Lisa Cordaro

Lisa Cordaro

Lisa Cordaro

Advanced Professional Member

Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?

It wasn't a choice – there was no question I was going to work with the written word in some way. Apparently even as a toddler I always had my head in a book, and that didn't change as I grew up! After a degree in English and European Literature I landed my first jobs in production, then crossed over to editorial, working my way up in-house to supervising my own team and managing special projects. Then I went freelance, and now serve a portfolio of independent authors, publishers, academics, businesses and other organisations.

What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?

During my first publishing job I took a one-year certificate in print production at night school. My next publishing employer sent me on PTC courses and trained me on the job. While freelance I've continued to take SfEP courses, Arvon residential writing courses and others such as Guardian Masterclasses in feature writing. I'm planning more training too. Continuing professional development is essential, no matter where you are in your career.

What work are you most proud of?

Every job is important to me, large or small, but one special commission comes to mind: working on a Filofax-type guide for teenagers leaving care, to use with their key workers. The client, a major children's charity, wanted it to cover the information that parented children take for granted: how to run a home, look after your health, manage finances. The guide has been used every day by numerous young adults making their own way in the world.

What do you do if you're struggling on a job?

If I encounter something I can't usually resolve, I reach out – SfEP colleagues are an unending and generous source of knowledge and support. Going for a walk is good too: recent research has revealed it's a great head-clearer for creative types.

What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?

The SfEP has been important from day one. When I worked in-house, it was the port of call to find good people. Now I'm freelance, being a member of an industry-recognised professional society endorses what I do in commissioners' eyes. Plus the friendly, collegiate environment the SfEP provides is indispensable.

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

Author collaboration, and learning new things – reading manuscripts is an education in itself and for me, as a non-fiction editor, the truth is often stranger and more interesting than fiction. I've edited travel books by a biker obsessed with Africa: experiencing his (sometimes scary and frequently funny) journeys on the page has been excellent. Last year, among other projects, I helped a professional photographer work on her first book about a pioneering Victorian lensman; coached a City banker to start writing; and edited a cookbook by the doyenne of Italian food writing, Anna Del Conte. It's been really exciting.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

I'm a big fan of best practice. Editors need to do things a certain way for sound reasons, so sometimes we have to guide our collaborators. Attempting to bypass tried-and-tested processes for expediency's sake can be counterproductive, costing time and money; it's usually better to get things right first time.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

That it's been this long – 26 years! But seriously, beyond a certain point you're able to pass on what you know and help others who are starting out. It's nice to be able to give something back.

What's the best career advice you've received?

The thought leader Nick Williams told me to put myself at the centre of my business. Being freelance can be challenging for all kinds of reasons. It's important to know your emotional (and financial) bottom line.

What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?

I've got plenty, so strap yourself in! Be willing to work under pressure and leave ego at the door: publishing is a team sport. Study the craft of writing – it'll make you a better editor and able to understand where authors are coming from. Develop a keen eye and be exacting. Consider deadlines a fact, because you'll be spending an awful lot of time meeting them!

Take courses from good, industry-accredited providers, and preferably get a job in-house, especially if you want to go freelance at some point. There's really no substitute for understanding the business, building contacts and accruing solid technical knowledge.

Do you ever stop editing?

Yes – it's a job, not a way of life, although encountering typos and obvious errors when reading for pleasure can be irksome. Put it this way: if I were maddened by every greengrocer's apostrophe or ungrammatical signage ('10 items or less' in supermarkets being a case in point), I'd have been carted away years ago!

Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing

I'm also a photographer and have exhibited my work, both solo and in collaborations with lovely artists and makers. When I'm not staring at my computer working on manuscripts, I'm usually out with my camera or staring at my computer, editing images!

The SfEP does not give any special endorsement to the members who appear in Meet our members. If you are looking for an editorial professional, we recommend you search the Directory of Editorial Services.