Adapt and Flourish: The Editors’ Association of Canada Hosts a Milestone Conference

by Beth McAuley

Published at 2014-07-02

“Tracking Change: e-Merging Methods and Markets” was the theme of the Editors’ Association of Canada Conference held in Toronto this past June. Well over 200 delegates from across the country attended informative sessions, panels, and workshops on topics pertinent to navigating the changing publishing landscape.
The key message: adapt and flourish. Learn the new technologies, explore new ways of doing things, and build a strategy. In case you missed the conference, below are some key tips I picked up at four of the sessions I attended.
To find out more information about EAC, visit the Editors’ Association of Canada website. We here at The Editing Company certainly look forward to the next conference in 2015 and to being among the e-merging generation of e-smart editors.
Brave New World: e-Reading, e-Editing, and e-Publishing
Presented by Jennifer Latham
Jennifer’s opening comment emphasized how important it was that editors adapt and flourish in this shifting landscape. This is exactly what she and the publishing team of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada are doing. After 35 years of publishing with print, the AG has adopted a new e-pub policy: all written documents will be published as e-documents on the AG’s website without exception. Print versions will be available for marginalized readers, upon request. As of 2014, print has become the exception; it is no longer the standard.
There have been two key steps in the AG team’s transition. The first step has been learning to organize the information for their readers. What information does their audience read? What are the key points they want to know?
In today’s digital world, people are reading differently. They seek out the key information they need and move on. That is, headlines and opening sentences are covered but not much else. Based on this model, the AG team decided to place the key information at the top of the document (the top of the pyramid) and all substantive details in later sections.
The second step that challenged the production team has been how to create documents that would flow into the variety of reading devices being used. In addition to website documents, suitable PDFs are needed for iPads, tablets, and so on.
In the Q&A there was some discussion about potential job loss in the post–print era. While jobs have not been cut at the AG’s office, it seems unavoidable that some positions in production are going to be lost as e-publishing continues to flourish and technologies are requiring fewer people to produce the publications.
As well, many expressed concern that with the more abbreviated style of writing, today’s readers are losing the ability to read long texts because they are losing the ability to stay focused and think deeply.  There are several articles published about this that are worth reading, one of which is linked here.
On this note, Jennifer recommended reading blogger/author Nicholas Carr who writes on this issue regularly. One of his most recent books is entitled The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.
Dirty Editing: The Collapsing Editorial Process, Sessions I and II
Presented by Rosemary Shipton, Tammy Burns, and Sue Earl
The panel posed three key questions editors need to consider: What is expected from an editor? Have expectations changed in the last decade and how? What is our responsibility as editors and how do we respond to ongoing changes over the next two or three years?
1. What is expected from an editor?
In today’s editing world, clients expect editors to be quick. A common opening question is, How fast can you do it? In order to determine the answer, we need to ascertain what the client is asking us to do. Is it a copy edit? A stylistic edit? A straight proofread? A combination of these?
In the book world, these expectations depend on the publisher.
Academic publishers have a manuscript peer reviewed and the substantive work is (usually) completed by the time it is assigned to a freelancer. The freelance copy editor is expected to deliver a high-quality copy edit of the manuscript. Editors are expected to have supreme copy-editing skills and know how to handle the scholarly apparatus of notes, bibliographies, and appendices. There is one editor and one budget to cover the assignment.
Once the book is set in pages, the author is responsible for the proofreading; the copy editor gives the first and second pages a thorough review but not a careful proofreading. The copy editor is responsible for editing and proofing the index should there be one.
NOTE: A popular software now in use is eXstyles that prestyles the manuscript before it is sent to the freelancer. Some basic knowledge of this software is needed in order to check that elements are tagged properly and to read the bibliography’s tagging for accuracy. As well, files are often picked up from online databases, requiring some comfort level with downloading from a different site.
Most trade publishers continue todivide the development of a manuscript into steps: substantive editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Freelance editors are given specific tasks to complete within a budget and with a deadline. Trade publishers maintain high standards and expect the editor to provide high-quality work at each stage of the manuscript’s development. In some cases, editors may be required to tag elements as they work through the manuscript.
Then there are the non-book publishing clients who may expect the editor to do just about everything. This applies to small trade publishers, non-profit organizations, businesses, and self-publishing authors. It is here that we find the collapsing of editing and where the expectation that an editor can do everything is the strongest.
Of these clients, the self-publishing author is the most prominent. For many self-publishing authors, the publishing world is an absolute unknown and the editing process is completely new to them. Many authors come to publishing thinking the editing and publishing process can be done quickly and that one editor will do all the steps necessary to get the book to press.
As we know, editors cannot do everything. The most important first step in this process is to educate the author about what is involved. By assessing the manuscript, the editor can explain to the author whether the work needs a copy edit, a proofread, a substantive edit, or each of these. A budget needs to be discussed and the editor needs to identify which of these skills he/she can offer.
Can an editor do everything? This is a pressing professional question that Rosemary Shipton explores in her blog post “What Should an Editor Be?”
2. Have expectations changed in the last decade and how?
The biggest shift facing the editor today is exactly that: the expectation that the editor will have multiple skills and can do everything.
Given the apparent ease of digital publishing, clients want a ready-made editor to do all that is required. They want a good return on their investment. They want things done now.
These shifts reflect the ongoing transition from print to digital publishing: the quicker the process, the quicker the editor needs to be.
The best approach: Know what you can offer and offer as much as you can. Make this clear to your client from the outset so there are no misunderstandings. For skills you cannot offer, refer the client to a colleague. Build networks with other editors for easy referrals.
3. What is our responsibility as editors and how do we respond to ongoing changes over the next two or three years?
We need to adapt to the changes while retaining strong skills and promoting the quality of the work we do. We need to sell our skills and knowledge and maintain professional standards. Above all, we need to be resilient.
In-house editors have opportunities for training and mentoring. Freelancers need to build networks and hang out with other freelancers to share learning and information.
Freelance editors need to be responsible for our own training and for finding ways to expand our skill sets, especially in new technologies. Set up seminars with a group of editors and share the cost. If a publisher invites you to attend a seminar on a new technology it is introducing, be sure to attend. Try free downloads and trials; book time to research and use tutorials. (See New Editorial and Publishing Technologies below.)
When working with businesses, smaller presses, organizations, and self-publishing clients, make it clear what skills you can offer. If you cannot do all that is required, refer the client to another freelancer who can manage that aspect of the project.
Self-educate in areas of editing. If you have a project possibility in a genre that’s new to you: go to the library and study up. What are the elements inside this genre you need to know? Take specialized courses.
Take advantage of opportunities: Small publishers are developing self-publishing services. What skills can editors offer publishers to facilitate this process?
The Future of Self-Publishing and Editors
Presented by Arlene Prunkl, Donna Dawson, and Mark Lefebvre
Self-publishing is a growing market that requires collaboration and best practices. Once you find a niche, you can build up a strong clientele. Author–editor relationships are key: good working relationships will guarantee long-term partnerships. Self-publishing authors will come back with their next project once they know they can trust you.
Key question: How to tap into this market? How do clients find editors? Referrals are a big part of this network, including self-referrals. Don’t be shy! Build a website promoting your services. Attend seminars for writers where you can give out your card. Join a writers’ group and take advantage of its social media. Write blogs promoting what editors do and offer writing tips. Register with the EAC online directory and promote your editing for self-publishing authors. Once a self-published author launches his/her book, go to the book launch. The author is sure to refer you.
When you are approached by an author, what should you do first? Make sure your client understands what the editing process is: educate, educate, educate. Explain the different editorial steps and help the author determine what needs to be done with the manuscript.
Second: Offer to read the manuscript and provide an assessment for a flat fee. Once you can give the client the big picture, you can break down the process into manageable steps that explain the process clearly. You might do a sample edit of a few pages to demonstrate the first level of editing required. Really let the author know what is needed and how you intend to go about it.
Third: Set the budget. Ask the author what he/she wants to spend. If it is not enough to cover all that needs done, agree on what you can do within the budget. If the author doesn’t have enough money, suggest he/she fundraise, do another round of editing on the manuscript, and then come back to you to take it one step further.
Fourth: Manage expectations. Assure the author of what you can do, within a set amount of time, and within the budget.
Fifth: Prepare a contract or a letter of agreement outlining what you have agreed on. Request a deposit of 25% or 50%.
Sixth: Once the editing is completed, help the author with the next steps. Refer him/her to professionals who can lay out/design the book, print the book, and create an e-book.
Finally: Find your niche and be selective. You may not be the right editor for a project. Know when to make a referral or when to decline the work.
New Editorial and Publishing Technologies
Presented by Carolyn Brown
Carolyn has been teaching herself how to use new technologies since the first word-processing program and fax machines arrived on the scene. Her key message: adapt or die.
Her impressive overview introduced us to many of the current technologies that editors are using on the job today and how they have changed the process of creating written documents.
When technology was first introduced into the editing and publishing process, production was a linear process with the aim of producing one document in print. Its collaborators participated within repeated loops: editing, correcting, revising layout, proofing, and over again until it was finalized. In today’s publishing environment, collaboration between authors, editors, production, and design has become more complex. 
We have moved from single-source publishing—that is, one structured copy per file—to multiple content files for print, PDFs, HTML, e-books, mobiles, apps. As well, we are using more collaborative software that allows multiple users to participate in the process at the same time, from wherever they are, and on whatever system/device they are using. Plus, we are often expected to manage website data and create digital content.
The technology to support these e-merging trends is exploding. A sample of what Carolyn introduced is listed below. These are organized under the headings she used to differentiate them, and the links are provided for further exploration.
To conclude, Carolyn emphasized the number one outcome of these new technologies: speed. Because the expectation that production can be done quickly, these technologies allow for accuracy, transparency, and delivery of deadlines; they can save on staff costs, have the ability to publish in all formats, and make software migration that much easier.
Final words: Take the leap. Learn something new. Be the change.
Note of caution: Many software producers oversell their products. Be sure to test out something new before buying it.
Collaborative Platforms
Source Website Content Management Systems (CMS)
Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
Print and Digital Desktop Publishing
Writers and Editors