Conference 2015: Collaborate and innovate

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Lecture videos and gallery

Watch videos of the Whitcombe Lecture and closing lecture, and see a gallery of pictures from the 2015 conference

Reports from the 2015 conference at the University of York


Whitcombe Lecture

Half past nine on a Sunday morning is not usually a time for concentrating on a fascinating view of the world of trade publishing in the UK and the US. But, as Paula Clarke found, once Professor Thompson started presenting the Whitcombe Lecture, he had us hooked.

In at the deep end

After the coffee break on Sunday morning, work began in earnest, as the first batch of individual sessions got under way for the next two hours.

Collaboration and rule-keeping

After lunch on Sunday, the second set of sessions began, and there was just as much to take in as in Session 1.

After-dinner speech

The after-dinner speech at the conference is always eagerly anticipated. It is difficult for a speaker to tell whether the audience will be benevolent or critical, depending, probably, on the amount of wine taken. This year, as Julia Sandford-Cooke reports, for the SfEP’s honorary vice-president, David Crystal, it was definitely the former kind of audience.


Monday morning enlightenment

The sessions first thing on Monday covered a range of subjects: fiction editing, thesis editing, work–life balance, social media marketing, relationships with clients and the history of typefaces.

Corpora, ebooks and self-publishing

To whet our appetites for lunch, Monday morning continued with a busy hour of knowledge intake.

Closing lecture

Dr Eben Muse brought the conference to its conclusion with his closing lecture dealing with ‘possibilities in a world of speculation’. As Andrew Coulson describes, he took us time-travelling, to the past of reading and then to the future.

And finally...

Editing Matters asked Linda Byrne to write about attending an SfEP conference for the first time. Being a ‘newbie’ can feel daunting, but, as Linda discovered, it can also be a very positive experience.

These edited articles first appeared in the conference supplement of the November/December 2015 issue of Editing Matters.

The buzz of 'big books'

John Thompson

Reported by Paula Clarke

The Whitcombe Lecture was ‘The transformation of Anglo-American trade publishing’ by John B Thompson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. He began by stating his sociological approach, based on Bourdieu, introducing ‘fields’ as places of power, each with its own ‘logic of the field’.

The field of Anglo-American trade publishing is at a critical juncture because of recent social and economic changes. First is the growth of retail chains, with fewer independent booksellers, escalating discounts and the ‘hardback revolution’. Second is the rise of literary agents, where today’s ‘super-agents’ (such as ‘The Jackal’, Andrew Wylie) are prepared to poach authors and make enemies. Third is the emergence of publishing corporations dominating the industry, such as Penguin/Random House.

These changes have led to polarisation of the field, with medium-sized publishers dying out. Huge author advances are problematic, such as that for Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons, which lost ‘shedloads of money’. A preoccupation with big books (ie ‘hoped-for bestsellers’) attempts to maximise sales on a smaller list of books. Big books require ‘buzz’ (talking up) but are a gamble. This can mean extreme publishing – ‘closing the gap’ in profits by bringing ‘pretty bad’ books to market quickly (see Hilton, Paris). Publishers face shrinking windows in bookstores (‘visibility does not come cheap’) and high returns. There is also the impact of the digital revolution, with a surge in demand for ebooks from 2008 but a levelling off since 2012.

Looking to the future, Professor Thompson concluded that existing pressures will only intensify for the co-existent cultures of print and digital. This thought-provoking lecture covered much important ground (and for me was mercifully light on Bourdieu). This ‘logic of the field’ is in revolution: who knows where it will lead? In the end, as John Thompson admitted, his hunch may be no better than anyone else’s.

Watch the video of the 2015 Whitcombe Lecture.

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Indexing in the editorial process

Max McMaster

Reported by Caroline Orr

This workshop, led by Max McMaster of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Indexers, began with an invitation to consider the differences between an index and a table of contents. That’s easy, we said, one is at the back and the other is at the front! Joking aside, we all agreed that an index is more specific than a table of contents and more discriminating than a text search. So, how does it get created?

The first half of the session covered how to commission an indexer. We discovered that editors and indexers share many concerns: subject, audience, length, timescales, budget. Indexers have to read the text with just as much care as editors in order to identify the relevant concepts to be indexed and at what level. But there are also some concerns that are specific to indexers. Are any specialist indexes (such as botanical names or cited authors) required? Is there a restriction on the number of pages (or entries)? Is it to be supplied as a stand-alone document or embedded in a Word or InDesign document?

The second half gave us a chance to flex our editing muscles on an index. How many faults could we find? Some errors were obvious, eg spelling, capitalisation and order; but others were more subtle, eg classification, ambiguity and bias. It was a very interactive session that amply demonstrated the theme of the workshop, and indeed the conference: that cooperation between editors and indexers is good for us both.

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Using Word professionally

Kathleen Lyle and Anne Waddingham

Reported by Mandy Bailey

I normally work with PDF files and so I’m wary about taking on Word document jobs. I was keen to see what this workshop had to offer.

The topics covered were file management, navigation, shortcut keys and controlling Word’s bad habits. Starting with the basics of file organisation, we quickly learned the importance of file compatibility, particularly if dealing with equations. This type of ‘simple to more advanced’ approach ensured there was something for everyone throughout the session. The ‘keeping Word under control’ section was most illuminating – who knew you could create a personal tab with links to all the things you need the most? Certainly not this newbie! The tips about customising the ribbon (and importing this to a different machine), understanding icons, using a quick-access toolbar and turning off those annoying ‘Word knows best’ auto-corrections were invaluable. The session also covered working with different languages, creating your own shortcuts, the usefulness of the ‘more’ tab to use the subtleties of some non-intuitive tools, how to find the ‘hidden horrors’ in a document and how using the navigation panel can help identify problems.

The pace and variation of the session could have been improved slightly by a more even time-split between the two presenters. This might have also helped contain the frequent ‘personal anecdotes’ from the floor, which although interesting, and sometimes helpful, occasionally took us off on tangents costing valuable time.

All in all, it was very worthwhile. I definitely have more confidence in using Word professionally now.

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Finance for freelancers

Nigel Jones

Reported by Stephanie Gardham

As a newcomer to the world of being a freelancer, I signed up to the session on finance to check that I was ticking all the right boxes for the tax man. The attendees appeared to be a mixture of newbies like me and members nearing the end of their editing career, looking for retirement advice.

Nigel Jones, a local accountant, who has run his own business since 29 February 1988 (he has a thing for numbers and dates!), led the session. First, Nigel showed us a basic spreadsheet to help us work out what we needed to earn each hour in order to achieve the net salary we wanted each year; there is a calculator on his website (

The remainder of the session was focused on tax. Two things I wasn’t going to claim for, but now am: travel (even on a bike!) and my mortgage (including the interest). The suggestion of claiming mortgage payments was questioned by many, because of implications regarding Capital Gains Tax. However, Nigel said that you are only liable if you use your house exclusively for business.

Of course, there was a caveat: rules change. So, make sure you check before you fill out your tax return each year, and seek professional advice if in doubt! The session was really useful, and has given me the confidence to run my own finances.

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Building your client base

Moyra Forrest and Alan Rutter

Reported by Katherine Trail

As a new freelancer, a session entitled ‘Building your client base’ seemed something of a no-brainer to me, and I was eager to find out what nuggets of advice fellow editors, proofreaders and indexers would have for someone just starting out on a new career.

It quickly became apparent, however, that the issue of building your client base is not one suffered just by those new to freelancing. It was interesting to hear the perspectives of experienced freelancers who were looking to diversify and expand their client base, having perhaps become uncomfortable with relying on just one or two big clients.

Unfortunately, the magic bullet was not forthcoming, but to me, as a naturally curious (nosey) person, the session was fascinating, as it provided a real insight into the career paths of colleagues and also gave rise to quite a healthy discussion on various successes (and failures) we had suffered with marketing. The consensus was that editors and proofreaders are often quite a modest bunch, and marketing is something that many of us could improve on.

Transferable skills were highlighted, and the subsequent round-table discussion was extremely illuminating as it highlighted the wide skillset we all have and can use as freelance editors, proofreaders or indexers – whether from a previous, unrelated job or a personal interest (eg involvement in amateur theatre giving an insight into play editing). And one look at the transferable skills checklist we were provided with has made me realise that, yes, I do actually have some useful skills!

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Editing the future

Peter Dennis

Reported by Claire Handy

Rather than taking the approach of trends and gizmos of the future, as the session title implies, Peter Dennis opened an interesting discussion on how we as freelance editors could help and protect ourselves in the future from low-paying publishing houses.

With a substantial background in publishing, Peter talked about the processes of the publishing house and exactly where we fitted in. Owing to a lack of time and money, he stated, publishers are not able to care about the level of quality above a certain threshold. They are not able to care about the editors they employ any more. It is down to us who – by the nature of our personalities – do care to absorb the ‘care buck’ and be out of pocket in either time or money.

Peter’s discussion centred around the fact that publishers are interested in blocking time out for projects, and he forwarded the idea of freelance editors being available to book that time in advance, through a type of associate/ retainer scheme. This has benefits for both parties, as it offers advance schedules for project managers and assured work and an understanding of the job for the freelance editor. As producing an adequate brief is one of the casualties of a lack of time, repeat work will certainly make life easier for the confused editor! Peter’s session allowed for a lively debate, and it certainly opened some eyes.

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The magic of the movable book

Paul Johnson

Reported by Gillian Clarke

I wasn’t certain what I’d signed up for, but the description of Paul Johnson as a pop-up book artist was a good clue to part of this session. Paul travels the world with his scheme for developing literacy through book art. To help children get to grips with writing, he works with them in folding sheets of paper to make a little book each. Pupils then plan the content and write in the pages.

We had great fun working on sheets of paper, from A4 to A2, folding and cutting them according to his instructions. He also gave us two double-sided sheets with diagrams showing how to fold and cut paper to make a wide variety of shapes. Something to do in the winter evenings?

Paul had a wonderful array of items to show us. Some were copies of the little books made by pupils but others were examples of his paper engineering. They were amazing: complicated structures that were made out of strong paper he’d coloured using dyes. Because the structures are so easy to damage when travelling, he has developed ways to construct them so that they fold down flat for transport. The structure often has a story tucked away, such as the ‘Three Little Pigs’ and ‘Old Mother Hubbard’. Paul concluded by showing us his flat Noah’s Ark, and then (one, two, three!) flicking it open to its glorious 3D shape. What talent!

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Collaboration and innovation through technology

Janine Burr-Willans

Reported by Philippa Sage

How much does keeping an author happy really matter? This packed-out session gave a comprehensive insight into how Emerald (an academic publisher) works with its authors to keep them coming back to publish again. Emerald uses an ‘author as customer’ model, so ‘customer experience is key’. It uses an exhaustive quarterly feedback survey to research exactly what its authors want (including a section about freelancers). Fittingly for a publisher of leading management journals, this leads to an evidence-based approach to innovation. As the speaker, Janine Burr-Williams, the content management editor at Emerald, commented, having all the data ‘allows me to cherry pick projects to focus on’.

Emerald’s brick-based strategy for author relationships starts with the ‘basic’ bricks, such as ease of submission. These are built on with ‘enhancers’: for example, a pre-submission language polish. Getting these bricks right leads to ‘rewards’ – repeat authorship or recommendations. However, previous enhancers, including having processes online, are now becoming basics.

This leads to a forward-thinking approach with content. As with most academic publishers, Emerald uses an XML-based set-up. ‘Content is content’ no matter what the format, and ‘content informs what the workflow needs to be’. The session touched on XML style sheets, tagging for subject areas with very few technical words (‘metadata keeps me awake at night’) and the meaning of ‘quality’ in different geographical areas. For a session with the same title as the conference itself, having more time for discussion as to how this feedback model could be useful or is desirable across different sectors of the publishing industry would have been welcome.

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Both sides of self-publishing

Clare Christian and Hattie Holden Edmonds

Reported by Sara Donaldson

This session attracted fewer delegates than I thought it would, but it made for a lovely, intimate session that allowed us to chat rather than just listen. Clare Christian, from Red Door Publishing, and Hattie Holden-Edmonds, an author and comedy writer, gave us their own views on self-publishing.

It was explained how the publishing landscape has come full-circle, from the 19th century when authors thought nothing of self-publishing, through to ‘traditional’ publishing and the emergence of vanity publishing, to today when self-publishing is again becoming popular. Clare explained the difference between service-led self-publishing services and author-led self-publishing, and how we, as freelance consultants, can make it easier for the authors we choose to work with. She talked us through how Red Door Publishing works, why she is selective about who to publish and what authors can expect from the service. The focus was very much on how to manage authors’ expectations, helping them to understand the process and the realities of publishing.

Hattie told us how difficult, as an author, it is to understand the publishing process, and how one-stop shops can be very appealing. Collaboration, not competition, is the key to a happy author. With self-publishing, authors and not the publishers are the ones taking the risks, so we need to be transparent and open about what we do and what to expect.

The session finished with a chat, and we left in an upbeat mood.

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Editing English: what are the rules?

Geoff Pullum

Reported by Sarah Perkins

Professor Geoff Pullum has a mission. He wants us to beware of bullies who misrepresent departure from their preference as ignorance and error.

English doesn’t have strict rules, so we cannot reach for a book to check what to do. Correct English is demonstrated by the best writers, but what is correct depends on a range of factors: comprehension, aesthetics, level of formality, style constraints, and readers’ prejudices and reactions.

Many people believe exactly what they were told about grammar when they were seven. Other subjects have changed since then. Why shouldn’t grammar change too? We should look at the facts about how we use language. Grammar is not what is traditional, what is generally accepted by the hoi polloi, or what older people know. It violates general rules and survives empirical investigation.

Rogue advice about language is often negative. Ignoring it often follows the example of those setting the ‘rule’. Orwell encouraged avoidance of passive verbs, but used them twice as often as other writers of his era.

We rushed through examples of ‘condemned constructions’, some of which are merely style discrepancies, and many of which can be found in esteemed texts like the King James’s Bible and Shakespeare’s plays. John Simon says ‘the lapses of the great ones do not make a wrong right’, but if there are enough lapses, it tells us something.

This was a lively and interesting presentation, where the only fault was that there was too much material for a single hour.

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Adverbs are more expensive

David Crystal

Reported by Julia Sandford-Cooke

‘It says on my badge,’ began David Crystal, ‘“After-dinner speaker”.’ He is, of course, far more than just that. As a linguistics professor, prolific writer, consultant and broadcaster, his contribution to the study of language has been immense. In his role as the vice-president of the SfEP, he has entertained editors at many conferences, and began his talk by endearing himself to indexers too: ‘Good evening or, to members of the Society of Indexers, evening, good.’

As usual, Professor Crystal was candid about the opportunity to promote his new book, this time Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation. He recalled advising Lynne Truss not to write about the subject because ‘nobody buys books on punctuation’. ‘Three million books later,’ he added, ‘I hate her.’

A skilful and confident speaker, Professor Crystal made what was really a series of snippets and anecdotes into a coherent talk, aided, of course, by humour and a shared understanding with his audience. He concluded with an unlikely but hilarious story from his time working at the Survey of English Usage in the 1960s. Alone in the office one day, he answered the phone to a man asking the price of supplying adjectives for a shoe advertisement. Convinced the caller was a mischievous colleague, he replied that they were sixpence each and cheaper by the dozen. ‘We also have a very good line in adverbs: they’re more expensive as they depend on the verbs, which themselves are essential to the clause structure, so they are a shilling.’ Of course, the order turned out to be real, and the linguists duly supplied the words ‘via Roget’s Thesaurus’. The customer was effusive in his appreciation.

Judging by the length of the queue for a signed copy of Professor Crystal’s book, the SfEP audience was, too.

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Structural fiction editing

Allyson Latta

Reported by Margaret Christie

Does the opening sentence of a novel make you want to read more? And is it in keeping with the rest of the book? Issues to do with opening sentences took up roughly the middle third of this session, which included an exercise in which we wrote alternative opening sentences for the same story and discussed (in small groups) which worked better and why.

I learnt that structural editing involves alerting authors to problems, not fixing them, though the editor may make suggestions. Allyson Latta, an independent structural editor, said that she always has a long ‘brainstorming’ session with the author, usually by phone or Skype, throwing in ideas. She gave tips on how to give feedback to authors: praise what works; work from big issues to smaller ones; never criticise an author personally; and don’t criticise the content – it’s about the writing, not the writer.

She would not recommend anyone to attempt structural editing before having copy-edited fiction. Her own progression was from proofreading via copy-editing and stylistic editing to structural editing. She also teaches memoir writing, and said that as many of the same issues come up in that as in novels.

Structural editing is not something that many publishers use freelancers for: most such work is for authors, both those hoping to be published and those intending to self-publish.

Allyson reads the start and end of books she’s working on before reading the whole book. Some participants disagreed with this approach – you can only be surprised once!

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Changing faces – 500 years of type

Rob Banham

Reported by Richard Hutchinson

Rob Banham, an associate professor in the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading (a felicitously apposite homograph), took us on a fascinating journey through the history of typeface development. In a session that definitely whetted the appetite to find out more, he outlined the personalities involved, the technological developments that led to changes, the techniques and craftsmanship required to manufacture the type, and the terminology involved – which has left its mark on our language (so that’s why capital letters are called upper case!).

We saw the divergence of roman and broken scripts, the changes in letter shapes from Venetian type to old face to transitional and modern faces, and the development, disappearance and emphasis of serifs. We were also able to handle examples of the punches, moulds and matrices used for the casting of type.

Hand-cut cast type was dominant from the mid-15th century until the 1930s, but then changes in technology led to increased mechanisation in the production of the printed word, and techniques such as wood-cut type, chromolithography, linecasting, phototypesetting and, finally, digital fonts each led to developments in the design and variety of available typefaces.

The overwhelming sense at the end of the session was respect for the ideals and perseverance of the typeface designers, who are often immortalised in the names of the fonts we use today, and in particular for the skills of the craftsmen who did the actual work.

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The ethics of thesis editing

Ashley Craig

Reported by Peter Norrington

Ashley Craig, a freelance science editor, led an interesting and lively session. She introduced material on the purpose and basic structure of a (PhD) thesis, ethical concerns, challenges (and levels) of editing and appropriate types of service. For the last two, there was hands-on practice material. Given the range of content and comments, the session was a solid introduction of benefit to those new to this area as well as the more experienced.

The session couldn’t be expected to address in full all student levels or the career paths, or all disciplines, universities and their support systems. It focused on the PhD and the academic path, a science and one UK university. This implicit scope might leave some present and, more likely, readers of the slides available afterwards, with a view that all theses are similar in content, context and needs.

But there’s no doubt that the discussion and materials can help individual members working with theses, and the SfEP, to consider the many issues in this kind of work, starting with: would you do it at all; under what circumstances; and for how much? The templates she handed out will likely stimulate discussion and be used in different ways by different editors, eg the development of a code of practice or a style sheet.

Working with students can generate heated discussion about educational standards, which makes open discussion important for sharing concerns and workable approaches. Ashley’s session certainly made a positive contribution to this. This was the key conference working session for me; I left satisfied.

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Work–life balance for freelancers

Alison Rutter and Janette Griffin

Reported by Luke Finley

First session, the morning after the gala dinner, and I wasn’t quite ready to do more than ‘just exist’, but duty calls … Besides, any new tips and techniques on this subject are particularly relevant to me: I have a chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, which only exacerbates the strain we all face from long hours hunched over a keyboard.

Occupational therapist Alison Rutter and Alexander technique practitioner Janette Griffin gave a good basic overview of the risks of ignoring work– life balance or the physical aspects of working style. There was some relevant discussion of the added pressures of freelancing – such as the pressure to say ‘yes’ and blurred lines between work and home life.

But in the two hours available, we could have gone deeper. More focus on real-life examples from participants, discussion and suggested solutions would have gone further in answering the key question: ‘what can I do about it?’ We came away with useful handouts, for example detailing how to apply the Alexander technique in practice, but the workshop itself missed the opportunity to teach this by example by demonstrating on volunteers.

Most attendees had their own examples of problems caused by posture, etc, and few said that they had their work –life balance right, so this subject is undoubtedly worth revisiting at future conferences. This session was maybe best seen as a ‘taster’ for a more in-depth, solution-focused approach next time around.

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Building a good client relationship

Jane Read and Philip Stirups

Reported by Amelia Smithers

Jane Read, a full-time freelance indexer, and Philip Stirups, an in-house editor at Ashgate Publishing who has project managed over 150 books, spoke about how to build up a good relationship with your clients. Philip Stirups said: ‘Negotiation skills are the key to managing relationships; it is not just about getting enough money. It is about building a relationship with the people you are going to be working with.’

He advised his audience to think in advance about what they were going to say and what they needed to know about the job. He also advised them to always end discussions on a positive note but to remember that it was always possible to turn down a job if the conditions were not right: ‘Even the most experienced of us needs to sleep!’

There was some discussion with the participants about whether to negotiate with clients by telephone or by e-mail. Jane Read emphasised that with new clients it was important to be as professional as possible and to at least obtain an agreement in writing, as opposed to just a verbal agreement. She said that it was important to remember that good relationships take time to establish and could be destroyed in minutes.

There was quite a bit of discussion about how to negotiate fees, and advice on how to renegotiate deadlines and chase up bad debts.

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Social media marketing

Ruth Ellis

Reported by Denise Cowle

Ruth Ellis from the Society of Indexers took us through how to use social media to market ourselves. We looked at the importance of having a presence online for prospective clients, both to locate you and to verify who you are. Ruth showed us how to link our own website to other social media sites, and the importance of back-links for search engine optimisation.

We should have a plan for our social media marketing, particularly for what we want to say, and be clear about what results we want to get from it. The ways to engage online are by sharing, teaching, helping, complimenting and referring. The definite no-no is hard selling – your followers won’t like that, so don’t do it!

The main focus of the session was on Twitter – which is public, up-to-the-minute and versatile – and LinkedIn, which is strictly professional and a good forum for connecting with colleagues and prospective clients, although we also looked at Facebook. Ruth covered the basics of how Twitter works, the different types of tweets, and how to set up lists to categorise and filter who you are following.

This was an information-packed session, with lots of really useful tips, even for those familiar with these platforms. My suggestion would be that in future it could be split into two sessions: one for absolute beginners covering the basics of starting out, how-to information, the etiquette of connecting and posting, dos and don’ts, etc, and the other for dabblers who want to learn more about its effective use – scheduling, using lists, marketing techniques, etc.

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Corpora for editors

Ana Frankenberg-Garcia

Reported by Hazel Bird

In ‘Corpora for editors’, Ana Frankenberg-Garcia of the University of Surrey introduced us to corpora: vast bodies of text that can be analysed to find patterns in language use. She explained how corpora must be natural (composed of real examples); principled (focused on a specific area, such as legal French or American English); representative (by multiple authors); and digital (to enable the use of specialised, efficient corpus software).

Corpora are valuable because they represent the combined intuition of potentially millions of writers or speakers. They give real-life results that cannot be found in dictionaries, and can provide reassurance when working in unfamiliar domains.

Four types of search – concordances, frequencies, collocations and word lists – can be run. These can help with non-native English (eg confirming that ‘married with’ is considerably less common than ‘married to’); with translation (eg showing where a language component usually falls in a sentence); with technical writing and editing (eg use of ‘electric’ versus ‘electrical’); with regional variations in English usage (eg choice of prepositions); and to other varied ends (eg establishing that ‘ensue’ is usually collocated with negative concepts).

There are various corpora available. The British National Corpus is considered the gold standard, though it is small and now dated. Sketch Engine is a recommended (though paid-for) portal to many corpora. Alternatively, Google’s N-grams, which draws on Google’s book collection of over 150 billion words, can be searched for free, and shows usage changes over time.

Thank you to Ana for a solidly useful and entertaining presentation.

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From print book to ebook

Chris Jennings

Reported by Denise Holden

For those like me who don’t work in traditional publishing this was an informative overview of the different types of ebook (fixed or reflowable layout), the common production workflows (digital or print book first) and the issues for editors. In a print book the designer has control of the appearance of the page but in a reflowable ebook the page does not really exist.

The user of the device can change the font, the font size, and the line and text spacing, which affect how the text flows on a device’s ‘page’. Editors therefore need to consider elements such as headers and footers (eliminate for an ebook), footnotes and references (move to the end of chapters or the end of the book), tables (may need reworking as lists), diagrams (anchor within the text, keep the image and caption together) and in-text references to page numbers (use hyperlinks instead).

Chris Jennings, an ebook consultant and lecturer in digital publishing at Oxford Brookes University, proposed that the ideal approach was to consider both print and ebook formats from the outset, and find solutions that work for both rather than produce in one format and then adapt for the other.

With this approach, editing of the source text is done only once, and page layout procedures (such as anchoring images, threading text, exporting tags and including dynamic TOCs) ensure it is suitable for reflowable text in an ebook. Software such as Calibre can be used to simulate the appearance of an ebook on various devices as a means of quality control.

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Invisible no longer!

Alison Baverstock

Reported by Pat Baxter

Alison Baverstock, an associate professor of publishing at Kingston University, demonstrated how editors are well placed to benefit from current changes within publishing – and also in what way she, herself, is well placed to illustrate just how, as she has researched and published her detailed results on the self-publishing industry.

Alison explained that many common perceptions of self-publishing have been dispelled, negating myths that this form of publishing is somehow a lower breed of authoring, that it is ‘a measure of last resort’. Her opinion is that editor input has contributed to this change.

Alison has looked in detail at the demographics of those working in self-publishing by gender, age, employment status and educational attainment, resulting in some surprising statistics that can be found right across the spectrum. Responses showed that job satisfaction included, for example, variety of material, flexible working, good client relationships, steady workflow, expansion of potential clients, sight of the finished product, good rates of pay reimbursed timeously, wider appreciation of the editor’s role and owning work patterns.

These perceived advantages contrasted favourably with declining standards currently being experienced within traditional publishing, such as editors’ diminishing roles at the mercy of management from overseas, subject to late payment and the loss of close and satisfying client relationships with project managers. Publishers’ retrenchment generally has meant that editors are increasingly expected to cover more functions beyond traditional ones, while discussions and negotiating opportunities with editors are more limited, with fixed-fee contracts the order of the day.

The opportunity to quiz Alison elicited a range of pertinent questions, revealing that this is indeed an area that can only develop and increase, promoted and encouraged by Alison’s continuing and valuable research.

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Reading the future

Eben Muse

Reported by Andrew Coulson

Dr Eben Muse’s closing lecture looked at the future of reading. He is well qualified to talk about this as a self-confessed book fanatic, a part-owner of a bookstore and a professor of digital media. He described his interest as coming from the work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who founded the World Wide Web; from EPUB, the open ebook standard; from his students’ reaction to a new development in digital reading; and from his own awareness of the possibilities of what readers might want.

The lecture took us time-travelling through the history of reading, from the stone tablet to moving type. He highlighted the enormity of this advancement in making reading portable, private and indexable. En route, we visited some early innovations in reading that hinted at the developments we are now seeing.

Arriving at the present day, Eben described convenience as a key measure of the success of any reading technology in a world where ‘we used to read intensively; we now read extensively’. He used the ‘shadow industry’ of inexpensive, self-published books (now accounting for about 30% of all books sold but not appearing in the official sales figures) and the growth of audiobooks as examples.

We then tumbled on into the future and met the idea that books could respond to our moods and actions. This might mean we could influence how a story would evolve, or be told from different perspectives. Turning to non-fiction and textbooks, he identified how we ‘satisfice’, just wanting key information quickly. He sees this as a key problem holding back digital technologies in this field. Ultimately, he expects a solution that combines and allows indexing and searching to evolve.

He finished up by sharing his belief that any digital solution that can make reading immersive, enjoyable, chaotic and personal is likely to succeed. Ending on a positive note, he highlighted the central role for human input in content creation, such as editing or indexing, to make these technologies work most effectively for the reader.

Watch the video of the 2015 closing lecture.

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The advantages of a red dot

Linda Byrne

A few days before the first joint SfEP–SI conference, I was asked to write a short piece about my experience as someone attending for the first time. I can only assume my name was picked out of some sort of digital hat, and, having agreed to write something, I decided to make a few notes at the end of each day and to keep it simple.

Day 1 – feeling relieved

Earlier in the year I had attended another annual conference for the first time and found it to be very cliquey, with several awkward moments, especially when it came to finding somewhere to sit at meal times and chatting to people (or not) in the breaks. Today has been quite different and not in any sense an ordeal. The idea of having a red dot on your name badge as a first-timer is simple but effective. It immediately gives you something to say to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. So far, no awkward moments and some interesting people and conversations.

Day 2 – feeling positive

It had been hard to choose which sessions to attend, and some were more useful than others, although it is interesting to see how a few good ideas can drop into your mind even during a session that is not quite what you were expecting. Then there was the gala dinner, the part of the conference with the greatest potential for awkward moments. I had forgotten to put my name down on the seating plan, and was therefore allocated a space on a table with people I had not spoken to before. I needn’t have worried, either about what to wear – the general dress code seemed to be smart but not over the top – or about not knowing anyone. I found myself seated next to one of the directors of the SfEP, who was very easy to talk to, as were all the others at my table. Two of the most notable features of the conference for me were the lack of any sense of hierarchy or superiority on the part of those who have been in the editing or indexing business for much longer than I have, and the readiness of everyone to engage in conversation. It may sound odd that I was so struck by this, but I certainly did not find the same to be true at the conference I had attended earlier in the year.

Day 3 – sitting on the train, looking forward to getting home

I would have liked to attend several of today’s sessions concurrently and was sorry to have missed the one on structural editing. Alison Baverstock’s presentation and her insights into the world of self-publishing were the highlight of the day for me. By the end of the closing session, I was ready for a good cup of coffee and to go home. I’m an hour into a four-hour train journey and, looking through the paperwork, I see that there were 64 first-timers attending the conference with at least one more whose name was not on that list. That’s a lot of people attending for the first time, and I realise I have only spoken to a few people in any depth. However, I feel sure I will keep in touch with the ones who live in my area and with whom it will be good to meet up as we have discussed.

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