Meet the Instructor: Lana Okerlund

Written by Carl Rosenberg; copy edited by Chris Baxter

This photo depicts a headshot of Lana Okerlund smiling.

On Saturday, February 24, Editors BC presents Lana Okerlund’s seminar, “Crunching the Numbers: Using Performance Measures to Manage Your Editing Business.” The seminar will introduce the performance measurement cycle—a widely used concept in the business world—and help participants apply it to the business of editing.

A partner with West Coast Editorial Associates, Lana Okerlund edits, indexes, and writes non-fiction books and teaches editing and business writing courses. In her former career as a business consultant, Lana spent nearly a decade working with clients on business improvement projects, including performance measurement.

Carl Rosenberg, a volunteer on Editors BC’s communications and social media committee, spoke to Lana about her work on performance measurement.

Hello, Lana! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. How did you come to your earlier career as a business consultant and your current career as an editor, writer, and teacher?

Hello, and it’s my pleasure.

I obtained a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Manitoba, and after an initial job at a start-up air cargo company, I started working for a large consulting company with an office in Winnipeg.

As I climbed up the ladder within this firm over the following years, I started doing less and less of what had attracted me to the job in the first place: writing and research. Instead, my responsibilities became more about sales, client relations, and project management. I was good at those things and was achieving success, but my heart wasn’t in it.

On the side, meanwhile, I had always tinkered with writing, regularly taking writing courses but never really getting serious about it. One weekend, I attended a writers’ conference in Winnipeg that included a panel discussion about publishing. One of the panellists was a book editor, and I was transfixed. I approached her after the panel to ask how one even became an editor, and she recommended taking courses at SFU or Ryerson University, the main options in Canada for editing training back then, as a first step. In 2001, I requested a transfer to my company’s Vancouver office and enrolled in my first course at SFU not long after arriving in the city. In 2004, I said goodbye to consulting and hello to a career as an editor, later adding writing, indexing, and teaching to the mix.

How does performance measurement apply specifically to editing?

Performance measurement applies to all business pursuits. Freelance editors are in business for themselves, and some editors run small businesses that employ other editors and creative professionals. In-house editors may not be running a business per se, but they are working within them, and they are running their own careers, so performance measurement can apply to them too.

Performance measurement is a framework for developing business or career objectives, measuring whether or how well you are achieving those objectives, garnering insight from performance trends, and taking corrective action to close any gaps. I’ve applied performance measurement concepts throughout my editing career, and I think this way of thinking has helped me be more purposeful and successful than I would have been otherwise.

What methods and tools are used to measure performance in editing?

It can be quite simple, or it can get very complex, depending on how someone wants to approach it. I favour a fairly simple approach because, after all, we are in the business of editing, not of managing. The performance measurement methods and tools one uses have to be practical and doable to be useful. In my seminar, I will share what has worked for me, but the concepts will apply to people at various stages of their career and help them set up the systems to get started.

On a lighter note, what are a few of your favourite books and publications—editing-related or otherwise?

I’m a historical fiction buff, and some of my favourites are The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, By Gaslight by Steven Price, and Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I have just started a series called The House of Niccolò by Dorothy Dunnett about the unlikely rise of a merchant in fifteenth-century Flanders. Also, on the history side, I research and write for the blog A Most Agreeable Place, which is about BC’s bookselling history, and that keeps me happily occupied in any extra hours I can squeeze out of the week.

Lana, thank you very much for sharing your experience and expertise. We’re looking forward to your seminar on February 24.

Thanks, me too!

Carl Rosenberg edited “Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine” from 1998 to 2016. He has a diploma in Latin American studies from Vancouver Community College and a bachelor of arts in Spanish language and literature from UBC. He has recently begun volunteering with the communications and social media and committee of Editors BC.

Chris Baxter grew up in Victoria but moved to Vancouver to earn a diploma in publishing from Langara College. He stayed, and he is now working toward earning an editing certificate from SFU and trying to get the outboard motor on his aluminum boat to run. And when he’s not busy with those things, he works with a partner building Boxer Press, an independent micro-press that he hopes will one day be great!

Image provided by Lana Okerlund

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