Helen Baggott is an accredited proofreader, copyeditor and as I found out, professional hand-holder for those contemplating self publishing for the first time. She is also an accomplished author so understands what it feels like both sides of the page.
What made you jump ship from accountancy to proofreading?
It was a gradual process. I’d worked in accountancy since I left school but writing has always been something that I have enjoyed. Fifteen years ago I was a volunteer editor for a local magazine. I decided that a proofreading course would benefit the magazine and my own writing (short stories and articles for other magazines). It wasn’t long after I completed the course that the self-publishing industry developed into the accessible platform we know today. I realised that there should be – must be – a demand for copy-editing and proofreading services and gradually moved away from full-time accountancy. I’m now fully employed as a copy-editor and proofreader. Whilst it was something of a wrench to say goodbye to 30 years’ experience, I have never regretted that decision.
I would imagine that a lot of the skills are transferable – attention to detail etc.
Absolutely. Finding errors and resolving plot issues is very similar to balancing the books. I’ve read more than once that vocational surveys often suggest both professions to the same participant.
What’s the best bit about your job?
Luckily there are lots of ‘best bits’. Helping to develop a very raw manuscript into a marketable product – one that’s saleable – is very satisfying. Sharing the thrill of a client realising their dream of holding their book in their hands is also very special.
And the worst?
I’d have to think about that for some time – but I suspect the answer would be the same one I give now – there isn’t anything I don’t like about the work. However, it does sadden me that some writers do not allow sufficient time for the editing and proofreading stages of their project. Rushing to publish a book simply to meet a launch date is a big mistake.
I think anyone who is thinking about self-publishing and feeling overwhelmed will benefit from reading your blog www.createspaceandme.co.uk What prompted you to set up the blog?
I have clients at all stages of a writing career – from traditionally published authors of a dozen or more books to writers who have the idea for a plot but need help and encouragement. Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity for everyone and I was uncertain why some clients struggled with the self-publishing process whilst others sailed through every stage. I decided to test the system myself. I wrote and self-published a very brief travel memoir and created the site as an on-line diary of how I took advantage of Amazon’s CreateSpace tools to self-publish a paperback. I’ve also added a useful FAQ page to my business website www.helenbaggott.co.uk which addresses queries in a more direct manner.
A lot of people are put off paying for the professional services of proofreaders, editors and cover designers. Could you explain why these things are so important in case anyone is in two minds about the cost?
By the time a manuscript is finished an author can almost recite the content, that’s how familiar it becomes. Even the way the paragraphs break on a page will be imprinted and the brain and eye will conspire to deceive. It’s unlikely friends and family will criticise or find fault with the work – employing an impartial professional is essential. Traditionally a manuscript should be read three times but I’ve developed a service that breaks those three reads down into affordable stages. Apart from the financial benefits of this, it also ensures that an author’s edits are checked.
Editors and proofreaders need to do more than correct errors. I prepare manuscripts for paperback and e-book formats. A lack of computer skills shouldn’t be the reason a writer can’t experience the thrill of seeing their work in print.
We all judge books by their covers. Employing a professional designer isn’t absolutely necessary but it is something I recommend. Designers used by my clients range from graphic designers who are able to provide an affordable and useable image to award-winning creatives who really know their stuff.
What’s next for you, Helen?
More work! Much of that work comes via repeat business or recommendations. One client has just published her fifth novel and I’m delighted to have been involved with all of them. Although I only edit/proofread one project at a time, clients are at various stages of the publication process – moving on from an early draft, pre-publication checks, uploading to Amazon, etc. My work is never routine and it’s never a chore.
Helen has written of her experience with breast cancer in Swimming with the Tide and all royalties go to the charity that funds MacMillan nurses. It’s not gloomy as you might imagine such a book to be, but uplifting and positive, with dashes of Helen’s humour sprinkled throughout.