Category Archives: Freelance

UK publication of The Amulet of Sleep with Kobo.

By | Author, Digital, Freelance, Publishing & Consultancy, Self publishing | No Comments

The Amulet of Sleep is the opening book in the Iskìda of the Land of Nurak trilogy, a series of epic fantasy novels for YA readers. Already award-winning in Italy, Andrea Atzori’s home country, the books look set to join the booming market for genre fiction. Having found success after publishing traditionally in Italian, Atzori turned his sights internationally. He saw the UK’s ever-increasing appetite for magical fiction as the perfect fit for his venture into independent, foreign self-publishing. Available this month from Kobo, The Amulet of Sleep will not disappoint fantasy fans of all ages.

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An interview with Jonathan Baker

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[intro]Jonathan Baker, one of the graphic designers we’ve worked with over the past two years, set up Seagull Design in 2001. He currently runs the business from Marbella, where he lives with his family.[/intro]


Let’s start with the most fundamental question. When and why did you start working as an independent freelancer?

Oddly enough, apart from some summer jobs I had when I was a kid, I’ve always been a freelancer. Many years ago I blagged my way into working for an employment agency as a freelance desktop publisher because the hourly rate on offer was so attractive. (It was something like £25 per hour, which was a small fortune for a teenager back then.) The first job I got through them was with Citibank, who needed someone to design some brochures using an early desktop publishing program called Ventura. I more or less knew my way around a computer and I’d done some record sleeve design work, so I thought I was eminently qualified to do the job. Luckily when I turned up at Citibank the job was delayed and I was paid to sit around for a couple of days, during which time I read the manuals for Ventura and taught myself enough of the basics to be able to impress (or at least con) the people I was working for. From there it was only a few accidental encounters in central London bars and a smattering of lies before I had convinced a book publisher to give me a book to design. And it was in book publishing that I made my home – banks and brochures were good for paying the bills, but they were deadly boring.


What do you most enjoy about being a freelancer?

Being able to work and live with my family by the beach in Marbella, Spain, where an average day involves building sandcastles on the beach with my son and drinking cocktails by the pool with my wife – oh, and some work, of course. I’ve never been an ‘office’ sort of person and I readily enjoy all of the freedoms that being a freelancer gives you. Seriously, anyone who works in an office should QUIT NOW and become a freelancer!


There are a few irksome parts the job – aren’t there? How do you keep track of finances and invoices?

There are no irksome parts to the job. Sometimes a job depresses you because it’s boring (and that’s usually because you can’t relate to it, not because it really is boring), but the beauty of working as a freelance designer/typesetter in publishing is that each project passes quite quickly and there’s always something new coming up. Some months you may have lots of money and some months very little. But after working as a freelancer for as long as I have you know there are ebbs and flows. Keeping a reasonably large client base is always sensible. Don’t place all your eggs in one basket, as the saying goes.


Let’s get specific. Do you find it easier to quote yourwork by the hour or the project?

Sometimes I quote by the hour, sometimes by the day. Sometimes I quote by the the week, the page, the job, its fun factor, its kudos rating, whether someone I like is involved, et cetera, et cetera. There aren’t any real rules. I’m still making it up as I go along.


Have advances in digital technology affected the way you do your work?

Unquestionably. A job that used to take a month can now be done in a few days. I used to have to be in central London to be close to a quick courier service; now I can be anywhere in the world. Everything changes all the time and change is exciting.


Do you feel you get good feedback from your clients?

Yes, I have lovely clients. (Even the horrible ones.)


Does your work come mainly from existing contacts within the publishing industry or from writing speculative emails? How do you approach a publisher who doesn’t know you?

Almost all by word of mouth or people moving from one publishing house to another and me tagging along for the ride. I am exceptionally bad at selling myself as I feel end results should speak for themselves. I rarely pitch myself to publishers – and when I do it’s always cringeworthy.


Do you think specialising in a particular area is important for freelancers?

It isn’t so important for book designers, since engaging with the subject matter is core to the design process and part of what makes each job a challenge.

The App Review: Invoicing Tools For Freelancers

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[intro]Invoicing, invoicing, invoicing. It doesn’t exactly make the heart sing. At whitefox we’d rather spend our time revolutionising the publishing industry, but just like every other startup we seem to spend an inordinate amount of it quoting, invoicing, chasing payment, being invoiced…[/intro]

Division of labour in a large organisation allows editors to be editors, project managers to be project managers and accountant to be accountants. But for us – and you freelancers, too – all of those roles have to be combined in a single person. That’s why we’ve decided to review selection of apps that could make one of those jobs a little easier. One of them even has a cute squirrel for a logo.

Don’t yawn yet! If you’ve never used a modern invoicing tool, the range of features on offer might surprise you. For example, if you currently raise your invoices manually using Word, aren’t you tempted by the prospect of creating, saving and sending an invoice in a few clicks? Wouldn’t it be convenient to be able to do that on the go, as well? These three apps do both of those things and more. And did we mention that some of them are completely free?



The squirrel appears on the welcome page, squealing that NutCache is “simple and free!” It does have a very easy-to-use layout, and it is entirely free. (There isn’t a catch or a premium service: a company called Dynacom Technologies bankrolls the entire operation as a PR exercise.) After receiving their invoice via email, customers can pay you directly via PayPal, Authorize Net or 2Checkout. You can have as many customers as you like. (Some free invoicing apps only allow you one customer. Who has only one customer?) Other useful features include time sheets, time management, apps for Android and Apple devices and multi-user functionality.


Blips: The NutCache logo (that squirrel again) appears on every invoice you send, and the invoices aren’t that customisable: all you can do is add a logo. 

Verdict: A very simple, user-friendly invoicing and time-tracker app with some useful features for small businesses. If you like squirrels, it might even cheer you up during a slog-like accounting session.



Invoiceable is another tool that’s free-to-use – but this one does want to make some money so it offers an optional upgrade to get rid of branding. It’s quite popular – it boasts an impressive 56,000 users – and as well as offering unlimited invoicing, you can create reports, add discounts, create a product list, accept partial payments, and even set up recurring invoices on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. There are apps for Apple and Android.


Unavoidables: Invoiceable has its equivalent of NutCache’s omnipresent squirrel: a note at the end of every invoice reading “Powered by Invoiceable”. You can pay a one-off fee of £49 to eliminate it – that’s how they make their money.

Verdict: A very professional invoicing service that seems to be popular among freelancers and small businesses. Special commendation for support for recurring projects.



Debitoor has a three-tier price plan, but the free version allows for unlimited invoicing and sending out estimates to clients. If you decide to spend a little bit of money (€10/month) on the Premium Plus subscription, you can turn those quotes into invoices. It also offers an expenses tracking feature.


Weaknesses: Like the previous tools, Debitoor stamps your invoice with its own logo; unlike the others, there are other features that can only be unlocked with cash.  This can be removed by paying €5/month for the Premium package. Its most interesting feature, the ability to match your bank statement to invoices and expenses, comes with the Premium Plus subscription, which costs more. There’s an Apple app, but no Android app.

Verdict: A savvy invoicing app with some useful features – but you’ll have to pay for even the most basic ones.

An interview with Kathy Steer

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[intro]Kathy Steer became a freelancer in 1998, after working for a number of years in-house at Hamlyn and Quintet. She has specialised in cookery, gardening, health, home décor and crafts and works for a number of publishers in the UK and abroad. She’s one of our favourite Americanizers. We spoke to her last week about  finding and managing work as a freelancer.[/intro]


So, how did you get into freelancing?

I secured a couple of work placements in London after I graduated from university. I didn’t know whether wanted to go into magazine publishing as a sub-editor or into book publishing, so one of the placements was at the BBC’s Good Food Magazine and the other was at Hamlyn, which at the time was part of Reed International. After finishing at Hamlyn I was offered a full-time job as a cookery editorial assistant and after a year I was promoted to assistant cookery editor. I learnt how to proofread, copy-edit, Americanize and project manage my own titles. After one more year I became a project editor for another publishing house in London, and a year after that I took the plunge and went freelance. I worked in-house for a number of magazines at first (though I had the opportunity to decide where I wanted to work and for how long). I then started to get proofreading and copy-editing jobs from some book publishers, which meant I could work from home –and I haven’t looked back. I did enjoy working in-house but the overriding factors that made me go freelance were the flexibility and the varying types of work and subject matter.


What do you enjoy most about being a freelancer?

I love the flexibility of working from home as it means I can choose my own hours instead of working a nine to five job with a commute to and from London. I live by the sea, so I can go out for a walk on the beach in the middle of the day to clear my head. And I also get to work on a lot of varied projects, which are extremely interesting. I could be Americanizing a book on gardening one week, then proofreading a health book or copy-editing a cookbook the next.



What about the irksome parts of the job? How do you keep track of your finances?

Keeping track of finances can get out of hand, especially if some invoices take a long time to be paid, so I log all my invoices and expenses on a spreadsheet. When an invoice gets paid, I mark it up. I also keep two folders: one for invoices that are awaiting payment and the other are invoices that have been paid. I also keep all my receipts in that folder. I’m very disciplined in keeping up to date with this.


Let’s get into the specifics. Do you find it easier to quote your work by the hour or by the overall project?

It’s a lot easier to quote by the hour as I have set hourly rates for proofreading, copy-editing and Americanizing. Sometimes a project takes longer than expected so quoting for the job may not be so financially beneficial. Some of the publishers I work for have set budgets and they seem very fair, so I am happy to work to their budgets instead.


Have advances in digital technology affected the way you do your work?

Yes, definitely. I used to have to wait for the work to arrive by post on a CD then I would have to send the completed work back on a CD, but now this is all done online almost instantly, either via FTP servers or via the large file transfer websites. It makes life much easier. I occasionally proofread and mark up corrections on PDFs. That’s great if the schedule is very tight, but I do still prefer to proofread on paper as reading on screen all the time can get very tiring.


Do you feel you get good feedback from your clients?

Yes I think so. I find feedback invaluable, whether it’s positive or negative, as I want to make sure I do the best work for my client. If I have made an error I would like to know so that I can improve and avoid making the same mistake again. It’s also great to get positive feedback on the work one is doing.


Does your work come mainly from existing contacts within the publishing industry or from writing speculative emails? How do you approach a publisher who doesn’t know you?

Now my work comes from existing contacts I have built up over the years, but when I started as a freelancer I sent out lots of emails with my CV plus follow-up calls to prospective publishing houses asking if there was any work. I still like to send round a few emails to publishing houses just to let them know that I am here and still working as a freelancer.


Do you think specialising in a particular area, such as food or business, is important for freelancers?

Yes. I have specialised in certain areas and have got to know my subjects very well.

If you would like to be listed on our database and receive not only leads but also useful tips on finding and managing your work as a freelancer, write to us at with a copy of your CV.



Value Added – A Guest Post from Agent Orange

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[intro] On the eve of the second day of the London Book Fair, whitefox is proud to present a guest blog post from The Bookseller’s Agent Orange. [/intro]

One of the things that makes publishing so fascinating is that it involves taking something that has – in the case of fiction – no utility and no intrinsic value and translating the pleasure and enjoyment it brings into money.

In the pre-internet days, the chain of value that led from an authors tea-stained typescript to the ringing of the tills on the high street was a complex one, which justified the significant slice of the pie which booksellers and publishers largely shared between themselves.

As publishers also took on the whole cost of publication, from editing, copyediting, proof reading and typesetting to design and production, warehousing distribution and, in all too many cases, pulping, they were able to position themselves squarely at the centre of the book trade.

Of course, they still do all of those things, but as the value of physical sales has declined and since Amazon provides instant national sales presence to every author the value of the proposition publishers makes to authors has declined. They are no longer so definitively at the centre of the publishing business.

There have been several consequences of this. One is that publishers have had to work hard to maintain their profit margins, in large part by reducing advances and royalties to writers and cutting their internal costs by outsourcing much of the work they used to do in-house.

Another is that they have become ever more risk averse and publish in ever narrower and more rigidly defined channels.

This has created the paradoxical result that publishers, whose business in part rests on the fact that they offer a value proposition to authors, are making themselves ever less attractive to them – at the very point at which viable alternatives to the traditional publishing route are opening up.

This is not to say that the value of much of the rest of the chain has declined correspondingly – far from it. The market remains highly competitive and the value to authors of a well-edited book, free of typos and grammatical errors and with a really strong jacket remains high.

And that has created a thriving market of freelancers offering their services to self-published authors. Whilst there are concerns that there is some sharp practice in this area, and that self-publishing could, as a result of this change, become accessible only by the well-off, this is a good thing by and large – provided authors go into it with their eyes open.

And that creates an interesting possibility. As traditional publishers’ share of the market declines and physical book retail diminishes, might this new market for the goods and services of publishing, the place where much of the value of the publishing chain resides, become the publishers of the future?

Which would be ironic – given that much of this marketplace of freelancers exists because publishers have shed so many jobs in this area.

An Interview with Nathan Burton

By | Design, Freelance, Interview, Publishing & Consultancy | No Comments
[intro]Nathan Burton is a London based designer and illustrator. He left Penguin in 2008 to set up his own company, Nathan Burton Design. He now works for a variety of publishers in the UK and abroad. You can see his work at and follow him on twitter @buronint[/intro]

How important is the clarity of a brief, or do you prefer to have more freedom to design a cover based on your interpretation of the book?

I’ve worked with all types of briefs, from incredibly specific projects to ones which are completely wide open, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. With a lot of the literary titles I work on the brief is very open: ‘here’s the book, have a read and come up with ideas’. There’s usually a panicked feeling of ‘what the hell am I going to do for this?’ at the start of the project which is followed by lots of head scratching, rejected ideas and finally a looming deadline which forces you into action. Because no-one has any preconceived ideas of the final design you can (hopefully) come up with something that surprises and excites the publisher and author. Also, book cover briefs aren’t set in stone so there can be a lot of back and forth between the designer and publisher before you get to the end solution. What the publishers think they want at the beginning isn’t always what the cover ends up looking like, but that’s all part of the creative process.

Nathan Burton

Are you aware of a greater emphasis on well-designed covers coming from self-published authors?

This isn’t something that I’ve noticed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Being noticed in a crowded marketplace is always going to be a challenge, so having a well designed cover is sure to be a bonus.


With the increasing move to digital, do you think more emphasis is put on having a cover that is eye-catching as a thumbnail on a screen, or in trying to make a book an attractive and covetable physical possession?

When I start to design a cover I don’t really worry about the thumbnail issue. Usually, a nicely designed cover will work as a thumbnail, so I wouldn’t advocate designing one based solely on its ability to be shrunk down. I don’t see why a cover can’t work digitally, as a thumbnail, and also as a beautiful object that uses the same design.


Who has most influence on cover design? The author, the publisher, or the sales and marketing team?

It really depends on the book, how big the author is and how much the publisher has paid for it. The cover needs to be initially approved by the art director who then puts it into a meeting with various people including the editor and sales and marketing. If it survives that then its off to the author for approval. It’s always a relief when covers make it through this process, but quite often it can be back to the drawing board.


In your experience are more publishers now using consumer insight to test covers?

I’ve had this happen on a jacket I’m working on at the moment but I’ve not had the feedback yet, so I’m not sure what the effect will be. I can’t see it improving creativity in book cover design.


What 2013 cover do you wish you’d designed?

One of my favourites from 2013 is Tampa by Alissa Nutting, designed by Jon Gray. It’s a beautifully simple idea that’s perfectly executed. Another book, or rather series, that caught my eye is the P. G. Wodehouse redesign by David Wardle/Barnes & Noble. They are a lovely balance of modern and retro. Printed in eye-popping neon, they really stand out in the bookshop.

2014 – The Year of The Freelancer

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In the crystal ball gazing that inevitably takes up many end of the year publishing round ups, I have yet to see any that have referenced the impact of the proposed merger between oDesk and Elance.

These major online hubs for freelance talent represent all the speed, disruption, value and scalability associated with other VC darlings of the last few years. Between them oDesk and Elance have raised well over $100 million in investment. Both sites emphasise quick access to hundreds of thousands of suppliers, either freelancers or moonlighters. And both emphasise the word ‘quality’. Now, the two are looking to create one mega-marketplace; a supertanker of freelance services.

On the face of it, the stats are eye watering. 10 million workers across 180 countries with combined billings of $750 million this year alone. And in amongst all the inevitable talk of synergies and brand equity, there are some ambitious aspirations. The new company aims to be ‘the workplace for the world’. By combining their resources, they believe they have a shot at ‘building a business on the scale of Amazon or Linkedin or iTunes’. It will mean more data and faster matches. It will mean significant accelerated growth and real head to head competition with and larger global agencies.

Why is this relevant to UK publishing? Because in 2014, the only thing that is certain is that there will be more uncertainty as old models and structures shift and mutate into viable ways of doing business, whether you are a traditional publisher, retailer, literary agent, published or unpublished writer. And with that uncertainty comes a recognition that there will have to be a greater emphasis on contracting directly with external suppliers, on outsourcing. For some, this is about variable costs versus fixed costs. For others it is about taking greater control or accessing new skill sets for an evolving industry. For everyone, it is about getting something actually done without having another body on the payroll. Meanwhile, the ranks of freelancing publishing specialists will continue to be swelled by those who’ve been deemed surplus to requirements, the experienced professionals who discover there are precious few permanent salaried opportunities that represent an equivalent to their old status.

So here is where it gets interesting. Because from our perspective (admittedly that of a UK-centric, much smaller freelance curated marketplace) the real tension in the coming years is not between the new and old models, but between different versions of the new model. That there will be a greater migration to transactional online service platforms seems inevitable, whatever the industry. But how do you guarantee a quality service and the scale required by investors? Back to those stats mentioned earlier. By any estimation, there will be an awful lot of people earning nothing or only tiny amounts who have signed up and posted their details looking for work. And how do you know whether you should be paying someone $3.00 or $20.00 an hour? Moreover, say you are looking for a book editor. Begin your search now and see how quickly you are pointed in the direction of translators and web designers; all possibly wonderful, talented people. But not book editors.

In our experience, more and more creative people are choosing a way of working which affords them variety, flexibility and the sort of stimulation large corporate machines find it hard to deliver. But good creative people also know their own worth. And there remains a value in understanding who are the right people for the right job.

In the mean time, we will watch out for how many million hours have been billed on the biggest global sites. Which just makes me think of those McDonald’s drive-thrus that say ‘99 Billion Served’, even when they have sold many more, but they only had space on the sign for two digits.

An interview with Helena Caldon

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[intro]Helena Caldon became a freelancer in 2004 after ten years working as an in-house project editor for Random House and BBC Books. Since then she has worked with authors including Alan Titchmarsh, Gordon Ramsay and Professor Brian Cox.[/intro]
What is the best thing about being a freelancer?

Without a doubt it is technically being able to choose the books you want to work on. I say technically because sadly it doesn’t always work out that way, and sometimes the timings of projects and my own workload won’t allow me to take on a job that just sounds fantastic, which is always a shame. But since going freelance nine years ago I have found this way of working empowering and liberating. I decided that publishing was the career for me while still at university studying English; I spent Wednesday afternoons and the odd evening working at Hodder and Stoughton, being paid in experience, free books and launch-party leftovers (mostly bottles of booze of some sort!). I found a world of books that was more exciting than the stuffy study of Old English and pretentious poetry analysis I was being subjected to at seminars and lectures, and I was hooked. Ten years in-house followed, which was an incredibly exciting, informative time, but as I moved through the ranks I sometimes found myself moving further away from what I came into publishing to do – to work on books. Freelance allows me to be an editor; to work with books, to craft them, to work with an author and a designer and stick purely to the creative side without getting involved in the corporate politics. That’s what I think I’m best at, and certainly what I love most about my job.

What is the worst?

While working in house deadlines and workloads always felt challenging, but when you are freelance they can become almost completely unrealistic. I’ve worked on fast-track titles throughout my in-house career, starting with programme scripts to be published alongside opening nights of new plays while at Methuen Drama, to books to tie-in with transmissions at the BBC. These short, sharp schedules are even more prevalent in publishing now, and even non tie-in books are being produced in equally crazy and demanding timescales, which means that every project feels like a rush job. As a freelancer it is rare to have the luxury of being able to work on one book at a time, and so when schedules for several books start to bottleneck, due to inevitable delays from somewhere in the chain, the stress of meeting every deadline becomes coupled with the fear of perhaps this time I may not make it and I may have to let down a client. (Fortunately, thus far – touch wood – this hasn’t happened yet!) It would, of course, be wonderful to have more time on occasions to really perfect a project. (Publishers, are you listening?!!)

What qualities do you need to be a trusted project editor?

All the editors I have worked with and  admired over the years have been fair, calm and consistent in their approach to the books they are working on. There is nothing worse than working with someone who doesn’t have a feel for a project and changes the direction of a title as the stages progress, or even at the final stage. Getting on with the team is vital; the designer, publisher, production controller and, of course, the author. My first boss was inspirational in how to build strong working relationships; Geoffrey Strachan managed to achieve respect and love from all he worked with but at the same time still cleverly managed to always produce the book that HE wanted without offending the writer or anyone on the creative team. It was magical to watch.

Share some advice you were given when you set out as an editor

Ask the question, but be prepared to compromise. Editing is not, and should not be, a dictatorial craft, it is a collaboration to create something special, that everyone can be proud of and that will also sell well! As I’ve moved into illustrated books over the years the team element has become an important part of editing. Illustrated books more than any others require a fair and frank exchange of ideas between editors and designers, and the ability to compromise and to consider the other team member as deadlines begin to pinch and tempers begin to fray under the pressure!

How do you juggle the pressures of creating complex illustrated books for publishers, all of whom are looking at similar autumn publication dates?

Tea, chocolate and a forgiving family!  The summer months are always stressful, and every year I promise I’m going to handle it differently, but so far I haven’t found the perfect solution! Mostly, I just take a deep breath, write a lot of to-do lists, tell my friends I’ll see them in a month or two and crack on.  It may mean weeks of early starts and late nights, but come September the pressure will always ease a little and the mountain of paperwork that has been threatening to topple over onto my already covered desk will finally get a look in. Having said that, over the past five years or so I’ve noticed that this frenzy of last-minute publishing is not only confined to summer but seems to be infiltrating other months of the year. The spring book list seems to be as important as the autumn one; I am now finding I get calls and emails in the autumn as publishers take stock once the Christmas books are snugly bound and decide to sneak something else into spring…

The Age of the Specialist

By | Brand Publishing, Freelance, Insight, Network, Publishing & Consultancy, Self publishing, Uncategorized | No Comments

whitefox CEO John Bond describes the age of the specialist, where there is real value in exact knowledge and skill. In a world obsessed with peer review and a marketplace driven by innovation, the big winners will be those who aspire to be better than the rest. This article first appeared in the Publishers Weekly London Show Daily on April 16th 2013.

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