KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Monday, April 03, 2017

An Editor's View of Manuscript-Editing Services for Academic Authors

Photograph of an editor at work
Editor at work
From what I have observed over the years, editing services put their editors under pressure to cut corners and do lower-quality work to meet deadlines. And it stands to reason that publishers of academic journals who partner with editing services would exert the same kind of pressure. Authors who use these services may be unhappy with the outcome. Some authors may even be inexperienced enough that they do not realize that the editing could have been much better, and then they may be unhappy when publishers reject their manuscripts for poor-quality writing.

See a definition of the term editing services in the section "Editing Services" on this page:

Editing firms may employ a team of in-house editors, rely on a network of individual contractors or both. ... Such firms are able to handle editing in a wide range of topics and genres, depending on the skills of individual editors. The services provided by these editors may be varied and can include proofreading, copy editing, online editing, developmental editing, editing for search engine optimization (SEO), etc.

I do understand that some self-employed editors may have to work with editing services for a while to build up their experience, and that some editors prefer to work through services rather than on their own. But I cannot believe that the authors who obtain editing through editing services are getting top-quality work for the low fees they pay. Cheaper is not always better.

newsletter article about American Journal Experts (AJE), an academic editing service for authors that says it has a partnership with Cambridge University Press, talks about how editing services work. The article reads less like news than like a promo for the editing service.

Many of these services don't allow direct contact with authors, which makes it harder for editors to do good work: Authors are the ones who know what they're trying to say in their manuscript, so it works best when the editors working on the manuscripts can have conversations with the authors about problematic passages.

Take a look at this article in the journal Nature for more on how editing services work in the academic world: "The Manuscript-Editing Marketplace." The article talks about AJE, Edanz, Editage, and MacMillan Science Communication, the latter of which is owned by Nature's parent company. It compares how those companies work with how the online editorial marketplace Peerwith works.

I looked at this page today (April 3) of Peerwith's website and saw very low rates that some Peerwith editors charge their clients: US$400 for a 10,000-word manuscript on Asian studies, US$220 for a 4500-word manuscript on medical mycology, and US$300 for a 4700-word manuscript on molecular biology. On top of that, Peerwith charges editors a service fee of 10% to 20%. (Find the information on services fees by clicking the "Fees & Payments" button on this page.)

Peerwith's structure, like that of editing services, does not seem to be designed for editors to earn livable incomes. Editors who want to work through such an intermediary will have to work on a lot of manuscripts in a very short period to earn much money at all, which can mean they must do lower-quality editing. That's a losing proposition for editors and authors alike.

Full disclosure: I do not work with editing services. Instead, I work directly with physician-authors who are non-native English speakers. In 2016, I took part in a panel presentation at the annual meeting of the Council of Science Editors. For that session, I spoke about being a sole proprietor who works directly with authors, and AJE's quality manager spoke about self-employed editors who accept project assignments through AJE.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tutorials and Tools for Doing PDF Markup

If you have to annotate PDFs, you can find plenty of help and answers to your questions. Both Adobe and several of my colleagues have provided video tutorials, blog posts, and articles on the topic.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Nitty-Gritty of the Editing Process

Each editor approaches the editing process differently. I wrote a post in April 2016 for the blog of the Indian Copyeditors' Forum on my particular process, in the hope that other editors would find it useful.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

How to Become a Medical Editor

There is no single official way to become a medical editor, but fellow editors frequently ask how to get into this niche. I wrote a post on the topic last May for The Editors' Weekly, the blog of Editors Canada/Réviseurs Canada, that outlines the steps I recommend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers

Note: This is not a book review, because I am an expert quoted in the book. Even if I were not quoted, though, I would still think Editing Research to be a well-written, important resource for those who need to know more about editing for authors of scholarly manuscripts.

Valerie Matarese, a biomedical writer and editor, has written Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers. If you do scholarly editing and work with authors (called author editing) who are non-native English speakers—or if you’d like to move into this specialty—this is the book you want.

Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers
Matarese interviewed 8 experienced authors’ editors, including me, about many aspects of this editorial niche. Because there hasn’t been much documentation of this specialty, Matarese’s research is both valuable and immensely helpful to practitioners of authors’ editing and to those in other areas of publishing, such as journal publishers, journal editors-in-chief, journal staff members, and peer reviewers who aren’t familiar with what these practitioners do.

The following organizations and discussion lists for editorial professionals are quoted and/or profiled in the book:

Here is the table of contents:

Chapter 1: Aims and Challenges of Writing for Publication in Today’s Global Research Environment
The Research Publishing Landscape
The State of Scholarly Writing
The Internationalization of Scholarly Writing
Writing in Isolation
Less Support from Publishers

Chapter 2: Editing in the Sciences and Other Scholarly Disciplines
Editing Defined
The First Publishers and Editors
Levels of Editing
A Temporal Classification of Editing

Chapter 3: Authors Editors: Partners in Communication at the Service of Researchers and Editors
The First Authors' Editors
Development of Author Editing for Research
Do We Call Ourselves Authors' Editors?

Chapter 4: Authors’ Editors in Action: A Qualitative Research Foray
Research Design
Expert Informants
Bibliographic Research and Integration with Qualitative Research Findings

Chapter 5: View from the Academy: The Delicate Position of Editing Services among Needs and Concerns
Researchers’ Motivations to Seek Editing
Researchers’ Vocalization of the Editing Request
Alternative Academic Views of Editors and Editing

Chapter 6: Editing Research Articles and Other Genres for Publication in Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Journals
Substantive Editing of Research Papers
Author Editing Requires Dialog with Authors
Added Value for Researcher–Authors
Better Science Communication, Less Research Waste, and Safeguarded Investments
What Author Editing Is Not
Acknowledgments and Editing Certificates
The Impact of Editing

Chapter 7: Becoming and Being an Authors’ Editor
Career Path to Author Editing
Networks for Collegiate Exchange and Training Opportunities
Certificates of Achievement and Certification of Skills
Educational Background
Field Specialization
Multilingualism and Multiculturalism
Rapport with Clients

Chapter 8: The Editing Setting
Autonomous Editing (Freelance Editors)
Research Center Editing (In-house Editors)
Service Provider Editing (Editors Working through an Intermediary)
The Business of Author Editing

Chapter 9: Editing Scholarly Genres for Other Media: Common Goals but Unique Issues
Grant Applications
Lay Summaries
Press Releases
Web Content and Other Digital Media
Theses and Dissertations

Chapter 10: Synthesis and Projection
What We Have Learned So Far
What We Have Yet to Learn
Advice to Authors’ Editors
Advice to Research Administrators
The Future of Author Editing

Appendix 1: Membership Associations of Particular Relevance to Authors’ Editors
Appendix 2: Peer-Reviewed Journals of Relevance to Author Editing

Updated September 2, 2016: Copyediting newsletter has posted a review of the book on its blog.

Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers, by Valerie Matarese. Publisher: Information Today, Inc. Available in paperback (ISBN: 978-1-57387-531-8; US$49.50; preorder price: $34.65); Kindle version coming soon. 244 pages.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Busting the Myth of the Feast-or-Famine Cycle

Dear self-employed editorial colleagues:

It's a myth that our workflow must be in a perpetual feast-or-famine cycle.

If you do at least a few small marketing activities every day (or every business day), even when you have enough work and even when you feel panicky about lack of work, you can eventually get to the point where work finds you instead of the case always being that you must find the work. I’ve been self-employed for 21 years now, and this has happened for me. It has happened for other freelancers I know who have been in the game for a long time.

No, marketing doesn’t mean going around plastering messages everywhere like “I’m the best [editor, proofreader, indexer, designer, etc.] ever” or “Please send me a project so that I can pay my mortgage [or rent].” So many freelancers say things like “I don’t want to blow my own horn.” But that’s not what marketing is.

All that marketing means is doing things so that you’re visible online where your target clients can find you. It means sharing knowledge, not bragging. It can involve teaching courses (to potential clients to show your expertise), writing blog posts, being active in professional associations so that colleagues see what you can do and will think of you for referrals, being active on professional email lists (such as Copyediting-L), posting articles and status updates to LinkedIn, writing articles for professional newsletters and journals, and tweeting about your profession without saying, “Please contract with me now!” It doesn’t have to be done in every possible venue either; choose a few that feel natural to you and start talking.

It’s not going to happen within just a couple of weeks, and you’ll have to be dedicated to marketing your business. Also, not every marketing activity has to be a huge, time-consuming project. There are lots of little things you can do.

You might find these blog posts of mine helpful:

If you’re an introvert, don’t let that stop you. I’m one, and I’m all over the Internet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How to Be a Good Mentor

I've mentored many editors, including generalists and medical editors, over the years and have developed mentoring practices that work well. The practices that Kelleen Flaherty,* a fellow member of the American Medical Writers Association, described for mentoring medical writers in a recent article in the AMWA Journal are in line with what I do. If you mentor colleagues, consider adapting her practices to your situation:

  1. Provide general, concrete guidelines to a mentee. No details, just generalities.
  2. Never tell your mentee what to do. Guide them to finding it out on their own.
  3. Provide structure without specifics. If you edit excessively, they will not develop the critical thinking skills essential to being a good medical writer. Circle something and say “style,” not “You need a comma here and this is a compound modifier that requires a hyphen.” Use “clarity,” “organization,” and “grammar” as general prompts—do not provide corrections. Provide deadlines, guidelines, and examples, and let them fill in the blanks.
  4. When your mentee hits a wall, that’s good. There is no better learning experience. You must convince your mentee that it’s good to have had that experience. This is not a platitude; it is a solid truth. Real science works this way, real life works this way, real jobs work this way. Nothing works perfectly. Nothing. Your survey doesn’t always work. The editor of a journal doesn’t always want to publish your manuscript. Good! Get rejected! Now you know how to get rejected! This person knows more about the industry than someone who has never hit a bump.
  5. When a mentee hits a bump, assess your substrate. How do you assist the mentee over the bump? Different substrates require different assists. “Man up” works for some, “Step away from it for a few days and go camping” works for others, while still others might need a 2-hour you-can-do-it-I-have-faith-in-you phone call.
  6. Understand your mentee’s limitations. Some have some significant ones. Age, maybe, fear, mental challenges (attention deficit disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum, etc), physical disorders, or family issues. When you’re a mentor, you’re going to get more confessions than any other teacher is going to get. It’s private and absolutely none of your business and you’d never ask, but when the information is offered, it helps you understand more about where your student is coming from.
  7. How do I get a job? That’s a major fear with new medical writers—it’s a major fear with experienced jobless medical writers. Counsel them in job-hunting, cold-calling, networking, working with recruiters, and listing themselves on job sites; review their writing tests if they get them, and review their résumés or [curricula vitae]; write recommendations for them or otherwise serve as [a reference].
  8. Do not lie. If they have limitations, as a mentor, you are ethically obliged to make them aware of them. This is tough. There are always positives (“You really know your reg guidelines”), and you should start with those. If their organization, clarity, or grammar is compromised, you need to let them know. This does not mean they are unfit medical writers, only that they have limitations. With the structure of a particular job environment, you never know how they’ll do.
  9. Provide the basic mechanics of professional guidelines. How do you write emails? Answer job posts? Engage in professional organizational discussion boards? Create a Web page? Work on social media? Hook them up with the right professionals in the field for advice (and hook them up with AMWA as soon as they start their studies. I’m not shilling here; this is just a fact). 
  10. ... [C]are deeply about your charges, and let it show. Let them know they can talk to you. Respect them. And of course, you should have every expectation that the respect is reciprocal.

Watch for my own article on how to treat your mentor in the August–September 2016 issue of Copyediting newsletter, available through a paid subscription.

Flaherty is an adjunct assistant professor in the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Graduate Biomedical Writing Programs, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have reprinted a segment of her article from the AMWA Journal with her permission. The full article is available online only to AMWA members: Flaherty K. Mentoring new medical writers [in the column Commonplaces]. AMWA Journal. 2016;31(2):64–67.

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