IPEd Conference 2019: Day 2

May 12, 2019

Last week (8 to 10 May 2019) I attended the biennial IPEd Conference (Institute of Professional Editors, the national association of Australian [and now New Zealand] editors), held in Melbourne. These notes summarise MY experience at the conference and my opinions and represent no-one else’s experience or opinions. I took notes for many of the sessions I attended, but as there were several concurrent streams, these notes in no way reflect the full breadth of the conference sessions.

NOTE: Many of the sessions were only 10 minutes long and there was limited changeover time. Some session notes may be missing if I had to leave for the next session before the current session’s presenter finished.

There were quite a few plenary sessions today, and only one time slot where multiple sessions ran concurrently. The first was a 90-minute plenary on the state of IPEd, with information and updates from the chairs of various standing committees. And at the end of the day was the closing ceremony, where various awards were handed out, and the dates and location of the next conference were announced: Hobart Grand Chancellor, 28 to 30 June 2021. I heard a rumour that the 2023 conference will be held in New Zealand, but have no idea if that’s true or not.

Katherine Bode: ‘Digital Collections: Archival and editorial impulses remixed’ (plenary session)

The title of this session gave no clue as to how fascinating it would be! Katherine started off by describing the archival impulse as that which curates, collects, and categorises, whereas the editorial impulse is to transfer that archival impulse into material suitable for specific audiences.

I was still none the wiser when she showed how a Google image search for ‘editing’ gave a lot of images of computer screens etc, whereas an image search for ‘editing writing’ gave images of red pens on paper.

Back to the editorial impulse… she then asked what if you combined the editing impulse with extensive (hundreds of thousands) archives of materials. What were challenges in editing that number of documents? And then she introduced us to ‘To be continued… The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database’ project (http://cdhrdatasys.anu.edu.au/tobecontinued/).

Back in the 19th century, Australia didn’t have a book publishing industry, or at least, not a thriving one, and so newspapers, which were prevalent and cheap, were the main way people read fiction. Sometimes a newspaper would publish a complete short story; other times it would serialise a novel. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of fiction were published this way in Australian newspapers in the 19th century.

The database the project team used was Trove (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=)—a part of the National Library of Australia (NLA), which has digitised Australia’s newspapers since 2010. Trove (which I use for genealogical research and which I help edit on occasion) is the largest open-access collection of digitised newspapers in the world. By 2015, about 30% of Australia’s newspapers had been scanned and OCR’d. The problem with OCR is that a machine does a ’best match’ for what it thinks a character might be, which means there are many errors in the transcriptions.

The next challenge was how to identify what was fiction in these newspapers. They didn’t all have a heading of ‘Fiction’, so the team used various Trove search algorithms and Trove’s API to narrow it down, and narrowed further by adding ‘paratext’ to the searches—words such as serial, author, chapter, tales, story, novelist, novella, etc. They went from hundreds of thousands of potential fiction articles to 21,000 after they’d cleaned up the data.

They then analysed that data to see if some assumptions about fiction writing and publishing in 19th century Australian newspapers held true; the main assumptions were:

  • most fiction (80%) was by British authors
  • fiction was published almost entirely in metro newspapers, with little published in provincial newspapers; if fiction was published in provincial newspapers, it was assumed that it had been pirated from a metro source
  • according to academics, early colonial readers in Australia were uninterested in Australian fiction.

What they found in the data was quite a different story! Yes, there was quite a lot of British fiction, but not as much as expected. About 25% of the fiction was Australian, 50% British, 20% American, and 5% from other countries.

They also found hundreds of new titles by known Australian authors, and even more by unknown Australian authors (all of which added to their database of author names to search for).

As far as where fiction was published, only 45% was in metro papers, with 55% published by the provincial press. And the sources of the fiction? The metro papers often published the same title at the same time, getting syndicated fiction from a British or American agency. Similarly, provincial newspapers often published the same title at the same time (but NOT the same title as the metro papers) because they got their material from different syndication agencies. These provincial syndication agencies often crossed state lines too, so the same story might be published in NSW and Victorian regions. The team wasn’t aware of these different syndicated sources prior to their study. There was an assumption that most fiction in newspapers was published in the metro papers, then syndicated to the provincial papers in the same state, but this wasn’t the case. The provincial syndicates that operated across the country were the largest publishers of Australian fiction in the 19th century. All this refutes the claim that The Bulletin was the origin of Australian literary culture. And it refutes the claim that Australian readers had no interest in Australian fiction.

Newspapers reflect what their readers want, and in colonial Australia, readers chose Australian fiction. In fact ‘Australian’ was a common term in many of the fiction titles. And sometimes newspaper editors changed a overseas story to give it Australian locales and names!

The team used two computational methods in analysing the data:

  • topic grouping, with the 200 most popular words in an article shown graphically (like a word tag cloud)
  • decision trees, which look for tendencies in word usage and use dataset variables to see where they align [no, I didn’t understand this bit either!].

One thing they found was the consistent representation of aboriginal characters and women in the newspaper fiction. This contradicts the view of terra nullius. Interestingly, the Australian fiction chosen to be published as books in Britain rarely showed aboriginal or female characters (and rarely published Australian female writers), thus perpetuating what they [the British?] THOUGHT colonial Australia was. This is not reflected in the newspaper fiction, where aboriginals and women were depicted often, and where women fiction writers also had a voice (though some may have written under a male pseudonym in the hopes of getting published more easily).

The team has opened up the database to crowd sourcing, allowing people to fix transcription errors from the OCR. Contributors can also add any fiction they find that’s not already in the database. Public editing such as this can improve a digitised archive. Trove harvests the corrections each week and these go back into the main Trove database.

There were concerns regarding crowd sourcing: how to ensure quality, how to prevent errors from being introduced, etc. But nothing happened! Many of those who correct entries come from editing and associated professions and are passionate about getting it right and contributing to the archive. The feedback often refers to wanting to rescue stories from the database and turn them into books, and the team has already done so for some stories. Ultimately the aim is to have publication platform where people can curate their own collection and publish as ebooks or even printed books. Ebooks published by this process will also be harvested by the NLA/Trove and become another legitimate edition of the book.

Michael Webster: ‘The book is far from dead: A review of the 2018 book sales in Australia’ (plenary session)

(This was a last-minute replacement session as the person heading up the Style Manual review who was slotted to speak couldn’t do so under a caretaker government, with a federal election just a week away)

The ebook has NOT taken over—only about 18 to 20% of sales of all books in Australia are in ebook format.

[removed Bookscan data as I was informed that it was confidential]

Bookscan collects data about books actually sold (from point of sale systems), NOT what the publishers say they’ve sold to booksellers (~20% of publisher ‘sales’ are returned unsold). It captures more than 92% of book sales, including online sales, discount sales (e.g. BigW, Target), chain and independent bookshops. Note: BigW sells more books than anyone else in Australia.

Any bestseller lists from Bookscan are for sales two weeks prior. But what is a ‘best seller’? If you sell 3000 to 4000 copies of an Australian fiction title, that’s very good. Authors want to know number of sales, whereas publishers want to know the value of the sales.

Sales trends follow predictable peaks—school/uni return, mothers day, fathers day, and a HUGE spike in the weeks prior to Christmas, with almost nothing in January (bookshops are returning books to publishers in January). Some 13% of total sales for the year are in the Christmas peak, and many are cookbooks. If you want to publish a cookbook, make sure it’s in colour, is hardback, and is released near Christmas, but never after it.

The book sales market has been growing slowly but steadily the past few years. There was an appreciable drop when Angus and Robertson went under (they sold 20% of all books), and even more so in regional towns where their stores closed and weren’t taken over by other bookstores, leaving many towns without a bookstore.

Other information:

  • 2018 sales were driven by key non-fiction categories, with a slight lift in adult fiction.
  • YA lit is purchased by teenagers, whereas children’s books are purchased by adults.
  • The Barefoot Investor took the number one spot in 2018.
  • Australian authors took six of the top 10 spots in fiction sales in 2018.
  • Chains/online sales had 55% share of the market, then DDS (what’s DDS?) and independent bookstores.
  • US/Canadian bookstores can’t compete with Amazon on price (though he didn’t say anything about the effect, if any, Amazon Australia has had on sales).
  • The top nine adult fiction publishers in Australia account for 95% of ALL fiction sales in Australia, so if you go with a small press, you will have a huge battle to get distribution into bookshops. If an author is not represented by one of these big nine companies, you effectively can’t get into the market.
  • Established publishers are risk-averse, so it’s very hard to find a publisher that will take the risk on a new fiction author.
  • For non-fiction, the top ten trade publishers account for 76% of the market, and for children’s books, 80% of titles come from just ten publishers. Again, distribution is the biggest issue facing new authors. Local/independent/small presses account for just 13% of Australian publishing—combined.
  • Paperbacks dominate, but hardback popularity continues to grow (21% of the market in 2003, and 27% in 2018). After the global financial crisis (i.e. after 2008), publishers reduced the prices of hardbacks.

Grant McAvaney: ‘Copyright for editorial gatekeepers’ (plenary session)

Grant took us on a very quick journey through the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (on 1 May 2019, it was 50 years since it came into force). The Act was amended substantially five years ago.

I took as many notes as I could but he covered a LOT of ground. He did say that the Copyright Council’s website (https://www.copyright.org.au/) has many free fact sheets that cover the detail of what he spoke about.

Copyright myths:

  • No, you don’t have to apply for or pay for copyright protection.
  • There is no ‘fair use’ defence in the Act, but there is a ‘fair dealing’ provision.
  • There’s no legal term for plagiarism; instead it’s ‘unauthorised use of someone else’s copyright’.
  • Generally, there’s no ‘10% rule’ (except under specific circumstances).
  • Anything on the internet is NOT public domain.

Copyright is a bundle of rights:

  • Copyright protects things that would otherwise have no protection at all: ‘works’, and ‘subject matter other than works’. ‘Works’ include literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works; ‘other than works’ include films, sound recordings, broadcasts, published editions. Copyright does not protect ideas.
  • While those things are protected, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to acknowledge those works.
  • There’s only a copyright breach is there’s substantial use, but defining ‘substantial use’ is a very grey area. It might only be as little as the line of a poem or song. For larger works, small quotes or snippets MAY be OK. Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. are not classed as substantial works.
  • Even if larger chunks are used, the fair dealing defence may come into play (e.g. it may be OK for a review/criticism, news report, parody/satire, access for those with a disability).
  • Copyright is the starting position, but contracts trump everything (e.g. an author may have assigned it or licensed it to someone else in such a way that prevents even them using it).
  • In general, copyright lasts for the life of the creator + 70 years.
  • Broadly, if you create it, you own it. But there are exceptions.
  • The owner of the copyright (may not be the author) has exclusive rights to reproduction, communication, public performance, adaptation, publication, and broadcast of the work.
  • Ownership does NOT equal licence.
  • Attribution is not a defence to copyright, but often calms the author down.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s protected?
  • If it’s protected, is it ‘substantial use’?
  • Is there a ‘fair dealing’ defence?
  • Do I REALLY have permission? (remember, the permission may not be the author’s to give) Ask the person what copyright permission they have, and GET PERMISSION.

Moral rights:

  • are for individuals—they can’t be sold or assigned to someone else, like copyright can
  • life of the creator + 70 years
  • right of attribution
  • right against false attribution (and more that I didn’t note down).

In 2018 the Copyright Modernisation Review was started—currently on hold while the government is in caretaker mode prior to the 2019 federal election. But it’s likely they will cover fair use, extra fair dealing rules, orphan works (where you can’t find the owner after due diligence), quotations, etc.

Kevin Young, Hella Ibrahim: ‘Agents for change: The in-house /freelance editor working relationship in digital-first educational publishing’

The presenters work for Jacaranda Wiley educational publishing and talked about how they edit digital-first content.

Traditional workflow was print first then convert to digital. Switched to ‘digital first, with an initial strategy of no print. However, schools still wanted print. Content is the same no matter where/how published—printed, online ebook, online course. Online has the advantage of being able to include lots of extra resources and links to other resources.

Single-source content, so edit once for all formats.

Tools must be user friendly so editors can just focus on the content.

Freelance editors must have good traditional editing skills, plus:

  • assess user experience
  • course creation spreadsheets (I’m not sure I got that right)
  • edit interactive content elements, assessment tools, etc.

How do you tune out technology to focus on content? You don’t—embrace technology. Same skills, different format.

Where does traditional editing role end and digital start? When to use in-house editors or freelance editors?

How can tools be improved to help improve the process? Identify pain points and issues. Editors are part of the process of suggesting improvements, and are considered ‘agents of change’ (i.e. someone who promotes and enables change to happen in an organisation). How can the process or tools be improved? Editors are encouraged to be proactive. Editors can and should be agents of change in digital-first production.

Rebecca Campbell, Jessica Carr, Emma Knight: ‘Editing for print and digital in educational publishing: efficiencies, challenges, and the future’

(also with Wiley)

Manuscripts are generally fairly complete by the time they get them.

They start with a Word doc and need to keep in mind the eventual final product.

Needed to identify what in print is superfluous in an ebook. Page numbers were an obvious choice—instead, they use directional callouts (e.g. links to section/figure/table numbers).

Images in print and digital may need to be laid out/wrapped differently, plus alt text for screen readers.

Simplified design so that print and ebook look similar.

Ebook advantages:

  • can include other media (video, quizzes, etc.), but then there are other challenges (embed? Stream? What about different operating systems, devices, browsers, etc.?)
  • supports different learning styles
  • accessibility (screen readers, alt text, closed captions in video)

They use a single-source XML-based system to help deliver to the requirements, thus a shortened production time. Once the content is approved, titles can get to market quicker.

Print and digital runs are done in parallel.

Media editing includes editing scripts, storyboards, captions, etc.


  • continued growth in automation
  • what styling can be done in Word and flow through to XML etc. (e.g. non-breaking spaces)

Doro Forck: ‘CCAMLR’s approach to preparing and editing meeting reports’

CCAMLR: Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

International body set up in 1982; comprises 25 countries. All materials are produced in four languages concurrently—English, French, Spanish, and Russian.

The Secretariat supports the meetings, which are typically one to two weeks long. In 2018, there were eight meetings with more than 500 participants.

They needed a modern system for reports that fit with their website, was multilingual, only available to registered members, etc.

In 2012 they used Drupal to create their new website:

  • contains all meeting-related information
  • they have a meeting server
  • need to track status, workflow
  • need email alerts of changes
  • need version control
  • system available to all participants, and all can see new comments/changes

Rapporteurs draft meeting report text (different ones for each agenda item), and are the only people who can upload new versions.

On the final meeting day, everything comes together. All meeting reports—in all languages—are available on the last day [WOW!].

Meeting report server:

  • accommodates requirements of different user groups
  • also used for drafting legislation (??)
  • flexible, adaptable system
  • user feedback easily included
  • transferrable.

Stacey King, Rachel Westbury: ‘Editing in the modern workplace: Everything you wanted to know about using collaborative tools’

Even for a 20-minute session, ‘everything’ was always going to be a challenge. Their focus was Google Docs, which has track changes, commenting, and real-time collaboration [which can also be done in Word, BTW].

They work for the University of Queensland and have eight student guides to produce, involving 35 stakeholders.

Their old process:

  • extract and convert content from PDF into Word (I’m not sure why they stated with PDF and not the original Word docs)
  • distribute to stakeholders, compile feedback
  • mediate conflicts
  • input final changes into InDesign


  • version control
  • managing communication and mediating conflicts between stakeholders
  • enforcing deadlines

New process (with Google Docs):

  • extract and convert content from PDF into Google Docs
  • split content into separate docs and have a shared spreadsheet (Google Sheet) to manage the process
  • invite stakeholders to review in Google Docs
  • stakeholders add updates, resolve queries and conflicts among themselves (i.e. NOT involving the editors)
  • lock down permissions at the deadline (forces the final deadline)
  • edit and transfer updated changes to InDesign

This new process removed the editorial team from acting as middlemen for the conflicts.


  • anonymous comments (people forget to log in)
  • reluctant stakeholders (unwilling to try new technology)

Top tips for trialling Google Docs with a team:

  • meet with stakeholders and offer support
  • decide how will break large project into clear and logical sections
  • communicate importance of logging in before adding comments

Benefit: streamlined as administratively intensive process

Benefits of Google Docs to small (one-person) editorial business:

  • version control (only one master file)
  • transparency (version history, email notifications)
  • editing/collaborating in real time
  • clients can accept/reject changes as you’re making them, if you choose to do this
  • store and share templates (e.g. style sheets, briefing templates)
  • saves changes automatically


  • live editing = stage fright!
  • no PerfectIt (but can export to Word, run PerfectIt, and make changes in Google Docs)
  • no macros
  • potential client confusion with the process
  • not always accessible (cloud-based)

Top tips for using in your own business:

  • consider what jobs it might be suitable for
  • give clients/users clear instructions (e.g. changes save automatically, so there’s no ‘save’ button)
  • set boundaries/expectations

Rachel and Stacey made a video covering the basics of Google Docs for editors: http://bit.ly/iped2019gd

Justine McNamara: ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk? How our ‘other’ professions inform editing practice’

Justine has had many careers, several in the medical and allied professions, before becoming an editor. She shared the insights she gained when she looked at her careers as a whole, and how many common themes or threads emerged when she made connections that weren’t readily apparent, and how these linked with her current editing career.

Often editing is an ‘accidental’ profession with people ‘falling into it’ from another career. When she analysed the IPEd membership directory, she found about one-third of members mentioned their previous careers in their profiles (she also mentioned that it’s possible there are many more who have had other careers but DIDN’T mention them in their profiles).

Questions to consider:

  • How do your past careers tell you about your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes?
  • What knowledge/skills do you bring from earlier jobs that you can apply to editing?
  • How can you use this information to carve out a successful and enjoyable editing career?
  • How can you use this information to market yourself as an editor?

Messages for the future:

  • beware insecure employment
  • welcome technology
  • look after yourself

(Note: I did something similar several years ago, looking at how the careers I’ve had all seem to follow a pattern: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/brain-connections/)

(Also, I still don’t know what the raven reference is in the title of her talk)

Penny Modra: ‘Editing in the age of content’ (plenary session)

  • In business, writing is an assumed skill and there are many ‘writing workers’.
  • All brands now publish (e.g. social media, magazines). About 20% of marketing dollars in the US are now spent on Facebook marketing. [source?]
  • Australian schools removed grammar, punctuation etc. from curricula in the 1970s, so there’s not a few generations of students who have no idea.
  • What do businesses need? Editors!

They think they need a style guide, but they really need:

  • training
  • efficiencies
  • systems
  • empowerment
  • audience advocacy
  • [and others I didn’t have time to jot down]


  • buy-in:
    • editors can bring neutral reader advocacy
    • people in charge have misconceptions: ‘We already have a style guide’ when they mean brand guidelines; ‘Our people already know how to write’ when they are unaware of the long arguments about hyphenation; ‘We have other budget priorities’ when they don’t realise that the words they show to the world ARE their reputation and the main way their customers interact them. Consistency is absolutely critical to credibility—consistency IS branding. Consistency is critical to readability
    • from the team: open the worm-cans: language changes (often resistance); grammar versus style; how style guides work
  • extent
  • examples
  • format
  • updates
  • voice and tone

[I didn’t take many notes for the rest as I found the presentation jumped here and there. However, one thing that did resonate was the capping of job titles, and how that can almost represent hierarchies of greater and lesser jobs—for example, if Chief Executive Officer is capped, are you also capping Cleaner?]

Closing ceremony

At the closing ceremony the next IPEd conference venue and dates were announced: 28 to 30 June 2021, Hobart Grand Chancellor (yes, the middle of winter in Tasmania!). Theme: ‘Editing on the edges’. Conference website: https://iped2021.org.au/

The conference dates will be book-ended by the Dark Mofo winter festival (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MONA_FOMA) and the Festival of Voices (https://festivalofvoices.com/).

Finally, I observed that the plenary sessions had lots of people, and guessed the attendance to be around 300. I asked the conference organisers on the last day, and they said about 350 attended the conference, which included those who only came for a single day or for a workshop. The ACES conference over three days earlier this year had about twice that, but to put it in perspective, North America has more than ten times the population of Australia and New Zealand combined, so IPEd is punching well above its weight to get 350 attendees for a two-day Australasian conference.

See also:


  1. […] – technical communication specialists « IPEd Conference 2019: Workshop day IPEd Conference 2019: Day 2 […]

  2. […] I took away was a snippet about capitalising job titles from Penny Modra’s plenary on Day 2 (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/iped-conference-2019-day-2/) and how that can represent (consciously or subconsciously) hierarchies of greater and lesser […]

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