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January 2016

Editing: the basics

Before I embark on any editing specifics I thought a little summary of the basics for editors and copy editors alike might be useful. Editing isn’t just about cutting out text or re-writing content is also involves a lot of communication and relationship management.

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For the editor effective listening is critical to any relationship with an author or business partner. Whether you are aware of it or not there are endless cultural differences that come into play, not to mention business etiquette. Your author’s first language may not be English, they may have never worked with a publisher before and they may, for all intents and purposes, not be listening to you. Follow-up any meetings or calls with summaries so you are both on the same page and pay close attention to detail.

Silent expectations, what you, as an editor, are going to do and deliver could be very different from what an author expects. Email is two dimensional but is visually interpreted as three dimensional, a phone call or face to face meeting is never time wasted. Relationship management plays a key part in nearly all editorial roles, having the ability to build rapport and lay out a strategy, summary or mile stones will ensure a project and its author rolls along smoothly.

A sub editor provides:

  • Clear, understandable edits with tracked changes.
  • Specific solutions, i.e if you are cutting length let them know that you are doing so for x reason.
  • Collaboration, if a change is suggested that doesn’t sit right suggest an alternative option rather than just shooting it down cold.
  • Market sense, to provide a good commercial awareness of what the market is looking for and when according to global trends and different demographics of readers, including foreign markets, cross culture developments, industry standards, regulations and policies.

To conclude, the editor is there to create the outline that an author will colour in.

I’ll go over the specifics like extent, permissions and the types of editing in posts to come.

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Innovation and the ‘off’ switch

Let’s talk language

With a surge of creative marketing advertising is now more competitive than ever before, most believe now that creative strategy boils down to just one thing or rather one word, innovation. To quickly define, innovation is taking something that already exists and improving or changing it to market more effectively. Businesses do this with products but they also do it with words. With an unlimited lexis at your fingertips people stealthily use words to their advantage on a day to day basis.  In many cases a change in the way you market your product could mean the difference in spending millions on advertising to changing the product itself.

But is ‘innovative’ language accessible to those who want it? Buzzwords with arguably ambiguous meanings are more like theories than realist strategies. How do you apply these to work effectively? I have attended a few conferences and talks on creative strategy in the last few months and it occurred to me that a lot of the time I spent trying to decipher the objectives through the jargon, trigger phrases and tech buzzwords. Many people can talk about these strategies and ideas but we, the audience, are often left in a whirlwind of words that are disconnected from any real application.

One particular word that crops up a lot and irks me a little is silos, “we can’t work in silos”, “we have to move away from silos in order to achieve synergy”, why isn’t silogy a word? My beef is thus, that this is easy to say but rarely do the speakers who say it mean it in a way that will change two (or more) things that work completely separately into something that works together. From my experience there is a lot to be gained from segregating parts of a business, like the organs of the body they work together in harmony but they all have their own processes and ways of doing things, and that works for various reasons. I’m all for synergy too, in a realistic and achievable sense. I think the reason that language like this is hard to grasp is that it often comes without context, ideas and plans but no examples or real details of how it will be achieved. A good strategy should analyze problems and policies in order to set out how they are going to be tackled and changed.

There is also the problem with the nature of inno-lingo (innovative language, a term I also made up), I will attempt to disseminate the difference between ‘innovate’ and ‘innovation’. The word innovate is formerly a verb, it is the process of changing something that has already been established whereas innovation, the noun form, is the process used on a cultural scale, Dross explains “If we use the term “innovation” the same way we use the term “innovate,” we will create cultural confusion.  This is because “innovation” is best used to describe a cultural state, while “innovate” is an action term, a deliverable, an output.  They are different things.” Henry Dross, Forbes.

Here’s another Dross quote, just for relevant kicks “The biggest challenge organizations face in building and nurturing and leading innovative cultures is language. Not plans. Not ideas. Not action items. Not even creativity. It is language” Henry Dross, Forbes
Full article here: The Rhetoric Of Innovation

These language barriers lead us to the dreaded ‘off’ switch, where you are sitting listening to an interesting talk and then when the buzzspeak pours forth you slowly move into a blank grey sphere, before snapping back thinking “I’m not listening, what are they saying now??” We’ve all been there. Using language that is decipherable to your audience is just the beginning. Motivating colleagues and connecting to your business as well as it’s needs in order to generate and encourage innovation is, in itself, another task.

My recommended reads:

Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
Victor Hwang’s The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential
Scott Berkun’s Making Things Happen

And podcast:
The Language of Innovation with Doug Williams

Institution as e-textbook publisher: a brief overview

Textbook inflation has risen dramatically in recent years due to the fall in print sales, this has led to an arms race in publishing content.  Now modern technology is implementing that content and investing in the digital experience, particularly institutions, whose aim is to allow students greater access to learning via e-books.

Universities have long since been running their own print presses but are now moving in greater digital directions.  With the rise in university fees more students cannot afford books, which already come in short supply at libraries. Access to e-books has become a core part of student learning. Institutions want to enhance the student experience so that students can access not just all of the books they need to but all of the books they want.  But how do you create a sustainable e-books marketplace?  A recent e-books conference at UCL listed the following points for any e-book provider’s consideration:

  • Re-usability
  • Accessibility
  • Interoperability
  • Durability
  • Have a clear mechanism for driving adoptions
  • Bench marking
  • Impact
  • Extent to which access has been improved
  • Content creation, production process
  • Licensing, distribution, cost models effective?
  • Author experience
  • Reader experience

Through various examples of data analytics, such as student surveys, they showed that e-books with greater accessibility had a steady increase of usage over time than those with more limited access, such as e-pdfs. Access to these e-formats varied across the board with the highest percentages of students using e-formats with features such as ‘highlighting’ and ‘text to speech’. This data aligned with student grades, which increased according to those students with higher e-text and journal usage.

Consider the following questions:

How will knowledge be generated and published?

How will it be accessed?

How is knowledge engaged with and added to?

Yes, loaded questions.

I’ll go over their answers briefly for now and in more detail as I cover individual e-book topics, like accessibility and consumer experience.

The aim is to pull you to the community interested in that subject in order to generate more discussion, one university has created a program that allows users to upload their own files in order create their own learning space. There they can collate and work on one chapter/book that can be linked around the world. This program also allows for big data sharing, mirroring Apple’s cloud ability to accommodate storage online. A hugely popular app right now is ‘Refme’ which does reference formatting. It auto-populates the references needed, no matter how large or how many it can do them all at once, right down to the last point. I’m sure most people will remember how much of a bummer it was to finish your essay and then spend arduous amounts of time referencing only to be marked down for being one comma short of perfection.  As the need for such product capability increases so does the number of platforms and technologies available to institutions, here are a few of the cooler kids:

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Ebooks have the potential to engage with three key strategic priorities common to most universities: to enhance the student experience and academic outcomes within an increasingly competitive environment; to drive innovation in learning, teaching and research; and to help to use space and human resources more effectively and efficiently.” Jisc , 2015

Case study

UHI & Edinburgh Napier: Frank Rennie’s How to write research dissertations

I’ll use this book as an example of what some institutions are doing now. This book was produced at very low cost, using tools that were of little expense and with free programs, by a small production team at the university.

The Model:

– Academics discussed the content and proof-read

– No formal contract as it is a curation of many academics and colleagues so no legal rights to anyone

-Books are ecologically wasteful and inconvenient to students; this model aims to remove the printed word

-Electronic file conversion for Kindle available

-Permissions have been granted and licences for use acquired where needed

-Online sales channels offer access to consumers with minimum effort

-Mainstream consumer acceptance of e-books has created sustainable marketplace

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Institutions believe this model of publication, once streamlined, will leave the traditional publisher in the dust and create a smarter more efficient way for institutions to generate material, at little cost. But we all know that a good idea never stays free for long. The idea of academics creating textbooks tailored for their course and for wider access freely or at affordable cost is a good one, but whether it is sustainable on a large scale is debatable.

 

This book is available on BM Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and has DRM (digital rights management). Both incur a cost, particularly the latter. If an institution wants these books to have a companion site then they must also add that cost in too, most though already have some kind of platform in place. One question that sprung to mind when looking at this model is ‘who owns the content?’ When I put that question to the representatives of UHI & Edinburgh Napier, they drew a blank. As it’s still relatively new ground for institutions there is no standard yet on how these books are rolled out, and so each case performs differently.  In most cases they do not follow the traditional books model, which means no royalties for authors, an intimidating concept.

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Hello!

Welcome! To my brand new blog, isn’t it snazzy? As per protocol this is the introductory post to kick off the blog. To start I should tell you a little bit about myself,  I work in publishing as an editor, write books and illustrate along with sticking my nose into a medley of digital and creative type things. This blog will aim to cover the hot topics in publishing and digital as well as some traditional topics for writers and editors. It’s also a blogspot for myself to solidify the things I learn along the way in the written word.

Watch this space.

 

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