Q&A with freelance editor Laura Poole

Laura Poole is a freelance editor who lives in Durham, North Carolina. As senior editor at Archer Editorial Services, she specializes in editing scholarly nonfiction and academic journals. She has also edited travel guides and textbooks. In this interview, conducted by email, Poole discusses her freelance work, training opportunities for editors, and her viewpoint on some language issues.

Q. Describe your job at Archer Editorial Services. What is your typical day like?

A. I’m often up by 6 a.m. to do an hour of work before my daughter gets up at 7. I’m very productive in the early morning.

I usually have multiple projects going at once, so I make progress on each of them in chunks: one journal article, 30-40 pages of a book, some email responding, and so on. I try to keep my morning interruption-free, because that’s my most productive time.

I eat a quick lunch, then back to work, but early afternoon is my slow-brain time. That’s good for submitting paperwork, setting up files, proofreading, coffee appointments and phone calls, even a short nap if I have time!

I’m finished with work by 3 or 5, depending on the day. I don’t get full billable hours in a day, but I usually get my tasks done in a timely way.

Q. What types of writing do you particularly enjoy editing? Is there anything you avoid?

A. I avoid philosophy and hard sciences with a lot of very technical terms. I edit exclusively scholarly nonfiction, and I particularly enjoy gender studies, cultural ethnographies, and science studies (slightly different from hard sciences).

I have a specialty in editing math and economics, but it’s not my favorite thing to work on!

Q. People often ask how much freelance editors are paid. What do you tell them?

A. There’s a range, of course, and the pay rate depends on many things — experience, skill, client budget, and so on. Skilled, experienced editors can command higher rates.

I like to say I make a comfortable living, and now I have broadened my income base by earning money from training, referral fees, and royalties. Plus, I’m developing a new business (see next question). The more streams of income I have, the more stable my income. But the majority of my income comes from the editing I provide directly for my clients.

Q. In 2015, you and Erin Brenner formed the Pilcrow Group to help train and coach editors. What services do you provide, and how is that effort going?

A. Pilcrow Group was founded to purchase Copyediting (http://www.copyediting.com), and we did that in September 2015. Our mission is to offer development and support for editors across the career spectrum — from just starting out to advanced!

We are very proud of our premium newsletter (Copyediting), which has been around for 25 years and is the heart and soul of what we provide. We added a free weekly newsletter, and we have an active blog and job board.

We offer training in the form of monthly Master Classes on various editing topics (and archived recordings available for purchase) and now In-Depth Courses, which are three to five webinar sessions. We are creating an imprint to have our own books and ebooks, with our first title, a grammar workbook, coming out in late summer.

Very soon we are pilot-testing mentoring groups and mastermind groups for editors. We are sponsoring conferences and planning to roll out our own live training and development events in the future.

The efforts are going well so far! We were pleased to announce that Copyediting was back in the hands of editors, and the response among our colleagues and in the editorial community was heartwarming! We are very excited about all our plans, and the interest level has been high.

Q. What advice do you have for college students looking to go into freelance editing?

A. Start NOW! Edit for your classmates, edit for other students, post a flier or classified ad. You can get experience at any time, and the more you DO, the more you will learn.

Q. Let’s wrap up with two hot-button topics: How do you feel about the Oxford comma? The singular they?

Singular they: Used to hate it. Now I see its utility and have grudgingly accepted and am warming to it.

Serial comma: I’m a big fan. I’m a CMoS girl, so I like to use it. In fact, I even invented my own serial comma hand signal! Here it is: