The gears of publishing grind slowly

It’s been tough to figure out how best to use this blog space, so, over the past year-ish, I haven’t. However, it occurred to me recently that readers might wonder if I’m still in business because the blog is so out of date. I am! Business is going well! Some new projects I just can’t talk about. Some are still going on (two current projects began in late 2016 and will go through fall 2017). Some have been quietly added to the relevant pages here and I haven’t announced them on the blog.

Notably, the latest novel I edited was released yesterday: The Hedgewitch’s Charm (#4 in the Sitnalta series) by Alisse Lee Goldenberg. I’m fascinated by all the different parts of my life that novel editing calls on, just by chance, and for this one I broke out the books on herb lore! Also this year I’ve edited Everly (#1 in the Everly series) by Meg Bonney, which earned silver medals in the Feathered Quill Book Awards for Best Juvenile/YA Fiction and Best Debut Author, and Beautiful Secret by Dana Faletti, which won a LYRA Independent Fiction award in the Romantic Suspense category and was given honorable mention in the General Fiction categories at the San Francisco Book Festival and Paris Book Festival!

Academic and educational editing projects also continue, albeit very slowly. I’m working on at least one project that won’t be released until 2018.

I also recently took Copyediting‘s Editing for the Web Master Class and picked up the Yahoo! and Microsoft style guides. They’re a few years old, but they were recommended as solid guides that are not yet outdated (and I’ve used Microsoft’s at least once to handle a set of website navigation directions), so I’ll be interested to flip through them and see what’s still relevant in 2017.

If you’d like to work with me, shoot me an email! I’m now scheduling for June, July, and August. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Timelines and expectations: Maternity leave analysis

I’ve been super busy with projects lately, which is a wonderful thing! And I’ve been looking at this project cycle in relation to my decision to take maternity leave as a freelancer; effectively, I had to start hustling for work just as hard as when I’d started freelancing in the first place. (Note: the bulk of my work has been in educational publishing, so the cycle I’m outlining reflects project lengths and payment periods common to that field. An editor working primarily on medical journals would likely experience a different cycle; an editor working primarily with independent authors would experience a cycle that’s different still.)

  • June/July 2013: I decide on the dates I’ll be away on maternity leave and notify my clients well in advance.
  • August 2013: I AM SO BUSY finishing up projects and squeezing in short ones before my leave starts.
  • September 2013: My daughter is born, with no complications. I recover quickly. Invoice payments continue to roll in.
  • October 2013: Rosaline turns out to be a happy, healthy baby. Invoices keep getting paid. I’m a tad bored, but life is good.
  • November 2013: I start working again, slowly, touching base with current clients and reaching out to new ones.
  • December 2013: The Holidays. A few new projects start up. Just about all outstanding invoices are paid by now.
  • January 2014: This is, unexpectedly, the point at which I started to feel the financial pinch from maternity leave. Not much money was coming in, few of the projects I’d started in November had reached a point at which I could invoice for work done, and savings were starting to run out.
  • February 2014: Busy, busy month. I add more projects, send a few invoices, and keep hustling. I win a couple of regular gigs.
  • March 2014: Several large projects reach a midpoint at the same time others wrap up. I feel like I’m working nonstop. More invoices go out; more projects come in.

When I was figuring out how maternity leave would work, I expected that November and December would be the tough months, but starting in January, I’d be able to pick up steam again. Instead, the cycle looks much more like August–December 2012, when I was wrapping up a full-time job and transitioning into Last Syllable full-time. I picked up a few clients right away, put in the work on the first projects, invoiced when they were done… and then finally had those invoices paid in January 2013. After that point, invoices got paid at about the same pace as new projects came in and work went out, so the business was sustainable.

Judging by that information, April 2014 will be another tough month, but May 2014 should be better, and sustainability should come back around June or July — almost a full year!

So financially, I’m not sure how good an idea it was to take two months of maternity leave. However, I recovered very quickly from birthing and had no complications. Other than a bit of jaundice, my baby was born perfectly healthy; she took right to nursing and has thrived. If any part of that calculus had been different — if I’d had a difficult birthing, had to recover from a C-section, or had lasting issues from the pregnancy; if Rosaline had been sick or colicky or had trouble nursing or gaining weight; if none of us had slept well and I couldn’t think clearly; just to name a few possibilities — then a two-month maternity leave would have looked like a far wiser choice. Of course, I couldn’t predict any of these outcomes ahead of the birth, let alone far enough ahead of time to change my plans. And there were other benefits to the way I did it: no juggling deadlines and diapers until I had a pretty good handle on baby’s routine, for example. I didn’t have to stress about being sure I could keep a project on schedule, sure I could think straight, even if I was physically and mentally up to the challenge.

Is it possible to take maternity leave as a freelancer? Yes. Would I do it again? … I’d think very hard about that, given what I’ve learned, and I’d probably approach it as more of a temporary slowdown than a complete break.

Creativity and time management

This morning I read Rich Adin’s post The Business of Editing: Self-Discipline & Work Acquisition Costs (via Copyediting’s News Roundup) about the costs of dawdling on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. in the name of marketing. Rich makes some excellent points, and as a champion procrastinator I recognize my former-ish self in the post. But I wanted to springboard from that post into a description of how I’m getting work done these days with very small children.

I started out trying to dedicate a few hours per day to work: go in the office, close the door, get things done. My husband Matt is a writer and stay-at-home dad, so I figured that he could pretty well handle things and bring me the baby whenever it was time to nurse. I set up the Pack-n-Play next to my desk and a TV with DVD player and Roku box and placemat for the 2-year-old.

That was a lovely plan, but it utterly dissolved when put into practice. Baby Rosaline was fussy, didn’t want to be put down, and wasn’t happy in a sling. Margaret, the 2-year-old, watched TV for maybe 20 minutes and then wanted to “draw” like Mama (who was actually writing daily plans and to-do lists), or had a meltdown when I wouldn’t give her my pen, or spilled chocolate milk no matter how spill-proof the sippy cup. One child was crying while the other had spit up or needed an immediate diaper change. Some catastrophe happened and everyone had to pitch in — like the day the elder child was so sick, all the beds in the house needed to be stripped completely of linens and waterproof pads and whatever other layers, all of which had to get washed, dried, and put back on the beds by naptime. While I was writing this post, Matt was rocking Rosaline to sleep for her morning nap, and Margaret slipped off a piece of furniture and thumped her butt on the floor. (She was fine; just needed a hug from Mama and a tissue.)

And I also try to keep in mind that one of the best things about working as a freelancer with small children at home is that I can take time to play with my kids. I want them (and Matt) to know I’m here, not locked behind a door, shouting for them to deal with whatever on their own. Yesterday, Matt and Margaret went outside to shovel the driveway, and I stayed inside nursing the baby and making hot chocolate. After dinner I settled in at my desk and edited some precalculus assessment items due today. (The plan was to do that work after the girls were asleep, but Margaret was uninterested in sleeping and I had to take a break to put her to bed.) This morning, Margaret was full of toddler rage at not being allowed to help scoop coffee grounds into the coffeemaker, but Matt distracted her long enough for me to make oatmeal for everyone. Then Margaret and I played Minion Rush for awhile over breakfast. Maybe that was wasted game-playing time, since I do have deadlines today. But it did give Margaret a few minutes with just her and Mama, and now she’s putting puzzles together in the living room while I’m working in the office.

Before Rosaline was born, my workday was a little more about self-discipline, maximizing billable hours, and increasing efficiency. And when both girls are in school and I have the luxury of losing myself in work for hours at a time, figuring out the best use of those hours might become a priority.

These days, however, I’m moving to project-based rates to help reduce the need for precise time-tracking (a decision I made after clocking in on an hourly project for seven minutes, then five minutes, then nine minutes, then 25 minutes, then four minutes…). I’m looking at the day as a 24-hour period and scheduling accordingly. Projects that need more focus get done after bedtime, during naps, or in the morning when Rosaline naps and Margaret is happier with self-directed play. Shorter projects get done in quick bursts in the afternoon and evening. Appointments and errands happen in the days between deadlines. It’s less about not getting distracted and more about being flexible, prioritizing, and seizing the moment.

And right now I need to put a load of clean clothes into the dryer and find out why Margaret just brought me an ornament from the Yule tree.

November and December availability

Following my maternity leave, I’ll be back to work on Monday, November 4. I’m at my desk for a few hours each day this week and expect normal availability to resume on Monday, continuing through the end of 2013. My family hasn’t made holiday plans yet, but we aren’t normally away from home for much more than the holiday itself.

My schedule is already beginning to fill up (yay!). If you’d like to work with me in the next two months or in early 2014, contact me at editing@lastsyllable.net.

Back to work soon

Today is my first partial day slowly coming back to work. I’m sorting through the mail that’s piled up in my office, updating apps and double-checking resource availability, and (importantly) just being here for a couple of hours to ease my kids into the new schedule before I have any deadline pressures.

My post on being (almost) scammed by the National Association of Professional Women has garnered a lot of interest over the past seven months. There are more than 60 comments from women who had similar experiences. However, I haven’t had any pushback from NAPW itself. I’m not even off their mailing list! I got another postcard in the mail a few months ago touting the benefits of membership. This one went directly into the recycle bin.

I’d also like to alert fellow editors to GalleyCat’s new Freelance Editor Directory, to which I’ve just added my own listing. Writers can search through the directory for an editor who works in their genre, get more information about the editor (via website, LinkedIn, whatever info the editor provides), and see a range of prices (if the editor has given that). The directory was launched earlier this month.

More as it develops. It feels so good to be coming back!