2016 EFA Conference: A Glimpse

October 21, 2016



I had the opportunity to attend the EFA Conference held at New York on 29 and 30 August 2016. It was quite an enriching experience where not only did I get to learn and share the latest updates in the areas of technology, business opportunities, managing clients, and other aspects relevant for editorial services, but I also got to network with the fraternity from across the borders. As one who has recently forayed into the freelance editorial business, I particularly found the following sessions of great interest: “Copyediting challenges,” “Getting the business off the ground,” “Mentoring roundtable for new freelancers,” and “Taking your business to the next level.” In addition to these, the two keynote addresses were very enlightening.




On day 1, August 29, I reached the venue, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Manhattan at 8:30 am. The morning was pleasant with the temperature at 25°C. The New Yorkers say that August–September is the best time to visit New York, and I felt I was lucky to be there at this time of the year. The staff at the registration desk gave me a bag containing necessary printouts, a notepad, a pen, and a few colored cards. As I entered the hall looking for a suitable place for myself, I spotted a table that had two ladies sitting there already. We exchanged pleasantries and introductions. They were Jesi and Jen. We soon became friends and attended most of the common sessions together. As we sat waiting for the sessions to begin, a strong aroma of coffee attracted us, and we found ourselves moving in the direction of the table laden with snacks and beverages. As I was still struggling with jet lag, I really needed coffee to keep me going and not miss out any moment of the sessions.



The day started with a mesmerizing keynote presentation by Jane Friedman, a digital media expert. The takeaway of the lecture was “think beyond books.” She was amazing, full of expression and wit. After a small coffee break, I attended a session on “Copyediting Challenge,” which was conducted by Mark Allen, Erin Brenner, Sarah Grey, and Laura Poole. They divided the attendees into four groups, and the four of them mentored one group each. They gave us printouts comprising three exercises. We copyedited these exercises, and the table mentor discussed copyediting nuances (redundancies, capitalization, unclear sentences, fact checking, and so forth) in these three exercises one by one. Finally, the four mentors shared the finer points derived from each table with the whole team.



Chapter coordinators met during lunch at a corner table. I represented the NCR Delhi India Chapter Coordinator Vivek Kumar because he could not make it to the conference because of some personal reasons. The discussion was brief due to time constraint. Robin Martin walked us through the chapter administration page, where the chapter coordinator can log in and edit chapter information. She requested chapter coordinators to upload as much information as possible and asked them to send event photographs to her through an email for now. After this brief meeting, I met with other editors, exchanged business cards, and clicked photographs. The common area was bustling with editors exchanging information and their experiences.



The next session I attended was “Freelancing 101: Getting the Business off the Ground”; Maria M. Boyer, Michelle Dalton, and Ruth E Thaler-Carter led the session. These seasoned editors shared their experiences. The main points discussed were as follows:

  • How to approach a prospective client

  • Reach out to different types of clients (to “think beyond traditional publishers”)

  • Advertise yourself

  • Get viewed as a professional

  • Join groups and remain visible

  • Have a good LinkedIn profile

  • Attend conferences

  • Get your website created



We made good use of the breaks by meeting other editors and visiting the bookstore put up at the venue. I realized information gained through informal chats is often more insightful. I learned how to make business cards using card design software, how to use time tracker to manage your work, and much more.



Jake Poinier delivered the last lecture of the day in the auditorium; he spoke on “The Three Es of Exceptional Marketers”—Export, Experimenting, and Experience. He said that marketing means your online presence, having a website, and promoting yourself by cold calling and networking. After this lecture, the day was called off. At the end of the eventful day, as we walked out of the Graduate Center, one could not fail to notice the amazing high-rise buildings with elegant architecture enhancing the beauty of the skyline of the city.



The routine of the next day was more or less the same. The keynote lecture, A Life Squandered on Words, by Mary Norris—a true storyteller—was incredible. She read Chapter 2 “That Witch!” from her book Between You and Me. The book reflects her vast experience with grammar and usage. The audience did not want her to stop. Her amazing sense of humor made us laugh our lungs out.



In the coffee break after this lecture, we engaged in informal networking and visited the bookstore.



The first session of the second day was on “Mentoring Roundtable for New Freelancers.” Sheila Buff, Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, and Katharine Pickett conducted this session. They discussed the three most important points: marketing, networking, and business practice. They emphasized on spending 20% of our time daily in marketing to keep the pipeline full. Some of the tips given for marketing were as follows:


  • Sharing business card; carrying a business card even if we go to a supermarket

  • Joining relevant groups

  • Spending at least 15 minutes every day on LinkedIn page

  • Getting our website created

  • Marketing ourselves in specific areas (such as medical, humanities, and so forth).

  • Becoming a problem-solver for our client



They suggested that one can do networking in various ways:

  • Attending conferences

  • Joining groups of our area of work (American Writers Medical Association if the niche is medical)

  • Making cold calls

  • Following up with people who can link you to a client



Under business practices, the following key points were discussed:

  • Choosing a clever name for our business

  • Recording our expenses

  • Managing our taxes well

  • Signing a letter of agreement with the client




The morning session was followed by lunch, which again was an opportunity for meeting up with the new friends we made there.



The last session I attended was “Taking your business to the next level.” Erin Brenner, Adrienne Montgomerie, and Laura Poole conducted this session. Some of the important points they discussed focused on raising our risk; moving over to teaching and training; adding subcontractors; creating, buying, and merging; getting into partnership; expanding services; and creating passive income. In the concluding session, Robin shared that EFA is running smoothly and asked everyone to find a place as volunteers for future conferences.



The closing session included messages from all the attendees on different color cards on the topics (already given in the agenda) of their choice. The members of the organizing committee gathered on the stage and read out these messages in the auditorium. We learned beautiful tips in this session, too. Someone suggested having a business card with our photo, while someone suggested not always to sit with the same set of people. Other tips that were shared included participating in EFA discussions, involving oneself in EFA chapter meetings, getting up early, shutting off social media during working hours, not being timid in asking questions, using time tracker to record time in finishing a project, checking out other editors’ blogs and websites, creating a memorable company name, and so on. The day ended on a high note with the participants looking happy and optimistic with the newly gained knowledge and experience.


At the end of the conference, I felt as if I had dived into a deep sea and bounced back laced with boundless information. I realized that conferences not only make you information-rich but also boost your confidence, help you establish your name in the market, enrich your contact list, and make you far-sighted. I look forward to attending

future EFA and other relevant conferences for editors.



Bushra Rashid, PhD, ELS, started her career with publishing in 2003 and served various organizations as head, editorial services. She has been working as a self-employed editorial consultant since 2015. An advanced professional member of SfEP and a board-certified editor in the life sciences, she works with several agencies, publishers, and individual authors as a medical editor.

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