Thursday, 25 April 2013

Lucy Serocold: Two weeks in Editorial

Hi, I’m Lucy, a Classics graduate from London. I’m hoping to get a job in publishing, so over the past two weeks the folk in Editorial have kindly allowed me to join them for proof-reading, researching and generally being helpful. I’m very much hoping they’ll let me come back again in the future (hint hint), which is why today I’ve been bribing them with pistachio & lime cupcakes…
(nb. the cupcakes were devine!)

I started off last week with a proof-reading test, using a list of the BSI marks to get familiar with them. This was pretty straightforward, but the second part of the test was much harder: a ‘style test’ to put the information from the test into a format suitable for 5-8 year olds. I found it surprisingly tricky to get the information across in a way they’d understand, as well as being engaging and fun. It’s quite a wide age range to bridge for reading level as well as level of understanding. All in all, a very useful insight into the writing side of the editor’s job, as Templar pride themselves on using their editors’ writing skills as well as honing others’ work. Katie’s example was much better than my attempt – practice obviously does make perfect!

Luckily, for most of the rest of my time I managed to stick to the editing side: I was given lots of proof-reading and tweaking text for books. Being a pedant, this was perfect as it’s the kind of thing I find weirdly enjoyable. One of my jobs was altering the text to make it suitable for different markets: I ‘Americanised’ (or should that be ‘AmericaniZed’?) Penguin in Peril, a gorgeous new picture book, which has recently come out in the UK. Highly recommended, and not just by me!

With Penguin being a picture book, there wasn’t too much to do to make it suitable for subway-riding, movie-watching Americans, but the following week I was presented with the daunting task of ‘Anglicising’ a whole YA novel! Thankfully a freelance proof-reader had already done the hard work of marking up the manuscript, but while putting her corrections into InDesign I discovered a fair few things which had been missed. This just proves that the more different pairs of eyes checking a book, the better. I’m pretty confident I got the majority of the changes such as ‘defense’, ‘-ize’ verbs and expressions like ‘in back’ (which to me just sounds ugly), and as a bonus, I got to read a cracking story as well.

My other major task was picture and sound research for various projects that are in the pipeline (the details of which are all under wraps for now: I even had to sign a confidentiality agreement!) Picture research and fact checking was fun, broadening my own knowledge of a huge range of topics. I particularly enjoyed the sound research, as I got to listen to all kinds of crazy wild animal noises while watching the work of the office going on round me – a great juxtaposition of worlds!

Another ongoing job for any intern is assessing the slush pile. It’s good fun as you get to see the range of writing that people consider publishable – some of it’s good, and some so bad it’s funny. Doing the rejections can be a bit sad, but enlivened by seeing how far some of the letters are going (people send stuff from Australia!), as well as making the discovery that ‘Universal Postal Union’ coupons don’t work at the post office any more. (Readers who are submitting work from abroad, take note!) Templar is usually quite strict about only sending letters to people who enclose a SAE, but we made exceptions for the UPU coupon people, since they really had tried to pay for the postage.

With the help of the lovely George (see his post below), I also categorised a large stock of books from the archive. These are all now sitting happily on some shelves outside the main studio, so that people can wander past and pick up a book for inspiration. It was fascinating to see the range that Templar publishes, as well as how some topics for children are timeless and keep coming up again and again. I also started a ‘reference’ section, with encyclopaedias and anthologies on topics ranging from Ancient Egypt and animals to pirates and poetry. We enjoyed displaying some of the books to attract attention, as well as assembling the concertina books to show off their structure.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed the past two weeks, and can’t believe how quickly the time’s gone by! I’ve loved getting to know everyone here and feeling like part of the team, and hope to return for another placement in the future…(I’ll bring more cake!)


  1. As I'm aiming for a career in children's publishing, this placement sounds right up my street! I'm looking to get an editorial placement after I graduate from university this summer and I'll definitely be first in line when a new internship opportunity comes up at Templar.

  2. I think you'll find that the cupcakes were 'divine'...
    I would love to earn a living as a belle lettrice. Sigh.