Why hiring an editor can make sense

Welcome back, and thank you for your patience as I update the site.

If you’re visiting today, you may be wondering if it makes sense to hire an editor for your project. In this earlier post, I discuss three ways an editor can help you with your content.

Want more? Here’s a post on how good writing can help combat information overload, featuring advice from the late, great writing teacher William Zinsser.

If you’ve never worked with an editor before, I encourage you to request a complimentary sample edit. It’s an easy, risk-free way to determine if I might be right for your project.

Why introverts make excellent marketers

When you think of marketing, do you think of introversion or extroversion?

For me, because marketing is so big-picture and all-encompassing, it’s exciting and appeals to my penchant for synthesis, analysis, and writing—all of which I consider introvert strengths.

On the other hand, marketing also calls to mind activities I associate with extroverted, talkative, rah-rah type “people persons.” And, although I’ve come to be fascinated by marketing in many ways, I’m definitely one of those who has said on more than one occasion, “I’m terrible at marketing myself!”

Fortunately, Marcia Yudkin, marketing consultant and wordsmith extraordinaire, has made it a mission to help introverts make the most of themselves.

How introverts excel at marketing

In her free Marketing for Introverts Audio Manifesto, Marcia shares key insights on how introverts can use their strengths to advantage in an extroverted world.

  • First, recalling her own experiences as an introverted child in a family that included some classic extroverts, Marcia explains how she gradually came into her own as adult. That included realizing that she enjoyed and excelled at public speaking.
  • Second, she describes 8 key introvert strengths, including strategic thinking and precision with language, that make introverts excellent marketers in their own right. For each strength, she offers tips on how to ensure the strength gets used and appreciated.
  • Third, we learn 15 marketing methods introverts can use for getting their—or their clients’—message out, none of which includes cold-calling by the way. Many of these techniques involve writing, a favorite introvert skill and typical strength.

When she’s asked by a participant on the call whether marketing isn’t simply another business function introverts can learn, like bookkeeping or product fulfillment, Marcia stresses that for introverts, many of the typical marketing “shoulds” simply don’t fit and would have them “banging their heads against a wall” to achieve.

Better that introverts go with their strengths, which are considerable and nicely laid out in this thoughtful manifesto.

How to ensure your content is top-notch

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In Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Ann Handley urges readers to “Hire a Great Editor” (chapter 24). Handley divides editors into three categories: copyeditors and proofreaders; substantive editors; and line editors. Handley believes that good line editors are the hardest of the three types to find.

If you’re not already familiar with the idea of line editing—it’s a term that’s mostly used in formal publication circles—it’s the intense editing that goes on at the sentence and paragraph levels. It involves

  • Correcting grammar (which covers much more than you might think)
  • Selecting just the right words for the purpose
  • Tweaking sentences and paragraphs until the flow is just right

Line editing often involves deleting text that’s obscuring your message. This is particularly important for web text, which is usually read quickly.

More on line editing and why it’s important

If you’re interested in learning more about line editing and what it involves, consider reading Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do (third edition), which has two chapters devoted to this level of editing.

One chapter, by Maron Waxman, divides the chief concerns of line editors into 4 key categories: Clarity (ensuring that the purpose and meaning of the writing is clear); Coverage (ensuring that sufficient information is given); Organization (ensuring that the argument or instructions can be easily followed); and Tone (addressing the right audience with the right language).

Waxman makes an important point—that good editing is much more than cleaning up the typos. It’s everything that must happen to ensure your message is understood.

Coping with information overload

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Is your head exploding from all the “content” out there begging to be read? Top 5 this? 10 best that? 15 ways to (insert must-read topic here)? While more content on a topic is often helpful, there’s no doubt that information overload is a constant threat.

What about writing? Does the idea of writing or posting another “top 5″ or “10 best” article make you feel like you’re contributing to content overload instead of truly serving your reader?

Is there such a thing as content ennui?

Whenever content overload has me feeling overwhelmed or uninspired, I like to turn off the computer and grab a classic on writing, like William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. Dip into the book at any point and you’ll find ideas and inspiration.

Two tips for great content

Here’s Zinsser on two topics central to great content:

  • On addressing your audience: “You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.” Zinsser’s talking about nonfiction in general here, not content marketing. Still, he makes an interesting point. If we’re bored with our own content, chances are our readers will be, too.
  • On the importance of revision: “Rewriting is the essence of writing.” You’ve probably heard that one before, since it’s quoted so often. And with good reason. Most first drafts need lots and lots of work. Even if it’s just a simple “top 5″ list, we owe our readers clear, informative content that’s well thought out and meticulously edited. And that takes effort.

In Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition—a book Zinsser recommends we reread annually— White recalls Strunk’s sympathy for the reader, whom Strunk felt was “floundering in a swamp.”

Given that the swamp is now a tsunami, it’s more important than ever to write well. Classic books like these can show us how.

P.S. For more on Zinsser, visit his website.

More on self-publishing

Welcome back. As promised, here’s a bit more on self-publishing that I learned through the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA).

As with traditional publishing, the self-publishing process starts with writing and ends, more or less, when your book is sold.* However, what’s different now is the increased complexity, the numerous new options available to you, and the many new players involved.

Essential Steps in Self-Publishing

Note that I’ve numbered the steps below, but as you can imagine, self-publishing is not an exact, linear, step-by-step process. That’s why I’ve grouped together closely related tasks like writing and editing and design and formatting.

  1. Writing and editing. As any good guide to self-publishing will tell you, your book must be well written and well edited—and that, by the way, means more than just proofreading. To learn more about levels of the editing process, see Joel Friedlander’s excellent article, “What Every Self-Publisher Ought to Know About Editing.”
  2. Design and formatting. For insights into book design and formatting for both print and ebooks, two must-see sites are The Book Designer (a great website on self-publishing in general) and Beyond Paper Editing, a great place to get help with editing and formatting your ebook and learn more about e-book publishing.
  3. Cover art. Want your book to sell? Make sure it has a great cover. A great place for beginners to learn about this critical aspect of self-publishing is Cover Design Studio. Browse design templates for both fiction and nonfiction, read about the importance of color, graphics, and other design elements, and much more.
  4. Sales and distribution. Getting your book out to readers through Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and myriad other retailers and distributors can be complicated. For an excellent overview, I recommend Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. As the title suggests, the book also addresses publishing contracts, an important issue for self-publishers.

* A key activity that transcends everything above is marketing—creating the right book for the right audience, and then making that audience aware of it over time. So, as you explore the resources above and the websites I featured in my last post on self-publishing, make sure to keep marketing top of mind. And best of luck with your book!

A quick look at self-publishing

Earlier this year I took a great little course from the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) on self-publishing for editors. As part of my coursework, I put together a quick “beginner’s guide” to a few of the better websites on self-publishing. Enjoy!

Great Websites for Beginners

Get started by exploring the websites below. These beginner-friendly websites will give you a great overview of self-publishing without being overwhelming.

  • The Book Designer. Don’t let the name of this site fool you. While site owner Joel Friedlander’s main focus is book design, this site is a treasure-trove of information on all things self-publishing, including a free, downloadable introduction that’s perfect for beginners.
  • Jane Friedman. Friedman, a former publisher at Writers Digest, offers lots of great advice on all aspects of self-publishing and marketing, including developing a platform, creating a website, writing a blog, and more. Friedman also writes regularly on the future of books and writing.
  • PW Select. A special section of Publishers Weekly devoted to self-publishing, PW Select is a trusted source of articles, book reviews, and other resources. The book reviews are especially important for knowing what’s working—and what’s not— in self-publishing today.

The Self-Publishing Process

As with traditional publishing, self-publishing is a complex process involving many players. Of course, since ebooks have come on the scene and the number of ways we can read books has multiplied, things are more complicated than ever.

In the same EFA course, I explored some of the basic steps involved in self-publishing. I’ll tackle that in my next post. In the meantime, thanks for visiting!

A must-read essay on publishing

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Recently, while reading about the growing trend toward self-publishing, I learned about Richard Nash’s What is the Business of Literature?(a free Kindle download).

Nash offers a tightly reasoned argument that really gets you thinking—about writing, technology, publishing, social media, and, indirectly, about your own role in the whole business.

I especially like his discussion of editing and how various editing roles might fare in the new publishing environment.

According to Nash, those whose role has been to “make writing better” will continue to find opportunities. Those whose role has been to decide what to publish may fare less well, as more and more people (self-publishers) decide that for themselves. Did I mention that the essay is also likely to be quite controversial?

Fascinating moments in publishing history

Great essays often reveal interesting and suprising facts, and that’s one of the things I love about this essay. Here’s a quick sampling of fun facts (I’ll leave out the specifics as an incentive to read it yourself):

  • The first author to make a living commercially instead of through patronage
  • The founder of an early paperback vending machine for commuters
  • Point in history when publishing really started to explode (it’s not when you might think)

If you, like me, have had “read a good history of publishing” on your to-do list for ages, you’ll find a fascinating survey of publishing here, as well as references to some classic books on the subject. Definitely worth a read.

Tips for creating content

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I’ve recently discovered a great new book called Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less by Joe Pulizzi, author and founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). This book is an excellent overview of content marketing and content strategy for everyone from beginners to seasoned professionals.

In this brief post I want to zero in on Chapter 18 of the book, “Extracting Content from Employees.” Here’s some of what I discovered in this compact but information-packed chapter:

  • Two useful approaches to generating content. One approach is to look for creative ways (interviews, storyboarding, email analysis, etc.) to get content from folks who are not normally content producers but whose work can generate highly relevant content—everyone from CEOs to customer service reps. Another approach, a bit more geared toward writers but applicable to anyone generating content, is to freewrite and then mine your text for usable ideas.
  • Two great new books I didn’t know about. Okay, given my propensity for collecting too many books on writing and content, this may be a mixed blessing! But it’s great to hear that Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, has a brand new book out called The True Secret of Writing (2013). Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius (2010) also looks fascinating and essential for any writer’s bookshelf.

On page 213 of the book, Joe lists potential blog topics he generated during a freewriting session—more than 20 possible topics from just five minutes of writing!

If the folks you’re trying to extract content from seem reluctant—perhaps they’re unsure of their writing skills—Joe has some good advice. Assure them their content will be carefully edited before it’s published. This can go a long way toward increasing their confidence and willingness to contribute to your project.

Managing your freelance business

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Have you ever been poorly treated by a client who should have shown you more respect? Is your paperwork spiraling out of control? Are you clueless when it comes to business finances?

Business Matters: A Freelancer’s Guide to Business Success in Any Economy walks you through these and other challenges freelancers face—and find they’re often not prepared for. Elizabeth (Bette) Frick has seen it all and generously shares her experience in operating her own business, The Text Doctor LLC.

An expanded and updated collection of columns Bette wrote for the STC’s (Society for Technical Communication) Intercom magazine from 2003 to 2012, Business Matters covers the essentials of succeeding as a freelancer. With 26 information-packed chapters, there’s too much to cover in detail here, but here’s a quick key to what you learn:

  • Assess. Get started or rethink where you’ve been so far. Assess your fitness for independent work; learn how to think of yourself as a business; understand what business plans are for and why you need to write one (Chapters 1-3)
  • Strategize. Identify and pursue the perfect clients for you; find a niche that fits your strengths; know when to accept a project and when to turn one down; learn from your mistakes; avoid isolation by reaching out to others; and much more (Chapters 4-17)
  • Market. Develop a marketing plan that’s right for you; learn from other freelancers which tactics work and which don’t; understand why networking is a permanent element of marketing for independents and how to market yourself effectively (Chapters 18-21)
  • Manage. Face your financial fears and move through them; boost both your confidence and your earnings by tracking your time properly and pricing like a pro; learn proven tips for staying organized and maintaining your sanity (Chapters 22-26)

Because Business Matters started as a column for independent technical communicators (technical writers and editors, medical writers, etc.), it’s written with them in mind. However, other service professionals—project managers, web and graphic designers, photographers, real estate agents, and other independents and consultants—will also benefit from this book.

That’s because a key lesson of Business Matters—a lesson that’s implied in the title and woven throughout the book—is one that transcends any individual field or business: If you want to be a successful freelancer or small-business owner, you must understand how business works. It’s that simple—and that powerful.