Category Archives: Publishing

Celebrating four years as a publishing freelancer

May 9 2013 was the day I made my last commute into London to the company I’d worked for for thirteen years. I’d gone part-time a year earlier, but this was it – I was on my own.

So four years later… did I make the right choice?

I love being involved in book creation: editing them, proofreading them, typesetting them, making ebooks out of them. I thrive when I’m working on a diverse range of books, using a diverse skill set, which is something you’d never get to do in-house. This past [freelance] year alone I’ve edited, copy-edited, proofread, typeset or ebooked: science fiction, romantic fiction, police procedurals, Second World War submarine fiction, thrillers, quirky Edwardian detective fiction, romantic comedy, fantasy fiction, historical fiction, a lovely book about gardening and bees, a fantastic allegorical animal story for adults, a collection of academic essays, a guide to Arab culture, a mind, body, spirit title, a children’s science book (back to my roots there), a human resources guide, YA fiction about a young rock band…

During my time as a freelancer I’ve worked with large publishers, tiny publishers, new publishers, agents, established authors… I’ve helped self-publishers get their books into print and I’ve been involved in some books that you’ll never see in the shops or on Amazon Kindle, but mean so much to the people they are made for…

Talking of which, last summer I was contacted by a woman whose mother was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Her mum had written a book and was desperate to see it ‘published’ [in print] – it was her life’s dream. The daughter knew no publisher would take it, but her mum so wanted to hold the book in her hands and her daughter so wanted to make that dream come true for her. So after much discussion about things like how far we should go with the editing and how much everything would cost, that was what we did. I tidied up the text as much as possible, given that the author wasn’t able to make any editorial decisions by this point and rarely remembered what she had written. I typeset it and had it proofread. The daughter painted a cover image, wrote blurb and a biography, and then we made it into a hardback book using Blurb.com and had a handful of copies printed for the family. Sadly, the mother died early this year, but her daughter told me she had read the book to her mum in her last days in hospital. I think about that a lot and it makes me so happy and proud that I was able to make that small wish come true for that family.

Then this year I was nominated as an Unsung Hero of Publishing, which is a recent initiative by whitefox to celebrate those of us who don’t normally get much recognition but do a lot behind the scenes of publishing. Rather aptly for me, whitefox are celebrating their 5th birthday tonight with a BookMachine event and I’m looking forward to going along.

So, did I do the right thing in going freelance? I think so, yes, and I’m looking forward to many freelance years to come. I wonder what I’ll get to work on next…?

 

 

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Star Trekking – Radio Times magazine August 1996

Radio Times magazine cover Star Trek 30 anniversary

OK – you may have noticed I’m a Star Trek fan. Star Trek and I are celebrating the same milestone birthday this year. My daughter is also celebrating (well in her case I’m not sure she considers it celebrating) a milestone birthday.

A couple of days ago I came across this issue of the Radio Times on Ebay. It’s from the week of my daughter’s birthday. I duly bought it from a fantastic seller who not only posted it quickly and carefully, but also used seventeen stamps from the 1970s to pay for the postage!

This has been a real joy to look though – and I hope my girl gets a kick out of seeing what would have been on the telly the day she was ten.

 

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Wonderland Tales 1973

Wonderland Tales Book

Wonderland Tales and Story-and-Picture Book. Published by Ideabooks 1973. Featuring artwork by Spanish illustrators Jesus, Alessandro and Adriano Blasco. According the blurb the brothers lived and worked together. You can see the slight differences in style through the panels, and I love the definite 70s aesthetic Alice has to her.

DSCF2283WL2Wonderland Tales Book

The book also features Gulliver’s Travels and The Golden Box as well as a couple of short stories, Shouting Stones and The Brave Young Shepherd

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Willo The Wisp Annual 1985

Willo the Wisp Annual 1985

Willo the Wisp Annual 1985, IPC Magazines © DN and PM Spargo 1982. Originally priced at £2.95. It’s completely clean but there is a single-sheet insert missing.

Willo the Wisp is a fantastic cartoon series, voiced by Kenneth Williams, that first aired in 1981. It features the denizens of Doyley Woods – including Willo the Wisp (the narrator), Mavis Cruet, the blue-haired fairy, Arthur the caterpillar and the wicked witch, Evil Edna. Go look for it on YouTube if you’ve never seen it – it’s a treat!

Willo the Wisp Annual 1985

The incomparable Evil Edna

Willo the Wisp Annual 1985

Astrognats game

Willo the Wisp Annual 1985

Cut out models – there is a background scene later in the book

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Hare and Hedgehog 1970

Hare and Hedgehog book

This is a Picture Grasshopper book. Retold by Euan Cooper Willis and illustrated by Horst Lemke. First published in paperback by Abelard-Schuman Ltd in 1973. It was originally 50p (which is what I paid for it in the Salvation Army charity shop the other week).

Hare and Hedgehog book

The story goes: the hare is very proud that he can run so fast and challenges the hedgehog to a race. Hedgehog wins by roping in his family – who all look like him – and hiding them at various points along the course, so the original hedgehog is only there at the beginning and the end.

I think the moral is meant to be ‘don’t show off’ or ‘pride comes before a fall’ or something. I always found these sorts of stories a bit suspect – I know the hare is a show-off, but the hedgehog wins by cheating, so I’m not sure who gets the moral advantage here!

Anyway – the illustration is FAB. I love the costume touches – the hedgehogs’ neckerchiefs and the hats on the birds – and hare’s check trousers are brilliant.

Hare and Hedgehog book

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Walt Disney’s Giant Book of Fairy Tales

Published in 1974 by Purnell Books. Over thirty fairy tales – and not all the usual suspects either, ‘Toads and Diamonds’, anyone? When there was an existing Disney film, they used scenes from that, but when there wasn’t, they just bunged in characters they already had. So we have Grumpy in place of Rumpelstiltskin, and Alice (of Wonderland fame) standing in for the little match girl as well as several other characters. Somehow I can’t imagine Disney going for this approach today!

Disney Fairy Tales

Snowstiltkin?

Disney Fairy Tales

Pre Lumiere, Cogsworth et al

Disney Fairy Tales

Alice in disguise

Disney Fairy Tales

Isn’t that John from Peter Pan? And Figaro? And King Stefan from Sleeping Beauty?

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Proofreading tips for self-publishers (from an editor and typesetter)

iPad stylus

Here are some of my tips for proofreading for self-publishers:
1. Don’t do it yourself unless you absolutely have no choice. I’m not saying this because it’s (part of) what I do for a living and so I would say that wouldn’t I. I’m saying it because proofreading is hard and proofreading your own work is harder. It’s harder because you’ve cut and pasted and reworked and reworded and deleted and added and changed … and you know your work intimately – or at least you think you know your work intimately.

A small example: you know you wrote, ‘The milkmaid went to the dairy to make some cheese’, but what you don’t know is that your fingers accidentally typed, ‘The milkmaid went to the diary…’, but your brain ever-so helpfully decided ‘close enough’ so you don’t notice the error when you read it back over. Your readers (pre-publication or otherwise) are coming to it fresh, so their brains might go, ‘Hang on a minute here – that says “diary” – surely a milkmaid would go to a dairy? This word must be wrong.’ Or they might not – brains are funny like that. Then your reader points out (sometimes in rather sneery and sarcastic tones that you wrote diary instead of dairy, and then you can’t see anything but diary and wonder how on earth you managed to let that obvious, glaring error slip though, and you berate yourself for days for your stupidity (or maybe that’s just me). But it’s just a result of your brain trying to be helpful. In fact it’s also pretty hard for an experienced proofreader to pick up these kinds of errors because we are generally experienced readers too. Once we have got past the learning-to-read stage we don’t read every letter in every word because our brains fill in the gaps. Training yourself to see what is actually there is tough. Proofreading is like doing a puzzle with no answers.

And spelling’s not the only thing you have to look out for. What about consistency, missing words, punctuation, grammar, continuity errors and typographic conventions? Are you really super-hot on when to use its and it’s and there, their and they’re?

2. If you can hire professional services it really is a good idea. If you can’t or won’t, ask your best friend/significant other (or better still several best/friends significant others) to read your work. The more eyes you have on it the better. (Although be aware that it is a big ask of a friend to read your extended reworking of War and Peace set in the Star Trek universe in their spare time, and for the reasons noted above don’t expect your friend to pick up every error either.) Even if you do hire a professional have as many friends and family as possible read it.

3. Use a spellchecker to pick up the obvious typos – there is no excuse for ‘ebst’ or ‘freind’. Be careful though because it won’t pick up a correctly spelled word in the wrong context (see above and also note from/form, you/your, breath/breathe) or variant spellings such as leant and leaned (see below). Make sure it’s set for the right language – UK and US English have some spelling differences – the missing ‘u’ in US spellings of words like colour, for example. Some spellcheckers can search for duplicated words – another common error. I wouldn’t advise auto-correct unless you really know what you’re doing.

4. Try to keep your spellings consistent. Common variant words are leant/leaned, learnt/learned, burnt/burned, and words with ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ endings (e.g. realise/realize), cafe/café. Compound words should be consistently hyphenated or one word. ‘Search-and-replace’ comes in very handy here. Decide which spelling you are going with and run searches for the variant you don’t want. Don’t forget with ise/ize spellings you also have to look for realisation and realising. But don’t click ‘replace all’ unless you are really sure that your replacement is correct.

5. Try reading the text aloud or at least in your head. It can really help if your mind starts to wander – which it will. If you notice your mind has wandered, go back a few lines and re-read.

6. I work on a paper printout or an iPad when I’m editing – it’s hard to read sitting at a computer. I often tap each word with my pen or stylus as I’m reading aloud in my head. This can help you spot missing words. We often miss out small words like ‘a’, ‘to’ or ‘he’ and forget to end our sentences with full stops and/or closing speech marks.

7. Think about continuity. Errors often occur during your redrafts. Check that dates, ages and expressions of passing time tally up. Check that your blonde, blue-eyed heroine doesn’t suddenly have jet-black curls – unless she’s showing you her new wig. Pay close attention to your characters’ names and locations. Names tend to change during the editing process, and it’s really easy to accidentally leave in an old name.

8. If you find an error, re-start your reading from a couple of lines before. In all the ‘excitement’ of spotting a typo you could easily miss another error close to it. We have a tendency to imagine that errors are somehow uniformly spread out, but of course they aren’t.

9. If you’re proofreading a print book you also have to look out for things such as short or single-word lines at the tops of pages, words hyphenated across pages, words stacking at the end of lines. You have to check for consistent use of page numbers, check the running heads (if you have them) contents pages, copyright details and ISBNs…

10. If you can, ask your best friend/significant other (or better still several best/friends significant others) to read it too. The more eyes you have on it the better. (I know I’m repeating myself but it really is the most important thing.) And if you are having your work professionally typeset, try to pick up as many errors as you can before it’s set. Once it’s been typeset it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make changes without asking your typesetter to do it, which will probably cost you extra.

 

 

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Thrilling Stories From the Past for Girls 1970

Thrilling stories from the past

Edited by Eric Duthie, illustrated by Reg Gray and published in 1970 by The Hamlyn Publishing Group for Odhams Books. This is a collection of 14 stories by different authors – including KM Peyton.

I was an editor for the My Story series, published by Scholastic Children’s Books, for many years, and although I wasn’t in at the beginning (it was actually developed as the UK version of Scholastic’s Dear America series) this book was surely on someone’s bookshelf in the editorial team!

So how often do you see a story about the Lisbon earthquake in 1775?

Thrilling stories from the past

jacket blurb

There were more in the series. I shall be looking out for them. There were also books ‘for boys’ in the same format.

Thrilling stories from the past

Other books in the series

Every story has an illustrated opening page and one full-page illustration.

Thrilling stories from the past

Thrilling stories from the past

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass illustrated by Dagmar Berková 1992

Alice Wonderland Dagmar Berková

Produced by Aventinum, Prague, for Treasure Press and published in 1992. I’d not seen this before. The rather lovely illustrations are by Dagmar Berková.

These are the three sisters in the treacle well – I don’t remember seeing them illustrated before.

Alice Wonderland Dagmar Berková

Alice Wonderland Dagmar Berková

Alice Wonderland Dagmar Berková

Alice Wonderland Dagmar Berková

Alice Wonderland Dagmar Berková

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The History of Tom Jones 1959 Folio Society edition

Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

Here we have a lovely 1959/1973 Folio Society edition of The History of Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. The illustrations are by Derrick Harris.

The History of Tom Jones was first published in 1749 and is one of my favourite early novels. I was really pleased to pick up this copy for £1.25!

It’s even got a slipcase…
Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

And tells you what paper it’s printed on…
Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

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