Written by Megan Ryan

While book editing was my dream job when I was a teen, that seemed like an unattainable goal, so I set my sights on newspaper copyediting. (That was not an easy market in the early 2000s either.)

I majored in journalism with a minor in English and worked at the campus newspaper. I had newspaper copyediting internships and worked for three years at a daily newspaper.

I took a career break when my children were young, and then I decided to try freelancing, hoping that I might get to work on some books. While I have also copyedited articles, I have been able to focus on copyediting and proofreading books for self-publishing authors and hybrid publishers. There were a lot of adjustments from the newsroom, but many lessons from journalism have been helpful.

Deadlines

One substantial change was the pace of work and deadlines. At a daily newspaper, almost everything you work on is for the next day’s publication with a hard deadline. It was fast paced, and every day you started fresh.

In freelance book editing, projects take weeks to months, so I have to be able to plan far in advance and be committed to focusing on the same book. Despite the longer lead time for books, deadlines are still particularly important to me, and I think much of that comes from my early training.

Style

In my newspaper work, Associated Press style was the guidelines for spelling, punctuation, abbreviations, etc. Learning Chicago Style took some time (and I am still finding new things). I was glad to start using the Oxford comma and not have to remember the state abbreviations no one else used, but I still think copyeditor looks weird as one word.

Applying AP style keeps consistency across the entire newspaper, and I learned the importance of following a style guide and what sorts of things I might need to look up. But I appreciate being able to oversee consistent style choices throughout a book or series.

Teamwork

When you are part of a newsroom, you have a team of people working together. Your fellow copyeditors are there to discuss questions, and you have other layers of editors to give you direction. There are also people who are difficult to work with.

As a freelancer, I have more choice about who I work for, and I work alone. This can be freeing and isolating. I spent years trying to figure out editing and freelancing issues on my own. I am so glad to have found the Christian PEN Loop, where I can ask the editing questions I would have asked others on the copy desk and get business guidance as well. It is helping me remember the importance of having support.

Newspaper editing has many differences from freelance book editing, but I am grateful that I’ve been able to apply many of the lessons I learned in journalism to my current work.


Megan Ryan provides copyediting and proofreading to help authors feel confident about sharing their writing with the world. She has copyedited and/or proofread more than 140 books for self-publishing authors and hybrid publishers.

She lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. You can contact her at mryanediting@gmail.com or find more information at https://mryanediting.wixsite.com/mryanediting.