Monday, August 9, 2010


Working on finishing up the website, whenever I get a chance between editing manuscripts. The main pages are mostly in place; the background essays still need to be completed.

One area I am having trouble finishing is the Testimonial page. I included a testimonial page because Paul Lima recommends it in his excellent book, Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelancing which I happened to be copy editing when I started this project. His logic was sound: generate business by having satisfied customers recommend you.

Unfortunately, I hadn't thought the implications completely through for my own situation. I'm sure that that is a great idea for freelance writers generally, but freelance development editors (and I'm guessing, ghost writers) have the problem that many of our clients do not wish anyone to know that they have availed themselves of our services. Most writers are okay with acknowledging copy editors, but less so with admitting they had to get help with writer's block, or logical flaws in plot, or weak character development, or etc. I have seen the acknowledgment page in books by beginning writers thank the in-house editor for assistance, but that is apparently an entirely different matter than acknowledging a freelance development editor. As one author I approached explained it to me, "Publishers are happy to hear you were able to take feedback from another publishers' editor, because they want you to take direction from theirs. But if I tell people I had to have help from you to get my manuscript accepted in the first place, they might think I can't write very well on my own." I don't see that distinction myself, of course; I think publishers are keen to know a writer is open to — and even seeks out — input, and certainly the consumer considering a self-published book would feel more confident to buy if they knew the book had at least gone through a competent editor. But I do get that some people do not want to advertize they ever needed help.

The other problem is, when I was the in-house editor years ago, I naturally handed all my records over to the publisher, so I can't even remember the names of any of the writers I helped from those early days. And now I'm doing some in-house editing again, I'm reluctant to ask for testimonials from any of the authors I have edited for Five Rivers, as that could be seen as a conflict of interest, given they are likely to be submitting to Five Rivers again in the future (and therefore might feel pressure to provide a testimonial.)

Similarly, I wanted some testimonials from former graduate students re thesis supervision, but it turns out to be really difficult to track down former graduate students. Once they graduate, they move away, particularly when you teach at the University of Lethbridge — not a lot of opportunities for graduates in a small city like Lethbridge. I did manage to track down a few and am awaiting their testimonials, but they are now of course busy professionals themselves, so it may take awhile.

So, not too many people left I can ask, but we'll see whether I can at least fill up the page. If I can't find enough people, that might in fact send the opposite message to the one intended!

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