Having worked in-house at Hodder & Stoughton (fiction), Little, Brown (illustrated) and A & C Black (sports), Rachel Malig made the move to become a freelance editor in 1998 and now works with numerous publishers on every type of book imaginable. Offering proofreading, copyediting, project management or in-house support, Rachel works primarily from her home in Cambridge.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in publishing, and in the editorial department specifically?
I initially wanted to work in magazine publishing as a writer and studied periodical journalism at the London College of Printing (as it was known back then). Upon leaving, I landed a job as an editorial assistant at Hodder & Stoughton and quickly realised I preferred the longer process of book publishing to the more frenetic pace of journalism. I also realised that while I loved writing, I was a much better editor, working behind the scenes with writers way better than me! I love the editorial process of starting with an unedited manuscript, and helping the author to shape it, suggest ways of looking at it differently, then editing it, polishing it, and ending up with a finished product that everyone is delighted with. It’s a great process, full of ups and downs; sometimes problems seem insurmountable, but finding a solution, the right word or image perhaps, is a great feeling.
How does working as a freelance editor compare to your previous in-house work?
It’s been a long time since I worked in-house permanently, though I do the odd freelance stint in-house when needed. I love the freedom of being freelance, having more control over which projects I work on, planning my own time, and being able to fit my hours around family commitments. Initially I thought I would be distracted working from home, that I may not have the discipline to get on with the work, but I actually work much longer hours than I used to in-house, as the buck stops with you and you really need to deliver.
What does an average day as a freelance editor look like?
That depends on how much work I have on! I have been very lucky since I started freelancing that I have always been busy, but sometimes this can mean very long days. I often start work early, before anyone is up, to get a couple of quiet hours in, or work late into the night. There’s no typical day, really, which is why I enjoy it so much – one day I might be at my desk for hours, lost in the story of a fiction copy-edit; the next I’m liaising with a designer about images for an illustrated project; or on the phone to an author working through edits; or proofreading a cookery book. I’m often juggling two or three projects at a time, so I have to plan my time carefully and make sure everything is kept on track.
What has been your favourite project to date?
It’s hard to pick a favourite project – I have worked on some wonderful books and with some wonderful authors! I think my favourite projects are those where I’m working as part of a team. So, where I’m involved directly with the author and the designer, go along to the photo shoots, meetings in-house etc. Much of my work consists of one-off edits or proofreads, where the only contact with an in-house editor is via email, so it’s great to work directly with a team of people to bring a project together.
Tell us about your creative process – what is the first thing you do when you start a new project?
Every project is different, so it’s really just familiarising myself with the project, with the different publishers’ methods of working, and particularly with how much work is required. Projects vary so much – some just need a really light touch, while others need a huge amount of input, so it’s good to be aware from the start just what shape the work is in. Other than that, it’s just about immersing yourself in each piece of work, so you really understand the author’s ideas and intentions, and are then able to comment and add to the work constructively.