The Editor: Juliet Ulman

Juliet Ulman, former Bantam Dell editor
Paper Tyger

The Model

Developmental/comprehensive editing, plus line-editing, for freelance authors and independent publishers

The Background

“After eleven years with Bantam Dell, I was laid off. I had been working in large corporate publishing for over a decade, and I really wanted to take some time before making my next move,” says Ulman. “Once I left that track, it suddenly became clear to me, as it never had before, that I could pursue a different route.”

Still, Ulman found going it on her own “initially unnerving. I’d always shunned freelance work, believing that the lack of structure and the isolation would be . . . difficult. You wonder at first whether you’ll be able to bring in enough work, whether your existing network will prove powerful enough to sustain you during those first lean months, whether you will make dreadful mistakes and be unable to pay your mortgage, whether your friends will forget about you.”

Luckily, she “found it to be a smoother transition and much more fun than I ever expected, honestly. . . . I love being able to work in a pattern that is more natural, less draining, and more productive for me—breaking up my workday into little pieces, alternating between projects, hitting a rhythm of work-break-work. I love that my job now consists of the one thing that I never stopped loving, the editorial work. I don’t worry about all of the additional uncertainties and decisions and stressors of the publication process. I’m not accountable to the whims of the market or to publicity or to the sales department, not to anyone but the author—and the only thing I need to focus on is the text.”

Ulman offers extensive advice to others who are going out on their own. “Set yourself up with a solid billing system and keep up with it,” she recommends. “It is absolutely vital to have a cushion of money to keep yourself afloat, [as] it will take several months for the money from those first few jobs to flow through. In the meantime, you will still have bills to pay.

“Every peer I spoke to when discussing my freelance plans said the same thing: from what they’d observed, it took six to twelve months for a freelance business to really get off the ground, and then they were busier than they had ever been. I was lucky enough to have some time to prepare between when I was told I was being laid off and my final day. In that time I came up with my business name, secured the domain, designed a website, set up a business phone number, purchased vital equipment and supplies, drafted my standard contract template, and arranged for my first freelance assignment with a publisher with whom I had an existing relationship.”

Her final piece of advice is to remember that you’re not alone. “Just because you’ve gone out on your own, that doesn’t mean that you are alone. Join your local freelancers group—in New York, the Freelancers Union is a great resource—talk to people in your field, get involved in conversations on Twitter and related listservs. There are career benefits, to be sure, but it also keeps you from spending too much time in your own head. One of the great benefits of a vibrant workplace is the conversation between you and your colleagues, and ongoing and inspiring dialogue of new ideas and fresh perspectives—don’t think that those conversations have to end just because you now work from your couch. Some of the most interesting, inspiring discussions about my industry that I’ve had came after I left the safe boundaries of the industry as I knew it.”

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One Comment

  1. Jul 2, 20092:43 pm

    Juliet Ulman is one of the few editors that stays in my mind, because every author I’ve talked to that’s worked with her manages to thank her by name. I cried when I heard Bantam Dell fired her, and I’m not the most emotional person in the world. I follow her career now just like I follow my favorite authors and love the name Paper Tyger.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By My Brilliant [New] Career on July 1, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    […] The Editor: Juliet Ulman var addthis_pub=”49fa13854120a4ab”;  Print This Post […]

  2. […] The Editor: Juliet UlmanInterview with freelance editor (and great person!) Juliet Ulman. […]

  3. By Linkswitch #1 – FreelanceSwitch on July 5, 2009 at 8:31 am

    […] Here’s an interesting short piece on how Juliet Ulman, a book editor, successfully made the transition from working as an employee to working for herself. […]

  4. By » Linkswitch #1 on July 5, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    […] Here’s an interesting short piece on how Juliet Ulman, a book editor, successfully made the transition from working as an employee to working for herself. […]

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