Monthly Archives: November 2015

Session 8 – Overview of copy-editing and basic principles (26.11.15)

Lianne Slavin, from MUP, had her first session with us on copy-editing. She introduced us to the basic principles and making the distinctions between copy-editing and proofreading. Copy-editing comes before the typeset and is involved with the general cohesiveness and clarity of the writing, whereas proofreading comes after and checks for quality.
Slavin then gave us the main reasons to copyedit:
* To help the reader understand the book.
* To save author from embarrassing errors.
* To make sure everything is clear for the typesetter.
* Making sure story/argument is cohesive.
* Referencing errors are common (academic).
* Misspelt names, fact editing.
* Coding – lining up heading types etc
* Copy-editor is author’s ambassador.

There are Seven C’s of copy-editing, according to The Society for Editors and Proofreaders:
* Clear
* Correct
* Coherent
* Complete
* Concise
* Consistent
* Credible

After then talking about the skills needed for copy-editing, Slavin discussed the style sheet. This is a guide to what to look out for in the editing process such as spelling, referencing, objectively understandable, italicised and bold errors whilst also making judgement calls in what to change, what to leave, and what to query with the author if something is not definitely wrong. As Slavin says, this is important because you shouldn’t change something unless it needs changing, otherwise you risk adding to mistakes instead of eradicating them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The last thing Slavin discussed was Substantive Editing. This is a heavy copy-edit as it is a re-write and re-change of large sections. In a heavy copy-edit, the editor improves the flow of text rather than simply ensuring correct usage and grammar; may suggest recasts rather than simply flagging problems. (Editors Forum). This led on to Slavin outlining the levels of copy-editing: light, medium, and heavy.

This session was interesting as I had not considered the complex and detailed areas involved in copy-editing. I now feel that I have a great basic knowledge of what copy-editing and look forward to next week. To improve, I will try and contribute more to discussion.


The Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Available at [accessed on 27 November 2015].

Editors Forum. Available at [accessed on 27 November 2015].

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Session 7 – Wrap up (19.11.15)

Today was the last session on commission editing taught by Tony Mason. As a recap, we discussed the REF, Open Access, and ‘Impact’ as well as the survey results from the surveys we released prior to this week to see what people thought about enhanced e-textbooks.
It was useful to go over all these things since it had been a while since certain topics had been explored, such as the REF, and I came out of the session feeling happy I had sufficient knowledge of commission editing.
A large proportion of all academics have a limited impact. The specialist area in which they write on is often read only by certain academics and students from specific departments. Yet they still provide something to the argument of that topic, so surely the impact in the context of academia remains to be of high value? It stands to reason then that you can still have an impact even if there is a very low impact upon the general reader. These are the types of things we talked about in this session.
As for enhanced e-textbooks, there is relative interest amongst the target surveyors of students and teachers. The overall consensus was that this would be a good idea, but people would still want to have a hard copy of the textbook too. This was quite an interesting result and it is something Tony Mason wrote down for future reference at Manchester University Press.
In all, I feel like I contributed well to the session – for example, I clarified for people what the REF stands for (Research Excellence Framework). I feel comfortable in all aspects of commission editing now, and will make sure I go over my notes so that I do not forget at a later date.

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Session 6 – Contracts (12.11.15)

This session centralised around contracts within academic and fiction publishing. The examples we followed were that of Manchester University Press (MUP) for academic publishing; Bluemoose for fiction. Interestingly, there were quite distinguishable differences between both forms of contracts, with Manchester University Press’ contract being much more extensive than that of Bluemoose’s. MUP set out their contract in clauses (sectioned off into categories), whereby Bluemoose’s was one list.
A significant difference is the rights the fiction author has compared to an academic writer; for example, whilst many of the legalities remain similar, TV/Film rights and such like mean the fiction author has much more entitlement, realistically, to such rights on the grounds that academic work will not likely get televised. The only exception to this rule would be academics writing for the general public market, known as crossover publishing (Dark, 2015). For example, authors such as Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking write for the general market in their specialized field of study, and make a living out of this from the royalties of book sales and TV coverage. But as a general rule, in fiction, more money is invested towards the book and there is more than just the author to give royalties to; so too does the literary agent.
This will be valuable knowledge when working within the industry and the legal side is a vital aspect of it.
In terms of the control of contracts, there is no clear dictator. It depends on both. There is a reliance of both publisher and author – and the agent in fiction – to work and maintain a symbiotic relationship. However, it is not uncommon for a rocky relationship to develop when dealing with contracts. For example, for both MUP and Bluemoose, it is expected that if they are to publish an author’s first book/publication that they have the right to see their next book before any other publishing house. In other words, they have the right to accept or refuse their next work. And this can cause disagreements.
Advances may be paid in one go, on signature, but don’t be surprised if the publisher proposes paying half on signature and half on publication, or in thirds. This is to stop authors running off with money given in advance. As Chris Holifield states, ‘an advance is literally an advance payment and royalties on sales of the book are set against it.’ (Holifield, 2013). Publishers tend to offer advances than royalty payments; this is most likely to affect academic writers as they often do not have a finished work and would have the incentive to receive money for writing it, especially if the Academic Press approached them.
Publishers sell books to booksellers at a discount off the published price, which can vary from 35% for small independent bookshops to 70% (Holifield, 2013). For example, at MUP, Tony Mason explained that for a book which cost £14.99, they would aim to sell that book to Waterstones for £8.99.
In addition, we glossed over other areas of contract clauses such as subsidiary – the added on rights – and remaindering rights – books that aren’t sold and are sold on elsewhere for a vastly reduced cost. These examples were useful to know as it allowed me to gain knowledge into these areas, and considering contracts are a highly important part of the publication process, this was a very valuable insight indeed.

Dark, Tom. (2015) [talk during university visit]. 16 November 2015.

Holifield, Chris. (2013). Advances & Royalties – Inside Publishing. [date accessed 19 November 2015].


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Session 5 – Market Research (05.11.15)

On the agenda today was Market Research, and learning how to conduct it successfully. Tony Mason discussed how to approach market research. For example, if a book has done particularly well it is often important for publishers to find out why, so the key to finding out such information is to see who buys it, asking readers why they bought the book and for what purpose. This is known as development editing.
The best way to gather this information is through surveys and questionnaires – this is where the market research is carried out. There are two types of research: quantitative research, and qualitative research.
* Quantitative research focuses on coming up with numbers, for example, percentages of people buying a certain book.
* Qualitative research uses these figures to find out how people feel towards about books and what encourages them to spend money on them. Focus groups and open-ended questions are a good way of gathering this.
Tony explained these variants of market research with clarity and it was definitely useful to learn these key terms for future reference. But nothing is better than doing something for yourself, and so Tony got us to work in groups to compose a survey online via a free survey service such as Survey Monkey. There were five people in my group, including myself, and together we worked on a survey aimed at students in relation to enhanced e-textbooks. The basic concept of this idea would be a digitalised version of textbooks with additional features such as videos, audio, and other interactive features. This created healthy debates within our group; for example, the issue of not being able to survey students under 16 without parental consent proved to be a barrier to our survey since it meant we could only aim our survey to undergraduate students and upper sixth-formers. Additionally, depending on the course studied, university students do not always use textbooks so the concept of an e-textbook would subsequently not affect those select students; we therefore realised that our target audience was reduced further still. However, we all contributed to the discussion well, meaning our survey was strengthened due to us all having points as to what should be added in the survey, and what should be taken out. For example, I suggested changes to some drop-down box choices and to ask in what circumstance would the student use an enhanced e-textbook, whether it be via the university library, bought directly for their computer or digital device, or not at all. Overall, I am pleased with my contribution to the group discussion and the survey. Below is a link to the final survey we created.

Marketing Donut. Available at [accessed 6 November 2015].

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