforward. But what would be best practice for when there are multiple listings for the same positions? For example – one site lists 2 editor-in-chiefs and four separate executive editors.

      Another site lists only publishers or associate publishers, and no editors at all. I wonder if this company just uses different titles or if they don’t bother to list their editors on the website. They’ve all got great bios about what they like to publish, but that doesn’t help me figure out who would be in charging of hiring freelancers.

      If any of you can give me some advice on how to approach this, I’d really appreciate it!

    • #196196 Reply
      Jennifer Lawler
      Guest

      Jeanie, great question. Typically when there are several EICs, they are each responsible for one aspect of the publishing company, usually a specific imprint. Usually it would not be a problem to send an LOI to each, or you can investigate to see which is the EIC of the imprint that you are most a match for. Or you might try sending an LOI to one on one week and an LOI to another a few weeks later, and so on.

      For the site that names only publishers, this is probably similar to the EICs, where each has a specific role in the company, over a specific imprint or branch.

      You can sometimes use LinkedIn to figure out who does what from how they describe their jobs. The thing is, most of our LOIs will be met with echoing silence, and if we send one to the “wrong” person it’s not as if you will therefore be blacklisted from working with that publisher ever. I’ve had editors share my LOI with someone else at the company they thought could use my skills.

      Hope that helps? If you want to share the specific companies, I can take a look and tell you what I think.

      • #196206 Reply
        Eugenia Lazaris Schluter
        Guest

        Thanks Jennifer, that helps clear it up a bit. One of the specific publishers I’ve encountered this with is HMH Books. There website lists the company’s leadership with titles such as SVP & Publisher, and VP & Publisher. It also lists links for the specific imprints but under those links, there are no other listings for who does editing for those brands.

        If a LOI is sent and there is no response or a polite ‘no thanks’ is given, is it appropriate to try again in the future and, if, so, after how long?

      • #196208 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Guest

        HMH is a huge conglomerate so it is likely to be challenging to get attention there; I always recommend starting with smaller/intermediate-sized publishers as they are more likely to actually respond to your LOI and need help. This is especially true in the case of development and of fiction, which bigger publishers don’t farm out as much.

        With HMH, the first thing you would need to do is identify what imprint you’d like to work with. They run the gamut–Clarion is very different from Mariner Books. You can navigate to the imprints page on their website to get a sense of what each imprint publishes.

        Once you’ve identified an imprint to investigate, you can Google various search terms, like “Clarion HMH + editors.” Doing this brings up Lynne Polvino, who is listed as a senior editor. That’s a good job title as while she may not hire freelancers directly she is likely to be the person who says “we need help on this project.” Going over to LinkedIn, I see she is still at the company. I also see that I know some people who know her. (I’ve linked with a lot of publishing people on LI, which makes this type of investigation easier.) If I can see that one of my colleagues has worked with her, I might ask if they think pitching her would be a good idea. Or, I might see if she’s on Twitter and follow her there for a bit to get a sense of whether she would be responsive or not. Or, I could just send her an email LOI. (There is a description of hunting down email addresses in the lesson.)

        If you meet with echoing silence, you can send another LOI in a month or two. Often it takes several tries to get a response. The thing with LOIs is that they work best when they happen to land in someone’s inbox right around the time they suddenly need help. For that to happen, you’re likely to have to send more than one LOI to any particular editor.

        If someone has responded with no, thanks, I will either wait for a change in staff before sending another LOI or what five or six months and then reach out again, depending on whether the no thanks was “We never hire freelancers!” (wait for a new hire) or “We don’t need anyone right now” (since they may in future, an LOI some months down the road is indicated).

    • #196203 Reply
      Mary Lanham
      Guest

      Just sharing some info on how I got a gig from a packager, as a follow-up to my intro post (apologies if this posts more than once, I think the system ate my first attempt):

      Luck played a big role, to be honest. The company is Relay Publishing, which is a packager that publishes their own series in several genres. I was contacted by the HR recruiter through my ACES member directory profile; I’m not positive about this, but I think she was looking through the listings for newer editors with experience in a couple target genres. So I’m guessing she found me because of my listed years in business plus keywords from my profile.

      To get the job, I provided a sample and was then asked to do an editing test. I just got on their roster last month, so I’ll hopefully be doing some projects this spring.

      From what I know at this point, their pay is reasonable but not high (hence maybe looking for more newbie editors). I did some due diligence, and I saw both some good reviews of them from other editors, and a couple not as good ones. But they paid me for the editing test (and promptly, too), which seems like a good sign. They do have a couple active listings right now on their HR page: https://recruitment.relaypub.com/edit-for-relay/

      In terms of advice learned, I’d say make sure any directory listings include keywords that reflect specific niches you have experience in, rather than describing yourself as someone who can edit anything. And be ready to share samples of your work. As of yet, none of my paying clients has given me permission to use their content, but I do have a couple practice edits ready to go that I have permission to use.

      • #196207 Reply
        Eugenia Lazaris Schluter
        Guest

        Hello Mary,

        It’s great to meet you! Thank you for sharing this link as well as your experience. I looked into the link and also saw a link for “write for relay” which I also explored. It was a very enlightening experience to see what kinds of options publishers have to offer work for freelancers – especially since they are looking for a “Shiekh Romance Outline Writer.” I must admit that that one threw me for a loop as I’ve never heard of sheikh romance and so I bravely jumped down the rabbit hole…

        I’m definitely going to look into this more and look forward to learning much from the experience. Thanks again and I’m looking forward to learning with you!

        Jeanie

      • #196209 Reply
        Mary Lanham
        Guest

        Glad this was helpful! I also had to go down a little rabbit hole to learn more about “sheikh romance”… their genres are definitely targeted to very specific corners of the e-book market (I’m going to be working on books they describe as “YA dragon fantasy”).

      • #196211 Reply
        Aubry Bennett
        Guest

        Thank you for sharing this, Mary!

      • #196212 Reply
        Kara Aisenbrey
        Guest

        Thanks for sharing this, Mary! YA dragon fantasy sounds like a blast to work on, and this sounds like it could be a great opportunity for you 🙂

        The problem of having sample work is one I keep seeing come up in the Editors’ Association of Earth forum, and it seems that very few editors are able to get permission from their authors to use their projects and must scrounge up some samples elsewhere to provide should the client request them. The general consensus I see from professional editors there is that you may just have to list that you’ve done X for Y in the past or ask the client to provide a sample for you to edit.

        Is there a way you usually handle this type of request, Jennifer? Do we just keep asking our authors if they wouldn’t mind if we used a snippet for our portfolios? Or is appropriate to use pieces we submitted for a course?

      • #196218 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Keymaster

        Hi, Kara!

        The publishers I have worked with have typically either hired me on the strength of my background (“I edited X and Y” with my name often right there in the acknowledgments) or an editing test, not samples. I’m trying to think if a publisher/packager has ever asked me for a sample, and I don’t think they have. I think most of them know this crosses a line (an editor’s work product is always based on someone else’s work product).

        It’s true that the vast majority of authors won’t consent to share their edited mss. But I have found they will often provide testimonials and even agree to allow potential clients to contact them and ask them what the experience of working with me was like, so if I have an indie client who needs a little reassurance I will often go this route.

        I wouldn’t use pieces submitted for a course. I have a policy of turning down students who ask permission to do this as it might imply that they actually worked on the published novel when they did not.

        You might see if some type of barter could be arranged with an author: “I’ll edit your ms for $x, which is half my usual fee, if you’ll allow me to use a chapter of the ms as a sample. I promise to share it only with serious clients and won’t post it on my website or anything like that.”

        I know many editors who will edit a sample of the client’s ms but this typically works better for CE. In DE, we may only have a few queries on a page, and what would that tell the author? For us to really demonstrate our abilities, we’d have to invest a significant amount of time in producing the sample edit, whereas a CE could spend fifteen or twenty minutes editing a few pages and give a fair representation of what the full edit would look like.

        I don’t work with that many indie authors and am frankly not that fussed if they go find someone else to work with, so if you work with or are planning to work with a lot of indie authors, it may make sense to do more than I do to come up with some samples you can share with potential clients.

        Hope that helps!

      • #196220 Reply
        Mary Lanham
        Guest

        It’s good to know that it’s reasonable to not have samples; I wonder if Relay’s practice of asking for one is part of why some editors aren’t super impressed with them. I definitely get the sense that their business model is built on working with newbies (which makes it a fine opportunity for me, but probably not for experienced folks).

        Just as a note on sample possibilities, one of mine is an abandoned story by an old critique partner. And the other sample is actually an ancient ms of my own from about 15 years ago. I barely remembered it, so I used it as a DE practice ms. I was upfront with Relay that the sample was from a practice ms, and they were fine with that.

      • #196221 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Guest

        Yes, I think a lot of the time newer entrants like Relay base their approaches on what works in other industries (“may I see your portfolio”) or on how other freelancers are hired (it is perfectly expected for freelance writers to have samples they can share) and not on what is expected traditionally from editors/freelance editors.

        Sometimes companies like this also default to what’s easy: it’s easier to ask the freelancer to scramble around trying to scrounge up a sample than it is to devise an edit test that would show whether the freelancer has the needed skills or to vet background in such a way that they know they’re making a good hire.

        Mary, I think your solution is perfect. As long as you’re transparent about the source of the material you’ve edited, no one can possibly complain!

    • #196205 Reply
      Jennifer Lawler
      Guest

      Thanks for sharing this, Mary! I’ll be interested to hear how it all goes for you. It can be hard for newer editors to feel like there are many opportunities, but this sounds like a reasonable one.

    • #196213 Reply
      Kara Aisenbrey
      Guest

      I have a question about time frames for publisher edits. If they tend to give fairly short notice, I’m assuming they also have tight deadlines to meet. How fast do they expect freelancers to be able to complete their work? Because I’ve always been able to set my own schedule in which to be able to complete an edit, having 2 weeks for a CE and 3-4 weeks for a DE, for example, seems pretty normal to me (and some dev. editors I see regularly take 6 weeks).
      Are those time frames reasonable to expect–or does it entirely depend on the job?

      • #196219 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Keymaster

        Kara, regarding time frames, it does depend a bit on the publisher and the title, but, yes, typically CE has about two weeks and DE three to four. CE can get compressed if anyone else is late (author didn’t return the DE round by deadline) so it is not surprising to see that shrunk to one week, though I wouldn’t say that is necessarily common (some cushion is typically built into the schedule).

        Six weeks is probably a lot longer than you’ll ever have working with a publisher unless for some reason a contracted title is turned in early and there’s a lull that allows the AE to get it into the production cycle ahead of schedule.

        It’s typically not the turnaround time that is the problem for most freelancers, it’s the lack of notice. So, it’s Thursday afternoon and you’re being asked if you can start a project on Monday that will be due in two weeks. If you try to keep your schedule open for just such requests, you’ll starve to death but if you pack your schedule full, you’ll have to turn down projects–which is okay if you do it once or twice but if it keeps happening the publisher will find someone else.

        When I started working for publishers, I was typically writing my own long-term projects and so it was easier for me to set aside a long-term project to work on a short-term project for a few weeks. It would have been a lot more of a juggle if I had had a lot of short-term deadlines into which I had to integrate another short-term deadline.

        Once you’ve worked with a publisher for a while, you will often be able to get on top of the ebb and flow (some months are always busier for publishers than other months) and often the AE will alert you about projects they would like you to take on.

        In the meantime, it can be a bit of a scramble!

    • #196234 Reply
      Mary Lanham
      Guest

      I have a couple questions related to training through organizations like ACES and the EFA, and how to present that to publishers. How should we summarize this kind of training on a resume or CV, since we can’t reference a specific certification or degree? Do publishers want to see a selected list of the kinds of courses we’ve taken, or is just referencing the professional organizations enough?

      My second question is about how this kind of training compares to a certification through a school like the UC programs or the Graham School (in the eyes of a copy chief doing hiring). So far, I’ve opted to train through professional orgs because I wanted to include fiction skills, and the university programs skew to nonfiction. But I’m debating making the investment in a certificate at some point down the line if it would be a big help in working for larger publishers.

      • #196235 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Guest

        Mary, this is a great question. I think certificate programs make sense for training purposes, though not so much as a credential. That is, I think they are great for learning the skills, and fulfilling the certificate requirements helps you guide your education in a meaningful direction. But while I would certainly mention that I have a certificate in CE from UCSD if I did indeed have one and was applying for a copyediting job, it is unlikely that having it would be the sole difference between getting work and not getting work.

        In other words, if the certificate program will help you learn some skills and techniques that you don’t currently have but do want, then pursue it for that reason, not because it will help you get a job. There is no evidence (that I know of) that these types of certificates are instrumental in getting work. They can help you be seen, if all else is equivalent.

        For example, suppose I have ten LOIs in my inbox, all from newer editors who have little experience working for publishers. If one of them has a certificate, I will be more inclined to ask that person to take an edit test as I would at least know that they had been taught the basic skills they need to do the work. But if someone else has experience working for publishers but no certificate, I will be inclined to ask that person to take an edit test.

        As you say, this is more complex in fiction because most of the university-based programs skew towards nonfiction. That is such a different beast from fiction that I wouldn’t really consider it when hiring a fiction DE or CE.

        I do not have an editing certificate of any sort though I have taught in the UCSD copyediting program. I have never experienced this lack as an impediment at all, though I recognize that my experience is not everyone’s experience. (I do have a Ph.D, which is a mixed blessing; it ticks the “education” box but it does make some people assume that I shall never dirty my hands with anything less than prize-winning literary efforts.)

        For general classes not leading to a certificate, I typically recommend mentioning this in terms of professional development: “I’m committed to professional development and take several editing-related classes each year through organizations such as X and Y to keep my skills sharp. Learning from a variety of mentors has helped me identify the most effective methods and techniques for working with different types of manuscripts and authors [or whatever you would say].” To me, this type of paragraph means that you’re open to new ways of working, that if I have to teach you how to use a custom content management system, you’ll be up to the challenge, and you’re not going to be shocked if I tell you that we don’t use the Oxford comma here.

        Hope that helps?

      • #196236 Reply
        Mary Lanham
        Guest

        That does help, thank you! I have a tendency to want to collect academic degrees, so it’s good to have some perspective on whether that would directly translate into better job prospects.

        For including training like EFA courses on a traditional resume, do editors generally list that in the education section, and include a few selected course titles? Or does it make more sense to have something like a separate professional development section?

      • #196237 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Guest

        I think either approach could work fine (adding it to education or creating a separate professional development section). Remember that most people aren’t going to spend much time looking at the resume, and for most recipients you will need to keep it to one page (academic publishes are more used to the CV approach, where you can give a lot more details). For the one-page resume, it makes sense to give just a sample of course titles, probably those most applicable to the job at hand and/or the most recent, rather than every professional development class you’ve ever taken.

        And keep in mind that people (all job applicants) have a tendency to lean too heavily on the resume to do the work of selling their skills. If I couldn’t tell from the LOI why the person would be a good fit for working with me, I didn’t bother trying to decode the resume. I sometimes received LOIs that said something like, “Hi, Jennifer! I’d love to work with your company. I think you’ll find I have a lot of useful skills (see the attached resume). Thanks for your time!”

        I really didn’t have time to figure out what kind of work they were interested in doing and what specific experience or training they had that made them capable of doing it, so those LOIs always got deleted.

        Make your argument clear in the LOI, then let the resume be the supplement/further detail to support the points you made in the LOI.

      • #196238 Reply
        Aubry Bennett
        Guest

        I appreciate you asking this question! I have been looking into copyediting certificates and this has really offered me some clarity. Thank you both!

      • #196239 Reply
        Jennifer Lawler
        Guest

        I’m glad it helped! I think the UCSD program is pretty good at teaching the necessary skills for nonfiction, though it’s possible to pick them up on your own (as I did) or through classes not leading toward a certificate. The main problem with trying to pick this stuff up on your own is thinking you know more than you do/less than you do. Classes can really help you calibrate your skills.

      • #196240 Reply
        Aubry Bennett
        Guest

        That is good to know! I think a formal class is exactly what I need at this point with copyediting. I feel I’ve gone as far as I can with self-study and need more practical experience to feel really confident in my skills.

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