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Issue for May 2009

Books

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Reference books for editors and writers.

It is important for any publishing professional to have access to the right style, grammar, and writing guides. We have compiled a list of some of the most useful, comprehensive books out there for publishing professionals. Visit our Books page to see the complete list.

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Posted in Books (RSS), Copyright (RSS), Design (RSS), Editing (RSS), Freelancers (RSS), Grammar (RSS), Management (RSS), Technical (RSS), Writing (RSS)

Manage by Walking Around

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 2:28 PM

Checking in with your editorial staff regularly can help optimize workflow.

By Pat Brill

If you want a pulse on what is happening with your editorial staff, walk around, talk to them, and connect with each one. You don't need to speak to every person when you take a break and stroll around, but it's good to check in regularly with each person. To manage employees effectively, it's important to build relationships with them.

How Comfortable Are You?

When you first start walking around, you may feel uncomfortable with the process. That is the nature of doing something new -- not being sure how to do it. Your employees will probably react, wondering if you are looking for something wrong. Tell them that you need to get out of your own office more often in order to understand how the business is working and what you can do to help each member of your team. Depending on your environment, they may or may not trust your intention right away. That's okay -- as you practice this new behavior, they will grow to depend on your presence.

If you are the type to micromanage, this may be a challenge for you. You may be tempted to make corrections and be critical of an employee's performance. It's your job to set direction and provide a strong working environment for your employees. It's their job to handle the details and execute. You can take note and make corrections at another time...not at the walk-around time.

Walking around is finding the pulse of your team, what works and doesn't work, so that you can be present for your employees and your publication. Stay positive and don't expect results right away. Change takes time, but is definitely worth the 15-30 minutes of your time to walk around and talk with employees regularly.

Next Step

Decide to spend a specific amount of time on the floor walking around, talking, asking questions, listening, listening, and listening. Start with 15 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes at a time. You want your employees to know that this is important to you, and not just something nice to do.

Envision what you want to accomplish during your walk-around. Is it to watch your staff interact with their work and with each other? Do you want to see where there are problems in the processing of the work? What do you want to learn about your employees and the work environment?

In order to increase the effectiveness of your business, you need to understand where your employees are at. Set an intention to walk around regularly. Start small by picking one day each week and you will learn a lot about what is happening in your workplace.

What About a Virtual Employee?

If you are working in a virtual environment, how do you walk around there? Have a virtual walk-around: call people and set a timer for a five-minute "just checking in" chat. Let them know you are interested and that they are not in their own little silo, but rather an important part of the team. Make it important to meet face-to-face each quarter with virtual employees.

Pat Brill (SPHR) has over 10 years' experience in human resources and is the author of the blog "Managing Employees" at www.managingemployees.net.

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Posted in Management (RSS)

Can You Keep Your Freelancers Truly Yours?

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Establishing long-term, loyal relationships with freelance staff.

It can be unnerving to discover that a freelancer is working for a competitor, and even using the same byline in rival publications. Is it reasonable to expect total loyalty from freelancers? Can we, as editors, discourage or even forbid our freelancers from contributing to competitors? In this Q-and-A session, we address this sensitive issue.

Q. I have a problem with our writers' bylines appearing in our biggest competitors' pages! It seems like once we find new writers and spend time breaking them in -- a competitor tries to snatch them up. This has been going on for a long time, even before I was hired. Now, when writers ask me whether I mind if they write for the competition, I have to be honest. I tell them I'd prefer they didn't. But it doesn't seem fair to discourage new authors like this when some of our freelancers just go ahead and do it anyway. I realize they're trying to make a living and they need to write for any publication that accepts their work. Nonetheless, it also doesn't seem fair that these authors do just go ahead and do it. What's an editor to do? Indeed, what is proper to do? It is hard to find new writers; it takes time to develop good ones; and, I hate to lose them. What am I justified in doing about this? Should I stop using those writers whose names also appear in the competing magazines?

A. Well, you've outlined some dilemmas that many other editors also face when dealing with outside writers. What are the rules regarding exclusivity? There are no hard and fast rules. In fact, it makes good sense to approach the various circumstances in ways appropriate to each case or category. For instance, if you were to be offered a really great article by, say, President Obama, you wouldn't ask that he agree not to write for any other magazines, would you? Of course not. Exclusivity certainly can be desirable. But there are times when either the stature of the writer, or the uniqueness of the content, outweighs exclusivity.

That's not to say you would want the same article to appear in a competing publication. But this comes down to the question of what rights you are buying from the writer. This should all be spelled out in your written agreement with the writer. Requiring an exclusive in your field for a particular article is certainly a reasonable position -- even if you're negotiating with the President!

But, I think you're most concerned over a different circumstance. That is when you find a diamond-in-the-rough writer. Maybe he or she is a reader of your publication who has some excellent information to share with other readers -- but lacks the experience with which to produce excellence in his or her journalistic approach. So you heavily edit the article, maybe even rewrite parts of it. And, voila, the article becomes a smashing success. The new writer learns from your editorial handling of his or her copy, and writes additional pieces for you, each becoming more and more refined. Soon your diamond-in-the-rough writer is looking like a polished gem -- an obvious target for an author-recruiting competitor.

Whether it's a case like this, or just an established writer you'd prefer to have on an exclusive basis, here are three approaches you might try:

1. Offer the writer more money. Explain that you value his or her association with your magazine, and that to assure it on an exclusive basis in the field in which you publish, you wish to offer an additional dollar amount per article.

2. Offer the writer a contract as a regular contributor. Put his or her name on the masthead. Agree to a specified number of articles per year. Make exclusivity a part of the deal.

3. Recognize that man (or woman) does not live by bread alone. Encourage a cordial and friendly relationship with the writer. Be sure to show your genuine appreciation for the work he or she does. Be open to article ideas from the writer, and follow them whenever it makes sense to do so, even if they wander slightly from your personal preferences from time to time.

If the writer feels that he or she enjoys a special relationship with your publication, one that adds enjoyment to the work, your request for exclusivity may cost nothing more.

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Posted in Freelancers (RSS), Management (RSS)

How to Hire an Online Editor

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 2:21 PM

What to look for in a potential online, blog, or Web content editor.

As more and more publishers take their content online, the need may arise within your publication for an online (Web content) or blog editor. Because the online editor is among the newest arrivals to the editorial arena, you may be uncertain what to look for in a potential candidate. Here are some criteria to consider when looking at potential online editor candidates:

--Blog experience. Seek individuals who have experience writing, posting, formatting, designing, and promoting blogs. It is useful to find someone who has experience with blog software and HTML.

--Search engine optimization (SEO) knowledge. Candidates with SEO experience will understand how to generate keyword-rich copy and meta tags that will be picked up by search engines and result in a high search ranking.

--Internet marketing experience. Online editors often assume marketing responsibilities, promoting Web content and products via SEO, social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and social bookmarking (Propeller, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, etc.).

--Proficiency in applicable software and programming. Depending on your publication's specific protocol, you may need someone versed in Microsoft Office, Quark, Adobe, Dreamweaver, content management systems (CMSs), Java, Flash, XML, etc.

--Last, but certainly not least: writing, editing, organization, and communication skills.

Despite this intensive list of criteria, you will find no dearth of qualified candidates for your online editor position. Most college marketing curricula now include SEO and e-marketing. Moreover, because social networking is so widespread, with Facebook claiming over 150 million global users, you will be hard-pressed to find a candidate who isn't versed in at least some of the aforementioned social marketing tools.

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Posted in Editing (RSS), Management (RSS), Technical (RSS)

Q&A: Satisfying Readers

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 2:09 PM

Q: I must be missing the mark regarding content. Somehow, readers are not connecting with our articles. I do a readership survey every other year, and I try to provide the kinds of articles that readers say they want. But, our renewal rate is dropping. Something is amiss. How can I do a better job of satisfying reader interests?

A: A declining renewal rate is a pretty sure sign that your content needs some adjustment. It's good that you are surveying. But that doesn't always provide a complete answer. There are other factors to consider.

First, read over the marketing materials that are being used to promote subscriptions. Is your marketing department correctly promoting the content that you have? One way to guarantee reader disappointment is to represent your publication as something that it is not.

If you find there is a disparity between what marketing is offering and what you are fulfilling, there are two possible remedial courses: (1) Marketing could simply do a more accurate job of representing your content. Or, (2) you could adjust your content to meet the promises being made in the marketing materials.

Don't be too quick to blame the problem on the marketing department. They may be on to something in how they are portraying your content, in terms of identifying a valuable market niche. If so, you should take a look at adjusting your content accordingly.

Ask the Right Questions

You should also reevaluate the kind of readership survey you are conducting. If, as you say, you are really asking readers what kinds of articles they want in the future, you should change that approach.

On a survey, it is better to ask readers to react to content, not to offer advice for future content. Doing the latter is in effect asking them to act like an editor, not as a reader. Most readers are not skilled in doing that. The response you'll get will be hypothetical. Often readers do a poor job at forecasting the kind of article offerings that will ultimately satisfy them. That's why it's usually better to go after reaction to what they've seen.

Survey Future Readers

Your understanding of what pleases readers should not be limited to your current crop of readers. Even the healthiest of publications can have a non-renewal rate of 20 percent or more. That means your content must satisfy not only the existing readers, but future readers, as well. Some of them will be joining your readership all through the year. You'll need to know what interests them, too.

Thus, consider also surveying future readers. You can do that by sending questionnaires to samples drawn from the kinds of lists that your marketing department uses in promoting subscriptions.

Provide questionnaire recipients with a list of topics and themes that have appeared in your publication during the past year. Add others that may be found only in competing publications. Ask the survey recipients to "check the topics on which you have read at least one article in the past 3 months." Then, you might ask them to choose from their picks which topic is of greatest and least interest. The results from this kind of survey will give you not only a list of hot topics, but also a means for establishing a ranking within the list.

Editorial Vision

Finally, however, in mapping out your content, don't ignore your own sense of editorial vision. An editor should not blindly respond to data from reader surveys. That's not to suggest that you should impose your personal interests upon your readers, despite their own.

But, an editor typically enjoys a privileged position with regard to the field being covered in a publication. You've got information coming across your desk from diverse sources. Some editors fancy themselves as the nerve center of their field. Use that position -- and the sense of editorial vision that comes from it -- to provide leadership for your readers. You can open whole new worlds to them!

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Posted in Surveys (RSS)

How Do You Spell That?

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Ten words you may be spelling incorrectly.

Because the English language is so highly irregular, even the most astute grammarian can misspell the occasional word. Lucky for us editors, YourDictionary.com has compiled a list of the 250 most commonly misspelled words, as well as a guide to the 100 most mispronounced words. We have drawn from their list to present to you ten words you may not know you have been misspelling.

1. Bellwether (not "bellweather")
2. Affidavit (not "affidavid")
3. Tenterhooks (not "tenderhooks")
4. Flotation (not "floatation")
5. Plenitude (not "plentitude")
6. Memento (not "momento")
7. Diphtheria (not "diptheria")
8. Liquefy (not "liquify")
9. Sacrilegious (not "sacreligious")
10. Cantaloupe (not "cantelope")

The website offers some catchy mnemonic devices and witty words of wisdom to help you remember the correct spellings. We have included some of the more obscure entries; however, the website also contains dozens of common words that may elude even the most astute red pen. The site also has a list of the 100 most mispronounced words in the English language.

As experencied as we are, it never hurts to brush up on these basics. Even the most attentive editor is likely to have forgotten a word or two on this list.

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Posted in Editing (RSS), Grammar (RSS), Writing (RSS)

Blogging Tips for Editors

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Four ways to reach your readers in the blogosphere.

Exactly how can a blog help your publication? The answer: blogging establishes a relationship between editors and readers. Here are some quick tips to help launch a successful, widely read blog:

1. Write with your readership in mind. Don't talk down to them, but don't lose them in convoluted language, either.

2. Incorporate multimedia (e.g., podcasts, videos, Java, Flash, etc.) into your posts to provide a more stimulating experience. This will bring people back to your blog.

3. Blog regularly. Whether you decide to update on a weekly or monthly basis, readers should know roughly when to expect new content from you.

4. Don't blog and run. Remember, you are trying to build a relationship with your audience; therefore, you must do more than simply post interesting articles. Interact with your readers via blog comments.

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Posted in Editing (RSS), Technical (RSS)

Be a Reporter

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 1:54 PM

Breathe life and reality into your writing by reporting with these 4 tips.

By Melinda Copp

When most people think of a reporter, they think about journalists on TV or at a newspaper. However, when as an editor you find yourself preparing your own article for publication, putting on a reporter's hat can often help you to add an interesting dimension to your article. Reporting involves going out and observing the real world, interviewing real people, and researching real places. And regardless of what kind of article you'll ultimately be writing, reporting can make your writing more personal and realistic.

Fellow writers in many different roles benefit from that reporter's hat. Nonfiction book writers use reporting to gather information and anecdotes for their work, and fiction writers use it to render realistic worlds on the page. For example, if a novel's main character is a teacher, you might interview a teacher or two about what their day is like, how the school system works, and how they handle their students. They can even gather real-life scenarios to fictionalize in your story.

Although all writers can use reporting, not all writers have worked on honing their skills as a reporter. But it's not hard to learn how to get the information you need from interviews and work in the field, and the following tips will get you started.

Tip 1

Take good notes. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's so important that it needs to be mentioned. You can record sound, but you should also write down everything you can. If you're interviewing and you miss something, ask the person to repeat what they said. And if you're in the field, don't forget to note your surroundings -- the weather, the landscape, the office d├ęcor -- wherever you are, write about what that place looks like in your notes. Keep in mind that if you don't get it the first time, you might have to go back.

Tip 2

Step outside your comfort zone. No one likes picking up the phone or, worse yet, approaching people in person for an interview. It's uncomfortable for even experienced reporters because it requires stepping out of your comfort zone. But oftentimes, that's what it takes to get the best information and ultimately the best story. And once you overcome your own hesitation, you will likely find that people will go out of their way to be helpful to you. One of my mentors (a very experienced reporter) recently told me that whenever I experience this hesitation and feel like running away from an interview, I need to do the opposite because an unwillingness to step outside your comfort zone will show in your work.

Tip 3

Go in without assumptions. Reporting is about understanding -- understanding another person's perspective, situation, and experiences. And if you go into an interview with assumptions about the person you're talking to, the subject, or anything else about the situation, you automatically close yourself off to the depth of understanding you would have otherwise. You may even offend your interview subject, which will close that person off to you. So keep an open mind, seek to understand, and leave your assumptions at home.

Tip 4

Let curiosity lead you. Reporters are innately curious, and the best ones let their curiosity lead them to the good stuff. Talk to everyone, go everywhere, use every opportunity that comes your way to find out more. Reporting means finding out as much as you can about a topic, whether or not you use all the material you get. So sit and talk, explore, and see what else you can find. Many times you will find the best material in the most unexpected places.

Reporting is a skill that every editor should master and practice. When you use these four tips for reporting, you can add depth, reality, and personality to your research and articles.

Melinda Copp is a writing coach, ghostwriter, and book editor who specializes in helping authors reach their writing goals. Visit her website at www. finallywriteabook.com where she offers a free special report.

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Posted in Writing (RSS)

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