Interview with Co-founder of ebookedit Nicola O'Shea (February 2014)

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The widely publicised digital self-publishing boom has opened up opportunities not only for authors but also for freelance editors, as self-publishers are often looking to pay for editorial services. This January, long-time Australian freelancer Nicola O'Shea and digital publishing expert Keith Stevenson launched ebookedit, 'the complete professional editing and book formatting and file conversion service'. Nicola speaks to Editors Victoria about running this new kind of editing business.

Editors Victoria: When and why did you come up with the idea to start ebookedit?

Nicola O'Shea: For some years now, I've been working with authors who want structural feedback on their manuscript before they submit to publishers. Some of those authors ended up choosing to self-publish, but because I've never offered copyediting to private clients I wasn't able to help them any further. I also didn't think self-publishing was a viable option for authors until ebooks came along and Amazon and other platforms made it so easy for authors to make their books available to readers. Once those changes happened, I found myself looking for Australian-based companies I could recommend to authors to help them achieve their self-publishing goals - and realised that most of them were overseas. And so Keith Stevenson and I decided to set up ebookedit, which offers editing and file conversion services to Australian authors. We opened for business in January this year, and have just started working with our first client, which is very exciting.

How did you come to work with Keith?

Keith was editor of Aurealis magazine for many years, and is publisher at coeur de lion, a small press that specialises in speculative fiction. He's had a lot of experience with ebooks and digital publishing and is in a great position to help independent authors negotiate the digital publishing process. He's also used print-on-demand services for the print versions of coeur de lion's titles so again he has first-hand experience to share with authors. Given his experience with ebooks and the various digital publishing platforms, and my years of editing experience, it made sense to combine our skills. We're also life partners as well as business partners, so it's great to have the opportunity to work together through ebookedit.

How does working with digital self-publishers differ from working with other clients?

The key difference for us is in the options available now to authors who choose to self-publish. Before ebooks came along, an author would pay a vanity press to produce printed books that, more often than not, sat gathering dust in their spare room because it's always been very difficult to get self-published print books into bookstores. Now, with the range of digital platforms that sell self-published ebooks, authors can make their work available to readers all around the world. In terms of editing, it means you're working directly with the author, rather than negotiating that sometimes tricky balance between the publisher, who's paying for your services, and the author, who might have different wants and expectations for their book. I enjoy that direct contact with authors, and even after almost 20 years as an editor I still feel that thrill in seeing an author develop and transform their manuscript through the editing process. It's an experience that becomes more intense when you're working one on one with the author, rather than communicating through an in-house editor or publisher.

What advice would you give freelance editors who want to work with digital self-publishers?

While there are benefits to working directly with an author, you also need to be aware that the direct relationship brings considerations that don't necessarily apply when you're working for a publisher. For example, the author-publisher contract will cover issues such as the originality and accuracy of the work, or getting permission to quote from other sources or use images. It's probably a good idea to have a legal agreement between you and the author that protects you against any problems that might arise after the author has published their book. It's also important to specify what's included in your services: for example, does 'copyedit' include discussion between you and the author once you've sent back the edited file, or is any further communication and/or editing an additional service? We're also learning that we need to be very clear about the steps in the various editing processes and not fall into the trap of assuming knowledge, which is easy to do when you've been working within a profession for a long time.

Do you see your business expanding in the future?

We're starting off very small - I'll do all the editing myself and Keith will do all the layout and file conversions - but if the business is successful it would be great to be able to offer other freelance editors the opportunity to work with us. Eventually, we'd like to develop the community side of ebookedit, too: eg offer authors the ability to share their knowledge and experiences with one another. We've got lots of ideas, but for the moment we want to concentrate on editing and file conversion and offering authors the best service we possibly can.