Coming Up March 13: Professional Editorial Standards with Elizabeth d’Anjou

Professional Editorial Standards (2016)What exactly does a professional editor do? How can you tell when they’re doing it well? There’s no single answer to these questions. But with its Professional Editorial Standards, Editors Canada provides one way of describing and categorizing editorial knowledge and skill that has proven invaluable to editors at all skill levels as well as to those who hire, work with, and train them. Editors Canada’s professional certification, which offers a way in which editors can demonstrate excellence, is based on these standards. As are the exercises in the association’s popular workbook series, called, not coincidentally, Meeting Editorial Standards. (It’s soon to be relaunched in a third edition, featuring downloadable electronic files for realistic, hands-on practice, with the new title Edit Like a Pro!)

Elizabeth will give a short presentation about the standards, including some background information and a discussion of

  • how they apply to a wide range of editing genres
  • how they can be useful to both freelance and in-house editors with various levels of experience
  • what changed with the most recent update in 2016

Then we’ll have an open discussion. We’ll also ask twig co-coordinator Brenda Leifso to tell us a bit about her work as an instructor of a course leading to the Queen’s University Professional Editing Standards Certificate. Plus, standards word puzzles—and stickers!

The latest standards are available as a free download on the Editors Canada website. We suggest you take a look at them before the meeting. If you can, please print (or save on your laptop) a copy to refer to during the discussion. (We’ll have a few printed copies on hand to share as well.)

You might also like to read the series of posts about the standards on the Editors’ Weekly blog—including an interview with fantasy editor Karen Conlin, who definitely wins the prize for best style sheet examples!

About the Presenter

Elizabeth d'AnjouA co-coordinator of Editors Kingston, Elizabeth d’Anjou literally grew up in Editors Canada (her mother was a founding member), and she recently served as director of standards and certification on the National Executive Council. She has 24 years of experience as a freelance editor with a diverse clientele, from trade and educational publishers to government departments and non-profit agencies. A lively and personable presenter, she is a sought-after leader of seminars and webinars for editors and other communications professionals, including the unique Copy Editing Live! and perennial favourite Eight-Step Editing. She also teaches both copy editing and grammar courses for Ryerson University’s Publishing Certificate program. Elizabeth is also volunteer editor-in-chief for the update of Edit Like a Pro!

Join Us!

Wednesday, March 13

Ongwanada Resource Centre, 191 Portsmouth Avenue

7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30).

Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

Coming up April 10

Meet Anastasia Riehl of the Queen’s University Strathy Language Unit! Watch this space for details.

Indexes, Importance of: Nancy Wills Talks about Finding the “Heart of the Book”

2019-02-04 09.32.22.jpg

A page from the index of Editing Canadian English. (Blurry photo taken by Elizabeth.)

by Wade Guyitt

Is there a more unsung part of a book than its index? A cover alone is enough – warnings aside – for potential buyers to render judgment on the thing as a whole. The dedication and epigraphs are read with tingling anticipation. The table of contents unfurls like a menu of servings to come. And then you dive in, to worlds unknown. By the time you reach the book’s final lines, they seem to take on extra weight – some readers even slow down while reading them, to savour the finale. There, you think, I’ve finished it. And some readers stop there, never looking at what comes next: for, bibliography aside (which is perhaps like an index but in reverse), the lowly index is the only part of the book you don’t even have to have read in order to say that you’ve read the book.

And yet, think of its power – it vivisects narrative, scouring away rhetoric and turn of phrase to reveal what remains; it condenses arcs and appearances into orderly rows of ideas; it reaches across hundreds of pages to draw connections between one word and another, then points the reader to precisely where those connections began. Like pins for strings stretched neatly across a map, index entries are neat, detailed, orderly – they’re the book’s raw chemical components, as if all the confusion and wonder and pure verbiage of a book had been broken down into its constituent elements, one giant atom split.

This may sound scientific, ruthless, reductive. According to Nancy Wills, however, a Kingston-based freelance editor and indexer, compiling the index can and should be a creative act. And it’s the opportunity to contribute creatively to someone else’s book – as she puts it, “unstitching the entirety of the manuscript” to see what’s inside – that draws her to indexing’s challenge.

Nancy spoke to the Kingston twig of Editors Canada about indexing during the meeting of February 13, giving attendees a glimpse at a publishing role rarely thought of, not even by fellow editors. Nancy splits her time roughly 50/50 between editing and indexing, but she says indexing proves the more rewarding of the two for her. While editors play an important role in preparing a writer’s manuscript for publication, they must take care “not to trample”; indexers, meanwhile, in a sense are writers themselves, and their raw material and inspiration are the contents of the book they’re indexing. In some ways, the index is the book’s first review: a poem of locators, to which one could turn first to judge what is inside, as Nancy says she does when browsing in bookshops herself.

“The heart of the book is the index,” Nancy says, and it’s her job to capture the strands – from mentions of items or individuals to broader concepts and themes. While authors sometimes provide a list of key terms they would like included in the index, Nancy says she works best when she enters a manuscript with a fresh mind, consulting that list only later, to make sure she has everything gathered.

Being at once granular and overarching, an index in preparation can reveal anything from inconsistencies of spelling to book-length themes even the author didn’t realize were present. Nancy says she reads like a reader, however, anticipating their needs rather than those of the author; she must consider which subjects are usefully included in an index and which are best left out.

Even 15 years ago, constructing an index meant working with recipe cards (no surprise they’re also called index cards). Today, as with everything in society, there are computer programs to help with the process – Cindex, Macrex, and Sky are most common – but each has its strengths and weaknesses. Nancy still finds it best to print the manuscript and read it, with a ruler, line by line. She reads closely – even more closely than editing requires – and is alert to any item that might be a potential entry.

At the same time, she has Cindex (the most popular of the three, in Canada) open on her computer, with the manuscript also open in Word or PDF format in another window. Finding a term in the hard copy, she’ll do a search in the digital version for other instances of that word. If no others come up, there’s no need for that heading. If there are others, a new entry begins.

Just like writing a book itself, writing an index starts with a few words and builds from there. “It’s like having clay,” Nancy says. “It’s coarse, and you don’t know what it is, and then you refine and refine.”

There are two types of index preparation: back-of-book and embedded. The terms refer to how the indexes are created. Back-of-book indexes grow as they are written, with no electronic generation involved: the indexer starts adding entries, and the index takes shape as work progresses through the manuscript. For an embedded index, meanwhile, index terms are tagged electronically wherever they appear in (for example) Word files, and these tags are used by the editing program to generate the index all at once: only at the end of the process does the index get compiled and spit out for review and revision.

As a result, the growth of an embedded index is less organic and much less rewarding to work on. It takes about 25 percent longer for the indexer to compile, compared to a back-of-book index, and the process is much more fiddly, as any slight disparity in spelling, font, or style means multiple entries generated for what should be the same term, which then need to be resolved. However, because the index can be prepared at the same time as copy editing or proofreading happens elsewhere, using embedded indexing shortens the production period for a new title as the indexer doesn’t need to wait for a page-perfect, laid-out proof to arrive before beginning the job. Embedded indexes are increasingly being requested by publishers.

Other quirks of indexes have to do with the demands of particular publishers or projects: bold or italic emphasis for figures; indented versus run-in (run-in restricts subheading use, so it’s usually best for trade non-fiction or less technical works); alphabetization (word by word versus letter by letter); sequencing of, for instance, Asian names, in which the family surname comes first, or Spanish names, in which a maternal name comes before a paternal name, and the question arises as to how a reader would think to search for these.

Indexing Books, Second Edition (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) by [Mulvany, Nancy C.]Fortunately, as when solving thorny issues of editing, others have bravely come before. Nancy was inspired to take up indexing by an Editors Kingston talk by Ellen Hawman, indexer for Queen’s University’s mammoth Disraeli Project, who, Nancy says, makes “beautiful” indexes, works of art “like a paisley pattern.” Essential reference books include Indexing Books, by Nancy C. Mulvany, and Indexing Biographies and Other Stories of Human Lives, by Hazel K. Bell, both classics of the trade. ISC/SCI Magpie PinAlso useful for indexers is membership in the Indexing Society of Canada (see www.indexers.ca), which holds regular conferences and issues a bimonthly magazine, The Indexer, free for members. Nancy has the highest praise for the society’s membership and activities.

Examples of indexes can be found as far back as the earliest printed books. Some resembled modern indexes, though the word often referred to what we would now think of as tables of contents. Henry Benjamin Wheatley (1838–1917) is often cited as the father of modern English indexes, having founded the (short-lived) Index Society and written two foundational and still-read indexing books, What Is an Index (1878) and How to Make an Index (1902).

Today, indexing continues to develop to meet modern needs. Nancy cites the federal government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report as a massive contemporary Canadian indexing achievement, requiring bilingual teams working in concert to solve issues of, among other things, how to identify people known by multiple names or those remaining anonymous. British Columbia’s legislative assembly also engages in leading-edge work by tagging its video recordings of proceedings and then providing indexes keyed to time stamps.

Like everything to do with publishing, indexing has been changed dramatically by technology. Yet it also remains stubbornly, stalwartly, a creative, individual act. In the early days of indexing, Nancy says, there was a fear that indexes would lead people to stop reading books. Fortunately, quite the opposite occurred: an index simply makes a book more useful. And what could be more useful than that?

Announcements

Remember the Editors Canada 40th anniversary conference taking place in Halifax on June 7–9!

Check out the upcoming webinars here.

Coming Up Next

Next meeting, we’ll be talking about Editors Canada’s Professional Editorial Standards. Watch this space for more details!

Join us at the usual place and time:

Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

Coming Up February 13: Adventures in Indexing

IndexJoin us on Wednesday, February 13, to talk indexing with member Nancy Wills!

A former co-coordinator of Editors Kingston, Nancy is a freelancer who splits her time about evenly between editing and indexing. “After many years with the provincial government,” she says, “some years ago I embarked on a career change that allowed me to focus on the aspects of the former job that I most enjoyed.” Nancy is also the Editors Canada list monitor.

She’ll share her experiences as an indexer in an informal chat. Bring your indexing questions, comments, and experiences. And look forward, as always, to networking (and snacking) with your fellow twiggers.

Join Us!

Our meeting will take place at the usual place and time:

Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

Upcoming Meetings

March 13: Discussion Topic TBA (have a suggestion? let us know!)

April  10: Meet Anastasia Riehl, Director of the Strathy Language Unit at Queen’s

Webinar

Don’t forget the Editors Canada webinar series, Copy Editing Live!, led by twig coordinator Elizabeth d’Anjou, begins on Thursday, February 7.

 

Managing the Freelance Life

by John Thompson

The Editors Kingston twig met on Wednesday, January 9, for a sprawling discussion about the challenges of working as a freelancer. Subjects included the fear of saying no to work, the challenges of working from home while maintaining some semblance of sanity, managing erratic cash flow, and dealing with difficult clients.

Brenda Leifso and Stephanie Stone, two of the twig’s co-coordinators, helped lead the discussion. (Their partner in crime, Elizabeth d’Anjou, was unable to attend due to car troubles.) Also in attendance were Mickeelie Webb, Wade Guyitt, Bob MacKenzie, Sonia Gluppe and myself.

Fear of Missing Out

More experienced hands, like Bob and Stephanie, spoke about how they’ve reached points in their careers where they’re no longer afraid to say no to contracts.

Stephanie said that up until recently she felt pressure to take any work that came her way, even if it involved working nights and weekends to get it done. Lately she’s tried sometimes pushing back a bit to buy additional time and has found the client’s often OK with it.

Bob’s at a place where he only accepts work that he finds interesting. Depending on how well he’s devised his estimate, he may or may not make money, but he said he’s at least sure he’s having fun.

Keeping the Worlds from Colliding

Bob spoke about how he used to leave the house, go for a walk and return when it was time to work, to enter a different “psychological space.”

Wade works at a coworking space in Kingston, the Sanctuary, where he rents a desk for a bit more than $200 a month. He reckons that expense pays for itself with increased productivity: he’s less inclined to goof off if he’s surrounded by others keeping busy. He recommends others consider trying it if they’re struggling with working from home. (It’s one of several coworking spaces in Kingston.)

On the subject of productivity, Sonia had wondered if anyone adhered to the Pomodoro Technique—a productivity technique of breaking work up into 25-minute chunks, each followed by a short break. It’s big with software developers. I was the only one to have given it a (fleeting, half-hearted) go, and found it didn’t jive with my own work rhythms, but if you struggle with staying on task rather than on Facebook at your computer it could be worth a try.

I brought up the issue that it’s hard to read tone when dealing with colleagues or clients remotely via email and social media tools. (I’ve found it helps a lot to have some face-to-face dealings with someone to get a read of character.) Wade added that interpreting tone can be especially challenging when working with people whose first language is not English.

Getting Paid

Sonia expressed frustration with having to wait months to be paid. Bob said he’s taken a cue from the construction industry, and structures his work contracts so that he’s paid a chunk of what he’s owed in the beginning, middle, and end of the work.

Some of us use online apps to help track our hours worked. Others use Excel spreadsheets. Bob draws up a docket by hand and bills clients by the quarter-hour, like a lawyer.

To stay on top of bookkeeping and invoices, Brenda carves out part of one day of the week to deal with bookkeeping matters: Financial Friday.

For producing invoices, Mickeelie recommended Wave, a free online app that tracks invoicing, receipts and accounting, which syncs with your bank account.

The Art of Estimating and Dealing with Difficult Clients

Wade mentioned the challenge of giving an accurate quote for work, when you may not have been given much material to base an estimate on. As well, in the excitement of landing a new client, the question of whether you’ll be earning a decent rate can seem like a distance concern. As he said, “When they offer you the job, emotionally you just got paid. But you still have to do all the work.”

Mickeelie described the challenges involved with working for one difficult client who kept moving the goal posts for her editing responsibilities. As a consequence, the contract has taken much longer than expected, without any accompanying pay increase.

Mickeelie recommended the members-only private Facebook page for Editors Canada as a place to sometimes find job postings—or to vent about disreputable clients. (Note: this page is only open to Editors Canada members.)

Stephanie recalled one client that owed her $6,000 when the business shuttered. She eventually got paid, but it took two years.

She also admits she still struggles with coming up with accurate estimates; she advises, “Don’t forget there will be a second read.”

Announcements from National

The national conference will be held in Halifax, June 7 to 9! Registration opening soon.

Upcoming webinars include

 

Coming Up February 13: Indexing

Join us in February as we hear about adventures in Indexing from twig member Nancy Wills. Join us at the usual place and time:

Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

Coming Up January 9: Managing the Freelance Life

Singapore Firm Challenges Hootsuite Bufferby Brenda Leifso

How did that happen?  Suddenly January is upon us in full swing, and already we might feel as if we are scrambling around trying to keep it all together. To that end, our monthly Kingston Twig meeting is scheduled for this coming Wednesday with the ever-pertinent topic of Managing the Freelance Life. Come share your questions and strategies around managing money, time, workflow, difficult clients, or whatever other questions or concerns you have around big-M and little-m managing.

Join Us!

Our meeting will take place at the usual place and time:

Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

 

Editors Talk Poetry / Poets Talk Editing

by Elizabeth d’Anjou

2018-11-14 19.42.34It’s often the editor’s task to straddle the divide between creativity and convention. How does this unique relationship to a text play out when it comes to that most creative of media, poetry?

Our twig community happens to be uniquely positioned to discuss this question as we are fortunate enough to count among us a number of editors who are also poets (or is that poets who are also editors?).

On November 14, those at the twig gathering heard from three of them: Brenda Leifso, Bob MacKenzie, and Mickeelie Webb shared their thoughts and experiences about the writing and editing of poems, with Ellie Barton moderating.

We were pleased to hear each panellist read a few poems from their oeuvre to start out. Then Ellie led a lively discussion on topics from “How does knowing a poem will be read aloud affect your approach to writing it?” to “Have you ever had your poems edited? By whom? What was that experience like?” to “Is there much demand for poetry editors?”

Brenda Leifso

book cover of Wild MadderThe first questions of the evening were about Brenda’s office setup as attendees were intrigued by the mention in Ellie’s introduction that Brenda recently began using a treadmill desk. (She now walks about 20 km a day while working!) Brenda is, in addition to an editor and poet, a teacher, mother, yoga instructor, and outdoor enthusiast.

Her third book of poetry, Wild Madder, will be published by Brick Books in April 2019. Her previous titles are Barren the Fury, published in 2015 by Pedlar Press, and Daughters of Men, published in 2008 by Brick Books.

Brenda has an MA in English from the University of Victoria and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She now lives in Kingston, although her eastern migration from Victoria took about 20 years.

Bob MacKenzie

Bob MacKenzie has been writing poetry since his teens and has been a professional literary and commercial writer in many forms, including poetry, for more than half a century. He has eight books of poetry published, with another on the way. (He modestly refraine2018-11-14 21.07.50d from giving Ellie a list to include in his introduction, saying instead, “Blah blah blah—if you want to know, talk to me at the break”).

He has worked as a professional editor, both as a freelancer and as an employee, in print and broadcast media as well as at advertising agencies. Although he is not a current member of Editors Canada, he was an early member of its progenitor, the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada, and has been attending gatherings of this twig since its early days.

 

Mickeelie Webb

2018-11-14 19.04.06Mickeelie is building a career as a freelance editor here in Kingston. She completed her master’s in English at Queen’s in 2017 and liked Kingston so much that she decided to stay. She writes both fiction and poetry. While her poetry presently remains largely unpublished, it has been featured in a number of other avenues and media.

In the summer, she started performing her poetry at2018-11-14 19.52.34 the Elm Café, and her work has been featured (and was scheduled to be featured again later that week) on CFRC’s “finding a voice” program, hosted by Bruce Kauffman. Mickeelie created her first poetry chapbook for this event!

 

Announcements

Webinars: Editors Canada upcoming webinars include

  • an introduction to macros by the brilliant and entertaining James Harbeck
  • a two-part series with Elizabeth d’Anjou, called “Real-Life Grammar,” with a focus on modifiers and parallelism

Recordings of earlier webinars are available for purchase.

Connecting with Other Twigs: Elizabeth participated in a conference call recently with leaders of the other Editors Canada twigs in the eastern half of the country, including Barrie, Halifax, Kingston/Waterloo. She noted that several other twigs also have instituted fee policies similar to ours (Editors Canada members attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting after attending the first one). It was a good exchange of ideas and information that will be repeated a few times a year.

Coming Up in December: Holiday Social!

Wednesday, December 12, 6:30 p.m.

Milestones on Princess Street (pay-as-you-go)

Partners and friends welcome!

Please RSVP to Brenda by Friday, December 7: bleifso@gmail.com

Coming Up in January:

The Business of Editing—The Nitty Gritty

It’s not enough to just edit things; a professional editor needs the editing to pay the bills, too. Last year in January, we had our biggest turnout ever with a highly practical session about marketing. This January, let’s talk turkey about money. How do you decide how much to charge? Is it possible to keep a steady income as a freelance editor? How do you ask for a raise at an in-house editing job? We’ll spend the evening sharing information, strategies, successes, and lessons learned. You’ll go home wiser, and maybe even come back in February a little richer!

Editors Talk Poetry

…or is it Poets Talk Editing?

Our twig community is fortunate enough to count among us a number of editors who are also poets (or is that poets who are also editors?).

Barren the Fury.jpg

On November 14, a panel consisting of Brenda Leifso, Bob MacKenzie, and Mickeelie Webb will share their thoughts and experiences about the writing and editing of poems. Ellie Barton will moderate.

It is often the editor’s task to straddle the divide between creativity and convention. How does this unique relationship to a text play out when it comes to that most creative of media, poetry?

Join us to consider questions of art, conventions, inspiration, process and more—and, of course, to share snacks, network, and socialize with fellow twiggers.

Bring questions! Bring a friend! Bring a poem!

Join Us!

Coming Up December 12

Holiday Social at Milestones

Come celebrate the season with your fellow twiggers by enjoying an informal, pay-as-you-go meal. Partners and friends are welcome too!

Reading Into Fall

by Elizabeth d’Anjou with Anne Marie Benoit
Brenda is shown sitting at the meeting table holding the book, with papers and meeting snacks in front of her.

Brenda Leifso recommends The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

As the leaves turned red and the air turned cool in October,  Editors Kingston gathered to talk books.

Everyone had been asked to talk about a book they’d read recently, with a particular (but not exclusive) focus on reads that had taught them something, about editing or otherwise.

We welcomed three newcomers: Jane Kirby, who had come to share some information about the Kingston chapter of the Freelancers Union (see under Announcements below), but was persuaded to stay for the bookish chat and excellent snacks (thank you, Brenda!); Jonathan Balcombe, a long-time professional editor and writer recently returned to Ontario, and Anne Marie Benoit, who is exploring editing as a career and heard about the group through a family friend.

Anne Marie graciously agreed to take notes on people’s picks:

  • Jane recommends Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin gives tips on writing and provides writing exercises.
  • The Childhood of JesusJonathan recommends The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee, about a man and a boy who immigrate to a new land. They face many challenges from learning a new language, to locating the boy’s mother, to fitting into a new culture with varying degrees of success. Also Underbugs by Lisa Margonelli, a pop science book about termites and how they live.
  • Greg recommends (with reservations) The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. This book is about how to edit your own writing and gain the objectivity to do so. Some of the points the book makes will be frustratingly obvious to experienced editors, but it may prove useful to new editors.
  • Anne Marie recommends The Way We Hold On by Abena Beloved Green. This is a semi-autobiographical book of poetry. It is interesting because it successfully commits spoken word poems to the page.
  • Brenda recommends The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This book is based on a podcast that features an experienced editor mentoring a new fiction writer; it will be of use to editors interested in editing fiction who need to learn the conventions of different genres of fiction.
  • Elizabeth recommends The Canadian Press: Caps and Spelling by James McCarten. A book to use rather than read, this slender volume makes a useful companion to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary. It gives updated spellings and capitalization conventions and adds new words that did not exist at the time Oxford released its last Canadian edition. Also: February by Lisa Moore, which tells the story of a woman who loses her husband when the oil rig Ocean Ranger sinks off the coast of Newfoundland on Valentine’s Day, killing everyone working on it. It shows what the woman’s life was like before the event as well as the lingering effect it has on her life afterwards.

Announcements

 

Jane Kirby shows off a Canadian Freelancers Union postcard.

Freelancers Union: Jane Kirby, visiting from the Canadian Freelancers Union (Unifor), spoke about what the organization has to offer Kingston freelance workers, which includes many editors. Health insurance, support in cases of grievances with clients, and advice related to contracts are some of the services. The union also puts on some local events, including a panel discussion, Decent Work Under Ford, coming up on November 7. We hope to see Jane again! 

Webinars: Editors Canada upcoming webinars include a four-part series on plain language led by Kate Harrison Whiteside, a well-known expert in the area.

Recordings of earlier webinars are available for purchase, including

  • Starting a Freelance Editing Career (with Christine LeBlanc)
  • Manuscript Evaluation (with Greg Ioannou)
  • Eight-Step Editing (with Elizabeth herself)

AGM: The Kingston twig’s first-ever AGM was held on Wednesday, September 19,online using Zoom meeting software. Elizabeth gave a brief report on how the twig has fared over the last year; a few questions were answered; and members officially elected the twig leadership. Seven members (about half) and one visitor attended. The door prize of an Editors Canada calendar went to Greg Murphy.

Fee policy: The twig’s fee policy is in effect: Editors Canada members continue to attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting (after the first).

Coming Up: Editors Talk Poetry

On November 14, a panel of Kingston editors who are also poets will share their thoughts and experiences about the writing and editing of poems. Join us!

Coming Up October 10: Reading into Fall

Happy Thanksgiving! Fall and reading seem to go hand in hand, what with students and teachers buckling down, book prize announcements dominating the cultural news, and longer, cooler evenings encouraging curling up indoors. (It can be no accident that Canada’s most famous literary character, Anne of Green Gables, once said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”)

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After kicking off our programming year with a delightful visit from Oscar Malan of the Kingston Indie bookstore Novel Idea, Editors Kingston is continuing the celebration of reading at its October gathering with the theme “Reading into Fall.”

We’ll invite you to tell about a favourite book you read over the past year, and share something you learned from it. If you like, bring two books: one a pleasure read and one an editing- or business-related read. If you can, bring the actual book(s) for show and tell!

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A book on editing fiction one of us will be bringing.

Join us on our usual second Wednesday of the month, October 10, at the usual place and time: Ongwanada Resource Centre, 191 Portsmouth Avenue, at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30. Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

You’ll come away with a promising list of recommended reads and a treasure trove of wisdom from your colleagues.

Hope to see many of you there! Bring a friend!

 

Talking to Oscar Malan of Novel Idea

by John Thompson

IMG-4887.JPG

Around the big table with Oscar Malan  on September 12.

During our September gathering, Editors Kingston heard from Oscar Malan, proprietor of Kingston’s independent bookstore, Novel Idea.

He spoke about how his business managed to survive 15 years of competition with Indigo in Kingston’s downtown, how technology has changed bookselling and working in retail as a whole, and how he manages to carry such a well-stocked fiction section, among other subjects.

Malan moved from Toronto to Kingston in 1988, with the idea of opening a bookstore with a friend. That initial business soon foundered, but not long afterwards he helped launch Novel Idea, which he at first managed and later came to own.

The business took a beating when Indigo opened downtown.

“The day Indigo opened, our business declined 50 per cent. A year later, Chapters opened in the township, and business was down another 10 per cent,” Malan recalled.

But while other independent businesses shuttered during those years, Novel Idea held on. And once Indigo closed in 2013, sales bobbed back up about 40 per cent.

Similarly, this year he had a “crazy busy summer,” thanks in part to Chapters’ move to a new location in July. Immediately upon the township store’s closure, Malan says, his workload doubled.

Novel Idea is known for its comprehensive fiction section. That’s thanks to Malan spending a lot of time digging through the “backlists” of book publishers—the older titles that aren’t being actively pushed by salespeople.

“I carry all the Murukami, all the Vonnegut,” he said.

Malan can do this, in part, thanks to how quickly he’s able to reorder books today, allowing him to carry single copies of many of these books. “That’s the blessing of computer technology.”

Similarly, when Malan started out, he’d have to place an order in the summer months for howe

ver many copies of the latest Stephen King novel he thought he could sell at Christmas. Now he can get away with planning a week ahead.

Malan contends that he isn’t competing with online book sellers like Amazon. Instead, the natu

Malan in his shop. The T-shirt’s slogan is “What, me worry?” in Latin.

re of retail business itself has changed. Kingston was once home to five appliance stores, whereas there’s only one now—the same holds with independent bookstores. It’s the big chain stores that took the worst hit from the growth of Amazon; smaller “boutiques” like Novel Idea are able to operate in a different niche by offering customers superior service.

“They’ll be treated like humans and get what they want—or not, and be told why,” he said.

As well, Malan has noticed that the price gap between Amazon and his store has narrowed considerably in recent years. He reckons the big online booksellers have begun to ask themselves, now that their customers have grown used to ordering through them, “Why give it away?”

Events help. In fact, Malan’s store was hosting two book readings by authors the night that he spoke to the twig. And each year Kingston WritersFest provides a big opportunity for Novel Idea to sell books, through a pop-up shop set up at the event.

“[That arrangement] was a major cash injection that helped me survive the Indigo years,” said Malan.

Malan is now 63, and he envisions his daughter one day taking over the business.

Why does he still keep at it? “I could have stopped doing it, but then I’d need to get a job,” said Malan.

He followed that up with a sentiment that may ring true to many freelance editors:  “After so many years of working for myself, I’d no longer be fit to work for someone else.”

Announcements

Conference: Elizabeth d’Anjou reported that the Editors Canada national conference May 25–27 in Saskatoon was a great success and a lot of fun. (Twig member Beth Bedore was there, too!) A highlight was the stream of sessions related to editing texts relating to Indigenous people, and the pre-conference workshop with Greg Younging, author of the Elements of Indigenous Style.

Webinars: Editors Canada upcoming webinars include a four-part series on plain language led by Kate Harrison Whiteside, a well-known expert in the area.

Recordings of earlier webinars are available for purchase, including

  • Starting a Freelance Editing Career (with Christine LeBlanc)
  • Manuscript Evaluation (with Greg Ioannou)
  • Eight-Step Editing (with Elizabeth herself)

Fee policy: The twig’s new fee policy is in effect: Editors Canada members continue to attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting (after the first; we were pleased to see a new visitor, Kathleen Hamilton, take advantage of this provision).

Twig Leadership & AGM: Ellie Barton will be stepping down as one of the twig coordinators after three dedicated years. Stephanie Stone is willing to continue, as is Elizabeth; Brenda Leifso is willing to join the coordinating triumvirate.

We’ll be trying something new this year: a brief AGM, to be held online using Zoom meeting software, on Wednesday, September 19, at 4:30 p.m. We’ll share a brief report on how the twig has fared over the last year and members can officially elect the twig leadership. Everyone on the twig’s email list was sent information on how to attend.

Coming Up

We’ll be talking and sharing about books on October 10! More details TBA.