Liz Jones

Liz Jones

Liz Jones

Advanced Professional Member

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

My degree is in architectural studies, but after working for an architect for a year in Kuala Lumpur I decided to follow my love of books and start a career in publishing instead. Initially I wanted to write, but needed to get a 'proper' job with a salary, so chose editorial. I started as an editorial assistant for a children's book packager. That was 1998; I've worked in publishing ever since. I went freelance in 2008, having worked my way up to senior editor level via four different publishers (children's, educational, and adult trade). I've worked full-time as a freelance editor since then. Most of my work now is copy-editing or proofreading trade non-fiction and educational resources.

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

Most of my training has been on the job, though one of my previous employers, Usborne, sent me on a three-day PTC copy-editing course, which was great. Another employer gave me training in InDesign, which I used a lot when I worked in-house, and have continued to use as a freelance. Since starting my freelance business I have continued to train in proofreading and editing via the SfEP, and now attend the SfEP conference every year. I work as a mentor for the SfEP, which means that I train others in proofreading and copy-editing, but it also helps keep my skills up to date.

What work are you most proud of?

Anything where the author or the client is happy, especially if they tell me so! I like being part of a team that makes something the best it can be. 

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

Go for a walk (usually to pick the children up from school). Sleep on it. Work on something else for a while. Moan about it to my long-suffering husband (aka the IT department). 

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

It means I have a network of friends and colleagues, and it broadens my editorial horizons. I learn all sorts of things that otherwise I might not have realised I needed to know. Being an advanced member also helps to demonstrate my professionalism to prospective clients. I served as a director of the SfEP for two and a half years (until 2015), and this was a great way to feel fully engaged with the Society, and give something back. 

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

I like a good copy-edit, and I also like development editing. Solving problems, and finding ways to make material fit a format are challenges I enjoy. Another thing I love is working with a really well-written manuscript that only needs minimal intervention to make it sparkle … but that little bit of carefully judged editing can make all the difference, and it's great when the author appreciates this, and sees that you have properly respected their work, yet helped to make it sing.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

No. I try to keep an open mind, and also to cultivate clients who don't send me things that are going to drive me bonkers.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

How it has continued to thrive and develop since I turned freelance, and that it continues to take me in directions I can't always predict. I've also enjoyed learning to be a mentor. 

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

Get an accountant. 

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

Don't necessarily do what I did, and quit a perfectly good steady job quite suddenly, with no savings and no supportive partner (at the time), in order to go freelance. I managed OK, and I think needing to earn enough to live on from the outset (and this hasn't changed) motivated me to keep going, but it was a big risk. It might be more sensible to have a bit of a savings cushion before taking the plunge. Also, train as much as you can, and be prepared for it to take years to become good – editing is hard, and there's a lot to learn. When looking for work, have some focus. Oh, and read, read and read some more, all the time. Read all sorts of things, but especially related to the areas you hope to work in. I believe that reading is what makes you a good editor; all the courses in the world will only get you so far.

Do you ever stop editing?

Yes. Otherwise I would find it hard to read for pleasure. I think it's healthy to switch off sometimes.

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

I'm writing a novel. And I look forward with some trepidation to one day having it edited!

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.