The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors has selected April Michelle Davis as its member of the month. Read the full interview below, or listen to the podcast on the NAIWE NewsWire.
Our Member of the Month for June is April Michelle Davis of Editorial Inspirations. April has recently celebrated her tenth year of editorial freelancing. She has a strategic approach to her career that any freelancer would benefit from studying. She shares many tips in this interview, and even more in the audio version that aired on The Freelance Life.
Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.
I have been a freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader for 10 years. I have a master’s degree in publishing from The George Washington University, a bachelor’s degree in English from Messiah College, a certificate in editing and a certificate in book publishing from the University of Virginia, and a certificate in professional editing from EEI Communications. My clients are both authors and publishers, and I work in a variety of genres.
Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?
I officially began my business in May 2001, but at that time I had little experience. I was literally working on books for food. I would edit books for authors, and they would buy me breakfast while we discussed ways to improve their manuscripts. From that, I worked in-house for a few years while obtaining my certificates and then my master’s degree. And at the same time, I worked to build my freelance business. In 2007, I had enough clients to quit my day job and freelance full time, and that is what I have been doing since.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?
To be successful at freelancing, I have had to learn to be very determined. I am a stubborn person, so this does come easier for me, but sometimes I just get tired and want to give up. However, after an hour of feeling that—not even an entire evening—I know that I can’t. I love what I do, and it is my passion.
When I teach high school students, I ask them what they love to do. After they respond, I ask them how they can do what they love and make money. I have always loved books, and I have found a way doing what I love while supporting my family. That is key to not having just a job. Editing, indexing, and proofreading is not a job or even a career for me—it is my life. I live and breathe it.
Q: Are you working on any special projects you’d like to tell us about?
I just finished up a year-long project revising a volume of ten books. During this past year, I edited the books, made corrections in InDesign, corrected any layout errors, input proofreader changes, indexed the books, laid out the indexes, and wrote and laid out a compilation index. This volume is in its seventh edition, and I worked on a few of the older editions as well, so it has been great seeing this volume progress through the years.
I have also begun teaching a lot more. I host Editing 101 and Editing 102 classes, which are specialized classes designed for those who are in the editing industry (or who want to become freelance editors). Editors who have been in the field for more than twenty years have told me that they are great refresher courses, and people thinking about entering the publishing industry have been able to make educated decisions about their future. More details about these classes are on my website.
Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?
Barbara Hart was my first editing teacher at the University of Virginia. She was very tough, and it was tougher for me because most of the students in my class were seasoned people in the publishing field, whereas I was just getting into it. I learned a lot from her, and I still have all of my class materials that I periodically review.
Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?
People don’t always want to be mentors, and even when people find mentors they don’t always know what to do with them. However, I found it greatly valuable to take many classes both related to my degrees and certificates and other classes not related to them. From those classes, I did more than just learn the content. I critiqued the professors. I examined their qualities to see if I wanted to pick up any of them. I examined the way they edited, managed their business, or marketed, and I decided whether I wanted that to become something that I do. Therefore, I recommend finding mentors in everyone—even those people who don’t want to be your mentor.
Also, the publishing industry is incredibly difficult to enter. You need to stay determined. You will fail multiple times; learn from these failures and continue your efforts.
Q: What inspires you?
I love when authors and publishers send me packages. I still get excited to see a package at my front door step. I grab it as soon as I see it and run to the kitchen to grab the razor blade. I have to open it right away. And there, sitting in that brown cardboard box is a beautiful, shiny, new book that I helped to create. In the foyer of my home, immediately outside my office, I have a bookshelf that everyone must pass when entering my home. This bookshelf is only for books that I have worked on. I don’t brag about them and show them to everyone, but if someone asks about those books, I light up and begin showing them my work. If someone asks what I have worked on, I take them to my special bookcase.
Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?
I have been a member only since the beginning of the year, so this is a difficult question to answer. However, I do have Google analytics on my website, and in those six months that I have been a member, several people have gone to my website from my NAIWE web page. I think that’s pretty good considering that I am still working on my NAIWE blog to get more content up on it. Also, when I Google my name, my NAIWE web page is listed six, bumping another April Davis to the second page and making a Google search for “April Michelle Davis” include on the first page nine of ten web pages about me.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Whether you are new to the publishing industry or have been in it for years, you can always learn new things and can grow professionally. Remember to stay current with the industry by taking classes and networking. With the publishing industry changing so rapidly with technology, those who don’t will be left behind.