What do publishers want from freelancers?

Last week Editors Victoria ran an event called What Publishers Want, intended to clarify what publishers want out of their freelance editors, proofreaders and indexers. Panel members included Mitzi Zagon from Pearson Australia, Geraldine Corridon from Oxford University Press, Mandy Brett from Text Publishing, and Imogen Bannister from Lonely Planet. Mostly education and nonfiction, but it was lovely to hear from Mandy about literary editing and its freedoms.

I went along, as I thought the event would be geared towards starting out in the industry, but I quickly realised that it was information for more experienced editors, as the event covered topics such as:

  • What programs to use when editing for certain publishers (Word, content management systems or just plain old paper), file formats
  • Whether the publisher wants input for improvement, or just a proofread, for example
  • Invoicing, insurance and pay cycles
  • Turnover, deadlines and lateness
  • Essential skills the publisher is currently looking for (e.g. experience with artwork, rights, manuscript styling, etc.)

It seemed clear that in most cases, this type of freelancing was only available to those already greatly experienced, and that you would need to gain this experience first. This got me to thinking—it’s so difficult to find entry-level roles to get these skills (and most unpaid internships probably don’t give enough opportunity to really develop them enough to be a confident freelancer, but this is certainly case-by-case!). Despite a few internships and a year-long placement as a publishing assistant, I can’t see myself doing this kind of freelancing for a long time.

However, what I did get out of the event is that relationship are crucial. Not just in the networking sense of constantly meeting new people, but to work with someone and become sensitive to the publisher’s needs. This is certainly possible at any level of experience, and should build the relationships needed to sustain freelance work or in-house work.

And bonus! I made a friend on the night! We’re going to watch Younger together, and try to keep in mind that Australian publishing isn’t quite as glamorous as Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff are!


Australian publishing reading list

Publishing Means Business, eds Aaron Mannion, Millicent Weber, Katherine Day, Monash University Publishing, 2017

The Return of Print? Contemporary Australian Publishing, eds Aaron Mannion and Emmett Stinson, Monash University Publishing, 2016

By the Book? Contemporary Publishing in Australia, ed. Emmett Stinson, Monash University Publishing, 2013

Making Books: Contemporary Australian Publishing, eds David Carter, Anne Galligan, University of Queensland Publishing, 2007

Tilting at Windmills: The Literary Magazine in Australia 1968-2012, Phillip Edmonds, University of Adelaide Press, 2015

Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight – Publishing Indigenous Literature, Anita M Heiss, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003

Black Writers, White Editors: Episodes of collaboraiton and compromise in Australian publishing history, Jennifer Jones, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009