If you belong to the emotional species of copyeditors like me, this is for you. I not only edit the work that is sent to me, but I also emotionally invest in it. Which means I consider my customer’s success to be important and work towards achieving it. I give suggestions and go overboard with my ideas at times. Recently, I realized that it’s better to be non-sentimental and unemotional about your work.
I had a new experience a few days back. Without any reason, I was unceremoniously dropped from a book project I did for an author. The edit was done and the book was in the proof stage. I haven’t received any update or any reason despite asking for clarification. I am not sure of the fate of the pending payment. It put me under duress for a few days, shot up my resolutely normal blood pressure that I had carefully maintained for years, and emotionally unsettled me coming to think of the investment of time and effort I made in that project.
Then I made a few decisions to not get affected in the future in case I have a similar experience. As a freelancer, I have hit the “new normal” quite a few times. But this one caught me unawares.
I thought I could share a few useful tips with you so that it benefits you too.
- Don’t write emails when you are angry. I don’t do this, but I recommend that you allow your emotions to settle before writing emails. It saves your honour and respect because authors can easily dismiss your concern as it is their book and not yours. You are a service provider. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Be careful while you form friendships with authors. This is a possible emotional trap you could be walking in. I have always believed in a friendly approach, but the new experience is making me wary.
- Have clear-cut documented expectations. I now believe that you should sign an agreement with the authors clearly delineating your role and your input. Because I realize that the authors are unaware of how copyediting adds value at times. They own their work, no doubt. But it is essential to put down to what extent you would edit their several modified drafts even after two or three rounds of edit.
- Payments. For some projects, it’s better to get advance payment, especially if you are working with authors in one-off projects. I still haven’t had an author who refused to pay the balance at the end of the project. I will have to figure it out if the payment is not made.
- Conflict. The best way to resolve any conflict that arises is through diplomatic means. I have seen many people adopt a calm and clear approach only dealing with the essentials of the issue. It’s better to seek an explanation in a polite way. You’re not losing anything by being polite and sensitive. Never blow your fuse off. It may lead to disastrous consequences. I have always been diplomatic in conflict situations.
The best lesson from my experience is expect the unexpected and be prepared to be thrown away any time. A Japanese proverb says, “If you fall down eight times, rise up the ninth time.” There may a glad friend who would be willing to help and another new opportunity may open up. Be patient.