Every year, through our Print Futures Awards, we give talented young people grants of up to £1500 to go towards their career development. This year we had 44 very deserving winners with promising careers in the print, publishing, paper, packaging and graphic arts sectors.

Bryony Leah, freelance editor and writer, offers affordable book editing services to self-publishing authors, and won in our specialist skills category. She spoke to us about her career and what she plans to do with her award.

How did you get into the industry?

I began proofreading and copyediting training while working in public libraries, and I eventually took on a role working remotely as Editorial Coordinator for a digital publisher. From there, I began to accept freelance clients  and slowly built up enough of a client base to transition to full-time freelance editing.

What appealed to you about the industry you are in?

I’ve always been a bookworm and grew up writing stories of my own, so I knew pretty early on that working with words was what I wanted to do. Freelance editing appealed to me because of the ability to work hands-on with some amazing manuscripts before they’re turned into books. There’s the flexibility to work remotely (i.e. not out of Central London!) and to make some really awesome connections with like minded authors. It’s also pretty great having a reason to get lost inside fictional worlds all day!

What does your role involve?

Authors or publishers will send me manuscripts, and I’ll first check spelling, punctuation, and grammar, before editing the text according to much more in-depth style guides. I’ll often leave comments and feedback on the story itself, offering suggestions on areas that could be improved, and then I’ll work closely with the author to advise on these changes and help to edit those as well. There’s also a lot of coffee, emails, and admin involved, but most of my day is spent flicking between dictionaries and thesauruses, style guides and reference books, and (of course…) becoming emotionally invested in fictional characters. I love it!

What is your award going to allow you to do?

I’ve wanted to train in Adobe InDesign since I entered the industry, but it’s always been such a huge expense that I’ve never been able to afford it alone. The award will allow me to attend a 4-day masterclass to learn the software, and once I’m clued up on how to use it, I’m planning to create additional resources to help aspiring and self-publishing authors to self-edit their manuscripts. The fund will also allow me to complete some more of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s training courses.

What has surprised you most about the industry you work in?

As I deal with primarily self-publishing/indie authors, I’ve been so impressed with the enormous audience of readers who support the indie author community. There’s countless different subgenres of fiction that are thriving independently but just don’t seem to exist in traditional publishing (at least not on the same scale). 

What would you advise other young people looking to get into the same sector?

It’s so important to be passionate about the work you’re doing, especially if you’re interacting directly with authors. You really need to understand the genres or subjects you’re editing and know where to fact-check the information you’re not so sure on too (and there will be lots of this—it’s nothing to be embarrassed about!). Tune in to the writing community online and follow a good mix of freelancers and publishing professionals to get an idea of what the industry’s talking about. Familiarise yourself with style guides and research as much as you can about copyediting and proofreading. Always be open to opportunities even if they don’t quite match up with your dream career path (e.g. copyediting a friend’s magazine article may be different than copyediting a fantasy novel, but it’s still great experience working with someone else’s words, and if you can add it to your portfolio, why not?). Most importantly, look for ways to get involved and don’t wait to be invited; if you’ve got something to bring to the table, make sure people know about it! The publishing community is so welcoming, you’re sure to find your people soon enough!

Do you have anyone that you look up to in the industry?

I absolutely admire all of the self-publishing/indie authors I work with as I know how much time and effort goes into self-publishing a book. It genuinely surprises a lot of people who aren’t familiar with publishing whenever I try to explain the timeline, so to be able to do all of that on your own, often for multiple books at once, and to continue that momentum even after the book’s out there in the world is just incredible. It takes a lot of passion and commitment. 

What are your aspirations for the future of your career?

I’d really love to be editing Romance fiction exclusively at some point in the near future. It’s the genre I enjoy working with the most, not least because the Romance reading/writing community is just amazing. I’m also hoping to produce a suite of free resources for aspiring and self-publishing authors, to help those who might not be in a position to hire an editor. And someday in the future, I’d really like to publish a book of my own—but we’ll see! 

If you’re 18-30 and looking to develop your skills for career progression, our Print Futures Awards could be for you. Awards are closed for 2020 but find out about the 2021 awards by signing up to our newsletter.