IPEd Editors Conference

The 10th IPEd Editors Conference will be in Hobart, Tasmania, Monday 28 June 2021 – Wednesday 30 June 2021.

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Editor Q&A with Philip Bryan AE

Philip is an editor and writer who has been self-employed for nearly 20 years. He works in almost every field: corporate, government and academic, plus all levels of educational publishing from primary to higher education. He also proofreads trade fiction. He was interviewed by EdVic Vice President Jane Fitzpatrick AE.

Q. How has your situation changed since the COVID-19 public health measures began?

A. No change. The jobs I’ve been booked for have not been cancelled at this stage, so I probably won’t know for a while if COVID-19 is going to impact on my work, or how. I did lose a major client in March, but I think that had more to do with the shrinking of state budgets than with COVID-19. 

Q. How has your month been?
Photo credit: Philip Bryan
A. It’s tailed off a bit. I’m finishing the third of four educational texts in a series. The client came to me and said, ‘We want you to edit our books. But not just edit them. We want you to do what you do to books.’ I was a bit puzzled. Eventually it turned out they wanted a plain English edit but didn’t know what it was called. Just my cup of tea!
I’ve also been working with a group of academics, helping them ready a book for publication. It’s been a very complex and satisfying project and it’s just about ready for submission. 

Q. What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

A. Freelance editing is erratic and it never stops being erratic. One year I had 12 months’ work booked up, so I coloured in all the cells on my Excel year planner and felt pretty smug … and none of it came off. The jobs slipped by increments – a fortnight here, five weeks there. The danger with incremental slips is that by the time you realise what’s happening it’s too late and any work you can find is several months away. 

Q. What do you love most about your work?

A. I love the ‘silk-purse’ aspect of editing: receiving a job that is confusing and messy then cutting away and refining until the writing is clear and simple. 

Q. How did you get here? 

A. I originally trained as a teacher, and taught English, history and PDHPE [personal development, health and physical education] for 10 years. I loved teaching and loved getting kids hooked on books. But I was put in excess and decided I’d transfer my love and knowledge of kids’ books into a publishing career. But it wasn’t that simple. I couldn’t get into the Grad Dip course at RMIT because I wasn’t working in publishing, and I couldn’t get into publishing because I had no experience. So, I set about getting skills that would get me into the Grad Dip. I learned to touch-type, I learned how to desktop using a primitive program called PageMaker, I reviewed books for Australian Book Review and Australian Bookseller and Publisher, and I volunteered in the publications section of Bicycle Victoria. Then I got into the Writing and Editing course at RMIT TAFE and was working full-time within a year. I worked for three different publishers over nine years before going freelance.

Q. What is your average weekly workload? Does it vary throughout the year? 

A. It varies all the time. There is no average week and I haven’t yet found a discernible pattern in my workload.

Q. If you are comfortable discussing salary, can you give an idea of the rate of pay for the kind of work you do? 

A. My hourly rates vary according to the client and the complexity and requirements of the job.

Q. If you didn’t have the job you are in now, what would you like to be doing?

A. Among all the editing projects, I’ve also written 15 nonfiction books for children. It would be great to have more time to spend writing.
 

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