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The middle years - Richard Sheehan

Posted on 29th June 2016

What are you doing now?

I'm still doing the same as I was three years ago, just lots more of it. I also tend to do more copy-editing now than proofreading. The type of work has altered too. Whereas three years ago I was happy to do anything, now most of my work is fiction editing, and a lot of that is with either already self-published authors or debut authors looking to self-publish. I've got a nice set of regular clients and I've gained one or two new ones each year.
For the past couple of years I've also been asked to set up editing workshops by organisations such as The Literary Consultancy, De Montfort University and Leicester Writes Festival, and these have been useful not only in helping me to add another 'string to my bow' but also in helping me look at how I edit and how I can improve my work processes.
Another way I've branched out is to become an associate editor for Dahlia Publishing, a local publisher in Leicester.
My writing has had to take a bit of a break over the past year or so, and last year I stood down as editor of the Philip Roth Society Newsletter, which was a shame, but I'd been doing it for six years or so and I was finding it more and more difficult to set time aside for it.

Do you think the industry has changed in the last few years and if so, how?

In the world of fiction publishing, a lot has changed. Self-publishing is now taken much more seriously than it was, and the market is huge. I now tend to be booked up several months in advance, which is great, the only downside being that it limits taking work at short notice, and this includes working with lots of publishers, who need you to start and get the work done ASAP.
I've noticed that there have also been a lot of editors coming into the market who haven't had training via organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading or the Publishing Training Centre. While there are many good editors out there who haven't followed these paths, authors should check the skills and backgrounds of editors thoroughly before they decide who they want to take on.

Has your approach to your work changed?

Not hugely. I used lots of ideas from my colleagues early on, and any changes I make now seem to be refining my approach rather than changing anything radically. I try to be as flexible as possible and I've honed my processes to try and make myself as efficient as I can, but apart from learning as much about writing and editing as possible and reading widely and listening intently to other editors, it's pretty much a case of just ensuring I do the very best I can on every project.

What CPD have you done, if any, to stay up to date?

CPD is an area where I need to do some work. I did a lot in the early stages of my career and some a little way in, but I've neglected it over the past year or so, and there are some areas of what I do that I know I would like to improve on.
I've been to quite a few writing workshops and masterclasses in the past year, which has helped a great deal with my editing but not so much with my writing, which, as mentioned above, has had to take a bit of a back seat.

What do you think has been important in helping you maintain/build your business?

Networking has been vital in building my business. Whether it's via the CIEP local groups or going to publishing or writing conferences, I can't overstate how much this has helped my business grow. In the process, I have been lucky enough to meet people who have helped point me in the right direction and given me advice and introductions that have been invaluable to my growth as an editor.

Do you have any advice for people who have been in the industry a while who might be feeling flat/stagnating?

If I feel I need some inspiration, I always find going to a conference or an event to meet writers gives me that little injection of something extra. That and CIEP local group meetings.

Do you have any specific plans for where you see yourself/your business going in future?

I would hope to be doing more of the same, as I'm quite happy with my mix of work. I think I need to be more disciplined in turning down work if it will involve me doing more that I need to (for instance, taking on copy-editing work when the manuscript is more in need of a developmental edit). I'd also like to do more work with publishers, but scheduling can be a problem there, so that's something to work on.

Do you have any regrets about how the last X years of your business have gone?

I don't have any regrets really, (apart from taking on a couple of projects where the client went AWOL when it was time to pay). I've thoroughly enjoyed the past few years and I feel much happier in myself for having made a career change. I think the ability to say no is something I wish I'd used a little more, but you live and learn.

Kate's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Louise's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Richard's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Nick's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Charlie's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Edited in March 2020 after the Society for Editors and Proofreaders became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

Written by Kate Haigh.