Working for an Author Services Company

At the February Ottawa-Gatineau Speaker Night, Wayne Jones talked about the publishing industry and how it has evolved over the years due to technology. He talked about traditional publishing and self-publishing, noting the editor’s role in each. In traditional publishing, editors work with the publisher. In the self-publishing world, editors work with the writer.

Wayne then spoke of a third option for freelance editors: the many publishing businesses out there who offer full-service support to self-publishing authors. These businesses will, for a fee, guide the author through everything a manuscript needs in order to become a book, from manuscript evaluation to cover design and printing – or any subset. 

I’m on contract with one of those third-option companies. Freelancing for them has been positive, and I’d like to tell you about it. 

Doing the Work

The pros of working for an author services company: 

  • I address all my comments to the author, but I don’t correspond with the author directly. That task is done by the project manager. This saves me a lot of time in emails and phone calls. 
  • Freelance jobs appear on the company’s job board, and I take one if I want one. As soon as I click “accept,” it’s mine. I don’t have to bid for a job like I did when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to make Upwork work for me. 
  • I get lots of coaching and support. The communications platform the company uses is full of questions, answers, and advice. Editors are always encouraged to contact their project manager directly if they run into problems. 
  • Payment is sure and on time. Payment is per word; I know exactly what I’m being paid, and I’m always paid exactly that (plus HST).

There’s one con to working for this author services company, and you’ve probably already guessed what it is: low pay. It’s my only complaint. With this company, I make about a third of what I charge my own clients. 

But I’m a contractor and I do have options. I’ve learned that manuscripts over a certain size are too demoralizing to work on for the amount of time they take me compared to what I eventually get paid. So I take the smaller jobs and genuinely enjoy them. Presumably some of this company’s freelance contractors are just quicker or more satisfied with the return than I am. They can go ahead and take all the big jobs. 

Also, I only take jobs when I don’t have more pressing and better-paid work, which is how I ended up with the company in the first place. I was having a couple of slow freelance months, and this company’s job offer appeared on one of the many email job board notifications I’m signed up for. So I applied and was soon busy working on my first manuscript.

The interesting development that ensued was that I started doing substantive editing. I have gained confidence with this skill by working with this company. Up until then, I had been most comfortable with copy editing. But the company manager who took care of setting me up as a contractor said I had done well on the substantive portion of their test and encouraged me to take a substantive project off the board (it pays better, too). She reviewed my first project and gave me some advice. 

Working for this company helps me keep up my editing chops, which I really only just acquired in the last few years and could probably quickly lose if I wasn’t careful. 

Supporting the Stories

In his talk, Wayne Jones expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the rise of self-publishing and the fact that more people are now getting their stories out. I think that enthusiasm is well placed. I’ve gained a respect for the interesting stories individuals have to share and am aware of the importance of giving people any sort of encouragement to start sharing them. In Two Trees Make a Forest, author Jessica J. Lee talks about the autobiographical stories her grandfather tried to write during his decline into Alzheimer’s. Jessica and her mother found the stories after her grandmother died. Up until then, Jessica had concluded about her grandfather: “…his memories wasted.” The stories were incomplete and sometimes convoluted, but there was enough there to give Jessica a picture of her grandfather’s life. 

So anything that encourages people to write their stories, I’m all for. The author services companies themselves are enthusiastic about their role; it’s one of the first things I noticed about them when I started checking them out. Public-facing enthusiasm could be put down as just good marketing, but I’ve seen the same enthusiasm internally through the coaching I received on how to encourage the authors and also by the praise expressed by some of my fellow editors on the company’s communications platform. There, they talk about the books they edited; many of them love the books so much, they buy them. 

It happens to me, too. My husband was so intrigued by the first manuscript I edited (a memoir written by an inmate) that he bought the book as soon as it was available. And if I ever find myself in the right part of Canada, I might just track down the little church whose bicentennial history I edited and get myself a copy.

If all the author services companies are as enthusiastic as the one I work for, I think Wayne Jones has reason to be so optimistic. I’m glad to be involved in this kind of work. 

About the Author

Jean Rath is an Ottawa-based freelance copy editor who also works part time for the senate scoping debates and committee meetings. She has been a member of Editors Canada for ten years. She loves to spend her spare time reading, writing and going for walks or (seasonally) bike rides and canal skates. As part of her growing appreciation for the importance of telling stories, she is slowly working on writing her own stories, contenting herself with blogging for the moment at Living the Canada Life.

March Speaker Night: Editing Academic Research Grant Proposals with Letitia Henville

Written by Tom Vradenberg. Edited by Stephanie Mason.

Editing research grant proposals: it’s about as specific as it gets. Most editors, throughout their careers, specialize in subjects they gravitate to, with many pulled towards the more popular genres of scientific journals or poetry (amongst others). However, editing academic research grant proposals may be the niche of niches.

During our March Speaker Night, we were joined by Letitia Henville, of BC Branch, who primarily works with academics seeking research grants and secondarily works with artists seeking Canada Council grants. Among her many achievements, Letitia completed a PhD in English in 2015, a Claudette Upton Award in 2017, and a President’s Award for Volunteer Service. 

One of the first notes Letitia made was how, though one needs to learn about the most current events in specialized academic or artistic fields, it’s also essential to know about the vastly particular bureaucratic processes and how to help applicants through it. Further, the more specific the knowledge is, the farther it will go for the “stressed-out smartypants people” that need the help and, by proxy, make the work intellectually stimulating and rewarding. Letitia cited a recent project worth $27.8 million: “They’ll go to great lengths to make their proposal look shiny,” she said.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Letitia’s biggest piece of advice was to “get narrow, find your specialty subject.” She noted how, with progress, it’s common to work with the same academics repeatedly and get to know their field. However, it’s not just about learning their jargon; there needs to be a familiarity with the field to be able to identify any gaps in their grant applications. 

She then went on to detail the rules of the grant-application process, both the written and her own unwritten rules. They go as follows:

For the written rules: 

  1. Note when granting agencies publish their rules for applying. (For example, the three federal granting agencies publish a Guide on Financial Administration.)
  2. Read those rules carefully and read them for every new project, even if you think you’ve read them before. Granting organizations will change the rules and not flag the ones that are new or changed.
  3. Expect that clients won’t read them or keep updated. Reminding clients of the rules looks professional, but don’t charge for the time spent researching. 

The unwritten rules:

  1. Know that researchers should understand what their results will be before they propose the project. The work should not be too innovative, out there, or risky. 
  2. Try to anticipate who will be on the review panel before the client prepares their application. Each reviewer serves roughly three years on a committee, so it’s a fair bet most of the reviewers from the previous year will return. Google them, look up their research profile, and explain to the client how varied their research backgrounds are.
  3. Emphasize that even if the committee doesn’t completely match the research of the client, the multidisciplinary committee is worse as they are funded at lower rates. Instead, find the right singular disciplinary field. 

The last bits of information that Letitia offered were to do with the funding landscapes that she works with. There are different levels, and she noted that in Ontario, the Ontario Research Fund is not considered a major market considering editors most often get hired for lucrative, high-prestige projects, and this fund doesn’t have the money for them. 

She instead recommended the federal level grants where, essentially, all the funds are. The three agencies of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Social Sciences, and the Humanities Research Council all have multiple funding streams with lots happening in each one. She noted that even if there’s uncertainty about having the core scientific or technical knowledge, there are likely funding streams for projects in familiar fields. 

Letitia also noted some non-government funders both in Canada and out, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust in Europe, and the Max Bell Foundation in Canada. 

A highly educational and enjoyable night for all!

April Speaker Night: The Final Touch: Editing a Speech with Wendy Cherwinski

Speeches present editors with special challenges. After all, speeches are meant to be spoken and heard. And that makes them different from documents  written to be read silently on the page or screen. So, how can editors fine tune their skill set to add more value to the speechwriting process? Join us April 20 to find out from our guest Wendy Cherwinski, the spoken word strategist.  

Wendy will explain what editors can do to add polish and precision to speech drafts. In particular, she’ll cover how to write ‘out loud’, sharpen transitions, take the ‘numb’ out of numbers and heighten the impact of stories. As well, she’ll share the one thing every editor should do before passing a speech back to the speaker.

Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm EDT

Text that reads Boost your writing and presenting skills to new heights! A small rocket in flight appears at the end of the text.

If you’re planning on joining us for Speaker Night, let us know by emailing publicrelationsog@editors.ca with your name, your Editors Canada branch/twig, and the Speaker Night you intend to attend. You will receive the Zoom link via email in advance of the event.


Looking for more professional development opportunities? See what other seminars are coming up and register today, before it’s too late! Our online seminars are live events and will not be recorded as webinar courses.

February Speaker Night: Self-Publishing Night with Wayne Jones

On February 16, Wayne Jones joined us to discuss the processes involved in self-publishing. Along with going over the tasks involved in self-publishing, Wayne also discussed author services companies and their role in helping writers become self-published authors.

Wayne Jones goes over this topic in his podcast, Editing Writing, as episode 13: “self-publishing your book.” We encourage you to have a listen to learn more about self-publishing!

How to juggle non-editing roles as an editor

As a young editor in a small business, I take on a variety of tasks that certainly extend beyond editorial work. Designing, marketing, audio recording, editing an app… nothing is off-limits! At first, this was a challenge—and to be honest, there are still days where I wonder if I really know what I’m doing outside my field of expertise—but I’ve learned (more or less) how to juggle non-editing roles even as an editor.

Marketing and Social Media

For me, going from editing to creating was easy; I have always loved to write stories and poems, so adapting my skills to compose marketing materials was hardly a stretch. After all, the goal is pretty much the same: captivate the reader. It makes little difference whether that’s through a solid opening chapter, a clever slogan, or a hilarious tweet. Of course, there are some considerations in marketing that you don’t find in creative writing: word count limits; cost per click; buzzwords; discounts; engagement via replies, likes, follows… But being an editor generally means you know your way around words. With practice (and a heavy reliance on performance stats), you’ll likely find writing blurbs, ads, and social media posts to be right up your alley.

Design and Content Creation

The bigger challenge for me is learning design. There are college-level programs dedicated to this skill, but I have never attended so much as a single class (hence the difficulties). Before COVID-19 struck, I was beginning to use Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator to make posters and book layouts with the help of our ACTUAL QUALIFIED design guy. But then, pandemic! I work from home and have neither my guide nor those programs. Luckily, he found me a solution: Canva. This user-friendly design tool has templates, images, and features that allow almost anyone to create an aesthetically pleasing design, so long as they have a basic understanding of technology and colour. As a landscape painter and long-time greeting-card-sketcher, I have been able to fashion some pretty nice posters and social media posts. I’ll have to wait to get back to the office to keep learning the InDesign layouts, though.

Branching Out

My recommendation for an editor looking to expand their role is to use what you know. I draw a lot from my personal life, especially in the marketing area. A few examples:

  • Saw the movie Encanto on the weekend? Tweet about culture and diversity on the work Twitter.
  • Playing an app with in-game purchases of outfits for your avatar? Suggest that feature when your company is building a free reading app and wants to find a way to increase profits.
  • Celebrating Labour Day with a picnic? Snap a photo and post it on Instagram—yours and the work account. Followers love seeing more than just advertisements.
  • Local library having a writing contest? Host a similar contest at the publishing agency where you work. (Check out DC Canada’s One Story a Day Writing Contest for Canadian kids in grades 1 to 6. Submissions close March 31st at 12 p.m. EST!)

Again and again, I come across events, people, or ideas in my daily life that can be applied to the marketing field. It could be a meme, an ad, or a painting. It could be a quote or a you-might-like-this-Instagram-personality suggestion on my personal account. Regardless, we are exposed to marketing and design constantly, especially in the Internet age. And we are all consumers, so by adding your editing skills to your knowledge of what the public wants, you can take on more functions within your company.

Finding Balance

Finally, in terms of priorities, I try to work on a bit of everything each day. I usually start my morning by creating a quick social media design on Canva and posting it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes Pinterest. Then I do some editing, write a blog post or newsletter, look over new submissions, and edit something else. Maybe I’ll work on a podcast episode or translate some books to French. Maybe I’ll spend an hour Googling childhood education centres and send them some emails about relevant products. This way, it’s easier to stay focused, especially when working from home for over two years—flipping back and forth between fields helps me hone my craft (writing, editing) while still engaging with the public (social media, emails) and learning something new every day (design, apps).

Many jobs within the publishing field require you to have a way with words and another skill—graphic design, marketing, sales, etc. Strictly speaking, as an editor taking on non-editing tasks, you’re already halfway there.

About the Author

Kara Cybanski is a PhD student in Spanish at the University of Ottawa and an editor/social media manager at DC Canada Education Publishing. She intends to become a professor of World Literatures and Cultures specializing in women’s/LGBTQ+ literature in Spain. Kara loves cats, hamburgers, diverse stories, and learning new languages, and hopes to be a celebrated author and professor someday.

January Speaker Night: Educational Children’s Books with Kara Cybanski

Summary by Tom Vradenburg and Coryl Addy. Edited by Stephanie Mason

We editors like to think of ourselves as adaptable and curious about new subjects and other genres. However, our real professional lives often involve grinding through the same kinds of material day after day. 

Kara Cybanski gets to live our dream at DC Canada Education Publishing, a small firm based in — who knew — Ottawa.

On January 19, Kara joined us to discuss her many roles as an editor for children’s education. She discussed the multiple hats she wears and the facets of publishing she works on, including design, translation, content writing, and editing. As an editor for educational children’s books, she also ensures she has educational value in mind.

In any government department, specialized teams handle each of those roles. We’re told we should ‘collaborate’, but specialists are usually reluctant to step out of their lanes. 

DC Canada, like many small businesses, doesn’t do lanes. But it’s not a brand-new startup, either. Founded in 1999, its first title was an ESL book for Grades 1 to 12.

Kara highlighted the editorial process for DC Canada’s small team by noting that before reviewing submissions, searching for illustrators, and finally getting to designing and printing, the team ensures that their materials meet two criteria: 1) it’s a good book for children; and 2) it has educational value. Kara highlighted that a wide variety of materials can be considered “educational”, with recent release, Recess in the Dark, focusing on cultural education. 

Every new title goes through a similar submission process: three to five staff will read a manuscript and recommend accepting or rejecting it. As with all book publishers, marketability is a consideration, as well as whether it’s the right book for the company at the right time.

DC looks  for a balance of good storytelling and educational value, which may not always be apparent in the theme or subject of the book.

Recess in the Dark, for example, is about children going to school in the North; its title refers to winter school days of little or no sunlight. It does explain that dog teams are still used in the North because they’re more dependable than snowmobiles. But much of the text is poetry, and Recess in the Dark walks readers through the fundamentals of verse.

A notable asset of DC Canada is that it showcases educational materials in English, French and Chinese. The company began as a resource for teaching ESL learners and has since grown to include books, games, read-alongs, and a wide range of multimedia resources for children.

Kara also shared a few favourites she would recommend, including Our Farm in the City, which details the experimental farm in Ottawa to talk about science and nature, and One Story a Day, that illustrates a different topic for each day to stir a new conversation each day with your child (365 stories total!)

Kara’s  advice to children’s book authors was inspiring: “When you’re coming up with a concept for that children’s book, think about what’s unique about your book.” She went on further to say, “You have this responsibility to share important messages” about ideas like kindness, respect, immigration or historical events, for example. 

We ended our time with Kara by engaging in a short question and answer period, in which one of the interesting questions posed to her was, “Have you found guidelines or resources on ethics for children’s publishing?” They then noted that the issue they were pointing to is ‘massaging’ to ‘cover up the truth.’ Kara noted that it’s a fine line to tread, especially when introducing heavy topics, such as slavery, in an age-appropriate manner. She also noted that a story about a child with two mothers might not sell in countries that frown on homosexuality.

Overall, a wonderful and engaging night spent musing about the inner workings of an important piece of the publishing industry!

Speaker Nights: January, February, and March 2022

Welcome to a new year, everyone! We’re so excited to announce our next three Speaker Nights to kick off 2022.

On the third Wednesday of every month, we host a free Speaker Night to hear from a wide variety of hosts and to discuss topics related to editing, publishing, and more.

Speaker Nights are currently conducted through Zoom and are free of charge. Speaker Night runs from 6:30pm to 8:00pm EST.

January 19: Educational Children’s Books with Kara Cybanski

Join us for our first speaker night of 2022! To kick off the new year, we’ll be speaking with editor Kara Cybanski of DC Canada Education Publishing, a small innovative publisher of children’s books, games, and music in Ottawa.

February 16: Self-Publishing Night with Wayne Jones

Join us for an overview of the self-publishing process by Wayne Jones! The evening will include discussion of technology, editing, publicizing, and sales; so if you’re working with self-publishing authors or hope to self-publish your own book, don’t miss it.

March 16: Editing Academic Research Grant Proposals with Letitia Henville 

Join us for a conversation about editing research grant proposals led by Letitia Henville (she/her), an award-winning instructor and academic editor. Letitia will share some of her favourite tips and resources for editors looking to expand into this field. You can send questions ahead of time to Letitia on Twitter @shortishard or through her website at shortishard.com/contact.


If you’re planning on joining us for Speaker Night, let us know by emailing publicrelationsog@editors.ca with your name, your Editors Canada branch/twig, and the Speaker Night you intend to attend. You will receive the Zoom link via email in advance of the event.


Stay tuned for our upcoming seminars for 2022 as well! Our online seminars are live events and will not be recorded as webinar courses, so be on the lookout and register early for these opportunities for professional development.

Lending Library Pilot Launch

Members, we are excited to announce your branch Lending Library! You will discover a growing collection of editing-related books that you may check out online for pickup or delivery.

What’s in the library?

More than 50 printed books about publishing including style guides, reference works, writing memoirs, and graphic design titles. Donations to the collection are welcome. Please contact us here or by email if you have any works to contribute.

Who may borrow materials?

Only Editors Ottawa–Gatineau members may borrow books free of charge as a membership benefit.

How does it work?

Fill out the form in the Lending Library to select up to four books and a member of the branch executive will email you to make a borrowing plan. In the pilot stage, each loan will be handled on a case-by-case basis to ensure you have a suitable amount of time to access, read, and return your borrowed books.

Happy reading, editors!

Holiday Speaker Night: Book Conservation with Christine McNair

Updated January 13, 2022

Though we were once again unable to gather for a holiday party, this past November 17, we marked our holiday speaker night by deviating from discussing the written word in favour of learning about books as objects.

We were joined by Christine McNair of the Canadian Conservation Institute, who spoke on book conservation and the book as evidence and showed a myriad of photos from projects she’s worked on.

Book conservation is an interdisciplinary field that requires knowledge of materials, archaeology, history, preventative conservation, binding, and even ethics. Protecting the words on the page is as important as protecting the page itself as well as all evidence of a book’s history—from pricks and rulings, editor’s marks, marginalia, and previous conservation efforts.

Christine walked us through these basics of book conservation and then treated us to a case study on the Salzinnes Antiphonal.

An antiphonal is a liturgical book, and the Salzinnes Antiphonal comes from the Abbey of Salzinnes in present-day Belgium. It is one of only a few illuminated manuscripts in a Canadian collection and is unique for its illustrated portraits of nuns. You can imagine, then, why its conservation would be important.

Christine discussed the Canadian Conservation Institute’s work on this project, which included detailed analysis of everything from paper to pigments to binding, consultations about level of intervention, and finally the cleaning, repair, and conservation work itself. Christine’s presentation was accompanied by many photos of the book and its amazing illuminated interior as well as of the conservators at work.

Upon concluding this fascinating presentation, Christine graciously answered questions from our members. Several folks received tips for keeping their own books in good condition (keep those books away from moisture and harsh sunlight!) alongside the discussion of responsible conservation, history, and art.

We concluded the evening with a round of trivia in which our members tested their knowledge on conservation and medieval manuscripts. It was a lovely way to close out our 2021 programming!

For more information on conservation, visit the Canadian Conservation Institute website. To learn about the Salzinnes Antiphonal check out Centuries of Silence: The Discover of the Salzinnes Antiphonal or view images through the Almire Foundation database.


Looking for more professional development opportunities? See what other seminars are coming up and register today, before it’s too late! Our online seminars are live events and will not be recorded as webinar courses.