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Camha Pham on Author-Editor Relationships and the Professional Edit 

Camha Pham is a freelance editor based in Naarm/Melbourne, with over ten years of experience in the publishing industry. Her freelance clients include publishers such as Hachette, Hardie Grant, UQP, Affirm Press, and Pantera Press, among others. She has worked in-house at Oxford University Press and Margaret River Press, and has sat on various editorial boards. She also works in the industry as a manuscript assessor and was the mentor for the 2023 Open Book publishing program. 

Ahead of her workshop on Editing Your Manuscript, Camha answered some questions from our Program Admin Officer: Competitions, Jennifer Nguyen, about her freelance editorial practice and working with a professional editor to improve your work. 

Hi Camha! You’re an accredited editor with over 10 years experience in the publishing industry, having worked with publishers such as Oxford University Press, Hachette, Hardie Grant, Affirm Press, just to name a few. Can you please describe your journey as an editor for us up to this point? 

I took the traditional pathway into publishing by completing a postgraduate degree in publishing and editing, and then landed a role in educational publishing at Oxford University Press, where I was based for a few years. My partner ended up accepting a job on the west coast, and I decided to go freelance because I wanted to remain in publishing but knew there would be fewer in-house opportunities there. Fast-forward 8-ish years and I am back on the east coast and still freelancing. I’m a generalist and work on everything from literary fiction to memoir to commercial non-fiction to textbooks, for both small and large trade publishers. I also do manuscript assessments and mentoring. I love the variety of work and enjoy the fact that every week poses a different kind of challenge. 

What is your favourite part of the editorial process? What part is the most challenging? 

My favourite part of the editorial process is having the opportunity to engage with a work before it gets put out into the world. It’s a privilege for an author to put their trust in you in this way, and it’s particularly rewarding when you connect with the work on a deeper level. I believe the most successful author–editor relationships rely on your being able to learn from each other, and I love that I am always expanding my own knowledge and developing my editorial practice as a result.  

I think the most challenging thing for me is time, particularly in today’s fast-paced and constantly shifting publishing environment. Projects can have quick turnaround times, which means you need to prioritise what to focus on during an edit and sometimes requires having to let certain things go (note: this is not an easy task for an editor). 

At what point in a manuscript’s journey would you recommend that an author seek the assistance of a professional editor (or other services, including a manuscript assessment, proofreading, etc)? 

I know it is tempting to engage with a professional editor as soon as you’ve finished your manuscript, but I always recommend self-editing as much as possible before doing so. This allows the editor to delve deeper into the manuscript and be more specific in their feedback rather than just commenting at a broader level (and it can also save you from having to do multiple edits, which can quickly add up in a financial sense). Writers sometimes bypass the manuscript/structural assessment stage and go straight to having their work copyedited or proofed, but this is like furnishing and decorating your house without ensuring that you have a solid foundation in place – there’s not much point in having a pretty interior if the walls might collapse in at any second (I’ve never been great at analogies, but you know what I mean). 

Is there a book or piece of media you consumed lately that really moved, inspired you or that you enjoyed? 

A good friend of mine recently gifted me a book of translated Vietnamese poetry that she bought while on her travels. There is a poem in it called ‘The Vietnamese Tongue’ by Vietnamese playwright and poet Lưu Quang Vũ. This particular translation was done by Do Quyen and Camellia Pham, and I suppose it has made me think again of being in possession of a beautiful tongue/language that I have inherited but not fully engaged with such to an extent that I can only access and understand these words through translation.  

Do you edit in silence, or do you prefer to listen to something in the background? If yes, what do you enjoy listening to as you work? 

I wish I could put on music while I work but there is always the risk of me getting distracted and singing along, so I prefer silence when I’m in the throes of a copyedit. 

Places are still available in Camha’s workshop, Editing Your Manuscript. Members of Writers Victoria receive up to 37% off the full price of all clinics, workshops, seminars and courses. Writers experiencing financial and social barriers to developing their skills are encouraged to apply to The Writers Victoria Fund for subsidised attendance at workshops and clinics.  

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