June 2019 Q&A: Lisa Lines

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Dr Lisa Lines AE is a director and head editor of Capstone Editing, a specialist academic editing company. Lisa is an academic editor, historian, author and former professor of history at the University of New South Wales Canberra. She specialises in the history of the Spanish Civil War and the prevalence and influence of plagiarism and academic integrity in higher education. One of our members, she has kindly agreed to share her academic editing experience with us. We have followed this up in our Q&A with her.

How has your month been?

My answer to this question is, "Always busy". Luckily, that’s how I like it.

This month, my main project has been delivering the online course for Your Editing Career Launched. YECL is an intensive course for editors taught over four months. It kicked off with three-day workshops that I taught in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, and I’ve followed that up with the online component of the course.

This month, I’ve given webinars on: Establishing Yourself As A Freelance Editor, Fiction Editing, Legal Editing and How To Achieve Consistency In Copyediting.

I’ve enjoyed developing and teaching this course. I love having variety in my work, and it has been a pleasure to shift my focus from editing (and training my editors at Capstone Editing) to course development and working with both aspiring and established freelance editors.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

I jokingly refer to myself as a Luddite, and I nearly have a panic attack when Windows or Word updates. So, one of my biggest challenges is keeping up-to-date with the newest technologies. It is something I force myself to do, though; given that there are so many ways that technology can make editing (and running a business) easier and more efficient.

A challenge I’m facing right now concerning technology is trying to find a replacement for Reference Check now that it is no longer compatible with the latest version of Word! (The business closed some years ago now and updates are no longer available.)

What do you love most about your work?

As Director and Head Editor of my own business, I have room for personal growth and learning – as well as the chance to teach. I love sharing my hard-earned knowledge with my editors, students and clients. I love that the profession of editing allows us to be lifelong learners.

As a single mother of two young kids, flexibility in my work is very important to me. I work with an incredible team of very talented and dedicated editors and staff, and we are all extremely supportive of each other. I’m tremendously selective regarding who I work with.

As much as it sounds like a cliché, I still always explain to people that Capstone Editing is more like a family than a company.

How did you get here?

I have always had a passion for language and history. I discovered my love of grammar during my high school French classes – where I was first taught English grammar correctly. My dual passions meant I ended up with a double major for my Bachelor of Arts, in History and English, and two Honours degrees, one in History and one in Creative Writing, simply because I couldn’t give either up. A few years after I finished my PhD in History, I went back to complete a PhD in Creative Writing.

My love of language and grammar led me to editing. My love of history and my desire to teach led me to academia. "By [these] powers combined, I am …" an academic editor, which is the perfect combination for me.

What is your average weekly workload? Does it vary throughout the year?

As a single mother and the owner of a business, my week is always full. At Capstone Editing, we are busy all year round, but we are busier with certain types of documents at particular times of the year. In April, for example, we edit a mountain of grant applications since many of the major grants have closing dates then. Academics tend to write during non-teaching periods, so we are often flooded with more journal articles during this time than during the semester. PhD theses can fall due at any time of the year. I’ve worked with many students with submission deadlines that end up falling over Christmas, New Year and Easter.

If you are comfortable discussing salary, can you give an idea of an indicative rate of pay for the kind of work you do?

I am a strong advocate for higher pay for editors. I believe editing is undervalued because the work is often misunderstood – so often our clients misunderstand our role or the skill it takes to perform our work. It is also significant that it is performed predominantly by women. In Australia – approximately 80% of editors are women.

The 2016 IPEd survey, though it was based on a small sample size, showed freelance editors were charging clients at around $64 an hour and, of course, many would be working for less once their business expenses and unbillable hours spent on things like client support and getting new work are deducted. Data published by Seek this year showed that editors were earning a national average of around $50,000 to $60,000 per annum, which is quite appalling given the skills and training necessary to perform the work of a professional editor and the fact that most of us have postgraduate qualifications.

Academic editing is a specialty, and I’ve worked very hard to build the reputation of my business and ensure the impeccable standard of the service that we offer. As a result, my editors are paid at a higher rate than are freelance editors, on average.

If you didn’t have the job you are in now, what would you like to be doing?

Honestly, I love editing and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but at my own company. But my other love is still history and I loved working as a Lecturer of Military History during my time at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Lisa Lines can also be contacted at Capstone College, education provider for postgraduates, editors and academics, delivering online and intensive courses for graduates. 

Thank you so much, Lisa, for sharing your story with us. Our members will appreciate your insights and experiences in developing a successful practice, passion for research, and being a mum.