ACES 2015: Pittsburgh: Day 2: Friday 27 March

March 28, 2015

These are my notes from the sessions I attended at the American Copy Editors’ Society (ACES) annual conference (2015: Pittsburgh). They are MY opinion and reflect no-one else’s opinion.


Level up: how to get more out of your freelance business (Panel: Erin  Brenner; Laura Poole; Samantha Enslen; Adrienne Montgomerie)

  • Set aside time to work on your business (10%)
  • Be yourself
  • Getting to where you choose to want to be /how you want to work
  • Teach what you know – blogging, podcasts,  mentoring, training, speaking at conferences etc.
  • Break down your income –  direct services versus training,  speaker fees,
  • Go beyond editing – offer more than one service (examples: say ‘yes’ – offer complementary services; offer packaging services [value add] such as complete package to completed book; ask for and pay referral bonus (10% on first job only); teaching other editors to use software – not selling your hours, but selling your training (teach online, webinars,  books etc.; know what you WON’T do too; copy editing.com pays their presenters; hire subcontractors;)
  • Create products and on-demand services that can be sold continually. Examples: training, core workshop with ancillary webinars, EFA may take on courses and pay well,  ebooks, automated products on website, free reports, sell individual chapters (e.g from blog posts)
  • Offer value-added services (could be for free or paid) to existing clients to increase client loyalty and spread your brand. Examples: upsell ‘do you also need help with… ‘; write blog posts for clients; look at franchise models; ask people what more they want; offer middle of the line and premium services – premium (platinum package) makes middle of the line look reasonable!; ‘how can I make your life easier?’; strategically doing free work can get you lots more paid work; offer the style sheet you’ve created for the client back to them for free.
  • Work with subcontractors – you only have so many hours to sell, but you can sell other people’s hours. Examples: there’s a big difference between 2 or 3 and 25; google docs for collaborative style sheets; complexity of managing subcontractors increases while your billable hours decrease – cash flow; ‘Teamwork PM’ project management system; virtual assistant well worth the money; hire out things you don’t want to do; use subcontractors to expand, fill in,  cover extra work, vacation etc.; have systems and checklists that others can follow; markup can be $,  %,  or ‘admin fee’

Other notes:

  • ‘let me send you a simple letter of agreement’ – non-threatening,  not a lot of effort,  but documents what each side will do.
  • Communications Central – also pays (Ruth Thaler-Carter)

(Some good tips and info from those involved in various editorial services businesses)

Critical editing (Gerri Berendzen)

  • Use your bullshit detector
  • Always ask questions
  • Be skeptical about everything
  • Check anything that raises a red flag – even the small things
  • Check names are spelt correctly, URLs,  phone #s,  email addresses
  • If a question pops into your mind, don’t ignore it
  • If it seems to good to be true, question it,  especially superlatives
  • Coincidences are rare, so check them out
  • Question anything (including images) that doesn’t ring true
    • Numbers, dollar amounts,  data and polls (e.g size of crowds)
    • Inconsistency and repetition
    • Hearsay
    • Out of context examples and references
    • Visuals that are meant to distract or misrepresent
    • Innuendo
    • Biased sources
    • Absolutes (all, always,  never, the oldest,  the best,  the worst – demand the source!)
    • Direct quotes, partial quotes
    • Image and caption supports rest of story
    • Generalisations
    • Unnamed sources
  • If the words that raise red flags aren’t important, consider taking them out or reword
  • Use common sense
  • Accuracy checks (but don’t rely on it as the person who supposedly checked it may not have); working from checklists

(Good speaker,  great examples. Excellent info.)

Bulletproofing data-driven stories (Mark Rochester)

(It seemed that the speaker wasn’t familiar with the computer he was using – I suspect it was not his own, and no-one was there to help him. He wasted a lot of time trying to get programs to run, and never did get his PowerPoint to work. He was hard to understand too — perhaps nervousness, stress related to the computer issues. I left after 15 minutes, as did many others. I felt for him under those circumstances — it’s not pretty as an audience member, and even worse if you are the presenter.)

Beyond the red pen: new directions in editing (Sarah Black)

What makes a good copy editor?:

  • Attention to detail
  • Creative
  • Flexible
  • Problem solving
  • Time and project management skills
  • Excellent communicators

All these skills are transferable!

Editorial services:

  • Skills in field of editing
  • Skills not necessarily traditionally associated with editing (content strategy, Web editing….)
  • To internal clients. Many materials in a company involving words that might need to be managed (employee newsletter, marketing materials,  policies and procedures,  press releases….)
  • To external clients. Examples: Dragonfly Editorial,  true north,  penultimate editorial services,  Wainscot Media – check URLs
  • Different areas of focus, clients,  markets

What services will you provide,  what makes you unique,  why are your services valuable?

Example services: see her slides for the tree /leaf examples and others

Pitching ideas to leadership (see slides):

  • Identify the problem/opportunity
  • Start with your boss
  • Get solid numbers
  • Be willing to be the one to make it happen
  • Also be willing to let it go if it’s not going to happen
  • Start small and keep at it

(Great speaker,  lots of ideas and examples,  not the session I was meant to be in [my error!] but ended up being interesting and useful nonetheless)

Between you and me (Mary Norris)

Copy editor job is somewhat invisible unless you make a mistake.

Mary told anecdotes from her life at The New Yorker. And read from her new book Between you and me.

It was interesting and funny but not what I expected based on the summary provided to delegates.


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