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Book editors chart path to proficiency, professionalism

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Ojogwu

The Society for Book and Magazine Editors of Nigeria (SBMEN),on Thursday, December 12, 2019, organised a Town Hall Meeting to chart a way forward for stakeholders in the book business. It was the first community event organised by the organisation.

It had editors from the book publishing industry and freelancers in attendance, with the aim to discuss how to help participants improve on their professional career. The programme kicked off with the Executive Director, Anwuli Ojogwu, highlighting what SBMEN stood for as an educational and professional organisation that brings editors together to standardise the editorial process with a support system like training and resources to increase their proficiency. Ojogwu explained the importance of having a good foundation in the beginning of an editing career just like she received when she graduated from the university and joined a publishing house.

The first item discussed was how to establish whether the concept of training is an outdated model when there are tools online to guide self-education.

An editor at Learnrite International, Mr. Olayinka Ambali, opined that training could never be outdated. Another attendee, Ayebabeledaipre Sokari buttressed his point by stating that learning is easier when one is in the midst of others while a successful freelance editor and founder of BDM Editorial Services, Mrs. Adebukola Bassey, stated that the inclusion of online training would be beneficial to editors who preferred that platform, saying it would augment holding physical trainings.

The cost of training with the society also came up and Ojogwu assured that the cost of SBMEN trainings was low compared to international societies that offered the same services, noting that there was need to ensure that the price is right to attract more editors to take advantage of such trainings. She conducted a poll to seek the contributions of the attendees and what they would pay for training that SBMEN offered.

The discussion later extended to the structure of the programme, and its effectiveness for editors to absorb the lessons and how to apply them in actual practice. She noted that the trainings are currently held on a two-day weekend in every quarter for a 14-hour period. One of the co-founders of SBMEN, Jite Efemuaye, stated that the organisation’s trainings could make participants put in more effort and learn more within a limited time. However, she also suggested adopting a different model that would involve expanding the training to hold four times a quarter only on Saturdays. Therefore, the workshops will hold four times in a quarter rather than two. It was agreed that changing the model to allow for more room to learn would also impact the ability of participants to practice what they had learnt. Ojogwu endorsed the idea as a good one, noting that it might impact the cost of the programme and make it more expensive.

From the structure of the programme, the discussion moved to the gaps the editors usually have in their professional development and what they would like SBMEN to cover in its courses for 2020 to help them refocus their craft. Mr. Ambali expressed the desire to learn how to use editing tools and software to expand his training. He asked that a course be dedicated to that process while another attendee and an editor at Farafina Publishers, Mr. Kelechi Njoku, said that he would like to improve his knowledge of administrative duties as an editor and the paperwork involved to increase efficiency. According to him, this would complement his strength in client management and copyediting. He also noted that he would like courses that teach about client relationship management, building confidence as an editor, and drafting contracts, among others.

Also a secondary school literature teacher, Mr. Paul Amadi, who has a flair for editing, stated that his strength is in proofreading, but added that he would like more courses on standalone copyediting and developmental editing. A freelancer and content developer, Miss Oriyomi Adebare, said her strength is in proofreading, but would like to learn copyediting and developmental editing. Mrs. Adebukola Bassey has gaps in administrative relations and client management, but stated that her strength is in developmental editing. Efemuaye noted that it was important for editors to realise where their strengths lie and focus on it, so that they do not have to wear plenty hats at once. Ojogwu also stated that the environment does not permit for specialisation, as was the case overseas. She noted that everyone had to learn a bit of everything, but stressed how important it was for editors to find out what part of editing they enjoy most and could thrive on. She also said the quickest way to learn to be an editor was by reading.

More attendees gave feedback regarding the editing process and what it entails. Mr. Tom Okpo said his strength lay in copyediting and proofreading, but noted that he would like to learn developmental editing. A freelancer, Esther Okoloeze, said she was good at creative writing and copyediting, but would like to learn more about developmental editing and proofreading. An editor at Parressia Publishers, Mr. Femi Ayodele, said he does well in developmental editing while another editor and founder of Purple Shelves publishing firm, Amara Chimeka, said her strength is in all aspects of editing. She also stressed the importance of training for every would-be editor. On the issue of rates for editors, Chimeka advocated standard rates for every type of job and that editors should be acknowledged in the books they worked on for recognition.

The meeting ended with general questions and answers from the editors about client relationship management, saving money, running a freelance business, making profit, time management, and pricing, to being confident, firm and polite in taking decisions on how to rework a manuscript when a client is being stubborn.

From the enlightening discussions, the society resolved to do the following: Review the fees for attending courses to help SBMEN to be sustainable, review the model for course delivery, expand the courses with new subjects, and extend the duration of the workshops to help editors practice what they learn such as copyediting, developmental courses, business management courses, review the options to introduce other formats for training such as online courses to expand participation, and review methods to invest in editors’ personal development to aid their professional work.


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