Amanda Anstee – Copyeditor and Proofreader

What is your specialism within book publishing? 

I am a copyeditor and proofreader, specialising in law.


Can you describe what you do in 10 words or fewer?

I check book manuscripts for errors and publisher style. 


What led you to go freelance? 

Freedom! I worked in a policy role at the Ministry of Justice until 2016. They offered a voluntary exit scheme and I took it, partly because changes to the working conditions and ethos there didn’t suit me, partly because my childcare arrangements had fallen through and I was struggling to find a replacement, and partly (and most importantly) because I was excited about and felt ready for a new challenge and I had reached a point in life where I had the self-confidence to go it alone. I undertook a fair bit of proofreading and editing work as part my policy job and always enjoyed that aspect, plus it was something colleagues often noted as a particular talent of mine, so it didn’t take much to decide on that route. On looking into it (particularly reading information on the SfEP website), I found that it was something I could realistically achieve on a freelance basis if I put my mind to it, while, from a practical perspective, the voluntary exit pay-off I received provided a financial cushion to spend time training and building up my business. I love the flexibility that comes from working freelance, both for balancing work with other activities and for choosing what work to take on.


Do you work primarily for publishing companies or independent authors or a mix? 

So far, almost exclusively for publishers, particularly OUP.


What’s the best part of doing what you do?

Knowing that I’ve made something better. 


What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started your freelance journey? 

Either I have a poor memory or I’ve been very fortunate, but I can’t think of anything that would have stood me in better stead by knowing it sooner – working out each issue and testing each blind alley has been a learning experience that I’ve benefited from in the long run so I wouldn’t want to take those away from myself. 


How many books are in your TBR (to be read) pile/list? And do you plan to read them all eventually? 

Ha ha. There are many books that I want to read or re-read. At the moment I don’t spend as much time reading (for pleasure) as I should so the list is getting ever longer, but I’m saving them up for the years ahead when the kids have flown the nest and I have more time to myself. 


Do you prefer physical books or ebooks?

Physical books; I don’t have an ebook reader. Mainly because my work has always meant that I spend most days working on a screen and I find the paper page more relaxing for my eyes. Also, I just enjoy the tactile nature of it and seeing the bookmark moving its way through. There is something very emotive about physically turning that last page – both mournful and triumphant.


Do you have any advice for anyone considering a career in publishing? 

For starting a freelance career, expect it to take time and effort, just as with starting any new business. I found (and still find) the SfEP invaluable in terms of training, guidance and general support – if you are interested in editing or proofreading, do consider joining.


What is your favourite children’s book and your favourite adult’s book? 

As a child at primary school I read Enid Blyton almost exclusively, from Noddy to the Faraway Tree to the Famous Five to Malory Towers; I couldn’t pick a single favourite but my favourite theme running through them was that anyone can make a positive difference in the world around them – I was very inspired by all these children righting the various wrongs that they came across, regardless of being in an apparently weaker position.


My favourite adult book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusac. Not an unusual choice, perhaps, given its focus on the power of words, especially written words. It wouldn’t be quite the same story if there had been only ebooks...

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