Taking the Plunge: Running an Editing Business


Taking the Plunge: Running an Editing Business

Last Wednesday I said my goodbyes as senior editor at Recorded Books and embarked on a new life running an editing business.

Even after fourteen years with a company I love . . .

Even after forming personal and professional relationships I hope will continue indefinitely . . .

Even after spending nearly a third of my life as a Recorded Books employee . . .

Even after all that, those first steps into my new endeavor felt . . .


Me earlier this summer, jumping right in

What I Accomplished

I’m happy with my time at Recorded Books and happy to have left on my terms, with no regrets. The company sells mostly to libraries, and I’ve always felt that my late grandmother, a fixture in her local library, would have been proud of me for serving that market.

The sun has set on my time at Recorded Books

Of all the projects I tackled while working for the world’s premier audiobook company, these are a few of my favorites:

  • Shepherding large-print books from art acquisition to typesetting to cover creation to proofreading and printing.
  • Editing the guidebooks that accompanied the Modern Scholar series of university lectures.
  • Proofing A Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book.
  • Writing jacket copy for hundreds and hundreds of audiobook covers.
  • Crafting catalog copy (the ability to write in small spaces is a useful tool!).
  • Creating text for marketing materials, press releases, and web pages.
  • Writing and editing materials for children’s reading programs.

Then there was the day I picked up the phone and found film producer Robert Evans (Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Chinatown) on the other end. We were publishing his autobiography (The Kid Stays in the Picture) and he wanted extra copies of the large-print edition.

So that’s how I found myself having a nice chat with one of Hollywood’s most legendary figures.

Pretty cool.

Running a Business v. Freelancing Full-Time

Notice above that I said “running an editing business” rather than “freelancing full-time,” a thought voiced just this past weekend by respected editor Dick Margulis (of Dick Margulis Creative Services) at Communication Central’s Be a Better Freelancer conference.

Despite freelancer being in the name of the conference, the thought is that freelancer evokes someone dabbling in the work, perhaps on weekends, while a person running a business is fully invested and wholly dedicated to the craft.

The terminology sends a message to clients, and, perhaps equally as important, it sends a message to the business owners themselves and sets the tone for how they project themselves to the world.

And, yes, I left my in-office gig on Wednesday, traveled Thursday, and attended the conference on Friday and Saturday. The conference came at an opportune time, to be sure!

The conference was everything I hoped it would be: packed with helpful new tricks for marketing yourself, mastering Word, editing proposals, writing contracts, and assembling epubs. I would highly recommend it, and Ruth E. “I can write about anything!” Thaler-Carter did a hell of a job organizing the event.

Bonus: I also stopped by Niagara Falls before heading home to begin my new life. Spectacular.

Three Reasons I Started My Own Business

Lists of reasons to go it on your own (or not) are everywhere, but here are my big three:

My Work
I can’t complain about the experience I gained in the office, and I enjoyed working on such a wide variety of projects, but at some point I felt the need to go after my own work. I love to edit, and I love horror fiction, and more than anything I hunger to pore over horror and dark fiction manuscripts. I also enjoy literary fiction, other genres, and even corporate work, but horror has been my jam since I first encountered Stephen King and Clive Barker thirty-some years ago.

My Schedule
For personal reasons, I’m going to be splitting time between Maryland and Dallas, not an easy thing when you need to be in the office five days a week. I also crave the thrill of waking up every day and thinking, “What do I need to do?” Balancing the work itself with marketing and accounting and all other aspects of the business can be overwhelming, but what a charge!

My Life
Running my own business has always been a dream, and I’m going for it, aiming to accomplish my editing goals, my writing goals, my life goals. At twenty, my son is now older than my sister was when she died. At forty-six, I’m now older than my mother was when she died. So I’m not convinced there’s a safe path through this life. Risks abound, but so do the rewards.

Three Lessons I’ve Learned from the Experience

As much information is out there on starting your business as there are reasons for doing so, but these are three lessons I found especially helpful:

Lay the Groundwork
I’ve done freelance work with my company for quite a while, so that was a tremendous help when making the jump. But with a full-time gig, not to mention two children, the time for that work was limited. Still, getting comfortable carrying out freelance work greases the skids, as does having at least a few clients who can help pay the bills while you establish yourself.

Being as involved as possible in the greater editing community is also reassuring. A host of good editors are available to follow on social media, and joining the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) and the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), as well as attending ACES and other conventions, helps place you in that community.

Exit Gracefully
This was an easy one. People often cite office politics as one of the main reasons for going it on their own, but I genuinely liked and respected my coworkers. Those politics did exist on some level, but I was able to form cherished, lasting relationships. So no burned bridges, and as paths continue to cross, my former office mates and I can continue to help each other in any number of ways.

Manage Expectations
We all want to take the world by storm, but this rarely happens overnight. Running my own business is likely to put me in feast-and-famine cycles. I hope there’s always plenty of work to keep my business humming, but if not, there are a million things I can do to market myself, learn new skills, or interact with and help colleagues.

Parting Thought

Before I left the office for the last time, the director of the publications department (a great friend) gave me this card, along with a touching message inside. I think this says it all.

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