One of a Kind


Non-profit magazines have one major advantage – they are free of the commercial reality. Thus, they can present topics that have no place in the publications of big media companies. When real professionals and experts combine their skills, non-profit magazines can develop into true gems. One excellent example is Herpetomania, magazine published by the Finnish Herpetology Association. I had the pleasure to chat with Maija Karala, the editor-in-chief of Herpetomania on what it’s like to produce a unique non-profit magazine.

Herpetomania magazine cover
Herpetomania is the single magazine on herpetology, i.e. reptiles, amphibians and their study, in Finland. The magazine publishes both scientific and popular articles, news, travel articles and information about the association. Herpetomania is published four times a year. It was founded in 1992.

Maija Karala has been the editor-in-chief since the beginning of 2015. She started in the magazine by writing single articles, then moved on to do a regular news section. She was asked to take on the editor’s position several times, but accepted only, when it was turned into a paid position.

Voluntary work is very common in non-profit magazines. However, in the course of a magazine’s development, at one point the association needs to decide whether it is publishing a real, quality magazine and paying for professionals to do it, or whether it will continue on an amateur level and accept the uncertainty that follows. Herpetomania is entirely financed by association’s membership fees. Advertisements are accepted, but not actively sold.

Maija has enjoyed her work as the editor-in-chief of Herpetomania. Her job includes all the stages of the making of a publication. Two proofreaders and a writer of English abstracts help her.

-It’s really nice to do the magazine, I’ve been given full control over it. We have a pleasant and skilled group writing articles on regular basis. In addition, we have an extremely committed graphic designer, who’s been with us for a couple of decades already, Maija says.

Herpetomania article

Very often non-profit magazines suffer from the lack of writers. Maija was warned beforehand on how difficult it is to collect the articles from voluntary contributors.

-Fortunately it wasn’t quite that difficult. Popular articles have proved a bit more of a challenge, as I have less contacts on that field. Scientific articles have been easier to obtain for me.

Maija hopes to find at least one all-around journalist into her editorial group, to write interview based stories. The current contributors don’t have the possibility to do that type of articles.

Freedom and Responsibility

From the viewpoint of an editor-in-chief the pros and cons of non-profit magazines could be crystallized into two factors: freedom and the work-remuneration ratio. It is very tempting to have the freedom to do a magazine in your way, although there are a bunch of challenges in that process, the kinds the colleagues in big media companies can hardly imagine. Non-profit magazine editors work almost always with voluntary contributors and have responsibility over all stages of production (often the layout and ad sales included).

While planning issues, recruiting writers and ensuring the sufficient flow of the correct type of articles, an editor also trains and motivates contributors, proofreads, edits, balances the ratio of ads and articles, decides on the editorial line and communicates with the printing house.

No wonder Maija says the biggest challenge in the role of an editor is the amount of responsibility. It is a complicated process to produce a publication and it involves a great number of people. If something goes awry, the editor-in-chief is the one taking the responsibility. Fortunately, the efforts usually result in a published magazine.

-The best moment is when you get the freshly printed magazine in your hands and you have once again pulled it through! It is also rewarding to receive positive feedback from the readers, although any kind of feedback is rare, Maija says.



The Secret to an Efficient First Edit



Editing ad infinitum - How Do You Survive?

Congratulations! You’ve just completed your novel, thesis or other long and demanding writing effort. Now it is the time to make sure the finished work will shine. Every advice in the blogosphere tells you that this is the most important part of the process of writing. And they are quite right. You should invest your time into editing properly.

However, in the quest for perfection, it might happen that you’ll never reach the level that suffices your inner critique. Reading your text again and again, you start to wonder whether you should reorder you chapters, rewrite the entire text to a different point of view, kill a character here and there…

It is easy to prolong editing into infinity. And we all know what the result of that is, don’t we? Yes, another manuscript in the drawer (or in that bulging folder on your PC titled “My Novel”).

So how do you survive the first edit?

Four Secrets of an Efficient First Edit

Make yourself a plan. You did one for writing the manuscript, didn’t you? Without a clear roadmap it’s so easy to end up rambling in the woods.

First edit is the beginning. You can and will return to the text after it, so now you can be fast and furious.

The best would be to arrange a beta reader to read the manuscript right after the first edit. Then you would get an outsider opinion when you’ve fixed the worst errors, but before you’ve spent days and days on polishing something that might end up in the bin anyway.

So, let’s plan for the first edit:

  1. Decide your goals. You can’t tackle everything, so pick the most important editing goals. At this point we are talking about substantive or developmental editing. What needs fundamental editing? The flow? The plot? The POV?
  2. Determine the time needed. How much time do you need to reach the goals you set for yourself? Be realistic and cut off goals if necessary. Then allocate each editing point the time you think it deserves.
  3. Carry out the job. Edit, edit and edit – but no more than you gave yourself time.
  4. Never look back. This was the first edit. Now you’ve tackled the most pressing issues of your manuscript. It’s time for the second opinion – get your beta reader ready and send the manuscript in for comments.



Editing for Writers


Editing in a nutshell

Nutshells are for cracking, so let’s crunch! Editing is something you either love or hate. I like it so much I’ve made it my job…  Even if you’re not as enthusiastic as I am, it’s one of the most important phases in creating a text. There’s really no going around it – you can’t opt out of editing.

Editing is the afterthought you give to your text to bring it to its best. It is also an opportunity to find the embarrassing, but oh-so-human errors we all make. That way you’ll ensure they won’t find their way to the published work.

Editing - What does it really mean?

As a writer and editor I do a lot of editing. When I talk about it with clients, I notice it’s not at all self-evident we’re always talking about the same thing. There seems to be a bit of inconsistency concerning the concept itself and what it involves. There is also a plethora of terms used in this connection – we all have our own names for the different parts of the process.

What is often missed is the fact that all editing is not the same. There are different stages in editing that treat the text at different depths.

3 Stages of Editing

When a writer edits her own text the different stages of editing are not always strictly separate. Have you ever rewritten an entire chapter after having moved on to spell checking phase because the winning idea stroke you in the wee hours of the night? I hear you…

However, if you hire someone else to do the editing, it is important to know what you want to achieve with it and which kind of editing will do the job. So, let’s tackle the jungle of editing:

Developmental / Substantial/ Structural Editing or Rewriting is the most invasive form of editing. At this stage I work on the structure of the writing; rearrange and rewrite paragraphs, even cut off large junks of text. On a novel I would now check the plot arc and ensure the uninterrupted flow of the text. On an article I could change the angle or bring up a new main topic from the text.

Copyediting is the next stage and the one we usually refer to when talking about editing. At this stage I check the grammar and style, polish the text to be at its best, but don’t do any major changes to it. I can change wording, cut off excess wordiness, check the consistency of the point of view(s), fix all factual errors and unintended omissions and generally make the text presentable.

Proofreading is the final and most superficial form of editing. Now I check that all the necessary changes from the previous editing rounds have been made and the text is as it should be when it’s being published. I fix the final forgotten punctuation marks and see that the formatting is in order. After this stage the text is ready to go to publishing.