Independent Authors SIG, spring 2006

After seven years of moderating the IASIG, Tony Kershaw (www.tkershaw.co.uk) has stepped down. Thank you Tony for all your help in those years, and welcome to Alison Peck (www.clearly-stated.co.uk), our new moderator.

Membership of the IASIG

Anyone who is a member of the ISTC and who is an independent author or who has an interest in independent authoring can join the IASIG. Practising independent authors can have a listing on the Quality Authors website (qualityauthors.co.uk). A few members raised queries about eligibility, and Alison Peck (as moderator) wrote, "When does an 'independent' author stop being independent? When they collaborate with someone else? When they employ someone? How would I know? And probably most importantly, do we care?"

The consensus was that an independent author is someone who is self-employed or an agency contractor. One person suggested that small independent authoring companies should also be included in the category, and one person suggested that partnerships should be included. Most people thought that the existing membership rules were satisfactory, and there were some interesting posts on why the IASIG should be open to people who are not independent authors.

Nick Brooker wrote that authors in full-time employment should not be excluded and that they might be able to help independent authors and illustrators to find short-term contracts and freelance work with their employers.

Gavin Ireland (posting in his personal capacity) said that he joined the IASIG when he found out he was being made redundant. Being a member of the IASIG before he became a freelance author was very useful and he would have been annoyed if he'd had to wait until his first contract before he could join.

Tony Kershaw (www.tkershaw.co.uk) wrote that "over the years, we've had several members drift from independent work to permanent work and back again… It's worth having the 'interested in independent work' criterion. It's good that members can take the occasional permanent post, whilst keeping one foot in the independent world, without feeling they have to leave the IASIG."

Looking for work

A member asked about finding work and the state of the technical writing market. Dave Leonard gave a comprehensive reply. He thought that job hunting is still very difficult. The market is not good because a lot of manufacturing and software development has gone overseas for cheap labour, and technical writing work has gone with it. However bad a company's current documentation is, they are living with it, and you have to convince them that they will be better off paying you to do it. He targets the people who have the job of writing the manual, because they often regard the work as an unpleasant chore. He didn't find his latest two new clients—they found him, which means the active business of hunting for jobs isn't looking promising. He suggested obtaining a listing on the Quality Authors website (qualityauthors.co.uk) and setting up a company website, because an easy-to-find website might be the best way of generating new business.

Agencies, documentation houses, and other distributors of writing work tend to give jobs to the (reliable) people they have used before. So, take every opportunity: be seen to add value, show a 'can do' attitude, be helpful and accommodating, and do more than you said you were going to.

In a related topic, Marian Newell noted that www.itjobswatch.co.uk summarises the advertised rates for both permanent and freelance technical authors in the IT sector.

Promoting IASIG

A few years ago, members raised funds to promote the QA website (qualityauthors.co.uk). Some money remains, and a long discussion ensued about how we might spend it.

Nick Brooker suggested that we properly promote the group's collective expertise… and landed himself with the job. Alison Peck was also keen to promote the group and they've joined together in developing a promotional plan, which they presented to the IASIG and the ISTC Council. Alison has set up a 'promotion group' to get a balanced view of members' opinions.

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